QMJHL Playoffs: Western Conference First Round Preview
It’s that time of year, birds are chirping, the snow is melting, and 16 teams prep for hockey’s second season…the playoffs. All three leagues in the CHL have different formats for the postseason, with the QMJHL have the older format the NHL used, where eight teams from each conference would make the postseason. After, Shawinigan forced Victoriaville to overtime Saturday night, they would clinch the final playoff spot, giving all eight teams in the Western Conference a spot in the postseason. It will be interesting to see how some of the middle-seeds will battle it out, as well as if there are any upsets waiting in the wings.
(1) Rouyn-Noranda Huskies vs. (8) Shawinigan Cataractes
As stated before, the Cataractes squeaked their way into the way into the postseason in the final game of their regular season, despite not having won a game since February 9th. Jan Drozg and Mavrik Bourque have led the teams in scoring, as Drozg has been the lone point-a-game player for Shawinigan with 62 points in 60 games. Bourque’s 54 points is second on the team, and second in the league among rookie scoring.
However, the Cataractes will be heavily outmatched against the best team in the CHL, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. From the start of the season, the Huskies have had the pedal to the medal, and ran through the entire QMJHL. Peter Abbandonato has been the club’s MVP, with his 111 points and 82 assists atop the league’s best. Samuel Harvey is odds-on favourite to win the Jacques Plante Memorial Trophy for league’s best goaltender, and a candidate for the CHL Goaltender of the Year award as well.
Huskies win the series 4-0
(2) Drummondville Volitgeurs vs. (7) Gatineau Olympiques
Finishing second in the entire league, the Voltigeurs have been an uber-simplistic hockey club. Put pucks in the net and keep pucks out of the net. Drummondville led the entire CHL in goals scored with the deepest offence in the league. Joseph Veleno’s 104 points is fourth in the league, while the Volts’ second-leading scorer Nicolas Guay is tied for eighth in league scoring with 87. Olivier Rodrigue is another top netminder in the QMJHL, with his 35 wins tied for the most with the Huskies’ Harvey, and his 2.43 GAA is second to Harvey.
Gatineau coming in does not nearly have the same level of attack up front as their opponents in this series. That said, Giordano Finoro will have to really step up if the Olympiques want any chance in this series. Coming in from the blueline, Gabriel Bilodeau has produced at a rather steady rate this season. His 48 points saw him finish 10th among ‘Q’ defencemen in scoring.
Drummondville’s offense is just too much, and will sweep the Olympiques in four games.
(3) Sherbrooke Phoenix vs. (6) Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
The Armada were a team that sat towards the bottom of the league through the first 3/4 of the season. However, their play as of late moved them from a seven or eight seed up to the sixth seed. Despite losing to Val-d’Or and Rouyn-Noranda to end the regular season, Boisbriand won five out of six games before that. Playmaker Luke Henman has had an exceptional end to his regular season, as he totaled 14 points in his last 16 games. Former Phoenix netminder Brendan Cregan will have to be huge in net if the Armada want any success in this series.
The Phoenix really limped into this postseason. Granted finishing 30 points behind dominant second-place Drummondville does not look good on paper, however losing nine of their last 11 games does not look good by any stretch, especially since they went 7-4-1 in the February. If they want to rebound in time to pick up the series win, top gun Samuel Poulin will have to step up. Despite his team’s inconsistency towards the end of the regular season, Poulin continued to produce offencively, riding a seven-game point streak into the playoffs.
Despite the Phoenix having more offencive talent, goaltending will be the factor, and the Armada will take the series in six.
(4) Victoriaville Tigres vs. (5) Val-d’Or Foreurs
Probably the closest series on paper, Victoriaville and Val-d’Or could be one of the longer series in the first round as well. The Tigres will need the week to refocus, after only winning two of their final six games, including a sweep to the Armada two weeks ago. Victoriaville is led up front by a pair of rookies, as Egor Serdyuk and Mikhail Abramov have been the go-to guys in the Tigres need a goal. Serdyuk leads all QMJHL rookies in points and goals with 25 and 65, respectively, while Abramov is third amongst newcomers with 54 points.
While Victoriaville lost four of their final six games to end the season, their opponent Val-d’Or won four of their final six. Which included two close games against Rimouski, where the Foreurs defeated the Oceanic, and lost in overtime to the Eastern Conference foe. Leading scorer Julien Tessier has been hot as he has been held pointless only three times this calendar year. Goaltender Jonathan Lemieux has been big, winning his last three starts while posting a 2.36 GAA and .935 SV% in the month of March.
Home ice will be key in this series, but in game seven anything is possible. Foreurs in seven.
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