As is tradition on this blog, the OHL playoffs are around the corner and that means it is prediction time. Last year, I went 9-6 over the course of the playoffs. Not awful, but certainly not great either.
Here's the breakdown:
1. Belleville Bulls vs. 8. Mississauga Steelheads
Season Series: TIE 2-2
My Analysis: Even though the season series was tied, I don't think Mississauga stands a chance in this series. The 2 wins they had against Belleville this year came early in the season when they were playing well and before the Bulls loaded up for their playoff push. In the last two meetings, the Bulls have shutout the Majors. Belleville has one of the stingiest defenses in the league, and Mississauga just hasn't been able to score much of late. That's a recipe for a quick series IMO. At least the Under 18 team will be happy to get Spencer Martin as one of their goaltenders.
Prediction: Belleville in 4
2. Barrie Colts vs. 7. Kingston Frontenacs
Season Series: 3-1 Barrie
My Analysis: Kingston scraped and clawed its way into the playoffs only to have themselves get beaten up by the Barrie Colts. It's a sad reality. Barrie is a much bigger and physically aggressive team, and they'll also get strong goaltending from Matthias Niederberger. The playoff experience will be great for Kingston's young core of players. They'll get to see what it's like to play in the playoffs, and hopefully they'll be better for it next year. Like the above series, I don't see any possible way that the underdog takes this one.
Prediction: Barrie in 4
3. Oshawa Generals vs. 6. Niagara IceDogs
Season Series: 2-0 Oshawa
My Analysis: Oshawa was in the thick of things for the battle for top spot in the Eastern Conference nearly all season long, and one could argue that they're just as good of a team as Belleville and Barrie. For that reason, Niagara is going to have their hands full. While I'm sure Niagara's core group of veterans like Ryan Strome, Brett Ritchie, and Jesse Graham will have the boys roaring to go, I just don't see them having the talent or goaltending needed to beat Oshawa in a 7 game series. The Gennies have the depth offensively to go far in the playoffs, as long as Daniel Altshuller is able to stand tall in the nets. Obviously, the big factor in this series is the bad blood and playoff rivalry that's developed between these two teams. Look for the Gennies to be out for revenge.
Prediction: Oshawa in 5
4. Brampton Battalion vs. 5. Sudbury Wolves
Season Series: 5-3 Brampton
My Analysis: Brampton closed off the season by winning the final 3 matchups against the Wolves, but they're definitely no slam dunk to take this series. This one will likely be the only closely contested series of the Eastern Conference's first round. I think these two teams match up quite well against each other. Both teams get great veteran goaltending from Machovsky and Palazzese. Brampton is the better defensive team, while Sudbury is the more dynamic offensive team. Should be interesting. Obviously, the big story is that this series could see the last game played in Brampton in the OHL. The team is moving to North Bay next year, and I'm sure the veterans of Brampton (guys like Wind, Bell, Goodrow, Machovsky) would love to give their fans (yes there are some core Battalion fans) a nice little run before the move. I think that extra motivation gives them the edge. On the other hand, Sudbury will be looking to avenge their sweep at the hands of Brampton last year.
Prediction: Brampton in 6
1. London Knights vs. 8. Saginaw Spirit
Season Series: 3-1 London
My Analysis: This one definitely has the potential to be closer than your typical 1 vs. 8 battle. Saginaw has played London very tough all season long. That said, it's the playoffs now. London has a group of players who went through a long run to the Memorial Cup last year and they know what it takes to win. At some point, Seth Griffith, and hopefully, Scott Harrington will return to the line up. Those two players are needed at their best in order for London to make a big push. They'll also need strong goaltending from the likes of Stolarz or Patterson. Meanwhile, Saginaw will most definitely get strong goaltending from the underrated Jake Paterson. If London is able to shutdown Saginaw's top line, it could be a long series for the Spirit.
Prediction: London in 5
2. Plymouth Whalers vs. 7 Sarnia Sting
Season Series: 4-2 Plymouth
My Analysis: Since their big trade(Trocheck), Plymouth has really taken it to the Sting, winning the last three games by a margin of 20-4. The Whalers have been a pretty unstoppable force of late. They've certainly peaked at the right time. I think the one wildcard in this series is the goaltending match up. J.P. Anderson has been solid in the playoffs previously, and he'll be looking to finish out his OHL career in style. Meanwhile, the Whalers will likely go with rookie Alex Nedeljkovic, who is relatively untested. I just don't think Sarnia's defense is good enough to handle the constant barrage that is going to come from Plymouth.
Prediction: Plymouth in 5
3. Owen Sound Attack vs. 6. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Season Series: 2-0 Owen Sound
My Analysis: Honestly, I think this is the series I'm most psyched to watch unfold. You couldn't have two teams more different than each other. Owen Sound plays a slower tempo, grind 'em out, defensive styled approach. The Soo employ a full on offensive attack in a run and gun type system. Whatever team is able to sucker the other one into their particular type of game, is likely the one to win. I don't think Owen Sound can keep up with the Soo offensively, while the Soo haven't had a ton of success keeping pucks out of their net lately. In order to win, the Hounds are going to need a massive performance from Matt Murray. It's a real toss up here, but I'm going with my gut and saying the Hounds will win this one.
Prediction: Sault Ste. Marie in 7
4. Kitchener Rangers vs. 5. Guelph Storm
Season Series: 5-3 Kitchener
My Analysis: With John Gibson back and healthy, I think the dynamic of this series has definitely shifted. Without Gibson, I would have thought the Storm had a strong chance to win. They've certainly got a deep group of hard working forwards; guys built to take the pressure of the playoffs. Kitchener's offensive group is certainly not deep enough to REALLY scare teams, but they're a different team when Gibson is playing. They play with more confidence and their slick skating defense is able to take more offensive chances. I'm not sure about Kitchener making a long run in these playoffs, but I do like them in this series.
Prediction: Kitchener in 6
Would love to read your predictions in the comments section.