QMJHL Playoffs: Western Conference First Round Preview

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.

My Pick

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.

My Pick

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.

My Pick

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.

My Pick

Home ice will be key in this series, but in game seven anything is possible. Foreurs in seven.

All statistics and records found from the QMJHL and Elite Prospects

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Shawinigan Cataractes and Saint John Sea Dogs Battle for a Playoff Berth

QMJHL Report: Shawinigan Cataractes and Saint John Sea Dogs Battle for a Playoff Berth

With the final weekend of the regular season in view, all but one of the playoff spots are taken in the QMJHL. With Acadie-Bathurst having, historically, one of the worst seasons league history, the only two teams vying for an opportunity to take part in the postseason are the Shawinigan Cataractes and the Saint John Sea Dogs. Both teams have really struggled compared to years past, and both teams will fail to reach the 20-win mark. Despite the facts, they have an opportunity to play at least two more home games later this month. As of Thursday, the Cataractes lead the Sea Dogs by one point for 16th in the league.

Shawinigan Can’t Buy a Win

If you said the Cataractes would fall off the top of the mountain to the base following their 2012 Memorial Cup, you would most certainly be right, as Shawinigan gave up the farm to stack their roster when they hosted the tournament seven years ago. Since then, they have been mediocre at best. However, a playoff berth is a playoff berth, and the Cataractes would love to return to the postseason after missing out last year. However, they have not helped their cause with their play in the last month. Shawinigan has lost 13 straight games, and 15 of their last 16 contests. The Cataractes last victory was back on February the 9th, in a rather convincing 5-1 victory over Quebec. Of course, playing both Rouyn-Noranda, Baie-Comeau twice in that time frame certainly did not make it any easier.

They do hold their own fate with two more games remaining. They will first visit Chicoutimi on Friday, before returning home to take on Victoriaville in the season finale. The Cataractes have fared rather well against the Sagueneens, going 2-2-1 so far this season. It won’t be an easy game against Chicoutimi, as they have won five-straight, including a big win over Drummondville on Wednesday. The Tigres are one of many teams that have had the Cataractes number this season, as they have won four of the five meetings this season against Shawinigan.

Two Real Tough Games Ahead for Saint John

Another past Memorial Cup Champion that has struggled in recent memory, the Sea Dogs are trying to get to the playoffs after missing last season. The Sea Dogs missed a big opportunity on Wednesday to jump ahead of Shawinigan, when they led Cape Breton heading into the third period. However, the Eagles stormed back with three goals to hand Saint John their 48th loss of the season. Unlike the Cataractes, though, the Sea Dogs have won a game in the last month. After losing 11 straight, Saint John beat the lowly Titan last Friday.

However, the final two games for Saint John are not going to be easy. First, on Friday they will be tasked with taking on the third-best team in the QMJHL, the Halifax Mooseheads. Halifax has dominated Saint John this season, as they have won all seven meetings by a combined score of 46-9. The contest will take place at the Scotiabank Centre, where the games have been severely lopsided as the Mooseheads have put up 10 or more goals in the three games against the Sea Dogs. On Saturday, the Sea Dogs will play the Moncton Wildcats. While Moncton has fallen of since their hot start, they still sit in the eighth playoff spot. The Sea Dogs have played the Wildcats close throughout the season, winning three of the seven games, but have dropped the last two to the Maritime foe.

Tight playoff races are always fun to watch, especially when anything can happen in the final weekend of the regular season. It will be interesting to see if the Cataractes can finally pick up a win, or if the Sea Dogs can jump Shawinigan for the final spot. Shawinigan does have a decent record Chicoutimi, as does Saint John over Moncton. However, the Sea Dogs/Mooseheads matchup certainly makes it look bleak for Saint John.

Just a shame that whoever clinches will have to play Rouyn-Noranda in the first round…

My pick: Shawinigan clinches, Not because they win, but because the Sea Dogs lose their final two games.

All Statistics and notes found on theqmjhl.ca and eliteprospects.com