The 2014 OHL season wraps up today (with the unfortunately delayed Saginaw/Sault Ste. Marie game) and the playoffs begin later this week. That means it's time for my playoff predictions, as is the tradition on this blog.
Last year I went 12-3, so it'd be nice to have that strong of a record again this year.
Here's the Round One Breakdown:
1. Oshawa Generals vs. 8. Mississauga Steelheads
Season Series: 3-1 (Oshawa)
My Analysis: Unfortunately for the Steelheads, this one is likely to be a cake walk for the Generals. The Steelheads don't have enough offensive firepower to win a playoff series at this point, especially when going up against a terrific goaltender like Daniel Altshuller. The Generals can not only grind it out, but they've got enough skill to carry them pretty far in the playoffs. If he's on his game, I could see Spencer Martin stealing a game at home, but I think Oshawa takes this one easy.
Prediction: Oshawa in 4
2. North Bay Battalion vs. 7. Niagara IceDogs
Season Series: 3-3 (Tie)
My Analysis: This one will be closer than your average 2 vs 7 match up. I can tell you that the Battalion would have much rather seen the Steelheads here. Niagara has played North Bay incredibly tough this year, including taking the last two matchups with relative ease. The Dogs have a young team, so the playoffs are ultimately a different story, but they certainly have the ability to push the Battalion. In order to win this series, Niagara is going to have to get terrific goaltending from Brent Moran (which has been the case a lot lately), and more scoring from lines 2 through 4. I'm not incredibly confident in North Bay's ability to produce offensively either, but they're certainly more experienced. Except for in net, where Jake Smith is facing the same sort of uphill battle as Moran. In the end, I'm taking the upset on this one. I think Moran plays lights out and the Dogs get enough scoring to take this one in a long series.
Prediction: Niagara in 7
3. Kingston Frontenacs vs. 6. Peterborough Petes
Season Series: 5-1 (Kingston)
My Analysis: Kingston dominated this series, this season. But most of those games were played before the Hunter Garlent trade re-invigorated the Petes. Since then, the teams have split games in two closely contested (and high scoring) matches. I expect every game of this series to be high scoring. It'll be fast paced and not kind to goaltenders. In the end, I think the Fronts have the deeper offensive team and I expect that to be the difference. With the return of Ryan Kujawinski, the Fronts offense looks terrific and the team has become more dangerous. I think he could be the difference maker. Of course, Hockey Canada has to be cheering for Peterborough so that they can get Bennett, Watson, and McKeown for the U18's.
Prediction: Kingston in 6
4. Barrie Colts vs. 5. Sudbury Wolves
Season Series: 5-3 (Sudbury)
My Analysis: The battle of two teams sort of trending in different directions. Barrie has been playing much better in the new calendar year. They were a favourite for the East at the start of the season and are only starting to play like it now. Meanwhile, Sudbury has struggled since they went all in for Faksa and Carrick. A playoff loss in round one would certainly be a disaster for the ownership, management, and fans in Sudbury. I do think this will be a very close series. I see one of two things happening. 1. Sudbury wins because they get stellar goaltending from Palazzese and Barrie doesn't from one of Blackwood/Gibl. 2. Barrie wins because Sudbury continues to have chemistry issues and because their star players (Aaron Ekblad, Athanasiou, Hall, etc) come up huge. I have to go with the hotter team. I think Ekblad is motivated to win this series all by himself.
Prediction: Barrie in 6
1. Guelph Storm vs. 8. Plymouth Whalers
Season Series: 3-1 (Guelph)
My Analysis: No offense to the Plymouth Whalers, but I don't think they stand much of a chance in this series, even if Alex Nedeljkovic stands on his head (which I expect him to). I see the terrific, young, Whalers netminder stealing a game for his team, but outside of that the Storm are just too powerful. Guelph's 3rd line might just be more dangerous than Plymouth's top line. It should be a very entertaining and physical series though. The fans will get their moneys worth, even if it's short.
Prediction: Guelph in 5
2. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds vs. 7. Owen Sound Attack
Season Series: 2-0 (SSM)
My Analysis: Honestly so happy that Saginaw managed to pull one out against the Hounds on Monday to ensure this meeting. This was the series that I wanted to see. A rematch from last year's hotly contested series. Owen Sound got the better of Sault Ste. Marie last year, and I think the shoe will be on the other foot this year. While the Attack work incredibly hard and get the most out of what they have, I don't think they stack up well against this year's Greyhounds. The Soo has the deeper forward group, the better defense, and the better goaltending (even if Brandon Hope has been a terrific surprise this year for Owen Sound). Knowing the Attack, they'll battle and make it close, but I don't see them having the talent to ultimately succeed.
Prediction: Sault Ste. Marie in 5
3. Erie Otters vs. 6. Saginaw Spirit
Season Series: 3-1 (Erie)
My Analysis: Needless to say, the Spirit are going to be amped up for this year's playoffs as they'll no doubt dedicate their performance to the memory of Terry Trafford. They won't make this an easy series on the powerful Otters. That said, we're looking at an Otters team firing on all cylinders right now. They're coming into the playoffs as the league's hottest team. Realistically, the Spirit are outclassed by a pretty wide margin on talent alone. The key will be goaltending. Which Jake Paterson shows up? The usual playoffs Jake Paterson, or the one who battled consistency during the regular season? Even if Jake is on his game, the man at the other end (Dansk) is no slouch. The Spirit will fight and claw and play with heavy hearts, but in the end the talent of the Otters will get them through to the next round.
Prediction: Erie in 6
4. London Knights vs. 5. Windsor Spitfires
Season Series: 5-1 (London)
My Analysis: This might be one of the most one sided 4 vs 5 match-ups that the league has ever seen. That's what happens when one division has three terrific teams (who are all among the best in the entire CHL). Windsor's goaltending and defense (without Slater Koekkoek) just isn't good enough to stop London's four line attack. Since adding Zadorov and Bell, the Knights have looked pretty damn good and if they can get good goaltending from Stolarz, I think they're the favourite to repeat (again) as OHL champs.
Prediction: London in 4
As always, I would love to hear your predictions in the comments section.