The Hawks’ Nest

U.S. Division
December 3, 2009, 1:02 pm
Filed under: Winterhawks | Tags: ,

Five points.

That’s what separates first from fourth in the U.S. Division right now, and that doesn’t even take into account Seattle, who are 6-4 in their last 10 games, including a four-game winning streak. Consider that in the Central Division, there are 17 points separating first from fourth.

Portland, Tri-City, Spokane and Everett are packed tighter than Tiger Woods’s little black book.

That makes this current stretch much more than a normal month of hockey. Portland is in the midst of a stretch where they are playing nine divisional opponents in a row (including a loss to TC and two wins vs. Seattle last week), and a total of 13 of 14, with a matchup against Travis Bobbee and the Swift Current Broncos on Dec. 18 the lone inter-division game.

While Winterhawks players won’t cop to scoreboard watching (more on that on in the next day or two), no one can blame them if they did a quiet celebration after Everett’s loss to Kelowna last night.

In the U.S. Division this season, the story is goaltending. Look at these numbers:

James Reid, Spokane: 2.03 GAA, 92.9% save percentage

Drew Owsley, Tri-City: 2.85 GAA, 90.6% SP

Thomas Heemskerk, Everett (17 games): 2.90 GAA, 90.9% SP

Kent Simpson, Everett (12 games), 2.35 GAA, 92.5% SP

Calvin Pickard, Seattle: 2.84 GAA, 91.9% SP

Looking at the league stats, that puts three U.S. Division goalies in the league’s top-four in save percentage, and four among the top-eight in goals against average.

That means one of two things: either this is a halcyon year for goaltending in the U.S. Division, or we’re about to see the law averages kick in and some of those numbers start to dip. If it’s the former, then it makes Portland’s second place standing all the more impressive since they’re beating some of the best goalies in the league, and there’s no reason to believe it can’t continue. If it’s the latter, then Portland will only benefit from opposing goalies coming back to Earth.

At any rate, with so many divisional games coming up there could be plenty of movement within the division by the time the calendar turns to 2010. On the other hand, the teams could just continue beating each other up and we may end up being no closer to figuring out who will finish where. Either way, it’s going to make for an exciting month of hockey.


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