Playoff Preview: Conference Finals

Picking nine out 12 winners correctly through two rounds isn’t too bad, but perfection wasn’t always my strong suit. Picking the correct number of games this year has been, well, near impossible, especially with some sweeps no one saw coming.

Playoff LogoMany people are going to look at the Erie versus London Western Conference Final as the true championship series and the winner should walk through the finals and on to the Memorial Cup. But let’s not discount Barrie or Niagara in the East. Time and again it’s been shown that great goaltending can win it all and Niagara’s Alex Nedeljkovic was nothing short of spectacular versus Kingston. On the flip-side, Barrie’s quick strike offense has matched what Erie and London have done during these playoffs.

Both series look to be exciting for fans but if you can only catch one, I recommend the Erie versus London Conference Final. It’s shaping up to be a back and forth battle with momentum shifts from shift to shift. I would argue that series could end up being more entertaining than most NHL playoff matchups.

Round One Results

Western Conference

(1) Erie vs (8) Saginaw: Erie wins four games to zero (my prediction: Erie in four)

(2) Sarnia vs (7) Sault Ste Marie: Sault Ste Marie wins four games to three (my prediction: Sarnia in six)

(3) London vs (6) Owen Sound: London wins four games to two (my prediction: London in five)

(4) Kitchener vs (5) Windsor: Kitchener wins four games to one (my prediction: Windsor in seven)

Eastern Conference

(1) Kingston vs (8) Oshawa: Kingston wins four games to one (my prediction: Kingston in four)

(2) Barrie vs (7) Mississauga: Barrie wins four games to three (my prediction: Barrie in six)

(3) North Bay vs (6) Peterborough: North Bay wins four games to three (my prediction: North Bay in six)

(4) Niagara vs (5) Ottawa: Niagara wins four games to one (my prediction: Niagara in six)

Round Two Results

Western Conference

(1) Erie vs (7) Sault Ste Marie: Erie wins four games to one (my prediction: Erie in six)

(3) London vs (4) Kitchener: London wins 4 games to zero (my prediction: London in 6)

Eastern Conference

(1) Kingston vs (5) Niagara: Niagara wins four games to zero (my prediction: Niagara in seven)

(2) Barrie vs (3) North Bay: Barrie wins four games to zero (my prediction: North Bay in six)

Conference Finals

Western Conference –Wayne Gretzky Trophy

(1) Erie vs (3) London

Head to head overall:  Erie 3-3-0-0, London 3-3-0-0

Head to head home:  Erie 2-1-0-0, London 2-1-0-0

Head to head visitor: Erie 1-2-0-0, London 1-2-0-0

Powerplay regular season:  Erie 25.3%, London 29.2%

Powerplay playoffs: Erie 27.3%, London 22.2%

Penalty kill regular season: Erie 82.6%, London 82.3%

Penalty kill playoffs:  Erie 90.0%, London 72.7%

Goals for:  Erie 269, London 319

Goals against: Erie 183, London 182

Leading scorer: Erie; Dylan Strome(9GP 10G 8A 18PTS) London; Mitch Marner(10GP 9G 15A 24PTS)

Goaltending Erie: Devin Williams (8GP 2.16GAA .881 SV%)

Goaltending London:  Tyler Parsons (10GP 2.47GAA .919 SV%)

Draft eligible players to watch

Player Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
Alex DeBrincat Erie 9 5 11 16 10 7
Kyle Maksimovich Erie 9 4 2 6 -1 2
Taylor Raddysh Erie 9 4 4 8 8 2
Jordan Sambrook Erie 9 0 4 4 0 8
Matthew Tkachuk London 10 10 12 22 15 22
Cliff Pu London 10 7 1 8 6 6
Olli Juolevi London 10 1 4 5 5 2
Victor Mete London 10 2 3 5 7 0

 

London goaltender Tyler Parsons is also draft eligible.

Key to the series: These two teams were as evenly matched during the regular season as any two teams in recent memory. London held the advantage in special teams, but in the playoffs it’s been the opposite. Two of the OHL’s best lines go head to head. Whoever wins the special teams, and which line tops the other will be the difference.

Prediction: London in seven games

Eastern Conference-Bobby Orr Trophy

(2) Barrie vs (5) Niagara

Head to head overall:  Barrie 4-2-0-0, Niagara 2-3-0-1

Head to head home: Barrie 2-1-0-0, Niagara 1-2-0-0

Head to head visitor: Barrie 2-1-0-0, Niagara 1-1-0-1

Powerplay regular season: Barrie 21.7%, Niagara 19.1%

Powerplay playoffs: Barrie 23.7%. Niagara 31.3%

Penalty kill regular season: Barrie 83.4%, Niagara 84.2%

Penalty kill playoffs: Barrie 82.0%, Niagara 78.0%

Goals for: Barrie 295, Niagara 213

Goals against: Barrie 207, Niagara 198

Leading scorer: Barrie; Kevin Labanc (11GP 6G 16A 22PTS) Niagara; Josh Ho-Sang (9GP 3G 12A 15PTS)

Goaltending Barrie: Mackenzie Blackwood (9GP 2.26GAA .924 SV%)

Goaltending Niagara: Alex Nedeljkovic (9GP 2.47GAA .915 SV%)

Draft eligible players to watch

Player Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
Ben Hawerchuk Barrie 11 0 2 2 -2 13
Justin Murray Barrie 11 1 2 3 1 2
Giordano Finoro Barrie 11 1 1 2 -1 0
William Lochead Niagara 9 1 1 2 4 18
Kyle Langdon Niagara 9 2 0 2 4 0
Chris Paquette Niagara 7 1 0 1 3 2

 

Key to the series: If Nedeljkovic can duplicate the MVP performance he had versus Kingston, then Niagara should take this series. If Barrie can continue with their quick strike offense, then they should win the series.

Prediction: Niagara in seven games

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