Wednesday, 12 March 2014 14:46

Well ... isn’t that interesting?

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard’s Eye View
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The automated WHL schedule maker doesn’t look so rough now does it?


With one weekend left in the regular season, basically every playoff matchup in the Eastern Conference is still to be decided.
Entering Wednesday’s games, it was still mathematically possible for the Swift Current Broncos to meet any one of the Edmonton Oil Kings, Calgary Hitmen, Medicine Hat Tigers, Red Deer Rebels, Prince Albert Raiders or Brandon Wheat Kings in the first round of playoffs.
They’re all tough opponents with their own strengths but, if you’re looking for reasons it may not matter, here’s what you need to know:
He shoots, he scores ... A lot
The Broncos are loaded with top-end players like few other teams in the league.
Speedster Graham Black woke up Wednesday eighth in the league scoring race.
Julius Honka, meanwhile, is Swift’s top-scoring defenceman and sixth on the team with 55 points. Only one team (Edmonton) has more than six players across the 55-point plateau.
It all makes for a Top 6 that has the potential to be as deadly as almost any in the league.
An apple a day?
With three games to go before playoffs, the Broncos were remarkably healthy with only Geordie Maguire (mono) on the shelf.
Regina meanwhile is likely to be without starting goalie Daniel Wapple for some time after he was KO’d by an Edmonton player last week.
Medicine Hat is missing Hunter Shinkaruk, Kootenay is without Tim Bozon, Brandon is without Peter Quenneville and the Red Deer Rebels are missing Lukas Sutter.
Those are some big shoes to fill all around.
Advantage, Swift Current?
Follow the leader(s)
Every team falls on hard times during the season.
If the Broncos hit another skid in the playoffs they won’t get 28 games to pull out of it like they did earlier this year.
To get back on track they’ll need only to look to their captain, Colby Cave, who night in and night out plays the kind of hockey you need from who should be your biggest leader.
There are plenty of Broncos with big hearts and bigger work ethics, but Cave exhibits this like no other.
We’re going streaking!
This season has been one of extreme swings for the Broncos.
They got thoroughly beaten on their U.S. road trip, won nine in a row, lost 18 of 28 and most recently have won six of their last eight.
Their most recent wins have been encouraging. They’ve beaten respectable teams. They’ve knocked off a number of bad habits. They’ve dug out of a couple deep, dark holes to rally to victory.
It remains a work in progress, but if they’re still on their game come playoff time they could be nothing short of a nightmare for any team that takes them lightly.
Eetu Laurikainen’s highlight-reel exploits have been covered extensively for the past two years.
But no assessment of the Broncos’ chances would be complete without mentioning that Laurikainen can steal a game, and maybe even a series, for Swift Current. His numbers aren’t as strong as last year’s, but he still enters playoffs a better-rested and more experienced version of the goalie who was arguably already the league’s best last year.
Isn’t that g-lovely?
Good luck getting any of them to admit it, but there are players on this team who are absolutely looking for a do-over on last year’s playoff defeat to the Calgary Hitmen.
You will of course recall the illegal glove pass that led to Calgary’s overtime winner in Game 3 and sucked the wind out of Swift Current’s sails and expedited the end of the Broncos’ season.
The two teams may be destined to again clash in the first round of playoffs and winning that battle would perhaps be the sweetest victory of all.
But regardless of opponent or result, you can put it in the bank that the Broncos will dig deeper than even they maybe thought was possible to try and make sure Black, Laurikainen and Nathan Burns get a more memorable send-off than last year’s over-agers.
The Wizard of Vause
Finally, former Broncos’ captain Taylor Vause designed the Swift Current Centennial-themed jerseys worn Wednesday against Saskatoon.
When you’re looking that good you can’t help but feel good, and when you’re feeling good you’re going to play the same way.
If the magic persists, Vause’s 112th WHL assist could go down as the play of the year.
Follow Brad Brown on Twitter @saskawhat.

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