by Alex Quevillon
After receiving a scare from the seventh-seeded Belleville Bulls, the Ottawa 67’s prevailed, taking their first round series in six games. Immediately after Ottawa’s 2-1 triumph in game six concluded, Anthony Camara finished off a 2-on-1 rush in another Eastern Conference game six, this game decided in overtime, giving the Barrie Colts a second round playoff berth and a matchup with the 67’s in round two.
The Colts got the better of Ottawa this season, although the season series can be taken with a grain of salt. Barrie won the first meeting at the J. Benson Cartage Centre this campaign in a 4-on-4 overtime, and their second trip to the Nation’s Capital in a shootout, neither being circumstances that will decide a playoff game. The teams split their two matchups at the Barrie Molson Center.
The last time these two teams played was in the first round in 2005. The Colts, the third seed as they are this year, were the first team to get knocked out of contention by the underdog 67's, who went all the way to the finals that year and despite losing to London, got into the Memorial Cup as the OHL representative.
Since that run, the 67's had only won one playoff series heading into this year's playoffs. Barrie, meanwhile, had their own run to the finals just two years ago, losing to the Windsor Spitfires. Last year was a rough year for the Colts, finishing last in the league, but their young core has shown some promise for the future this season. And, in all fairness, the Colts and 67's have won the exact same number of playoff games in the last two years, to this point.
These two teams have only played one other series against each other in their history, a five-game win for Ottawa in the second round of the 1997 playoffs.
In Round One, Malcolm Subban made some miraculous saves for Belleville. He helped hold the Bulls in the series with Ottawa but in the end, the pressure in the Belleville end became too much for the goaltender who isn’t old enough to be an NHL draft pick yet. Subban was visibly annoyed in games five and six. Now, Ottawa has to do the same to another young netminder.
The tenderfoot tandem of Mathias Niederberger and Alex Fotinos has to be promising for Barrie fans. At the same time, however, an inexperienced pair of goaltenders rarely lead their teams on long playoff runs unless the team in front of them is stacked to the rafters. Barrie has firepower, but they aren’t a powerhouse by any means.
By that same token, Petr Mrazek has to be as sharp as he was in game six against Belleville to hold his team in it. Both teams are going to score a lot in this series, that’s almost a given. Ottawa’s goaltender needs to cut down on the number of goals he allows from far out. Belleville’s second win came as a result of a longshot eluding Mrazek, and Barrie exploited one of the faults in the Czech’s game the two times they played against him this season, scoring 10 goals in two games.
Scoring: Expect Lots Of It
Just like last series against the Belleville Bulls, Ottawa finds themselves in another showdown with a run-and-gun, north-south team. Barrie played against a very defencive-minded Mississauga team and as such, they are probably excited to see a team that's far more loose defencively in round two.
Colin Behenna and Mark Scheifele are a dangerous one-two punch down the middle for Barrie. They are, however, missing their leading scorer Tanner Pearson who is out for the season, and with that, the Colts lose 91 points of production. Ottawa also has a key, indefinite injury up front of their own, with John McFarland out for the year.
While Ottawa players have been accused by fans of "only putting in a 20-minute effort", amongst other similiar knocks, you can't overlook the ability of their quick-strike offence. Any team that can come back from a 3-0 deficit in a matter of seven minutes in a playoff game has to gain some credibility.
With all this about stacked offences being said, however, don't underestimate Barrie's defencive ability. They did play a defencive-minded team in round one, but they were able to hold the Majors to less than two goals per game in round one. Defenceman Aaron Ekblad was named Rookie Of The Year the day before the series opener, too, so clearly something's going right on the back end in Barrie.
Prediction: Ottawa in 7
Game one goes Friday night in Ottawa, a 7:00 start time as the game will be on Rogers Sportsnet. Game two is played Sunday before the teams head to Barrie for games three and four on Tuesday and Thursday night respectively.
by Alex Quevillon
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