The match-ups are set and the 2012 OHL playoffs will begin this week. With that in mind, it's prediction time! Last year I went 9-6 throughout the playoffs, and have a 28-17 record over the past three years combined.
1. Niagara IceDogs vs. 8. Oshawa Generals
Season Series: TIE 1-1
My Analysis: If I was Niagara, this would be the one team I would have wanted to avoid in round one. The Generals have underperformed all season long and they have a veteran laden line-up. They've also played much better lately and have the potential to get hot. That said, Niagara's line-up is just too strong up and down to pick an upset. The Dogs have been playing out of their mind the past few months. Not to mention that they have an obvious edge in net with Mark Visentin. But the Generals will make it closer than people think, be in score OR in the series game amount.
Prediction: Niagara in 6
2. Ottawa 67's vs. 7. Belleville Bulls
Season Series: Ottawa 7-1
My Analysis: Honestly, if the 67's would have drawn anyone else in round one, I might have been scared for them. But they drew the one team they've had no trouble with this year, even in the midst of their struggles the past few months. The wild card here is the play of Malcolm Subban. He's proven before that if he gets hot, he can be nearly unbeatable. But Ottawa's the better team in nearly every area and has a rested Petr Mrazek ready for the playoffs.
Prediction: Ottawa in 5
3. Barrie Colts vs. Mississauga Majors
Season Series: Mississauga 4-2
My Analysis: Even before the season ending injury to Tanner Pearson, I was leaning towards the Majors. But this definitely swings the series in their favor. While the Colts have also played well lately, the Majors have been one of the hottest teams in the OHL the last few months and have looked fantastic since the return of Stuart Percy. I also think having Brandon Maxwell in goal makes a huge difference because the Colts will go with a rookie goaltender (either Neiderberger or Fotinos). Losing Pearson really hurts the Colts offensively, and they've had a hard enough time scoring against the Majors as is this year (just over 2 goals a game, which is way under their mark against other clubs). This will be a close series though.
Prediction: Mississauga in 7
4. Brampton Battalion vs. 5. Sudbury Wolves
Season Series: TIE 4-4
My Analysis: This is a real tough one to predict. These teams are very evenly matched and the season series was split. It's really a matter of whether offense or defense will prevail. Traditionalists will probably pick Brampton because they believe their defense first style is more suited to win games in the playoffs. Where as I'm looking at Sudbury and seeing the only real game changer in the match up, Michael Sgarbossa. He's not going to win the series all by himself, but I like Sudbury's chances of overcoming Brampton's defensive pressure to squeak out a win.
Prediction: Sudbury in 7
1. London Knights vs. 8. Windsor Spitfires
Season Series: TIE 3-3
My Analysis: I think there's no question in my mind that the Knights were a little disappointed that they have to face the Spits in round one. London has dominated Guelph this year, where as Windsor has played them very tough (including winning the last two match ups). London has had a heck of a tough time scoring goals lately, but I just can't see Windsor's goaltending and defense holding up in a seven game series against London. This is especially true because I think Windsor is going to have a tough time scoring goals with the likes of Harrington, Tinordi, and Maatta on the back end. But maybe Windsor just has London's number?
Prediction: London in 5
2. Plymouth Whalers vs. 7. Guelph Storm
Season Series: TIE 2-2
My Analysis: Just the same, the Whalers were probably hoping for Windsor in round one, as they've dominated the Spits this year, but have had trouble with Guelph. In fact, the Storm took the last match by a 9-1 drubbing. Guelph's had a heck of a surprising year thanks to the massive improvement of the younger players on their roster, but in a 7 game series, I can't see them keeping up with the depth of Plymouth. But the Whalers are definitely going to have to figure out how to keep Guelph off the score sheet after giving up 22 goals in 4 games against them this season.
Prediction: Plymouth in 6
3. Kitchener Rangers vs. 6. Owen Sound Attack
Season Series: Kitchener 4-2
My Analysis: The Rangers haven't played terrific hockey of late, but that's nothing on the Attack who enter the playoffs in a real slump and without their captain, the suspended Mike Halmo. Without Halmo in the line-up, Owen Sound is a different team. And while there are several hold overs from last year's Championship team, the Rangers have the more experienced line-up and the better goaltending.
Prediction: Kitchener in 5
4. Sarnia Sting vs. 5. Saginaw Spirit
Season Series: Sarnia 4-2
My Analysis: On paper, this seems like one Saginaw should take. Even though they lost the season series, they've dominated the last two match ups. They're also entering the playoffs on a hot streak and the Spirit offense is scorching opposing defenses right now. Meanwhile, the Sting are still a little banged up and have had serious consistency issues as of late (probably due to the aforementioned injuries). But at the same time, I think Sarnia will finally be healthy in the playoffs (I expect Yakupov and Galchenyuk back) and they have the better and more experienced goaltending in J.P. Anderson. After a trip to the Memorial Cup last year, Anderson knows what it takes to win in the playoffs. Going with my gut on this one.
Prediction: Sarnia in 7