Breaks are few and far between in the long Western Hockey League (WHL) season and the Everett Silvertips now have two weeks to sit back and take some time for a little contemplation.
The Silvertips are 33-6-0-1 and have survived the absence of top center Peter Mueller and goaltender Leland Irving at the World Junior Championships.
The Silvertips play only the rebuilding Portland Winter Hawks twice in an 11-day span before getting back to the grind of their schedule.
The Silvertips are home against the Winter Hawks on Friday and travel to Portland on Saturday and are then off until Jan. 19.
That will give Everett coach Kevin Constantine plenty of practice time with his entire team, a rare luxury the Silvertips won't see again until the playoffs begin.
"This is a time for us to evaluate where we're at and what we want to do to get ready for the second half of the season," Constantine said. "We have a lot of decisions to make now that we know our team. We have to decide what we need to work on."
Record: 33-6-0-1, first in the U.S. Division and best in the Western Hockey League.
Last week: The Silvertips beat Red Deer 3-0 at home last Wednesday, lost in Spokane 1-0 on Friday, beat Medicine Hat 3-1 on Saturday and routed Portland 6-0 on Sunday.
This week: The Silvertips are home against Portland on Friday and play at Portland on Saturday night. The Silvertips are off the rest of the week and return to action on Jan. 19 at home against Vancouver.
Star of the week: Goaltender David Reekie allowed only two goals in four games. He stopped 75 of 77 shots, a 97.4 save percentage, with two shutouts.
Who's hot: Special teams. The Silvertips allowed only two goals on 22 power plays while scoring four power-play goals in 28 chances. For the season, Everett is first in the WHL on the power play with a success rate of 21.9 percent. They are also first in penalty killing with a success rate of 91 percent.
Rankings this week: The Silvertips are ranked first in the 56-team Canadian Hockey League in a poll of NHL scouts released Jan. 3. Everett is also ranked first in the WHL in a poll of newspaper writers who cover the league.
Quote of the week: "It all comes down to work ethic and again we shut them down and they didn't get many chances on the power play. With all the penalties being called now, penalty killing is a really big part of the game." — Everett goaltender David Reekie after holding Portland scoreless on six power plays and posting his third shutout on Sunday.
— Jim Riley
The Silvertips have built their success this season on two key components — they have been phenomenal on special teams and have had consistently strong defense and goaltending.
Everett has scored 73 power-play goals this season while allowing only 27 when shorthanded, a plus-46 differential that is by far the best in the WHL.
Irving and backup David Reekie now rank 1-2 in the WHL goaltending statistics; Irving allowing only 1.55 goals a game, Reekie, 1.75.
"Both guys have done a great job," Constantine said. "Their numbers are pretty much identical."
In fact, the two have put Everett well ahead of a record pace.
Through 40 games, Everett has allowed 63 goals.
The WHL record for fewest goals allowed in an entire season is held by Kelowna, which gave up only 125 goals in the 2003-04 season before new rule were implemented to increase scoring.
If Everett stays at the same pace, they will allow only 113 goals and shatter Kelowna's record.
Irving didn't get a chance to play a single minute in the World Junior tournament backing up Cary Price while Team Canada won the championship.
That doesn't mean Irving didn't earn his gold medal.
"I can't believe the support Leland gave me," Price told the Tri- City Herald. "I couldn't have asked for a better partner."
Irving, who likes to play a lot of games, could play as early as Friday.
"Knowing Irv, I'm sure he's going to want to get in there right away," Constantine said. "It's nice to know we have two great goaltenders we can count on."
One thing the Silvertips will be focusing on during their brief break will be five-on-five play.
The Silvertips scored four even-strength goals in their 6-0 win over Portland last Sunday, a welcome sight for Constantine.
"We haven't been a dynamic scoring team five-on-five," Constantine said. "We've been a good five-on-five team as far as the score differential, but we haven't scored a lot so it was nice to get that done."
Silvertips defensemen due back
Top defenseman Jesse Zatariuk sat out the final two periods of Sunday's game with Portland after the Silvertips built a 3-0 lead, but isn't expected to miss any more time.
"He took a bump on the thigh and with the score of the game we didn't want to push it," Constantine said.
Defenseman Graham Potuer, who is out with a sprained wrist, will be evaluated this week.
Silvertips on win pace
Through 36 games, the midway point of the season, the Silvertips had 30 wins and were on a pace to tie the all-time WHL record for victories in a single season.
The record is held by the Victoria Cougars who went 60-11-1 in the 1980-81 season.
One major difference is that Everett has six wins in shootouts, games that would have been ties back before the shootout was introduced last season.
Without the shootouts, Everett would have only had 24 wins.