The OHL Conference Finals kick off Thursday (The East), and Friday (The West). It's time to analyze the match-ups and make some predictions. So far this playoffs, I'm 11-1 in my predictions. But here's where we get down to the nitty gritty.
1. Peterborough Petes vs. 2. Mississauga Steelheads
Season Series: 3-1, Peterborough
Analysis: No offense meant to the other teams in the Eastern Conference, but I think this is the match-up we all expected for the Conference finals. The best two teams will be playing it out for the Bobby Orr trophy. These two teams couldn't be more different either. Peterborough plays an in your face, physical, speed based game that plays to their strengths on defense and in net. They're going to want to keep these games low scoring to be in their comfort zone. While the Steelheads are an offensive juggernaut who play at a high tempo, rely on their powerplay and encourage their defenders to be offensive catalysts. They've given up over 3 goals per game in these playoffs, yet find themselves in the East final (compared to Peterborough's 2 gpg). The Petes have most certainly looked the part so far, as they haven't lost a game and have remained largely untested. So what's going to win out in this series? Defense or offense? Here's the answer for me. I think Peterborough has a clear advantage in net and in overall team defense. And while I'd give the nod to Mississauga offensively, I don't think it's as large of an advantage as Peterborough has defensively. I look for Dylan Wells to really be a difference maker between the pipes and for the old adage "defensive wins championships" to ring true.
Prediction: Peterborough in 6
1. Erie Otters vs. 3. Owen Sound Attack
Season Series: 4-2, Erie
Analysis: Again, no offense meant to the other fantastic teams in the Western Conference, but this is the Conference final I wanted to see. The Otters, looking to finally take home an OHL crown after being so close in recent years, versus the league's hottest team in the second half, the Owen Sound Attack. I want to break this down by team. First Erie. Erie most definitely has the depth advantage, especially up front. They also have the experience advantage. These are two very important things when it comes to winning in the playoffs IMO. Anthony Cirelli, in particular, has continued to come up clutch in the playoffs and has proven to be the right acquisition at the deadline. Meanwhile, Owen Sound has the advantage in net with Michael McNiven (the best goalie in the league this year), the more physical team, and has a better team defense (again, IMO). Quite frankly, when these playoffs started, I envisioned going with Erie all the way. I felt that Owen Sound's lack of playoff experience, in comparison, would ultimately hurt them. But, I think they really showed something battling back from down 0-2 against the Greyhounds. Michael McNiven continues to play out of his mind and I think Owen Sound's physicality and tight defensive game, matches up against Erie better than London did. One thing to look out for, is team discipline. Both team's have lethal powerplays. Owen Sound has had some difficulty staying out of the box thus far in the playoffs and they'll need to continue to play hard nosed hockey, without giving Erie too many chances on the powerplay. This series is going to be a grind, but I'm going with my gut here and selecting Owen Sound. But, I'd be OK with Erie winning, providing a great swan song for a lot of their veteran stars.
Prediction: Owen Sound in 7