Franchise Playoff History:
The Spokane Chiefs and Vancouver Giants have battled in the playoffs in three previous years with the Chiefs taking two of the series.
2008 first round: Spokane defeated Vancouver in six games en route to a Memorial Cup victory.
2009 second round: Vancouver eliminated the Chiefs in seven games before losing in the conference final.
2012 first round: Spokane eliminated the Giants in six games.
Vancouver outscored the Chiefs 15-13.
During their four meetings in the regular season, the Giants won the first three games (5-4 SO, 6-4, and 5-4) and the Chiefs winning the most recent matchup on March 8th by a score of 4-1.
Giants captain Jared Dmytriw led the team in goals and points during the season series with five points (3G, 2A) in four games, while Davis Koch and Milos Roman each had a goal and three assists. Both Vancouver goaltenders got into two games with David Tendeck going 2-0-0-0 and Trent Miner posting a 1-1-0-0 record.
Overage forward Davis Koch led the team in scoring with 78 points (28G, 50A) in 67 games and NHL top prospect Bowen Byram followed with 71 points (26G, 45A) in 67 games.
For Spokane, they were 7-of-14 on the power play in the season series and had scoring spread throughout the lineup. Adam Beckman and Luc Smith each had two-goal games and Eli Zummack put up three points in one of the games.
How they got here:
The Giants took just four games, including two in overtime, to get through the second round, sweeping the Victoria Royals. Vancouver did an impressive job of keeping pucks away from their net and making the lives of Trent Miner and David Tendeck easy. The Royals averaged just under 16 shots per game in the series, in part to the Giants filling lanes and sacrificing the body, a recipe for success in playoff hockey. Jared Dmytriw headed the offense in the series as the captain had six points (3G, 3A) in four games while Bowen Byram had five points (1G, 4A).
The Chiefs stole home-ice on the last day of the regular season and put that to use in the first round against the Portland Winterhawks. They won one-of-two games in Spokane and then trailed late twice in Portland before tying the game and winning in overtime. Riley Woods and Beckman had the OT winners.
They then closed out their rivals back at home.
In the second round, the Chiefs kept their perfect road record going by taking both games in Everett. They then took advantage of an odd 2-3-2 format to win two-of-three at home and upset the division champs in five games.
They carry that perfect road record into the third round.
Storylines To Watch:
Smith vs Byram
A big headline coming into this series is the dual between arguably the two best defencemen in the league in Ty Smith and Bowen Byram. Smith has been a workhorse on the Spokane blue line this playoffs, playing a major role in shutting down two high powered offenses in Portland and Everett. The New Jersey Devils first rounder has eight points (1G, 7A) in 10 games this playoffs.
Byram, a 2019 NHL Draft prospect, sits tied for first in playoff goals by a defenceman with teammate Dylan Plouffe with four and is second in WHL playoff scoring with 13 points (4G, 9A) in 10 games. The 17-year-old plays a more flashy game than his counterpart, but the two are different players and are sure to not disappoint in a series that has the potential to be a long one.
Who does Dan Lambert match Smith and King against?
Spokane head coach Dan Lambert had great success throwing the defensive pairing of Ty Smith and Noah King out there against Joachim Blichfeld in round one and Connor Dewar and Bryce Kindopp in round two. Three of the top regular season scorers in the Western Conference struggled mightily when faced with the pressure Smith and King provided. Does Lambert put them solely out against Koch and his line or do they mix it up and try to take someone else off the score sheet.
The Spokane power play
The Chiefs have been on an incredible tear on the man advantage. They were 29.1 percent in the regular season but that has been picked up considerably in the postseason. They are 12-of-25 for 48 percent. A high percentage of their goals have come with an extra man on the ice. Vancouver will want to stay out of the box and keep these two power-play units off the ice.
How They Match Up:
During the regular season, the Giants had the third lowest goals-against total in the WHL with 162. They will be taking on the third highest goals-for in Spokane who scored 267 goals, only behind Prince Albert (307) and Lethbridge (268). As has been a big key throughout the playoffs, Vancouver’s defence needs to come up big. David Tendeck and Trent Miner will most likely share the crease like they have been the previous two rounds, both earning four wins a piece in the playoffs. Both goalies did not see much action against Victoria which is bound to change this series so the duo will need to be sharp right from the opening faceoff to give the Giants their best chance of success.
While big names like Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Ty Smith may grab the headlines, the Chiefs have gotten here because of their depth scoring. They have 11 players with five points or more in their 10 games. They have the speed and skill to take advantage of mistakes and they have the size to play a possession game.
The biggest key for Spokane’s success is in net though. Bailey Brkin has flown under the radar after playing much of last season in Junior A. Brkin has struggled even while putting up good numbers, with his rebound control. His defense has bailed him out countless times when the puck has been lying there. However, he put together just an incredible game in closing out the Silvertips and was the Chiefs best player. The rebounds were not there for a desperate Everett squad.
If Brkin can keep that kind of play up, the Chiefs will have every chance to steal this series.
DUBNetwork pick: Chiefs in seven.