Thursday, 24 March 2011

Pat's Picks: 2011 Playoff Predictions

The WHL post-season begins this weekend and even though the Lethbridge Hurricanes are not going to be part of the party again this year, I thought we could have some fun and make a few predictions.

For what it's worth, I decided to take a look at every first-round series and give you my thoughts as to how this might all play out. I'm certainly no Nostradamus, but here it goes! Feel free to add your two cents in the comments section.

Eastern Conference

Saskatoon (1) vs. Prince Albert (8)

Head-to-Head Scorers

Josh Nicholls 11 points
Chris Collins 9 points

Prince Albert:
Brandon Herrod 10 points
Mark McNeill 7 points

To be perfectly honest, I don't think this series is going to be even close. The Raiders were battling with the Hurricanes right to the final weekend of the regular season to see which team would get the chance to play the league's best club in the opening round. P.A. won the right to dance with the Blades, but when you put these two teams head-to-head, it's hard not think the Blades are going to take this easy. Saskatoon has too much fire power for the Raiders to stand a chance. With top end talent like Schenn, Elliott, Viedensky, Nicholls, Hamilton, and Dziurzynski just to name a few, I think the Blades are going to make short order of this first round match-up. It'll be good for the fans though, given the fact the two teams are just over an hour's drive apart and have a good rivalry. P.A.'s top players will have to be at their very best, but the player that will have to be the sharpest will be Raiders goalie Jamie Tucker. Saskatoon, the WHL's top scoring team (tied with Spokane with 310 goals for) won the 8 game regular season series 7-1 and I think they'll win this series quickly. Blades in a sweep......4-0.

Red Deer (2) vs Edmonton (7)

Head-to-Head Scorers

Red Deer:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 9 points
Andrej Kudrna 9 points

Jordan Hickmott 4 points
Dylan Wruck 4 points

This series might be a bit closer, but not by much. Red Deer has blossomed into a top-notch team in the WHL this season and like Saskatoon, have some guys that can score at will. Containing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be a key for the Oil Kings in this series, but the Rebels have more than just number "9" in their bag of tricks. Andrej Kudrna, Byron Froese, John Persson can also do some damage. As for Edmonton, they're coming off their best regular season since their inaugural season in 2007-2008. This is only the second time they've made the post-season. Derek Laxdall has done a good job with the Oil Kings this season and they will be even better I believe next year, but I don't think Edmonton is going to get past the Rebels in this series. Dylan Wruck, Michael St. Croix, and Jordan Hickmott all had career seasons for the Kings. That's the good news for Edmonton and they have lots to look forward to in 2011-2012. For Edmonton to give the Rebels a fight, they will have to stay out of the penalty box. Red Deer all season has had one of the best power plays in the WHL. Red Deer easily won the regular season series 5-1 and I think they'll take the playoff series too. Rebels in five....4-1.

Medicine Hat (3) vs. Brandon (6)

Head-to-Head Scorers

Medicine Hat:
Linden Vey 8 points
Wacey Hamilton 8 points

Mark Stone 7 points
Michael Ferland 6 points

For me, this might be the most interesting first-round match-up. The Medicine Hat Tigers have been one of the top teams in the WHL this season. Say what you want about the Hurricanes biggest rivals, but they have a tonne of talent and are a damn good team. They've got several players who can put the puck in the net, but their biggest key will be goaltender Tyler Bunz. In numbers, Bunz was third best among WHL goalies this season, behind Spokane's Mac Engel and Red Deer's Darcy Kuemper. He will be the key success for the Tigers in the post-season period. Up front, you can't say more about guys like Linden Vey, Wacey Hamilton, Emerson Etem, and Kellen Tochkin. Vey was the WHL's leading point-getter during the regular season and should give the Wheat Kings all they can handle. Although I think Medicine Hat will win this series, I also thing Brandon will give them a run for their money. The Wheaties, since the Christmas break have been as good or better than any team in the WHL. Next to the Saskatoon Blades, the Wheat Kings scored the most goals in the Eastern Conference this season at 281. They've got a very good group of forwards lead by Mark Stone, Scott Glennie, Matt MacKay, Shayne Weibe, and Michael Ferland. Where the big difference in this series will be, I think is between the pipes. Even though the Wheaties can score goals like any team in this league, they are prone to giving up a lot. Brandon has surrendered 275 goals against, 4th most in the Eastern Conference. This is why Medicine Hat wins this playoff series. The regular season four game set was close as the Wheat Kings and Tigers were both 2-2, but I feel Medicine Hat will squeak this one out. It could go 7, but I will say Tigers in 6......4-2.

Kootenay (4) vs. Moose Jaw (5)

Head-to-Head Scorers:

Cody Eakin 8 points
Joe Antilla 6 points

Moose Jaw:
Dylan Hood 7 points
Spencer Edwards 6 points

This could be another interesting match-up. These two hockey clubs played each other very close throughout the course of the regular season. Moose Jaw and Kootenay have players that can change the game in an instance. The ICE have Cody Eakin and the Warriors have Quinton Howden, two of the elite players in the Western Hockey League this season. These two players I think will play key rolls for their teams in this series. Moose Jaw may have an advantage at home in this series. The Crushed Can is always a tough place for opposing teams to play and has the quickest ice in the WHL, from what players and coaches tell me. The ICE will have to use four of the potential 7 games on home ice to their advantage in this series. As for Moose Jaw, Quinton Howden, Dylan, Hood, and Spencer Edwards lead the way offensively for this team. Goaltending might end up being the deciding factor here. The Warriors have Thomas Heemskerk, the former Kootenay ICE goalie and the ICE counter with Nathan Lieuwen. These two guys might be the key to this series. I think it's going to be very close and I think it might go the total seven games. I also think home ice advantage will win it. Kootenay.....4-3.

Western Conference

Portland (1) vs. Everett (8)

Head-to-Head Scorers

Ryan Johansen 14 points
Oliver Gabriel 9 points

Ryan Murray 8 points
Chad Suer 5 points

Well, similar to the Eastern Conference 1 vs. 8 match-up, I don't think this will be much of a series. The heavily-favoured Portland Winterhawks will more than likely make short order of the Silvertips. Everett started off the WHL season fairly strong, but really struggled in the last half of the year. They ended up in a battle for the final few spots with P.G., Kamloops, and Seattle down the stretch. I can't see the Silvertips giving the 'Hawks much of a fight in this one. Portland, like Saskatoon in the East is stacked and they have some high-end talent that can and will do some damage. Ryan Johansen, Craig Cunningham, Sven Bartschi, Nino Niedrreiter, Brad Ross......I can go on and on about this group. They are very good and will be a very tough opponent for Everett. The Tips are lead by Tyler Maxwell, Ryan Harrison, and Ryan Murray. They'll be relied upon big time. I think the Winterhawks are just too much for Everett to handle. Portland easily won the 10 game regular season series, with a record of 9-1. Not much different in the post-season either. Portland in a walk in the park......4-0

Kelowna (2) vs. Prince George (7)

Head-to-Head Scorers

Tyson Barrie 11 points
Mitch Callahan 9 points

Prince George:
Nick Buonassisi 8 points
Brett Connolly 7 points

Since the start of this WHL season, these two hockey team have kind of gone in opposite directions. Prince George ended last season with the league worst record and started very strong this year. Kelowna got out of the gates slow at the beginning of the year, but got better and better as the season went on and earned second spot in the conference. It's tough to argue that the Rockets have one the best, if not the best offensive-defenceman in the WHL in Tyson Barrie. He might be the key to this series for Kelowna. Along with Barrie, the Rockets also have Shane McColgan, Georgie Wudrick, and Mitch Callahan who are all at the top in scoring for this Kelowna team. For P.G., the Cougars have rebounded nicely after a dreadful season last year and making the post-season is a huge step forward for that organization. Brett Connolly is clearly the go-to guy on this team and if the Cougars are going to have a shot in this series, he'll have to lead the way. Taylor Stefishen and Sena Acolatse have been very good this season too. The nine game regular season series favoured the Rockets 6-3 and I feel this playoff series will favour the Rockets too. Kelwona is 6.......4-2

Spokane (3) vs. Chilliwack (6)

Head-to-Head Scorers

Steve Kuhn 5 points
Brendan Kitchton 5 points

Ryan Howse 4 points
Brandon Manning 3 points

I really like Spokane in this series and here's why. This hockey club has been consistently good all season, not to mention deadly offensively. In what was supposed to be "rebuilding" year in Spokane, the Chiefs proved once again they are one of the best in the WHL. They have a high-powered offence and tied Saskatoon for most goals scored in the league this season at 310. The Chiefs, in my opinion could very well make it to the Western Conference final this season. They are going to be really tough. Tyler Johnson was one of the top scorers in the league this season with 115 points. Levko Koper is also one of the offensive leaders on this Spokane team too. Goaltending has been a real strength for Spokane this year. Rookie Mac Engel has great numbers. The Chiefs allowed the least number of goals against in the West this year and the second best goal against in the WHL, second only to the Red Deer Rebels. As for Chilliwack, the Bruins put on a big push late in the season to secure a playoff position. Lots of talk about this team has been off the ice with discussion about a possible relocation to Victoria, but amongst all that, the Bruins dug deep and found a way to get things done. Ryan Howse will be relied heavily upon in this series and goaltender Lucas Gore will have to be lights out. I don't see the Bruins having much of a chance here though. Spokane won the four game regular season series 3-1 and I think they'll make this series a short one. Chiefs in 5.....4-1

Tri-City (4) vs. Vancouver (5)

Head-to-Head Scorers

Brendan Shinnimin 9 points
Carter Ashton 8 points

Brendan Gallagher 4 points
Michael Burns 3 points

The Vancouver Giants in the past have almost always been the favourite. Now they are somewhat of an underdog. For the first time in a long time, the Giants didn't win the B.C. Division either. Vancouver will no doubt lean on two players in this series to lead them. Brendan Gallagher and Spencer Bennett have combined for 81 points this year. If these two players go cold in the playoffs, the Giants are in big trouble. If they're hot, they have a chance at an upset. Tri-City on the other hand is one of the more explosive teams in the league. They were the third highest-scoring team in the West this year. They're lead by Brendan Shinnimin, Carter Ashton, and Adam Hughesman up front. They've got a pretty darn good goalie from Lethbridge too, that being Drew Owsley. The Americans went all the way to the WHL final last year and lost out to Calgary for the title. They had to go through Vancouver to get there. Getting so close last season will certainly be motivation for the Ams heading into this post-season. Tri-City won the regular season series 3-1. My heart is telling me upset in this one, but my mind says Tri-City advances to round two. Americans in six.......4-2


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  1. Shot in the dark.
    Sask over PG in no more than 5.(Blades just too strong) Red Deer over Ed in no more than 6. (goaltending being the difference)
    Medicine Hat over Brandon in 6 but it will be a wild shoot out series.
    Kootenay over MJ in 6 or maybe 7 but no matter how long the series, the Ice will come out of it battered and bruised.

    Out west: Portland easy over Everet in 5, Kelowna over PG in 5, Spokane cruises over Chill in 5 and TC ousts the Giants in 6. With their point total being the least of the survivors, Kelowna will drop to 4th which could hurt them.


  2. Saskatoon (5)
    Red Deer (6)
    Brandon (5)
    Moose Jaw (6)

    Portland (4)
    Prince George (7)
    Spokane (5)
    Tri-City (5)


  3. Nicely done, Pat! (Perfect 8/8 in the first round pics) I went for a couple of upsets, but my picks ran into a bit of impossible when Connolly and Bunz went down.

    For round two, I think Tri City will knock off Spokane; that the only mini-upset I can see:

    Portland (6)
    Tricity (7)
    Saskatoon (5)
    Red Deer (6)


  4. Thanks Richie. My round two predictions are coming Thursday. Things start to get a little tougher now! Lol.