We're on to the second round of the OHL playoffs, as action in the Conference semi finals kicks off on Wednesday. The opening round didn't really provide us with a ton of drama as every series but two wrapped up in 5 games or under. And none went the distance (7 games). Quite frankly, I'm not sure I see any of the series' being incredibly close this round either. I think we've got a clear hierarchy in the league this year (in terms of teams built for the playoffs) and I'm very excited for the following round; the Conference finals.
After round one, my prediction record is 7-1, so I'm off to a good start.
Here's how I see round two shaking down.
1. Oshawa Generals vs. 5. Niagara IceDogs
Season Series: 2-0 (Niagara)
Analysis: The Dogs swept the season series, but those results don't mean a lot to me. Both games occurred prior to 2015 and the Generals didn't have McCarron, Mistele, Pedersen, Cassels, or Mermis in the line up for either game and Michael Dal Colle only played in one. So you can take the regular season matchup as worth a grain of salt. Everyone knows that the Niagara IceDogs were a better team than 5th in the East and they'll give the Generals a good fight. But I think that Oshawa is just too large for Niagara's defence to contain. And despite advancing to round two, goaltending was an issue in the opening round for the IceDogs. Brandon Hope will have to play much better if he hopes to give his team a chance of winning the series. The Generals are not only a well balanced scoring team, but they're the league's top defensive team too. Too much for Niagara to handle.
Prediction: Oshawa in 5
2. Barrie Colts vs. 3. North Bay Battalion
Season Series: 3-3 (TIE)
Analysis: I think this definitely has the potential to be the closest series among the four of this round. North Bay's sweep of Kingston in the first round was incredibly impressive. I expected them to win but not in that fashion. When you look at these two teams, they are built in very different ways. Barrie relies heavily on their top line and the speed and energy they bring. And they rely on Mackenzie Blackwood to make big saves (which he did in round one). Where as North Bay is a three line team who plays a grind it out, trapping approach. They look to use their size to wear down the opposition and they hope to stifle the creativity of opposing forwards by playing tough team oriented defence. Ultimately, I see North Bay taking this one. I think this team is built for the playoffs (just like last year's squad). McIvor and Liberati did such a great job shutting down the Bennett line against Kingston and they'll draw the Blandisi/Mangiapane/Lebanc assignment. I also think the size of North Bay's forward group is going to give Barrie's relatively undersized forward group difficulty. The wildcards for Barrie are obviously the return of Brendan Lemieux (which could happen sometime during this series) and the play of Blackwood. I still don't see it being enough.
Prediction: North Bay in 5
1. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds vs. 4. Guelph Storm
Season Series: 4-0 (SSM)
Analysis: I was surprised with the result of the Storm/Attack series. I give Guelph credit for battling hard to get that win. They were outplayed in several games of that series but Justin Nichols really was sensational and the difference maker. No offence to Nichols, but I don't think there is anything he can do in this battle with the Greyhounds. Sault Ste. Marie is big, fast, poised, and experienced. Realistically, they've got four lines that can hurt you and they'll just pound you into submission. With the way this team is playing right now, I don't think anyone in the West competes with them. That said, Justin Nichols seems to be on a mission right now so I'm sure he'll steal a game (probably one of the Guelph home games).
Prediction: Sault Ste. Marie in 5
2. Erie Otters vs. 3. London Knights
Season Series: 5-1 (Erie)
Analysis: This one won't be a goaltending battle, that's for sure. Two high powered offences duking it out for a chance to get beat up by the Hounds (only partially sarcastic). Erie faced a bit of adversity in round one against Sarnia and I think it was good for them. Their balanced offensive attack is going to be a lot for London's inexperienced defence to handle. It was that way during their regular season match ups and I see the trend continuing. London just doesn't have the depth to compete with Erie in a shoot 'em up type of series. If anything, this experience will be fantastic for the Knights' young defenders as they'll get an opportunity to see the level they'll need to be at in the future. The only way Erie has trouble in this series is if they get into penalty trouble and give London's big guns a chance to play with the man advantage.
Prediction: Erie in 5
What do you think? Will all these series' be closer than I'm predicting?