OHL Finals Preview

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OHL Finals Preview

Post by Macker88 on Fri May 02, 2014 2:52 am

Yes, I'm a day late, but hey its still going up for you all to read.

(1) Guelph Storm Vs (2) North Bay Battalion

What an OHL Final we have here. One team everyone thought would be here, and one team.. lets be honest know one thought would be here, expect maybe the Battalion faithful. These two teams could not be more different when it comes to their styles of play. The Storm boast a high flying attack, while the Battalion are a grind it out, meat & potatoes, defense first team. The Storm have several high profile players, which includes several NHL draft picks, while the Battalion have a group of largely unknown players, with just a couple players drafted or signed by NHL clubs. It would be to much to call this a David Vs Goliath Match-up because the Battalion are a very solid club. Sure on paper it might be David Vs Goliath, but on the ice its as good of a match-up as we could of hoped for.

Lets start off with Goaltending, The Battalion's Jake Smith has been just outstanding this playoffs for them. Thus far threw the playoffs he's racked up 12 wins, just 5 losses, a 2.02 goals against average, 918 Save % and 3 shutouts. While numbers wise, Guelph goaltender Justin Nichols sits just one place behind Smith in overall goaltending stats. Nichols has 12 wins, just 3 losses, a 2.55 goals against average, 923 Save % and 2 shutouts. But lets put the numbers aside, Nichols has been pulled a few times these playoffs in favor of rookie Matt Mancina. Nichols play is inconsistent, but he tends to always rebound very well after a poor performance. Nichols benefits statistically from playing behind a very potent high scoring offensive team, who usually controls the play and puck possession as well as limits the shots against. Smith however also benefits from his teams play. The Battalion system is as defensive as it gets in Junior hockey, they rarely allow over 25 shots a game, and of those 25 shots only about 5-7 are of quality. When it comes right down to it, I give Jake Smith & the Battalion the slight edge in goaltending. Mainly because of Smith's consistency throughout the playoffs an the fact he's improved every game throughout the playoffs.

The Defense cores of both of these Conference Champions are fairly even as well when you really break it down. Brendan Miller of the Battalion leads defensemen in scoring thus far in the playoffs with 16 points, while Guelph's Nick Ebert is 2nd with 12 points. Following Miller and Ebert are, Guelph's Matt Finn and North Bay's Kyle Wood. Trojanovic of Guelph and Blujus of North Bay are right there as well. Sure the Storm have the big names on there back end in Finn, Ebert, Harpur & Leslie but guys like Marcus McIvor, Dylan Blujus & Miles Liberati deserve just as much credit for what they've been doing these playoffs. I believe the Battalion defense are slightly more physical and block more shots, but the Storm defense move the muck better, are more mobile and can provide more offense from the back end. It will be interesting to see if the big bodied Battalion can wear down guys like Ebert and Finn, if they do this series could take an interesting swing. I give the Storm a very slight edge on the Blue Line. They're just deeper, if injuries occur they can slot in guys, while the Battalion just can't. At this time of year, depth is very important.

Up front, well this is where the Guelph Storm have an overwhelming advantage. They have 4 lines that can score and 4 lines that can check. Their best players Kerby Rychel and Brock McGinn are also arguably their best checkers. A guy like Justin Auger at 6'7 is also a very potent offensive threat. Robbi Fabbri and Scott Kosmachuk bring pure skill to the table. Tyler Bertuzzi and Ryan Horvat bring timely goal scoring and reliable 3rd line play. It a lot to contest with. The Battalion are largely a one line team when it comes to offense, but hey that one line has got them this far. That one line is Barclay Goodrow, Nick Paul & Ben Thomson, funny enough those 3 guys are also they only NHL Drafted forward on the Battalion Roster. These guys forcheck well, cycle the puck well and tend to play in the opponents zone most of the time. Are they as potent as Fabbri, Rychel & McGinn.. No, but these guys have carried the Battalion to the final and can be counted on to contribute. If they're shut down this series could be over in a hurry. Guys like Alex Henriksson, Vincent Praplan, Zach Bratina & Brett McKenzie are really going to need to provide secondary scoring for the Battalion to have a chance to advance to the Memorial Cup. Edge up front goes to the Storm.

At the end of the day, on paper the Guelph Storm are the overwhelming favorite, but anything can happen. The Battalion came back from down 0-3 in round 1, disposed of a very good Barrie Colts squad in 5 games and an even better Oshawa Generals squad in just 4 games, so they should not be taken lightly. The Battalion's defensive style of play better show up this round, because no team thus far has been able to slow down the potent Guelph Storm offense. One thing to consider here is, Guelph has yet to play a hard nosed meat & potatoes type team. Sure they disposed of good London & Erie teams, but both those teams played a similar game to the Storm. They both where loaded with OHL All-Stars and both had weak goaltending. The Oshawa Generals found out first hand how hard it is to play against North Bay, could the Storm be in for a similar fate ? My final prediction is ultimately the Guelph Storm in 6 Hard fought games. I expect lots 1 goal and over time games.

A small side note here, Stan Butler has out coached every coach in the playoffs thus far, and all 3 where very good coaches. Scott Walker has less experience then all the previous coaches Butler has faced in the Playoffs, I feel as if this could have a big factor in the series.

Also, I think we could be in for an all OHL Memorial Cup final. The QMJHL while strong has no team that compete with the OHL or WHL now that Halifax was upset. Val-d'Or or Baie-Comeau will be in very tough in the Memorial Cup. In the WHL Portland is my favorite to advance. They're just deeper and lots of these guys where in the Memorial Cup just a year ago. Portland will be the OHL's biggest threat in the Memorial Cup. I truly believe the Memorial Cup will be brought back to the OHL this year.


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