Well we're finally there. The OHL Championship series is upon us. On Friday, the London Knights and the Barrie Colts will engage in battle, in what should be a terrific series.
Throughout the playoffs thus far, I've compiled an 11-3 record; so I'd obviously prefer to finish on top with a correct prediction!
So, here we go:
1. London Knights vs. 2. Barrie Colts
Season Series: 2-0 London
My Analysis: While London did take the season series, both games were played early in the season (before December). Thus, I don't think we can use those as an accurate gauge. I don't think there's any question London has faced the more difficult route in this year's playoffs, so it's hard to compare the numbers. But I'll do it anyway. On paper, the Colts have the advantage in nearly every category thus far. They've allowed fewer goals. They've had the better powerplay and penalty kill. They've done a better job staying out of the box. And they've got the leading scorer of this year's playoffs in Mark Scheifele. Based on the above information, London has to do the following things in order to capture their second straight OHL championship: Firstly they've got to stay out of the box. Barrie's powerplay has been lights out this postseason and they can't give them numerous chances per game with the man advantage. Secondly, they've got to get bodies in front of the net to screen Matthias Niederberger. The Bulls were the first to be able to do that effectively in these playoffs, but they didn't do it consistently enough to win the East. No offense to Anthony Stolarz, but Niederberger is the better and more experienced goaltender in this match-up. And Thirdly, they've got to shutdown the Schefiele/Hall/Camara line like they did Vincent Trocheck last round (Bo Horvat has been sensational in a defensive role during these playoffs). And I think London is capable of doing those three things. As much as I'd love to see Barrie win (to spread the wealth), I think London's depth and playoff experience will help them win this series. But it's going to be closer than people are predicting. One side story I'm really interested to see unfold is the play of Andreas Athanasiou this series. He's quietly had a terrific bounce back season in Barrie and I'm sure he's going to be eager to stick it to the Knights for tossing him aside.
Prediction: London in 6
Would love to read your predictions in the comments section.