<center><i><b>Joey Kenward</b> is the play-by-play voice of the defending
Memorial Cup champion WHL Vancouver Giants
Now that the <b>2008 Playoffs</b> are underway in the <b>WHL</b>, I thought I might provide a quick recap of how each series has gone to this point. The <b>Western Conference</b> match-ups on paper are not nearly as close as those in the <b>East</b>, based primarily on how the clubs finished off in the regular season. However, don’t be surprised if a lot of these series wrap up in four or five games.
Tri City Americans (1) vs Kamloops Blazers (8)
Americans Lead Series 2-0</b></center>
No surprise here as the <b>Americans</b> are on a real high after capturing their 1st WHL regular season championship. Featuring maybe the best trio of 20 year-olds on any team in the <b>Canadian Hockey League</b>, the Americans got a lot of mileage this year out of forwards <b>Colton Yellow Horn</b> and <b>Shaun Vey</b> along with d-man and<b> Los Angeles Kings</b> prospect <b>T.J. Fast</b>. The Ams have averaged over 40 shots in the first two games of the series, winning <b>6-1</b> in the opener and <b>4-1</b> in Game 2. Netminder <b>Chet Pickard</b>, who likely will be a 1st round NHL draft pick next summer, has had little work in trying to shut down the <b>Blazers</b> which went into the tank heading into the playoffs with only one win in their last 15 games.
<center><b>Vancouver Giants (2) vs Chilliwack Bruins (7)
Giants Lead Series 2-0</b></center>
For the second straight season these two rivals meet each other in the 1st round. The <b>Giants</b> went <b>8-0-1-1</b> against the <b>Bruins</b> in the regular season, out-scoring the sophomore squad <b>38-15</b>. However this series could easily be 2-0 in favour of Chilliwack. Giants took Game 1 by a <b>2-1</b> final while Vancouver scored in the last minute of Game 2 to win <b>3-2</b> with <b>Florida Panthers'</b> prospect <b>Michal Repik</b>, last year’s leading scorer in the WHL playoffs, beingn in on every Giants' goal so far (<b>3g,2a</b>
. Giants' <b>MVP</b> and <b>Atlanta Thrashers'</b> draft pick <b>Spencer Machacek</b> has scored two power play goals while netminder and <b>San Jose Sharks'</b> future puckstopper <b>Tyson Sexsmith</b> sports a goals against average of <b>1.50</b>. Bruins' LW <b>Mark Santorelli</b> is coming off a season which saw him win a<b> WHL scoring title</b>. The <b>Nashville Predators'</b> prospect had 101 points for Chilliwack (<b>27g, 74a</b>
, and has a goal and two helpers in this series. L.A. Kings pick Oscar Moller has scored two power play goals to make things interesting as this series now shifts to Chilliwack.
<center><b>Spokane Chiefs (3) vs Everett Silvertips (6)
Chiefs Lead Series 2-0</b></center>
<b>Spokane</b>, the team sporting the<b> best road record</b> in the WHL this season took advantage of opening the series at home with two wins. <b>Drayson Bowman</b> (Carolina Hurricanes), the Chiefs top scorer from the season, had two goals in their <b>5-2</b> series opener while import forward <b>Ondrej Roman</b> (Dallas Stars) had two of his own in a <b>4-1</b> victory in Game 2. <b>Silvertips'</b> forward <b>Kyle Beach</b>, projected to be a Top 10 pick in next summer’s draft, is without a point and a<b> -2</b>. The Tips aren’t out of it yet, however, as the next three games of the series are scheduled to be played in Everett.
<center><b>Seattle Thunderbirds (4) vs Kelowna Rockets (5)
Rockets Lead Series 2-1</b></center>
While only seven points separated the two clubs during the season, <b>Kelowna</b> stole<b> two wins</b> from the <b>Emerald City</b> to open the series. California-born forward<b> Colin Long</b> led all <b>Rockets</b> in scoring with <b>100</b> points (<b>31g, 69a</b>
during the season. He had<b> three assists</b> in Kelowna’s <b>3-2</b> triumph in Game 1 and the winner in their<b> 3-1</b> victory in Game 2. <b>David Richard</b> kept Seattle from avoiding a possible sweep scenario as his <b>hat-trick</b> performance led the T-Birds who were <b>3-2</b> winners in <b>overtime</b> in Game 3 in Kelowna.
Calgary Hitmen (1) vs Moose Jaw Warriors (8)
Series Tied 1-1</b></center>
The <b>Hitman</b> -- the <b>highest scoring</b> team in the <b>East</b> this season -- saw <b>eight</b> of their skaters collect points in their <b>5-1</b> series opening win at the <b>Saddledome</b>. The <b>Washington Capitals'</b> standout prospect <b>Karl Alzner</b> scored his 1st of the post season for Calgary. The <b>Warriors</b>, featuring one of the biggest squads in the league, rallied back in a big way in Game 2 by a <b>4-2</b> margin. Don’t be surprised if this series goes the distance. And if it does, Game 7 will take place April 1 at the old home of the Flames. That’s no April Fool’s joke either as a building conflict would see the Hitmen have to use the <b>Corral</b> for the series finale.
<center><b>Regina Pats (2) vs Swift Current Broncos (7)
Series Tied 1-1</b></center>
Two <b>Saskatchewan</b> rivals have used the power play to their advantage to split this series. Highly touted defensive prospect <b>Colten Teubert</b> scored for the <b>Pats</b> in their <b>2-1</b> series-opener win on a night which saw the two clubs combine for <b>14</b> power plays. In Game 2, another highly touted prospect and Pats top scorer <b>Jordan Eberle</b> picked up a major penalty for boarding and that allowed the Broncos to roll on to a <b>5-3</b> win. Eberle will miss Game 3 in <b>Swift Current</b>.
<center><b>Lethbridge Hurricanes (3) vs Brandon Wheat Kings (6)
Hurricanes Leads Series 2-0</b></center>
Perhaps the most skilled team in the conference, the<b> Hurricanes</b> have used experience to their advantage so far in this series. Future 1st round NHL pick <b>Zach Boychuk</b> had the game winning goal and a helper in the Canes <b>2-1</b> victory in Game 1. <b>Luca Sbisa</b>, another highly touted draft prospect on defence, had a two-point night in their <b>4-3</b> home ice win in Game 2. This series now shifts to Brandon as the Wheaties will again look to their standout rookie line of <b>Brayden Schenn</b> (16),<b> Scott Glennie </b>(16), and <b>Matt Calvert</b> (17) to get them back into the series.
<center><b>Medicine Hat Tigers (4) vs Kootenay Ice (5)
Ice Lead Series 2-0</b></center>
Maybe the biggest surprise so far…or is it? The<b> Tigers</b> are the defending<b> WHL playoff champs</b>, but they finished just one point ahead of the Ice in the standings.<b> Montreal Canadiens'</b> draft pick <b>Ben Maxwell</b> netted two goals in a <b>5-2</b> series opening victory. The next night, Swiss-born forward and draft eligble prospect <b>Arnaud Jacquemet</b> played hero for the Cranbrook squad. He netted the tying goal with<b> 0.2 seconds </b>left on the clock and then potted the winner 33 seconds into overtime in a <b>4-3</b> comeback win. It will be interesting to see how demoralized the Tigers are, if at all, as this series now shifts to Cranbrook.