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OHL 2nd Round Predictions

It is the second round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs and there are 4 great series here. Some will say 2 ‘underdogs’ made it through or that 2 teams pulled off a shocking ‘upset’ to advance… well not me. There were no upsets in the first round. Sure if you looked at the teams on paper then you were blinded by the fact that the game is played… on the ice. But that is neither here nor there. I went 7 for 8 in the first round and I am proud of that. Will I go four for four in this round… probably not. The law of averages and karma dictates I will finish as good as Mike Farwell, my western conference expert, did on his selections. All joking and hoisting myself on a pedestal lets just quick review of the first round before I choose my selection for the second round.

OHL First Round

(1) Mississauga vs. (8) Belleville – Mississauga in 4 games
My Prediction: Mississauga in 5
(2) Ottawa vs. (7) Sudbury – Sudbury in 4 games
My Prediction: Sudbury in 7
(3) Niagara vs. (6) Brampton – Niagara in 4 games
My Prediction: Niagara in 7
(4) Oshawa vs. (5) Kingston – Oshawa in 5
My Prediction: Oshawa in 7
(1) Owen Sound vs. (8) London – Owen Sound in 6
My Prediction: Owen Sound in 6
(2) Saginaw vs. (7) Guelph – Saginaw in 6
My Prediction: Saginaw in 5
(3) Kitchener vs. (6) Plymouth – Plymouth in 7
My Prediction: Plymouth in 6
(4) Windsor vs. (5) Erie – Windsor in 7
My Prediction: Erie in 7

So as you can tell… near perfection. Not bad. And yes point to all the sweeps in the east if you would like to say I am wrong. But I still ask the question. How many had Sudbury winning at all… thank you… and now to the main attraction. Lets start with the East again shall we.

Eastern Conference Playoff – Round 2

(1) Mississauga vs. (7) Sudbury

            if  you had to say there is an underdog in which I argued tons about. This would be a series with an underdog. A team that finished with 108 points on the season to 62 points. 46-point total difference or a 23 win differential… pretty impressive and you do have JP Anderson of the majors coming off of 180 plus minutes of shutout hockey. 215 minutes and 47 seconds of shutout hockey to be exact. And even though that is very impressive I still feel confident in saying the series will belong to the Sudbury Wolves. Unlike the Bulls the Wolves are healthy with no suspensions or worries other than getting the job done on the ice. Against a very potent Ottawa offense, the Wolves were able to put up monster numbers on Petr Mrazek who rarely has a bad game let alone 2 straight bad games.  Mrazek had a 5.63 Goals Against and a 868SV% not at all his usual numbers. And yes the Ottawa 67’s blue line was decimated by injuries but that is no excuse for the offence not to show up and play. Alain Valliquette has been the backbone of the team and as usual, the team goes as far as the goaltending can go. Alain’s numbers were not impressive either, even with 4 straight victories. Giving up 4.19Goals against and an 877 save percentage is not going to get the job done against the majors. With that in mind the underrated D of the Wolves has banded strongly as a unit and Josh McFadden has practically made everyone forget about his -35 in the regular season… except me.  Michael Sgarbossa has been a spark plug along side Kuchin and Leivo, and throw in a healthy Eric O’Dell, Marcus Foligno, Mike Lomas and Michael McDonald you have an impressive 2 and a half lines the can go toe to toe with the Majors. On the flip side you have Mississauga with the ability to roll 4 very gritty lines led by Smith-Pelly, Shugg and brace. Chris DeSousa has paid dividends in his ability to come up with key goals and be able to shutdown the opposition’s top line just like in London. The back end for the majors boils down to a who’s who of talent with Michael D’Orazio and Brett Flemming leading the way. Stuart Percy is a stall worth back there along with Dylan DeMelo and Mark Cantin. The home ice and last change advantage will be key in this series, but since it is going 1-1-1-1 etc there will not be time to get cozy as fatigue will play a factor with the travel. But with all this we may finally get exciting Majors hockey because the Wolves will continue to press on despite being down 1 or 2 goals and the Speed that Sudbury possesses will help break that 1-4 trap we see so much out of Mississauga. I have to say that the victor of the series is going to be…

My Prediction: Sudbury in 6

(3) Niagara vs. (4) Oshawa

            For everyone who enjoys watching goals and a fast paced game with Hard hits, end to end chances and almost no sign for the goalie to succeed. This series is for you.  What is surprising right off the bat is that No IceDog is in the top 20 of Playoff scoring. Yes they only played 4 games, to the likes of Windsor, Erie, Kitchener and Plymouth played 7 games. But the offensive leader for Niagara is Darren Archibald with 5 goals and 6 points. Tied with Dougie Hamilton with 1 goal and 6 points, and an impressive +7 for Dougie and Jesse Graham. Throw that up against Oshawa’s top scorers of Christian Thomas, Tony DeHart, Andy Andreoff, Boone Jenner, Lucas Lessio, Nicklaus Jensen and Calvin De Haan who have… 13, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 6 points respectively. The generals also boast 4 platers with a +/- of +7 or greater. Christian Thomas leading the way with a +12 rating.  And to all these stats I can clearly say… that was last round. And it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the fact that there are two highly offensive teams that are going to take to the ice for what will probably be a 7 game brawl. Niagara’s Mark Visentin, I believe has the goaltending edge over Oshawa’s Peter DiSalvo and that is the series again. Right there. The Niagara D of Hamilton, Graham, Gronvaldt, Rover, Doudera and Schwindt will have their hands full with all of Oshawa’s offensive talent and likewise with Oshawa. Defenceman De Haan, DeHart, Valentine, Sullentop, Maggio and Quinn will have their hands full with all of Niagara’s forward talent. A very tough series to call where the travel wont get the teams like the other Eastern series, but it will come down to the team that wants it more. And the way that they had to handle the Frontenacs and without Niagara having  Billingsley until game number 4 I have to give the advantage to Oshawa. But again, looking at who is between the pipes how do you ignore what Visentin has done, including his spectacular numbers of .75Goals against and a 977 save percentage vs. Brampton. This series is too close to call so it has to go to 7, and with that I select…

My Prediction: Oshawa in 7

Western Conference Playoff – Round 2

(1) Owen Sound vs. (6) Plymouth

            Here is a series that not many people wanted to see… well I guess I did because I predicted it. But I look at the west as being Kitchener, London and Guelph… and we almost got all three American Based teams and the smallest market in the west. And don’t get me wrong it is great for the league when you can have this parity… bad for us viewers because there would be less games to watch. Thankfully for those of us who enjoy watching playoff hockey in Ontario we get at least 4 games from the west to watch… up to 7 I believe… and hey it is something. But onto the prediction of this series.  This is going to be a great series because you have 2 big teams that are going to be pounding the heck out of each other. You also have the finesse on both teams like OS’s Wilson, Hishon and Mignardi against PLY’s Noesen, Aleardi and Czarnik. Then there is the grit that matches up well in Attack forwards Shaw, Halmo, Heelis against Whalers Brown, DeVane, Livingston and Heard. As much as you can talk about the D of Blacker and Petgrave of Owen Sound against Plymouths Schmitz and Levi. I really feel the D is gonna look like a bunch of chumps for both teams. And goaltending is all about $cott ‘Money’ Wedgewood topping whoever is across the ice from him. Whether it is Zador, Stajcer or how about Jordan Binnington. As much as Owen Sound can bang with the best of them, this is another 1-1-1-1 series that is going to wear down the teams as much as the crash and banging will. With all this going on, statistically there is not much that separates the teams with the exception of… I want to say goaltending but Wedgewood was more lucky than good, despite coming up big when he had to. But also broke down easily in key moments. The only 100% fact that has to be taken into account is the X-factor Joey Hishon. He is always going to be the X-Factor and London did a great job of shutting him down as he was limited to 5 points in 6 games… a huge success based on ability and regular season output. I still feel that the Whalers ‘upset’ victory over the Rangers is nothing more than the better team winning and I still say they are the better team. But it is the X-Factor that is making me ramble on. Powerplays are even at 15% (3/20) for PLY compared to OS’s 14.3% (5/35) in the first round. Penalty kill identical numbers again 85% (6/40) for PLY against Kitchener and the Attack had an 84%(8/50) success rate on the PK against the London Knights. Goaltending stats favour OS because Zador is perfect with 48 saves in 48 shots for 1.000 SV%, a 0.00 Goals against and 2 victories…  to a 3.05GAA and 928SV% for Whalers Scott Wedgewood. The bubble has to burst on Zador soon and this series will bring him down to earth so to speak. But as I said when predicting the East…. Stats mean nothing in the next round. So going by gut feel a lone I am going to have to say…

My Prediction: Plymouth in 6

(2) Saginaw vs. (4) Windsor

            here we are in another battle for the Spitfires who even though are your back to back OHL Champions and back to back Memorial Cup Champions are actually doing the impossible this time around… so to speak. The first round is the first round where anything can happen and luckily for the Spitfires the Team USA Jack Campbell showed up to play opposed to Spitfires Jack Campbell. In Saginaw no one could find Mavric Parks. NO ONE! A 4.47 Goals against and a 872SV% is not even close to his outstanding regular season numbers.  2.94GAA and 914SV% if you don’t remember. Saginaw was able to win all 4 of their games by a combined 4 goals. 4 one goal victories over Guelph. The Dominant Spirit team that went 14-16 since the trade deadline including dropping 2 of their last 3 regular season games including one against Windsor. On the positive note for Saginaw Josh Shall has found his scoring touch, leading the Spirit with 5 goals against the Storm while Szwarz, Trochck and Saad each had 7 points with 3 other teammates having 5 or more points in their 6 game series. A total of 7 players with 5 or more points. Shows that the Spirit were sharing the wealth so to speak. For Windsor a total of 11 players with 4 or more points. Including Tom Kuhnhackl who leads with 5 goals and 11 points. Ryan Ellis and Criag Dunnick will be logging a lot of minutes against the Spirit and other then their offensive numbers, the Spits blueline pair have been poor defensively so to speak with a combined +1 rating between them.  There is a lot of playoff experience on Windsor which is generally an over riding factor. Include the experience of Jack Campbell in big game situations and the deck is stacked against the Saginaw Spirit… I am still not a Jack Campbell believer though and Windsor is LUCKY to get by Erie. Veteran leadership from Zack Kassian has been absent since February, and almost cost the Spitfires as he went a -5 in games 5, 6 and 7 of the series including a -3 in Game 7. If Kassian continues to have these problems the Spitfires may be in a big hole. The only advantage is that Saginaw is not a high energy fast paced team compared to the Erie Otters. Mavric Parks can always bounce back and this is the series he does. The 7-8 deep forwards that the Spirit have should be able to take down the giant line of Koko, Kuhnhackl and Carrick. The Defence for Saginaw will have to really pick things up and if there was ever a time to do it, it would be with the Back-2-Back champions standing infront of them and the Western Conference title. Again a very close series as it should be but at the end of it all… another gut feeling.

My Prediction: Saginaw in 7

So how is that for throwing a perfect bracket away… although I think the only safe bet would be Mississauga but I am going to stand by this and head down in flames if it happens. And rightfully so. And I expect to hear about it as well. Let the second round begin.

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