We're in the home stretch now folks. Down to four, as the OHL Conference finals commence tonight. Time for another round of predictions. Went 3-1 in round 2, bumping my overall record for the postseason to 8-4.
Let's look at the Conference Final match-ups.
1. Niagara IceDogs vs. 2 Ottawa 67's
Season Series: 3-1 Niagara
My Analysis: Sorry Ottawa fans, I just can't see this one being close. The Dogs absolutely dominated Ottawa in two late season meetings and just ran over a very tough defensive team in Brampton. They're so deep, and so physical, that their four lines just roll over the opposition like a tsunami of pain. Most of all, they're very experienced, with a bevy of guys playing in their final OHL season, or at least likely their last OHL season. Meanwhile, the 67's have had a tough time getting as far as they have. The only chance that Ottawa has of winning this series is if Petr Mrazek can regain some of his magic. He absolutely needs to out duel Mark Visentin, and thus far in the playoffs (and really the entire 2nd half of the season), he hasn't been fantastic.
Prediction: Niagara in 5
1. London Knights vs. 3 Kitchener Rangers
Season Series: 4-2 Kitchener
My Analysis: The Rangers have made things pretty interesting in the West. They've peaked at the right time and are getting some outstanding goaltending from John Gibson. This series looks like it will be absolutely beastly for that reason alone, as the Knights have also gotten great goaltending from OHL goalie of the year Michael Houser. On paper, I think the Knights are the better team. But that's on paper and we all know how that stacks up in reality. One thing to consider is how strong Kitchener's special teams play has been this postseason. Their powerplay has been nearly unstoppable, while their penalty kill has been impenetrable. Meanwhile, the Knights have had a bit of a tough time keeping pucks out of the net shorthanded. London will win if they can get increased offensive production from their secondary scoring units, and if they can stay disciplined and out of the penalty box. Kitchener will win if their top line continues to dominate the way it has (especially with the man advantage) and if John Gibson continues his dominance (.949 save percentage thus far in the postseason. Yikes!). Going with my gut here.
Prediction: Kitchener in 7