With visions of three NCAA brackets and the OHL playoffs dancing in my head, the prognostication cap is on. Keep in mind my track record for predictions of any sort have been lamentable to say the least.
I was the guy who stocked up on supplies least Y2J destroyed all that we held valuable and was the one who bought into the Mayan prediction of the end of the world. Caveat aside, lets have a gander at the OHL playoffs..
WESTERN CONFERENCE ROUND 1:
London vs Saginaw: Saginaw played well down the stretch to overtake Windsor and claim the last spot, and they did it while trading Vincent Trocheck, their best player. This is where they will miss him the most. Too much depth for London for the Spirit to handle. Max Domi, Bo Horvat, Seth Griffith, Olli Maata head a long list of players who anchored the Memorial Cup run last year.
London in 5
Plymouth vs Sarnia: Plymouth was just ridiculous down the stretch, winning something like 20 out of their last 24 and looking like a juggernaut doing it. Adding the aforementioned Trocheck may have been the final piece of a strong lineup already boasting the likes of Tom Wilson, and a core defense, that while unspectacular, is experienced having played upwards of 200 games together. Sarnia has a lot of flash and dash on offense led by Charlie Sarault and 60 goal sniper Reid Boucher. JP Anderson provides good goaltending but the defense will find it difficult to handle Plymouth's forwards
Plymouth in 5
Owen Sound vs Sault Ste Marie: Owen Sound is like that big mean dog that you want to avoid when you walk home. They are deep, skilled and aggressive and when I saw them play vs Sarnia on Friday I moved back several rows when Daniel Zweep came on the ice! The key is whether or not they can stay out of the penalty box. If they do, they should win relatively easily. If they do not the Soo could stretch this series.
Owen Sound in 6
Guelph v Kitchener: The first pick 'em of the playoffs. Guelph had a fine year and has a very capable Garrett Sparks to duel John Gibson in net. That said, I don't think we have seen the best of Kitchener this year as they were ravaged by injuries and also had a lot of players go to the World Jr's. Both teams are very evenly matched and I can see this one going seven games. In fact, that is what my prediction is.
Someone in 7.....ok, ok, I will go with Guelph
EASTERN CONFERENCE ROUND 1:
Belleville vs Mississauga: Mississauga backed into the playoffs with so much force, you could literally hear the beep, beep of the big truck (Thanks to The League for providing the original joke). The Steelheads lost 9 of their last 10 and needed a win over Ottawa and help to get in. They have some nice individual talent in Riley Brace and Dylan Smoskowitz, but the Bulls have Subban's a plenty as well as some nice depth at forward fortified by the likes of Tyler Graovac.
Belleville in 4
Barrie vs Kingston: Another team that needed a lot of help to get into the playoffs was Kingston. They too needed to pick at the Ottawa 67's carcass to qualify for the playoffs. Bigger things were expected of this team, but they floundered badly down the stretch. Barrie has too much depth on offense with Scheifle, Camara, and Hall. Plus the defense led by Ekblad, Ryan O'Connor and Alex Lepkowski should help dispatch of the Fronts early.
Barrie in 4
Oshawa v Niagara: This match up adds a level of intrigue as Niagara knocked out Oshawa the last two years in the playoffs. Last years first round was a rollicking affair in which the Gens completely completely capitulated the first two games before responding with two straight victories and a healthy scare for the supposedly dominant IceDogs. Lots of players from that Oshawa were part of the last two losses, and I do not think they want to see a hat-trick of eliminations at the hands of the IceDogs. Niagara had a great start and then got depleted by the World Jr's and NHL camps. They still have Strome, Ritchie and Shipley, but they are banged up and going against the likes of Jenner, Lessio, Laughton, Petgrave, and Biggs. How close the series will be determined by the discipline, or lack thereof, by Oshawa.
Sorry IceDog Fans...Gens in 6.....but Lucas Lessio will get booed lustily
Brampton v Sudbury: Aaah yes, the series that blew my bracket last year. Who could have predicted that the Battalion would sweep the Wolves? Not this guy! The Wolves were sellers at the deadline, and then played better. The Battallion were fairly consistent over the course of the year with one ugly stat as they lost 9 games in OT or the Shootout. That's ok though because Sudbury lost 12 in that manner. The systems coaching of Stan Butler and the goaltending of Matej Machovsky will ensure that the Brampton name will live on for another round at least.
Brampton in 6
For the record, I am picking Plymouth to win the whole thing as they were the best team I saw all year, granted that the sample size was small.
See you at the rink