QMJHL Playoffs: Second Round Preview

QMJHL Playoffs: Second Round Preview

After a couple of interesting series, including three game sevens, the second round is set. Some teams that were expected to make it to this point almost did not, while a couple of clubs surprised many by making it this far. This makes up for four matchups that are sure to watched closely, because, as we saw in round one, anything can happen.

Eastern Conference

(1) Halifax Mooseheads vs. (7) Moncton Wildcats

Moncton turned things around and was able to upset Baie-Comeau in a seven-game thriller, and are the lowest seed to make it to the second round. The Wildcats were led by Jeremy McKenna once again, with 11 points in the series, and four multi-point games. Mika Cyr was huge in this series. Moncton’s four wins came in the four games where Cyr got a point, and he had 10 in the series, including the game-winning goal in game seven. Gabriel Sylvestre was an important piece on the blueline, with five assists, and was never a minus in a single game in the series, finishing with +6 rating.

The Mooseheads are coming into the second round after surviving a seven-game series against the Quebec Remparts, where Halifax went down 2-0, and needed to win games six and seven to advance. Raphael Lavoie led the league in scoring in the first round with 13 points, and his seven goals were also the most among fellow QMJHLers. Only games one and seven saw Lavoie held to less than two points. Maxim Trepanier missed most of the last two months of the season with concussion-like symptoms, but still averaged a point a game in the regular season. After missing game one, Trepanier put up six points in six games. 

With the Mooseheads hosting of the Memorial Cup, they may not feel the pressure to win, which was noticeable in their series against Quebec. The Wildcats had to scratch and claw (no pun intended) to slow down one of the best offences in the league, thanks to the play of the d-core and netminder Francis Leclerc. While Moncton only won two games in the regular season against Halifax, the desperation they played with in the first round could be the difference in this round two matchup.

My Pick

Halifax right now is going through the motions, and the Wildcats want it more. It’ll be close, but Moncton in seven.

(3) Rimouski Oceanic vs. (5) Cape Breton Screaming Eagles

Rimouski was the lone team to move on in the minimum number of games, as they took care of Chicoutimi in four games, including a marathon game two where D’Artagnan Joly’s scored his lone goal in the series in the fourth overtime. Alexis Lafreniere was exceptional as always, averaging two points a game in this series, leading the team. Lafreniere’s linemate, Jimmy Huntington, scored seven points in the series, with three-point performances in games one and three. Colton Ellis was solid in goal for the Oceanic, only giving up 11 goals on 148 shots, including making 53 saves in the game two overtime win.

Cape Breton is coming off upending Charlottetown in a six game series where the Islanders went up 2-0, before the Screaming Eagles reeled off four straight victories. Three of which were one goal games, with the series-clinching game six ending in overtime after Egor Sokolov’s fourth goal of the series. The man who tied that game to send it to overtime, Mitchell Balmas, was stellar throughout the series. With five goals and six assists, his 11 points were tied for the third-most points in first round scoring. Kevin Mandolese was clutch in net for Cape Breton. After allowing eight goals in the first two games, the Ottawa prospect only allowed nine the rest of the series.

These two teams play vastly different styles. Rimouski likes to open up and use their offence to dictate the game, whereas Cape Breton will do their best to grind their opponent down to win. Rimouski, of course, will be rested heading into game one, as they have not played since March 27th. The teams only met twice in the regular season, with the Screaming Eagles pulling out two, one-goal, victories.

My Pick

Rimouski’s rest will hurt them at first, but the Screaming Eagles will fall off late in the series. Oceanic in seven.

Western Conference

(1) Rouyn-Noranda Huskies vs. (4) Victoriaville Tigres 

Victoriaville punched their ticket to the second round in the most dramatic way possible. After winning game six to force a game seven against Val-d’Or, Olivier Mathieu’s second goal of the series 35 seconds into overtime won the Tigres the game and the series. Simon Lafrance and Dominic Cormier led the Victoriaville offence in the first round, with each scoring nine points. Lafrance was clutch for the Tigres, as he had two points in both games six and seven. Similar to Lafrance, Cormier managed to earn three multi-point games in the seven games.

The Huskies had their struggles against the Shawinigan Cataractes, as Shawinigan won their first game since February 9th in game two, then won again in game four. However, routs in games five and six by the Huskies put any thoughts of an upset to bed. Peter Abbandonato was the dominant playmaker in Rouyn-Noranda’s first round as he was in the regular season. With 11 assists in the six games, his 13 points tied Lavoie for most in round one. Noah Dobson showed that he is back to form, as he scored 10 points from the blueline.

While the Huskies had issues with lowly Shawinigan in the first round, do not expect them to overlook another opponent, especially a scrappy team like Victoriaville. Rouyn-Noranda won all four games in the regular season, but the Tigres put up good efforts at home, with both games only being decided by a single goal. Tristan Cote-Cazenave was clutch for the Tigres against Val-d’Or, but he does not measure up to Samuel Harvey, who, despite losing twice, was still one of the better netminders in the first round with a 1.90 GAA and .912 SV%.

My Pick

Huskies will not take the Tigres lightly, Rouyn-Noranda in five.

(2) Drummondville Volitgeurs vs. (3) Sherbrooke Phoenix

After being stunned in game one against Blainville-Boisbriand, Sherbrooke settled down and ran through the next four games to move passed the Armada into round two. Samuel Poulin led the charge for the Phoenix offence, scoring nine points in the five-game series. Felix Robert produced well for Sherbrooke, as he scored eight points in the series, including a three-point night in game three. Dakota Lund-Cornish was exceptional in net, only allowing 10 goals on 134 shots with a shutout in a bounce-back game two win.

The Volitgeurs had an easy time beating the Gatineau Olympiques in the first round in five games. Joseph Veleno was ever impressive, with a hat trick in game one, and three more points in game five on his way to nine points against Gatineau. Maxime Comtois was also a solid goal scorer for Drummondville, as he potted four goals in the series. Anthony Morrone had the easiest workload compared to the rest of the league, but he only allowed nine goals in the series with a shutout to boot.

This series will come down to effort. It may sound cliché, but if the Phoenix want any shot against the talented Voltigeur lineup, they are going to have outwork them for an entire seven-game series. It will be tough, especially since Drummondville swamped the Phoenix in the six regular season meetings. The Voltigeurs won all six games, outscoring 33-9 in the process. 

My Pick

Too much offence for one team to handle, Drummondville in five.

All statistics and records from the QMJHL and Elite Prospects.

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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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