Saturday, April 16, 2016

2016 OHL Playoff Predictions: Conference Finals

Went 2-2 in the West, but 0-2 in the East in Round 2. That brings my playoff prediction record to 8-4.

The Conference Finals should present fans with some absolutely fantastic hockey. All four teams breezed through the second round (shockingly) and are playing some absolutely fantastic hockey.

Let's take a look at both series' a little more closely.


2. Barrie Colts vs. 4. Niagara IceDogs
Season Series: 4-2, Barrie
Analysis: Really excited to see how this series plays out (admittedly more so than the West). Niagara was incredibly aggressive on the trade market this year in hopes of getting to this spot. Their inconsistent play this year frustrated fans but they appear to have gelled and peaked at the right time. Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic has been absolutely amazing thus far in the playoffs and he's going to need to continue to be for the Dogs against a Barrie team which is averaging nearly 4 goals per game in the postseason. Barrie holds the advantage on the season series, but most of those games occurred before the trade deadline which makes the head to head relatively irrelevant. Newly signed (by Columbus) forward Justin Scott has been a man on a mission thus far with remarkable 14 goals. So wins this series? Would you accept it if I said "flip a coin?" Kidding. Here's my thinking. Offensively, these teams line up exceptionally well. Barrie's secondary scoring came to life against North Bay and it sounds like they'll get Dylan Sadowy back. Where as Niagara has been getting scoring and energy from all four of their lines this whole playoffs. Defensively, both of these teams are deep with veteran talent too. And in net, Nedeljkovic and Blackwood might just be the two best goaltenders in the OHL and both come in red hot. So what's the difference maker? I think it's Nedeljkovic and Niagara's four line offensive attack. I truly believe in Nedeljkovic's ability to steal a few games this series for Niagara, and in the other games, I love the energy Niagara has been getting from every forward they employ. The way they dispatched the Frontenacs was INCREDIBLY impressive. That's why I'm going with Niagara.
Prediction: Niagara in 7


1. Erie Otters vs. 3. London Knights
Season Series: 3-3, TIE
Analysis: Another battle of division rivals. I hear a lot of people suggesting that this is the true OHL Finals. I definitely don't agree with that, but that's another story. Offensively, I think Erie holds the slight advantage right now. The Otters have been getting some big contributions from nearly every one of their top 9 forwards, where as London has the juggernaut first line and then whatever line Cliff Pu plays on. Erie has the capability of shutting down (or at least slowing down) that Marner/Dvorak/Tkachuk line better than Owen Sound/Kitchener did. Which means that guys like JJ Piccinich will have to do more. The loss of Max Jones hurts here for sure. Defensively, I like Erie a little bit more too. They get a little more consistent effort from their forwards in playing a team defense approach, and their penalty kill has been absolutely sensational so far in these playoffs. In goal, Tyler Parsons has the advantage IMO. Devin Williams has been great all year, but I don't think he has the capability of stealing games/periods the way that Parsons has for London down the stretch and into these playoffs. A massive X Factor will be discipline and special teams play though. Erie has only been shorthanded 20 times in this entire playoffs. They've managed to play hard, but not stupid. That's the veteran leadership of their lineup. And when they have been shorthanded, they've been dominant (as I already mentioned). London, on the other hand, has been shorthanded double that amount and on top of that, their penalty kill has not looked great. I'm just not incredibly confident in London's secondary scoring, nor their ability to play disciplined hockey to keep Erie off the score sheet with the man advantage. That's why I'm going Otters.
Prediction: Erie in 6

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