With today's results (save the Kitchener/Guelph game which has no bearing) in the books, the 2010 OHL Playoff picture has been set.
That means...it's prediction time. Last year, I went 11-4 over the course of the playoffs, but was a snazzy 10-2 through the first two rounds. Let's see if I can mimic the results this year.
1. Barrie Colts vs. 8. Sudbury Wolves
Season Series: Colts - 7-1
My Analysis: The Wolves likely don't have much of a chance. Sure, nobody really knows how this Colts team will respond to the challenge of the OHL playoffs, but the Wolves aren't likely to provide them with much of that challenge. The Colts dominated the season series and the Wolves defense and goaltending just isn't good enough to keep up with the balanced offensive attack of Barrie. A Mike Foligno coached team isn't likely to just give up an die, but I don't think this one is close.
Prediction: Barrie in 5
2. Ottawa 67's vs. 7. Niagara IceDogs
Season Series: Tie - 2-2
My Analysis: A rematch of last year's thrilling 3 vs. 6 match-up, the Dogs look to play spoiler yet again after defeating the 67's in seven games in 2009. The 67's definitely have the advantage of having Tyler Cuma back in the line up this year, and the Dogs are without Alex Pietrangelo and Jeremy Smith (who stole the show last year for Niagara). On paper, you may think the 67's should be able to exact some revenge this year, but these two teams are really close yet again. The season series was split (even if Ottawa won the most recent match-up in convincing fashion). Ottawa definitely has the better forward and defensive units, but the Dogs edge them in goal yet again with Mark Visentin. Last year, the Dogs forechecking and team speed really hurt the 67's and I think much of that could occur again this year. Either way, I anticipate it being a close series.
Prediction: Niagara in 7
3. Mississauga St. Michael's Majors vs. 6. Peterborough Petes
Season Series: Majors - 3-1
My Analysis: A very interesting match-up. The best defensive team in the league (Majors) vs. one of the worst defensive teams in the league (Petes). On paper, this is another one that looks like a severe mismatch, however due to recent circumstances, I think this series could be closer than anticipated. The Petes enter the playoffs on a four game winning streak (which includes a 5-1 thrashing of the Majors), while the Majors have been wildly inconsistent and struggled with injuries during the past month. But Cameron Gaunce is back and his shoulder is healthy, and the Majors looked good defensively again today against Niagara (their last game before the playoffs). Ultimately, this series probably comes down to goaltending and I'll take either Chris Carrozzi or J.P. Anderson over Jason Missiaen.
Prediction: Mississauga in 6
4. Kingston Frontenacs vs. 5. Brampton Battalion
Season Series: Tie - 2-2
My Analysis: What really matters is how well did Kingston fair against the Cody Hodgson lead Battalion in the second half of the season. The answer is well, a shootout victory and a close 3-1 loss. The bad news for Kingston is that they'll be without Taylor Doherty for the first two games of the series after his suspension for a cross check. Doherty has been, perhaps, the biggest reason for Kingston's strong play over the last two months. I think the biggest difference maker will be the experience of the Battalion. Hodgson, Tanski, Clark, Peroff, Albert, etc were all around last year during the team's run to the OHL Finals. They know what it takes to get out of the first round and Hodgson in particular looks healthy and committed enough to put this team on his back.
Prediction: Brampton in 7
1. Windsor Spitfires vs. 8. Erie Otters
Season Series: Spitfires - 3-1
My Analysis: Sure the Spitfires goaltending is still a question mark going into the playoffs (ring a bell from last year), but I don't think the Erie Otters represent a big enough challenge to legitimately scare the Spits. The Otters offensive depth took a big hit when Andrew Yogan was lost to a broken leg and I don't think the Otters defense is strong enough to consistently keep up with the Spits constant offensive barrage. That said, I expect Adam Courchaine to play his butt off and keep the Otters in the majority of games.
Prediction: Windsor in 5
2. London Knights vs. 7. Guelph Storm
Season Series: Knights - 5-1
My Analysis: This could very well be the best series of the opening round. Two of the hottest teams in the league clashing. While the Knights dominated the season series, the majority of those games were in the middle of the season when Guelph was struggling with injuries. The Storm are now fully healthy and are absolutely ripping apart the competition. This is a team many people were predicting to have home ice advantage this year, so if anything they may finally be playing up to expectations...at the right time of the year. Not to put a lot of pressure on one particular player, but I think the Knights fate in this series lies in the play of Nazem Kadri. If he can get catch fire, it bodes well for the Knights advancing.
Prediction: Guelph in 7
3. Kitchener Rangers vs. 6. Saginaw Spirit
Season Series: Tie - 2-2
My Analysis: Without much attention, Spirit goaltender Edward Pasquale has been the best goaltender in the second half of the OHL season. In the past two months, he's been nearly unbeatable with a SV% of over .940. No one knows that better than the Rangers who fell victim to a 38 save performance from Pasquale this past Saturday in a 3-0 loss. The Rangers, no question, have the better team on paper but I worry about Brandon Maxwell in his first OHL playoffs. I'm not sure he can keep up with the veteran Pasquale, who's playing the best hockey of his career.
Prediction: Saginaw in 7
4. Plymouth Whalers vs. 5. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Season Series: Tie - 3-3
My Analysis: This match-up sees the pairing of perhaps the two best goaltenders in the OHL, Matt Hackett and Robin Lehner. There is no doubt that Plymouth has better depth, after loading up during the season for a long playoff run, however the Greyhounds play some tough hockey and didn't finish fifth in the Conference by fluke. The Greyhounds come into the playoffs riding a bit of a hot streak too, while the Whalers are in a bit of a funk. This includes a Saturday overtime defeat by the Hounds over Plymouth. I'm really torn on this one. On one hand, I like the depth of the Whalers, but on the other hand, I can't help but take into account the never say die attitude of Sault Ste. Marie. Flip a coin? I think the Hounds edge out a victory and give the Team Canada Under 18 team a massive present (Tyler Seguin).
Prediction: Sault Ste. Marie in 7
Would absolutely love to hear your predictions as comments!