Calgary, AB – It’s crunch time as the 2009-10 Western Hockey League regular season enters the final week of play.
So far, 15 of the possible 16 playoff spots have been claimed, with just one Eastern Conference playoff berth still up for grabs. In the Western Conference, all eight playoff spots are accounted for.
This season, the WHL's Eastern and Western Conferences will use a Conference playoff format.
The first place teams in the two Divisions in each Conference will receive the top two playoff seeds based on regular season points. The next six Clubs in each Conference, based on regular season points, will receive the 3rd - 8th playoff positions. The Clubs will be paired 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, and 4 vs. 5 in a best-of-seven series.
The first place Clubs in each Division will be guaranteed the top two playoff seeds in the first round. As in previous seasons, the format for the remaining three rounds of the WHL Playoffs will remain the same. The four Clubs winning first round series in each Conference will advance to the second round, where they will be ranked in order of regular season points. The Clubs will be paired 1 vs. 4, and 2 vs. 3 in best of seven series.
The two Clubs winning the second round series in each Conference will advance to the third round (WHL Conference Championships), where they will be ranked in order of regular season points. The Clubs will be paired 1 vs. 2 in a best of seven series.
The Eastern and Western Conference Champions will advance to the best of seven WHL Championship Series, with the Club having the most regular season points receiving home ice advantage.
X denotes clinched playoff spot, Y denotes clinched division, *denotes Division leader
1) Calgary Hitmen* XY 49-17-1-2, 101pts, 3 games remaining
2) Brandon Wheat Kings* X 47-18-1-3, 98pts, 3 games remaining
3) Saskatoon Blades X 44-17-3-4, 95pts, 4 games remaining
4) Medicine Hat Tigers 39-23-3-5, 86pts, 2 games remaining
5) Kootenay Ice X 40-24-3-2, 85pts, 3 games remaining
6) Red Deer Rebels X 39-24-0-5, 83pts, 4 games remaining
7) Moose Jaw Warriors X 33-25-5-5, 76pts, 4 games remaining
8) Swift Current Broncos 34-30-1-4, 73pts, 3 games remaining
9) Prince Albert Raiders 31-33-3-2, 67pts, 3 games remaining
10) Regina Pats 29-33-3-4, 65pts, 3 games remaining
11) Lethbridge Hurricanes 19-42-5-3, 46pts, 3 games remaining
12) Edmonton Oil Kings 16-40-4-9, 45pts, 3 games remaining
Just one playoff spot remains up for grabs in the Eastern Conference. The Swift Current Broncos currently hold down the eighth playoff spot in the Conference with 73 points, while the Prince Albert Raiders sit six points back. Both teams have three games remaining. If the Raiders win their final three games and the Broncos lose their last three contests, the teams will be tied on points and will play a tiebreaker game for the final playoff spot.
The Broncos and Raiders will meet up for a critical contest on Wednesday night in Prince Albert. Anything other than a regulation win by the Raiders would hand the eighth berth to the Broncos. Should the Raiders win Wednesday’s meeting, they will face a tough test to close out the season as they meet the Saskatoon Blades for a home-and-home series on the final weekend of play. The Broncos will play a home-and-home versus Moose Jaw to close out the season.
The race for the Eastern Conference title has eased up over the past weekend, with the Calgary Hitmen now owning a three-point lead over Brandon and a six-point lead over Saskatoon for top spot in the East.
The Blades hold a game in hand on both Brandon and Calgary, and are at home for three of their final four games. The only way the Blades can win the Eastern Conference is if they win their last four games while hoping the Hitmen drop at least five of six points from their remaining three contests and Brandon drops at least two points from their last three games.
The Hitmen can clinch first place in the East and first overall with two wins from their remaining three games. They will face the Oil Kings twice more and Red Deer once more in their final week of regular-season action.
The Wheat Kings can clinch top spot in the East Division with any combination of wins and Saskatoon losses totaling three. The Wheaties host the Warriors on Wednesday before closing out their season with a home-and-home series versus Regina.
The Medicine Hat Tigers find themselves in fourth spot in the Conference, and holding home-ice advantage in the first playoff round, after reeling off four wins over the last week. The Tigers, however, have just two games remaining and give up one game to Kootenay and two to Red Deer.
The Tigers close out the season with a home-and-home series versus Lethbridge, while the Ice and Rebels meet up for a home-and-home series on Wednesday and Friday that could decide the 4th, 5th and 6th spots in the Conference.
1) Everett Silvertips* X 44-19-3-2, 93pts, 4 games remaining
2) Vancouver Giants* XY 40-24-2-3, 85pts, 3 games remaining
3) Tri-City Americans X 45-21-1-2, 93pts, 3 games remaining
4) Spokane Chiefs X 42-21-3-2, 89pts, 4 games remaining
5) Portland Winterhawks X 41-25-2-1, 85pts, 3 games remaining
6) Kelowna Rockets X 33-30-2-4, 72pts, 3 games remaining
7) Kamloops Blazers X 32-32-2-4, 70pts, 2 games remaining
8) Chilliwack Bruins X 30-32-1-5, 66pts, 4 games remaining
9) Seattle Thunderbirds 18-38-7-5, 48pts, 4 games remaining
10) Prince George Cougars 11-54-1-2, 25pts, 4 games remaining
All eight playoff spots in the Western Conference are accounted for, but there still is the heated battle for the U.S. Division crown and playoff positioning.
The Vancouver Giants have already clinched the B.C. Division crown, but have also been resigned to second place in the Western Conference as they cannot catch Tri-Cities for first place in the Conference.
The Everett Silvertips motored to three more wins this week and, coupled with three straight losses for Tri-Cities, moved into a tie on points with the Americans for the U.S. Division and Western Conference leads.
The Silvertips hold a game in hand on the Ams, meaning they hold their own destiny in their hands. If they win all four of their remaining games, they will be the Western Conference’s top seed. The ‘Tips are in Portland on Tuesday before closing out the season with home games versus Seattle and Chilliwack and a road trip to Spokane on the season’s last day.
The Americans lost all three games of a three-game road trip on the weekend, and now face a tough test if they want to win a third straight U.S. Division title. The Ams host Seattle on Wednesday before closing out the season with a tough home-and-home series versus archrival Spokane.
The Chiefs currently sit four points back of Tri-Cities and Everett for a share of the Division and Conference leads. The Chiefs play three of their four remaining games at home, including home games versus the ‘Tips and Ams.
The Winterhawks currently sit four points behind the Chiefs for fourth place in the Western Conference, and have played one more game than the Chiefs. The Hawks host the Silvertips on Tuesday before playing road games in Chilliwack and Seattle on the final weekend of the season. Any combination of losses and Chiefs wins totaling three will put an end to the Hawks’ chances of finishing among the Conference’s top four.
The race for 6th, 7th and 8th place in the West has opened up a bit over the last weekend of play. The Kelowna Rockets earned three wins from their last three games, and now hold a two-point lead over Kamloops and a six-point lead over Chilliwack for sixth place.
The Rockets face tough trips to Spokane and Vancouver before closing out the season with a contest versus the Prince George Cougars.
The Blazers have played two more games than the Bruins and one more game than the Rockets. They will host Prince George on Friday before closing out their regular-season schedule with a visit to the Vancouver Giants.
The Bruins play three of their last four games on the road, including two in Prince George on Tuesday and Wednesday, and a difficult trip to Everett in their last game of the season.