On the cusp of night one of the OHL play-offs, time to bring out the ol' crystal ball for some 1st round predictions. It should be noted that predicting is a tenuous thing to grasp. In my two NCAA pools, I'm first in one pool and last in the other, choosing to tweak the peaks from pool to pool. Naturally the one I put money into is the one I'm last in. Anyways, here goes!!!
Niagara over Oshawa in 5 games.
This is a rematch of last years 2nd round that was won by the Ice Dogs in five. The Generals have had a slew of suspensions, and a number of guys over 100 PIM, have changed coaches, parachuted three defensemen in at the trade deadline and still could not find that magic combination. These will be good hard fought, physical games ,but the Ice Dogs have been red-hot and have the better skill-set.
Ottawa over Belleville in 6 games.
Ottawa comes into the play offs having lost 4 of 5, and have the spectre of last years unceremonious 4 game sweep versus Sudbury looming over them. Belleville is team that performed well at times, horribly at others. Malcolm Subban and Petr Mrazek is a tantalizing goalie match up, but Ottawa's skill-set should play well on the big ice surface of Belleville and they will survive in the end.
Barrie over Mississauga in 7 games.
Mississauga has become an increasingly frustrating team to play against, due to their stingy defense led by Leaf draft pick Stuart Percy and their veteran goaltender Brandon Maxwell. Barrie closed out the season playing very well, and even though they will miss Tanner Pearson due to injury, should have enough depth on offense to prevail. This could be a series in which the team that establishes their style first comes out on top.
Sudbury over Brampton is 6 games
A very even match up between two very-well coached teams. Brampton stumbled a bit in the 2nd half of the season, but should be hungry after being swept aside by Niagara last season, while Sudbury is a team that is playoff ready. They play a rough and tumble game, have a dominant scorer in Michael Sgarbossa and a solid one-two goalie tandem in Johan Mattson and Joel Vienneu.
London over Windsor in 5 games
Much like the 1-8 match-up in the East, the #1 Knights will have their work cut out for them in this one with a Windsor squad with history and tradition on their side. London has far too much talent and depth and will prevail, but expect them to get tested along the way. Next year Windsor will be vastly improved, but this year they will learn some valuable lessons.
Saginaw over Sarnia in 6 games
Eulogies were being written in Saginaw until Todd Watson was dismissed and Greg Gilbert came in. This was a team that appeared to be sellers at the deadline as they jettisoned Jamie Oleksiak to Niagara. I really, really like the talent level in Sarnia, but I'm unconvinced that they can put it all together in the play-offs. This could be the prediction that I could be the most off on.
Kitchener over Owen Sound in 6
I don't know what it is about Kitchener, but I am not convinced that they are a team poised for a deep play-off run, but they should knock off Owen Sound, who are a mere shell of the team that won the OHL championship last year. Mike Halmo, arguably the heart and soul of the team is unavailable due to suspension and two of their top D-men in Matt Petgrave and Geoff Schemitsch went to Oshawa.
Plymouth over Guelph in 5
Plymouth, under the combative Mike Vellucci had a fine season and gained the second seed in the conference and had the second most points in the OHL along with Niagara. Guelph waited until the last week of the season to officially qualify. I only saw each team a couple of times this year, so I'm just going with the deeper, more talented upper seed.
See everyone in Round 2.
Remember we will have Game 1 of the Oshawa/Niagara series on TV Cogeco and the OHL Action Pack at 7pm tonight. Game 2 will be up in Oshawa tomorrow night and then we will have Game 3 Sunday at 6pm (note the special start time)