Archive for November 2014

It all comes down to this

Oilers, Sens face off in first All-Canadian finals


In the first 18 seasons of the Western Canadian Hockey League there has only been one Canadian team to win a WCHL Cup. That was the Calgary Flames, who captured a league title in Season 11.
For the most part though its been more famine than feast for Canadian clubs in the WCHL, who are handicapped already by only having seven of the 30 clubs. When you factor in that four of the seven didn't even making the playoffs this year, it looked like pretty strong odds that it'd be another Cupless season in Canada.
In what has been a very odd season however the hockey gods had a different story in mind however. The Edmonton Oilers cruised through the playoffs, posting a 12-4 record along the way while the Ottawa Senators had to battle a bit harder but still advanced to the finals on the strength of a 12-6 record.
What all of that means is Canada is guaranteed to see it's second WCHL Cup parade in the first ever all all-Canada match-up. All that's left to answer is if the cup will return to Alberta or for the first time ever be awarded outside of the second-most Westerly province.


(2) Ottawa Senators vs. (1) Edmonton Oilers- While the Oilers did win the West the Senators actually had the better seeding and it gives them home ice advantage in the finals. The question is will it matter?
Maybe. The Sens are 6-4 on home ice but are better on the road, going 6-2. For Edmonton meanwhile they are 6-1 on the road and have been pretty dominate in the process, outscoring the home team 20-9 in those games, including two shutouts. Ottawa may be better off to just hope for a home split and take their chances on the road. The Oilers are only 6-3 at home, meaning this could be a series about who doesn't screw up on home ice, the opposite of what usually matters at this time of the year.
Ottawa will be led by Robin Lehner. The young netminder has posted a .932 save percentage and a meager 1.69 goals against average as he has looked like a young Patrick Roy more than an average 23-year-old. Offensively the charge will be handled by Corey Perry, who leads the club with eight goals and 14 points.
The Oilers will be countering with Ilya Bryzgalov. The ignematic netminder has reserructed his career and looks like his old-self from his Colorado Avalanche days where he picked up two WCHL Cups. Sitting with a .941 save percentage and a 1.61 goals against average, Bryzgalov has been a Conn Smythe candidate all post-season and one more good series could cement that status. The clubs offense is being backed by the usual duo for the Oilers; Brad Richards and Jason Pominville. The long-time pairing for the Oilers has potted 13 goals and 39 points so far these playoffs.
Prediction: Edmonton has been on cruise control all season and have barely faced a test they haven't been able to handle. The Senators have been pretty smooth so far but each series has been a battle in one form or another. This one could be the series that makes it to tough a task to win. Edmonton in six games.



(2) Toronto Marlies vs. (4) Hershey Bears - Hershey in six games.

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A first time champion is guaranteed in wacky playoffs


Whoever predicted Ottawa, Columbus, Edmonton and Chicago would be in the final four of the WCHL playoffs had better have played the lottery. In a weird season where pre-season cup favorites like Colorado and Calgary didn't even make the playoffs, every round has claimed a likely candidate for the WCHL Cup.

Now as we enter round three, not only will there be an end to the two-time cup reign of the Anaheim Ducks, there will be a first time ever champion. All four clubs that are left standing have never won a cup title. Some have never even been this far into the playoffs.

What's in story for the four Cinderella's? Well there can only be one queen of this ball.


Western Conference

(1) Edmonton Oilers vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks- In this extremely inconsistent season, the one consistency has been the Oilers. All season long they have been one of the best squads in the league and they have only improved as the playoffs have gone along. Round one they lined up against the eighth seeded Arizona Coyotes and they stormed out to a 3-0 lead before winning in five games. Round two against the seventh seeded Dallas Stars, Edmonton won the first three games before winning in five games. Round three is against the sixth seeded Blackhawks. Is it going to deja vu all over again?


Chicago has been battling hard to even get a whiff of the playoffs for several years and now that they are here they have shown they didn't just fluke their way to the big tournament. The Hawks didn't have an easy mission either, doing what no team has done in over two seasons and 10 post-season series; defeating the two-time defending WCHL Cup champions in seven games after being down 3-2. 

Prediction: The Hawks have been as pesky as anyone but the Oilers have been on a big roll all season long. Don't expect Chicago to go away as easily as Dallas and Arizona, but don't expect them to win the series either. Edmonton in six games.

Eastern Conference

(2) Ottawa Senators vs. (6) Columbus Blue Jackets- The Senators may have finally shaken the burden of being a playoff worthy team that sits in the shadows of the elite of the Eastern Conference. Constantly in the post-season, Ottawa has rarely been in the talks of being a potential cup contender but this season that has changed in a hurry. Arguably the best team still alive, Ottawa not only is in the cup mix, they have the Las Vegas odds to win it all right now.


Columbus meanwhile slayed the giant New York Rangers, besting the Big Apple's finest in six games, allowing just six goals in the process. Having surrendered just 17 goals in 13 games, Columbus is going to be a tough nut to crack for Ottawa. Led by a top-heavy but talented defense that's backed by early Conn Smythe contender Semyon Varlamov, Columbus thrives on low-scoring games. In 13 games that Columbus has played this post-season, there have only been a combined total of 41 goals, just over three goals per game. Columbus is only averaging 1.80 goals per game themselves, so don't expect anyone to shoot out the lights.

Prediction: Ottawa will hold their own with the Blue Jackets but unless it strikes midnight soon the Blue Jackets ill continue to gut out the wins. Columbus in six games.


Western Conference

(2) Toronto Marlies vs. (5) Hamilton Bulldogs- Hamilton in seven games.

Eastern Conference

(4) Hershey Bears vs. (7) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins- Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in six games.

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