The OHL second round kicks off tonight with Oshawa and Barrie doing battle, so that means it's time to breakdown the Conference semi-final match-ups.
I went 6-2 in round one, losing on Brampton and Sault Ste. Marie. If someone had told me Stan Butler would have been lost for the series early on, I would have went with Sudbury. No offense to Jason Ward and Ryan Oulahen, but Butler is the lifeblood of that franchise and without him they looked flat.
Here's the 2nd round breakdown:
1. Belleville Bulls vs. 5. Sudbury Wolves
Season Series: 3-1 Belleville
My Analysis: If Belleville wants to win this series, they're going to have to play a heck of a lot better than they did against Mississauga in the opening round. They looked soft and unengaged on a few of those nights and the pesky Steelheads took advantage of that. The Wolves are much more dangerous team, with a better goaltender to boot. That means the margin for error is even smaller. Belleville will need a more consistent effort from guys like Quine, Brassard, and Subban to advance to the next round. Meanwhile, Sudbury will need to continue to get great goaltending from Franky Palazzese. He was sensational in round one. Sudbury is also going to need a better effort from their penalty kill. Belleville can be deadly with the man advantage and Sudbury isn't going to survive a series where they can't stay out of the box.
Prediction: Belleville in 7
2. Barrie Colts vs. 3. Oshawa Generals
Season Series: 3-1 Barrie
My Analysis: Throw the season series out the window because these teams haven't met since January. This is going to be one heck of a series. Both teams finished off their first round foes fairly easily and have had some rest. The Colts will still be without Anthony Camara for game one, and without Ryan O'Connor for the whole series. I think Colts fans should definitely be concerned with the fact that the team's captain won't be able to play in the series, as the Generals firepower is going to test the defensive depth of the Colts. Luckily Barrie has been getting terrific goaltending from Niederberger all season long. I don't see that changing now and I think it's the difference in the series. Both teams have firepower up front so the goaltenders will be tested. And I'm taking Niederberger over Altshuller in a 7 game series that could see some "shoot em up" kind of games.
Prediction: Barrie in 6
1. London Knights vs. 4. Kitchener Rangers
Season Series: 4-2 London
My Analysis: This series is going to come down to John Gibson. I don't think there's any question that the Rangers don't have the firepower offensively to keep up with London. Depth wise, London trumps them. But Gibson is such a terrific goaltender and he was pretty damn good in round one. He has that series stealing ability. I still think that in order to really make a run, the Knights are going to need Scott Harrington back. It remains to be seen whether that's going to happen. Sit back and watch this one unfold. At the end of the day, I think London is just too deep for Kitchener to play with in a 7 game series. But it's going to be really close.
Prediction: London in 7
2. Plymouth Whalers vs. 3. Owen Sound Attack
Season Series: 2-2 TIE
My Analysis: I love the way Owen Sound plays the game. They work hard and they get the job done. No excuses. Jordan Binnington has been rgeat all season long and round one was no exception. But I think Plymouth is the team to beat this year. They do everything Owen Sound does (in terms of physicality, skill, determination), but they've got better depth and more skill up front. The wildcard here is goaltending from Plymouth's vantage point. They're currently relying on 17 year old rookie Alex Nedeljkovic. Thus far he's been up to the challenge, but Owen Sound is going to test him more than Sarnia did. It'll be interesting to see how he handles it.
Prediction: Plymouth in 5
As always, would love to read your predictions.