The 2019 OHL Conference Finals are set to begin tonight, so it is time to bring you a preview of both of those series.
I went 2-4 in the semi finals, missing on Niagara and Sault Ste. Marie. I admitted that I felt Niagara and Oshawa was a toss up, so the Generals winning, despite being the lower seed (who dealt the IceDogs some of their better players at the deadline), was no surprise. Ultimately, Kyle Keyser was the difference maker there, in addition to Niagara's inability to stay out of the penalty box. Where as with the Soo and Saginaw, the Spirit's depth proved to be too strong for the Greyhounds and Ivan Prosvetov out-dueled Matt Villalta.
So my overall prediction record for the playoffs sits at 10-2. Let's see what the Championship finals have in store.
1. Ottawa 67's vs. 3. Oshawa Generals
Season Series: 5-3, Ottawa
Analysis: The Ottawa 67's have steamrolled the competition thus far in these OHL playoffs, having swept both of their series' so far. Oshawa has looked equally impressive, dispatching the star studded IceDogs last round thanks to the play of Kyle Keyser. The main story for me in this series is the battle of two of the league's elite goaltenders in Keyser and Michael Dipietro. Keyser struggled against Ottawa in the regular season, but he is rolling right now. And even though Dipietro struggled to close out the regular season, he has been slowly looking more like himself in these playoffs. Another thing to keep an eye on is Oshawa's powerplay unit versus Ottawa's penalty kill. The IceDogs lost that last round because of undisciplined play. The 67's need to stay out of the box, especially with their penalty kill not playing up to par this postseason (77.1%). Ultimately, I do feel like Ottawa has more firepower up front, but so did Niagara and they just could not beat Keyser. Another thing to watch for is that Brandon Saigeon and Nando Eggenberger both struggled big time against Ottawa in the regular season. Alright so who wins this series? I said last round that I felt that whoever won between Niagara and Oshawa would take the Eastern Conference and I stand by that. I just think that Keyser is playing at another level right now, and that Oshawa's special teams play gives them an advantage in an otherwise close match-up.
Prediction: Oshawa in 7
2. Saginaw Spirit vs. 4. Guelph Storm
Season Series: 2-2, TIE
Analysis: The Storm come into the series riding an ultimate high after coming back from down 0-3 to beat the top ranked London Knights. With all the additions that they made at this year's deadline, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who is calling them the underdog. A few things worth noting. The first is how good Saginaw's penalty killing unit has been thus far. Operating at almost 95%, they have given up only 2 powerplay goals this playoffs. They are forcing teams to beat them 5 on 5. The second is how deep both of these teams are offensively. Both Saginaw and Guelph have eight players with at least 3 goals in the postseason. And the third is how good Ivan Prosvetov has been. We talked about Kyle Keyser earlier, but Prosvetov has seen the second most rubber in these playoffs, yet he has the second best save percentage (.932). At the beginning of these playoffs, Guelph was my pick to take the OHL Championship, so I am going to stick with them here, even if I have been very impressed by the Spirit in the playoffs. I think that they have faced a ton of adversity already in these playoffs and are riding a high. I also think that their veteran forward group is more battled tested, led by Nick Suzuki and Mackenzie Entwistle. Wouldn't shocked me either way. But I'm sticking with my guns here.
Prediction: Guelph in 6