The Spokane Chiefs were 20 minutes away Saturday from earning a road split to open the Western Conference Championship against the Vancouver Giants.
But in just 3:21, their 2-0 lead vanished as Vancouver scored four unanswered goals to win 4-2 and take a 2-0 lead in the series. Game 3 is Tuesday night at 7:05 at the Arena.
Being down 2-0 in the series against the top seed in the West isn’t a position the Chiefs want to be in, and a stark difference from the first two rounds.
To make matters worse, the Chiefs might be without 20-year-old Luc Smith, who left Game 1 early with a lower body injury. Smith didn’t dress for Game 2. Losing Smith means losing one of the team’s leaders and a veteran presence who can create offense.
The Chiefs will have to limit Vancouver’s chances if they want to regain some ground in the series. Spokane gave up 74 shots on net in games one and two combined, including 44 Saturday. Twenty of those 44 came in the third period alone, putting a lot of pressure on goaltender Bailey Brkin.
Brkin has been stout in net all playoffs and remains second in the league with a .926 save percentage. But his numbers in the two games against Vancouver are underwhelming. It’s a small sample size, but his .904 save percentage and 3.50 goals against average won’t get it done against the Giants.
Similarly, Spokane’s power play is still tops in the league during the playoffs, but the Chiefs don’t have a power play goal through two games and four opportunities. Vancouver takes a hefty amount of penalties – 41 so far this postseason – but the Chiefs haven’t been able to capitalize.
It’s not just the power play that is holding Spokane back, but the team’s offense overall. The Chiefs scored just three goals total in the two games at Vancouver. They’ll need their offense to pick up the pace as the series moves back home.
Vancouver boasts offensive firepower from both its forward group and its defense. Dawson Holt and Jared Dmytriw each have two goals in the series and Bowen Byram, who will likely be a top-5 NHL draft pick this summer, also showed his offensive ability with a goal in Game 1.
Byram has 14 points in 12 playoff games.
Through the first two rounds, the Giants split goaltending duties between David Tendeck and Trent Miner. Tendeck tended goal in games one and two, and his .947 save percentage through two games has been key for the Giants.
An old cliché says a team isn’t truly in danger until it loses a playoff game at home. But for the Chiefs, coming home in a 2-0 hole against the conference’s top team presents a tall task.
It’s not a must-win game, but being down 3-0 heading into Wednesday’s Game 4 would have a different feeling compared to being down 2-1. The Chiefs have the offensive firepower and sturdy goaltending to crawl back into the series.
The Chiefs and Giants get things going at 7:05 p.m.
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