2016 WHL PLAYOFF BRACKET: LIVE BLOG

  • Brock Boot

2016-Playoff-Bracket-LB-Cover

 

The 2016 WHL Playoffs are here and we thought it would be fun to celebrate with a daily updated live blog page focused around a league-wide playoff bracket. The live blog will take us through from now (Wednesday, March 16th) to the end of the playoffs. We will update it every day to display the status of each series as we move from the first round on through to the finals.

We will also throw up any relevant information as the playoffs progress. Links to news articles, interesting stories, forums, photos, and much more. We’ll curate everything we can and regularly update the page so that you don’t have to scour the internet.

Thanks for visiting, enjoy the Live Blog, and be sure to pass on any relevant materials so we can add them to the page.

 

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*Note: This bracket was influenced heavily by the work of Conrad Burry. He’s a graphic designer in Tennessee and needs to be given credit for his inspiring work.


May 05, 2016 // 10:13 am

Well hello everyone. Just wanted to pop in and apologize for the lack up updates or communication. Things really picked up for me at work around the same time the CHL 2nd round started and after a full year of intense coverage of the Hurricanes, keeping this Live Blog updated was just too much. I needed to step aside and just focus on my job and life. I’m still around! Life is good! I just havn’t been able to follow through on this project as I usually would.

I’m sorry about that and I hope you understand.

That said, the brackets are now updated! Look at that! It’s already time for the league finals.


 


April 10, 2016 // 3:05 pm

I am out of town for work all this weekend. Unfortunately that means I haven’t been able to update the bracket since Friday’s games. Sorry for the inconvenience.


 


 

April 9, 2016 // 2:04 pm

So I went out with a few buddies to catch up over beers last night. Ended up being a much later night than I anticipated. Slept in today!! Brackets are now updated!


 


April 8, 2016 // 8:48 am

After a day or two off, clubs got back underway with 2nd round action last night. There were two games in the QMJHL, two in the OHL, and just one in the WHL. The brackets have all been updated to reflect the results.


 


April 6, 2016 // 8:58 am

And just like that the CHL first round is already over. There were a handful of deciding games last night. Barrie managed to knock off the Steelheads, Brandon completed the comeback agianst Edmonton, North Bay ended the Pete’s season, and the Soo Greyhounds managed to pull off an upset.

The 2nd round match-ups are now set and there are a few interesting series’. The OHL’s Eastern Conference is shaping up to be a battle of titans. All four of the top-seeded teams made it through. In the Western Conference I have the London-Kitchener series circled as one to watch. Two powerhouse organizations – should be great drama there.

In the Q I am most interested in Shawinigan vs. the Islanders. Don’t be surprised to see Sprong and co push the Cataractes to the brink. Moncton and Gatineau could also prove interesting. It’s always hard to bet against Gatineau. They have outstanding coaching and seem to be a force no matter what. Finally, and with all due respect to the Armada, I don’t see the Huskie train slowing down anytime soon. My guess? A 4 -1 Noranda series victory.

Now that the Wheat Kings seem to have recovered from a rocky playoff start they have to be the favorites in the WHL’s Eastern conference. I think they are deeper, more talented, and better in net than the Warriors. Of course, with Brayden Point, Dryden Hunt, and a few other nice pieces, the Warriors stand a good chance to take this series to 6 or 7 games. Never bet against talent… in this case I just think one team has more.

In the other series, I have no reason to believe the Regina Pats won’t give Red Deer all kinds of trouble. I’m not a huge believer in this Rebels team and their playoffs could come to a crashing hault against the Pats. Regina was extremely impressive against Lethbridge… it was frustrating but commendable.

Something is going to have to break eventually between Everett and Seattle. Neither team lost a game in round 1. My money is on the T-birds. Seattle has equal or better goaltending than the ‘Tips, massive rangy blue-liners, and game breaking offense. My guess? Seattle in 6.

Finally, we have the “underdog” Royals up against the Kelowna Rockets. This should be a fantastic series! The Rockets, due to injury, are not the team they have been in the past. They managed to squeak into the 2nd round with a big game 7 OT win over the Blazers, but Victoria is a different animal. I’m a big believer in Victoria and this series might be shorter than many think. I say Royals in 5.


 


April 5, 2016 // 8:49 am

The bracket has been updated to reflect Sunday’s action.


 


April 3, 2016 // 8:53 am

*UPDATE* The brackets are now reflecting Sunday’s action as well. Big changes to the style of the brackets were made. The O and Q brackets needed some work to make more sense. They way those leagues seed rounds was misleading on the old style of bracket. I hope this makes more sense.

Once again, I apologize the update is late! This time I waited till morning! With the Hurricanes eliminated on Friday, this weekend has turned into a nice break from too much work here on the site. I remain committed to daily updates though so don’t expect the updates to be late moving forward.

Last night’s action saw the Memorial Cup hosts win their series 4 – 1 and advance to the second round. They will now face off against the Regina Pats – a team that I now know quite well. It will be a good series and one I pay close attention to.


 


April 2, 2016 // 12:16 am

Sorry the update is late tonight. The Hurricanes lost game 5 and are now eliminated. It was a late night of writing our final post-game wrap up. I have however, updated all the brackets. Lots of teams moved on tonight.

Remember that the QMJHL 2nd round matchups won’t be decided until all the series conclude. It’s a 1-16 system for those who don’t know. Every round the highest seed plays the lowest and so on and so forth. I will reset the bracket each round.

This was done a little more hastily than usual tonight. I apologize. Please let me know in the comments if you spot any mistakes (though there shouldn’t be any).


 


April 1, 2016 // 12:10 am

Another night, another team through to the second round. This time is was the heavily favored Erie Otters who got the job done as they swept the Saginaw Spirit. The Otters will have to wait a while longer to sort out their second round opponent.

In the WHL, the Brandon Wheatkings managed to tie their series with Edmonton. The Oil Kings might be running out of luck. Credit Brandon for digging themselves out of a nasty hole. As is always the case, game 5 will be defining.

The Barrie Colts managed to tie their series with the Steelheads tonight! Happy for them. Recently volunteered to help a Barrie Colts blog with some graphics so it nice to see them keep that series tight.

The reigning Memorial Cup champions also managed to cling on for dear life against Kingston. The Generals are up against it but they’re going to be a hard team to close-out.


 


March 31, 2016 // 12:00 am

*Everything is now up to date reflecting all the action from Wednesday*

As I type this, the Seattle Thunderbirds just scored in OT to close out their series with the Cougars. I have updated the QMJHL and OHL brackets.

We saw a handful of teams move on to the second round. In the Q the Huskies and Gatineau Olympiques have secured a second round birth. They will wait for the other six series to conclude before they find out who they will face.

In the WHL, both the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds have won their respective series as well. The second round stage is slowly being set. We will know allot more come Friday night!


 


March 30, 2016 // 12:05 am

Everything has been updated to reflect Tuesday’s action around the CHL. For myself, I just a full night of hockey with the Hurricanes losing to the Pats. You can read my full recap if you’re interested by heading to our home page and reading “Ex Machina”. That’s about all I can muster for now! Thanks for visiting. The next two days worth of updates will likely see the first few teams move on to the second round.


 


March 29, 2016 // 12:46 am

Once again I’ve updated the brackets to reflect the results from Monday. We saw a number of teams get back into their respective series’ with wins. Windsor, however, was unable to come up with a win against the Kitchener Rangers and now face an 0-3 deficit. At least for now, it appears that the Rangers will be one of the first teams through to the second round of the CHL playoffs. It’s an interesting proposition considering the Sting are currently trailing the underdog Greyhounds in their series.

In the WHL’s lone game the Raiders got a huge win over the Warriors to keep their series tight. Moose Jaw has had Prince Alberts number this season. Assuming the Wheat Kings eventually win… and I would think they might? Right?….

We could see a handful of very long series in the WHL’s Eastern Conference – not surprising considering how much equality existed between the Eastern teams heading into the post season.


 


March 28, 2016 // 12:08 am

The brackets have been updated to reflect the games played on Easter Sunday. There was no action in the QMJHL but we did see a few games played in the OHL and WHL. Notable wins include Red Deer and the SSM Greyhounds taking a 2 – 0 series lead over the favored Sarnia Sting.


 


March 27, 2016 // 12:10 am

Another busy night across the CHL. The brackets are all up to date.


 


March 26, 2016 // 12:05 am

We’re really rolling now. Every single series has started across the CHL… all except for Barrie and Mississauga that is. They had to postpone game one after an arena power outage on Thursday. Game one will now be played tomorrow (or today depending on when/where you’re reading this) evening.

We’re only two days into the playoffs and already there’s no shortage of drama. The heavily favored Brandon Wheat Kings find themselves in massive trouble. They dropped their first two games, at home, to the eight seed Edmonton Oil Kings. Due to the distance between Edmonton and Brandon, that series is being played as a 2-3-2. That means the Wheat Kings will have to (potentially) win three of the next five games on the road. It’s not impossible but it’s not a situation anyone expected to see.

The Wheatkings aren’t alone. In the Q we saw Shawinigan lose their opening game to the Sherbrooke Pheonix. Obviously, Shawinigan is still sitting better than Brandon, but time will tell what becomes of the Cataractes.

We saw two games go into overtime. Moncton and Victoriaville was decided in double OT while Prince George and Seattle was settled in a single OT.

Overall, it was a great opening night. Here’s your brackets.


 


March 25, 2016 // 12:30 am

So Im writing this in a car while caught in the midst of a blizzard between Calgary and Lerhbridge. It’s looking like we may actually get off the roads and spend the night at my parents. Apologies but that means the bracket won’t get updated till sometime around 11am MST. I don’t have the software to update the brackets on my phone.

I aplogize in advance. I’ll be back in the morning for an update!

*UPDATE*

Finally made it home and have updated the bracket. Sorry for the wait.

It didn’t take long to get our first shocking result. How about them Oil Kings!? Tonight’s game is HUGE considering it’s a 2-3-2 series. Keep your eyes peeled.


 


March 24, 2016 // 3:00 pm mst

The day has finally arrived! The CHL playoffs get going for real this afternoon/evening. We had a teaser on Tuesday when the Tigers squared off against Edmonton in a one-game playoff, but tonight there’s four honest to goodness playoff games across the country.

Tonight Windsor – Kitchener, Ottawa – Niagra, Mississauga – Barrie, and finally, Brandon – Edmonton all lift the lid on their respective series’. As promised, we will update these brackets either late tonight or early tomorrow morning so you can keep tabs on all the playoff happenings around the league.

Catch you later tonight!


 


March 23, 2016 // 10:55 am mst

The WHL playoff bracket was updated last night shortly after the Edmonton Oil Kings secured a victory over the Tigers. The win gives them a birth in the 2016 WHL playoffs and pits them against the #1 seed Brandon Wheat Kings.

Things will really pick up starting tomorrow. We will update the bracket as the results pour in .


 


March 22, 2016 // 9:30 am mst

Game-of-the-nightOhhhh baby here we go! No secret as to what the big game tonight is. It’s the ONLY game and it promises to be a doozy. The Edmonton Oil Kings are in Medicine Hat for a one-game, winner takes all, shot at the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It’s an incredibly interesting game filled with story-lines and intrigue. How will the Oil Kings handle the hostile environment of Medicine Hat? Can Edmonton get the monkey off their backs and actually find a way to beat the Tigers? Does their six losses to Medicine Hat play a factor mentally or are they able to put it aside and play a good game?

From a Tigers perspective, can they carry momentum forward from Saturday’s win against Lethbridge? Will they crack under pressure? IS there any pressure? They had to battle to get into this game – is that not a victory in and of itself?

As an outsider looking at this game from Lethbridge, I have to give the edge to the Tigers. They have been playing for their lives for weeks. The Oil Kings haven’t elevated their game enough to avoid this game and now they are out of options. Win or go home.

An argument could be made that Edmonton might play the Wheat Kings harder, but they may have blown their chance to prove it. Only time will tell.

Game time is 7PM at the brand new Canalta Centre in Medicine Hat. You can also catch the game online via the WHL’s streaming service or the radio. It’s Bob Ridley’s 3700th game tonight! Special shout out to him!

It seems fitting that a guy with legendary status like Bob would have the chance to make a one game playoff game a milestone. Congrats!

The WHL has announced that tonight’s game is available to stream for FREE on the WHL LIVE streaming service. Nice!

 


 


March 21, 2016 // 8:45 am mst

You may have noticed a change? That’s because we’ve expanded our bracket from the WHL to the entire CHL! Our Sunday afternoon project is now complete. These brackets will be updated daily for the next two months. Remember to click on them to bring up a higher resolution version.

It was interesting putting these brackets together because each league employs a different playoff formula. The WHL makes use of a wild-card system in conjunction with inter-conference and divisional seeding.

The OHL uses the traditional 1-8 seeding per conference which keeps things pretty straightforward.

It’s the QMJHL that throws a wrench into the bracket with their more “alternative” system. For those unaware, the “Q” doesn’t employ conferences. There are only 18 teams in the Quebec league. Two of them don’t make the playoffs. The 16 that do are ranked from 1-16 in one giant pool. The highest ranking always plays the lowest ranking beginning with the 1st round. Therefore – the bracket is totally re-drawn after every round.

If there were never any upsets it would keep things pretty simple… but as we know, upsets are fairly common in junior hockey. When it comes to our QMJHL bracket, we will be reconfiguring it after every round and “greying out” the previous round. It should make sense once it’s in action.

The idea is that CHL hockey fans can bookmark this page and watch the teams across the three leagues draw closer to their respective championships. It should help unify the three leagues and make it easier to breakdown the march for the Memorial Cup.

Who will join Red Deer? Initial thoughts?

Leave a comment below.

 


 


March 20, 2016 // 8:30 am mst

So after all the speculation, 7 of the 8 series in the 2016 WHL playoffs are confirmed and virtually nothing changed.

Out West we saw Portland stave off the Spokane Chiefs for the right to play the Silvertips in the opening round. Spokane will match up against the juggernaut Victoria Royals in their first round series. Of the four series in the West, I am probably most intrigued by Seattle and Prince George. The Cougars have the potential to cause the Thunderbirds all sorts of problems. They are big, mean, play on the edge, and could thrive in a playoff environment.

I’m also curious to see what happens in the Kelowna-Kamloops series. With Whistle and Merkely out, the Rockets aren’t the team we saw earlier in the season. Kamloops has a shot to really give them some trouble.

It was in the East that we saw results with more impactful consequences. The Warriors beat Swift Current 3 – 1 and Regina fell to the Wheaties by a score of 3 – 0. Those two outcomes pushed Moose Jaw back over Regina and set the stage for a Hurricanes-Pats and Warriors-Raiders first round.

The Hurricanes 4 – 2 loss to Medicine Hat, in conjunction with the Rebels 7 – 2 spanking of the Oil Kings, means we will see the Tigers and Oil Kings play a one game playoff for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The game will be played Tuesday night in Medicine Hat at 7:00 pm. Red Deer had nothing to play for against Edmonton and still the Oil Kings couldn’t do what they needed to do to eliminate the Tigers. Medicine Hat holds a perfect 6-0-0-0 record against Edmonton this year. Will it hold up when it really matters? I think it might… but won’t be surprised if it doesn’t either.

I hate to be a fence sitter, but I’m really conflicted with my projection for the one game playoff. What I do know is it promises to be very exciting.

There are two games on-tap today but neither are of any real significance. As I write this, the Hitmen are beating Kootenay 5-4 and the Thunderbirds and Winterhawks don’t drop the puck for another few hours.

Check back here in the coming day’s as we continue to update with thoughts, graphics, analysis, and stories from around the league.

 

The Calgary Sun – “Corral opens doors one final time as Hitmen host Rebels in WHL playoffs”1297816481190_ORIGINAL

“Quick, someone get a broom and a couple of Swiffers.

These cobwebs gotta go.

There’s a WHL playoff game or two that need to be played … at the Corral.

With the Junos taking over the Saddledome for eight days beginning immediately after the Calgary Hitmen host the Red Deer Rebels in Game 3 on Sunday, March 27 (4 p.m.), Hitmen GM Mike Moore was forced to scramble.” – Scott Fisher

FULL STORY

 


 


March 19, 2016 // 9:00 am mst

After all kinds of speculation, we finally have some clarity in the WHL playoff picture. With the Hurricanes victory over Medicine Hat, we know for certain that the Calgary Hitmen will play Red Deer in the first round. For a plethora of reasons, that will be the marquee match-up in the East. It’s going to be a grind. There will be at least one game played at the Corall and the first three games will be played over three nights. I can’t wait to watch this series unfold.Game-of-the-Night

We also know that with the Chiefs winning, the Tri City Americans have officially been eliminated from post season contention. They gave it a great shot and even did their part with a win last night, but the hole was too deep. Despite their best efforts, the Ams just couldn’t recover from their poor start. Now the question needs to be asked… was it a massive mistake to hold on to players like Carlo (who I believe the Hurricanes were hot after)? Hindsight is 20/20 so I won’t judge their actions (or lack their of) too much, but I’m sure it was a disappointment.

With the Blazers victory over Prince George we can also confirm both the Kelowna – Kamloops series and the Seattle – Prince George series. Of the three confirmed match-ups, two have incredibly convenient travel circumstances… the other… well it’s a nightmare. They have committed to playing a traditional 2-2-1-1-1 series rather than a 2-3-2 so I hope the boys have some great movies picked out for the bus.

We also saw the Regina Pats overtake the Moose Jaw Warriors last night. The two teams swap dance partners tonight so it’s possible it will turn back around – but at least for now – the Hurricanes are slated to play their first round series against the Warriors. Personally, that’s the matchup I think would be best for the Canes. I may regret saying that in a week or two, but on paper, I think the Canes match up best against Moose Jaw.

We will know for certain tonight.

For me, the big game to watch remains in the East. It’s the combination of the Tigers and Oil Kings playing for the final Wild Card position. Will there be a little hang-over from the Canes? How will it effect the Tigers? The Oil Kings and Rebels start a half hour before the Canes and Tigers. Medicine Hat needs to win and Edmonton needs to lose in order to force a tie-breaking play-in game.

 


 


March 18, 2016 // 9:21 am mst

Ohhhhh baby things just got interesting. The lone game on last night’s WHL schedule had major implication in the Eastern Conference. Per the Edmonton Oil Kings website, “A crowd of 11,104 came to Rexall Place for the final regular season game of the Edmonton Oil Kings Thursday night. They are now hoping it wasn’t the final game ever here for the Oil Kings as Edmonton fell to the Red Deer Rebels 4-1. Despite outshooting Red Deer 31-25 the Oil Kings had difficulties solving Rebels netminder Trevor Martin getting just the one goal by him.”Game-of-the-Night-18th

The door is wide open for Medicine Hat. The only thing standing in their way? The Lethbridge Hurricanes.

A Lethbridge team that only needs one point to clinch the Central Division I should add…

Last night’s game shapes both Friday and Saturday for the Hurricanes and Tigers. With both Red Deer and Edmonton idle tonight, much can happen. The Tigers, with a win, can be in sole possession of the final wild card spot. The Hurricanes only need a point to clinch the division. It’s theoretically possible for both teams to leave the rink happy tonight BUT, at best, the Tigers can only tie Edmonton. If the season ends with Edmonton and Medicine Hat tied, the two teams will be required to play a tie-breaking game.

There are a handful of other massive games happening tonight. Spokane plays Portland, Moose Jaw plays Brandon, and Regina plays Swift Current. The road to Regina over taking Moose Jaw couldn’t be paved any smoother. It’s possible that after tonight’s slate of games, the Hurricanes find themselves slated to open the playoffs against Moose Jaw.

If Tri City wins and Spokane loses, it leaves the door open for the Americans to sneak into the playoffs (or at least a tie-breaking playoff game) on Saturday.

This is the sort of hockey we grind through five months for! Enjoy it!

We’ll be here tomorrow morning to break it all down and adjust the bracket as necessary.

 


 


March 17, 2016 // 9:00 am mst

Just when it looked like we might see some separation in the East, the Regina Pats rose to occasion and made a comeback in their game against Saskatoon. The line of Jake Leschyshyn, Rykr Cole and Adam Berg scored on consecutive third period shifts to power a 5-3 win over the Blades. Win was huge for the Pats as the Warriors cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Raiders. With both teams getting two points and nothing else happening, there was no movement in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

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Things weren’t much different out West. There’s more separation between the teams in the BC and US divisions and since Tri-City didn’t play, the only possible changes were involving the Spokane Chiefs. With the Chiefs beating Everett in OT, it moves them into a tie with Portland for 3rd in the US. Portland does have a game in hand but it’s something to watch closely over the next three days. It would be huge for Spokane to avoid a match-up with the Royals in the 1st round but Portland controls their destiny.

Speaking of the Royals – with last night’s victory over Kelowna – they sealed the deal as the WHL’s regular season points champions. Congrats to Victoria and their fans. What a great season for a team that wasn’t expected to do much more than be competitive.

On the docket tonight is a huge game between Edmonton and Red Deer. Both team’s only have two games remaining and both are jockeying for position. With a win, Red Deer can pressure Lethbridge for the Central division lead but with anything less and the Hurricanes will have clinched it. Buckle in Canes fans. By late tonight the Canes could be the regular season Central Division champions.

For the Oil Kings, they need to win both their final games to guarantee they make the playoffs. That’s because the Tigers hold the second tie-breaker (record vs. one another) but currently trail Edmonton by two points. The EOK hold their own destiny, but a regulation loss would mean they would become the biggest Lethbridge Hurricane fans alive tomorrow night. If Edmonton loses tonight, the Hurricanes will face a Tigers team that is a win away from overtaking Edmonton.

 

Medicine Hat News – “Ready for a Wild Finish”

local031716-Tigers

“Kootenay Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin’s 51-save shutout of the Edmonton Oil Kings Tuesday set the stage for a wild finish to the WHL season for the Medicine Hat Tigers.

The Tigers sit two points behind the Oil Kings for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with just two games left on the docket. While a 13-year playoff streak is in jeopardy, head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston insiststhere isn’t much to be upset about after being outside the picture since October.

“For the whole season we’ve been on the outside and looking in, and quite a ways away, so the fact we still have an opportunity to get into the playoffs with two games remaining, to me, it’s a great situation,” said Clouston. “The guys have been unbelievable fighting through some real adverse times and we’ve played our best hockey down the stretch, which is always positive.”” – Ryan Mccracken

FULL STORY

 


 


March 16, 2016 // 12:00 pm mst

Any thoughts on these match-ups? Things you like/don’t like? Can this bracket be improved? Notice any mistakes? Please drop a comment if you have something to say!

From a Lethbridge perspective the match-up with Regina is both intriguing and terrifying. Was chatting with someone in the Pats organization by email and few weeks ago and we were laughing about what this 1st round match-up would be like if it were to happen (that was in the wake of the 9-8 SO win for Regina). We will know after tonight’ if Moose Jaw is in big trouble of falling back to the wild card or not. Both the Pats and Warriors are in action.

Stay tuned and check back tomorrow for an updated bracket.

*Let me also get it out of the way and admit to borrowing from the 2016 NCAA March Madness logo for the Live Blog Cover. All credit for the layout belongs to the original designer. We’ve adapted it for our uses.*

 

Sportsnet – WHL Blog: “Playoff Seeding Down to the Wire”

Barzal

“Timing is everything in hockey and with the WHL playoffs only a couple weeks away there are three teams that have hit their stride at the right time of the season.

In the Eastern Conference, the Brandon Wheat Kings have only been beaten twice—both in overtime—their past 10 games. That has clinched the East Division for them and they are one point away from securing their second straight top seed in the conference.

Not only are they winning games, but they’re piling up goals. They’re the top scoring club in the WHL and averaging an astonishing 6.5 goals per game in those past 10 contests. That’s going to get you a lot of points and the Wheaties looked poised to make another run to the finals…” – Andrew Eide

FULL STORY

 


 

Best-Central-Div-Jersey-Cover

 

If you haven’t yet, think about voting in our Central Division jersey ranking. We opened the polls a week ago and have had a few hundred submissions. We love jerseys, logos, and goaltender equipment here at Canes Domain. It’s something we’re passionate about and have put allot of time into curating. If you enjoy this sort of thing, you’re sure to enjoy the Central Division Jersey Ranking.

Vote Here –>> Jersey Vote

 

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16 thoughts on “2016 WHL PLAYOFF BRACKET: LIVE BLOG”

  1. dbourassa says:

    Firstly, I really like that design for the playoff brackets. It’s a fresh look and far cleaner and easy to read than the typical playoff brackets, especially the rinse-and-repeat template they use on the WHL site, which is cluttered and has all sorts of things overlapping key pieces of information. You should pitch it to them, because they clearly need a new design in that area!

    As for the match-ups, I think the Pats have a very good chance of advancing their position, especially with having just added their #1 defenseman Colby Williams back into the line up. If the standings are to be believed, the Pats also have a slightly easier remaining schedule than the Warriors, meeting the Blades tonight instead of the Raiders (though they’ve blown many supposedly easy games to the Blades already this year). If both teams get the same result tonight, then it becomes a matter of who performs better against the Broncos and Wheat Kings and once again becomes anybody’s guess as to who will come out ahead. Tonight could very well be the deciding factor in that race.

    I definitely believe a Pats match-up with the Hurricanes in the first round would likely be far more entertaining than a date with the Raiders though, given the scores these two teams have put up together over the regular season. I’m half hoping they don’t meet in the first round since these are the two teams I will be pulling for the most in the Eastern Division and I’d hate to have one or the other eliminated right off the bat, but from a pure excitement side of things I think it would be a great series and almost a shame if it doesn’t happen this year. If it does happen, I just hope they both come with tighter defensive play than they have in the last few meetings! 10+ goal games are fun and all, but I’d rather see both teams at their very best in all areas, as is the case in all playoff series.

    What’s also very interesting to me is the race for that last wildcard spot between the Oil Kings and Tigers. Personally I’m pulling for the Tigers, for variety’s sake, the whole underdog thing and probably also against my better judgement as I think the Oil Kings could wear down the Wheat Kings far more than the Tigers could. It probably isn’t a popular opinion here given the final two meetings of the year for the Hurricanes, but ideally I’d like to see the Rebels take both remaining games with the Oil Kings in regulation and the Hurricanes split with the Tigers, just to force a tiebreaker for that last playoff spot and make sure the team that deserves it most gets it, while also allowing the Hurricanes to clinch that hard-earned and extremely well-deserved division title. With all teams having only 2-3 games left, I’m a little surprised at how much movement can still happen in the standings. It’s going to be an interesting week and I’m looking forward to seeing if that playoff bracket changes as the dust begins to settle.

    Any insight on how the Hurricanes stack up against the higher tier, playoff-bound teams of the OHL and QMJHL? Most of those teams only end up on my radar once they’ve made the final tournament as otherwise I find it’s a bit of a hockey overload for me (maybe that’s how it is for you as well), but as the Memorial Cup draws nearer, it’s always something I wish I kept up with a bit better.

    1. Brock Boot says:

      Wow! Great reply. Lots of questions/comments there so I will do my best.

      Thanks so much for the feedback on the bracket! Glad you enjoy it. Not sure the WHL has much interest in blogs such as this, but if they wanted to use it I would absolutely talk to them about it.

      You mentioned that last night might be the deciding factor between Regina and Moose Jaw… it wasn’t! I guess we will have to wait another few days for clarity. I have a hung the Pats will make it happen and squeak ahead of the Warriors. Just a hunch. Nothing more.

      Agreed that a Regina-Lethbridge series could be wildly entertaining. How could it not? They are both incredibly fast teams that love open things up. I’m not sure it would be the best series for either team, but if that’s what happens we will have a week to prepare our hearts for the rigorous few games they will have to endure.

      I would love to see things come down to the final game between Edmonton and Medicine Hat. Tonight’s game will really dictate whether it does or not. I agree that EOK’s would be a more difficult road for Brandon than the Tigers. They are bigger, meaner, and have people that have been around the playoffs allot.

      I have very little insight on the teams from the Q and the OHL. I know the RN- Huskies are the front runners at the moment. They loaded up at the Q deadline and have been shredding the league since then. London is always a powerhouse and both Erie and Kitchener are also great clubs. Always keep an eye on Gatineau during the playoffs too… they find a way.

      1. dbourassa says:

        Yep! Absolutely nothing was decided on Wednesday as far as the Hurricanes’ potential first round opponent. I kind of had a feeling the Warriors would want to make a statement against the Raiders, who aren’t completely out of reach yet either, and that’s just what they did, while the Pats had a bit of a scare as they ran into a hot goaltender early on, but managed to keep pace with the Warriors in the end. What I like best about the remaining two games for the Warriors and the Pats is that they just trade dance partners instead of closing the year with separate and potentially unbalanced home-and-home series. I kind of wish it worked out that way in the Central Division as well, just given the way the chips have fallen in the race for that last playoff spot, though neither the Tigers nor Oil Kings have a cakewalk into that last spot so it’s not a huge deal.

        Heading into this weekend, one thing I wonder about is whether or not the Wheat Kings will rest key players or not. With Victoria putting themselves out of reach last night and the Wheat Kings having taken top seeding in the conference, there’s nothing left to play for as far as points go. On the other hand there’s about a week in between the last regular season game and the start of playoffs and I’m sure the Wheat Kings would like to close the season strong, especially with both games being in Brandon. It could play out kind of strangely depending on which route they take though and the same question goes for the Hurricanes if the Rebels lose tonight.

        I’ll actually be quite interested in the Rebels/Oil Kings game, which isn’t a matchup that usually piques my interest. Sort of pulling for a Rebels win, just for the sake of keeping this final stretch interesting right down to the wire, but mainly I just hope it’s a good game as the stakes are high for both teams.

        1. Brock Boot says:

          Agreed. It’s actually interesting that in the Central the two bottom teams face the two top teams in the division. It’s almost poetic.

          I don’t think the Wheaties are overly injured so it will be interesting. As for the Canes, if they clinch the division tonight I can’t imagine a scenario where they won’t get at least one or two guys a game or two off this weekend. For the players that have been playing through injuries – if they were to sit for both games this weekend it would mean a full two weeks without playing a game… which of course has it’s costs and benefits. I expect most guys to play Friday at home, but again, it’s really hard to say. We will know more after tonight.

          I too am interested in that game. Hard not to be. Tonight’s game in Edmonton shapes every other game this weekend (for the Canes and Tigers at least).

          1. dbourassa says:

            So… the Rebels kept themselves in the conversation for first place and now the Hurricanes have the opportunity to disappoint two other teams’ fanbases with a single win. Talk about an important weekend in the Central Division.

            It’s definitely a fitting way for the season to end for these four teams. Play-by-play guys always like to say how the final few games of the regular season “feel like playoff hockey,” but with these four games in particular, it really is like a shortened playoff round in itself, cutting out the two teams in the division who have nothing left to play for and seeding the other four accordingly. It really couldn’t have panned out much better than it has without being planned in advance. Looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

  2. dbourassa says:

    Big night in the WHL for a lot of teams and a couple new seedings were decided as a result, with the Hurricanes meeting the Pats in the first round and the Warriors inching back into third place to meet the Raiders. I think the Hurricanes/Pats series promises to be a thriller and as a fan of the Pats who’s seen enough of the Raiders for one year, I like the match up a lot. I hope the series can live up to my expectations.

    Meanwhile in Medicine Hat, the Tigers forced the tie-breaking game with the Oil Kings. With the Hurricanes having picked up the Central Division banner last night (and deservedly so) I had to pull for the Tigers in this one, so I was glad to see them rise to the occasion. The Oil Kings on the other hand really didn’t seem to come out in either of their games with the sense of urgency expected of a team that’s at risk of not making the playoffs. I like the Tigers’ chances given that they’ve had the Oil Kings’ number all year long, but if there was ever a time to break that pattern for the Oil Kings, it’s right now.

    1. Brock Boot says:

      It was an extremely interesting night wasn’t it?

      This Regina/Lethbridge series could either be everything it will be hyped to be, or it might turn into a cold war where both sides are afraid to open things up. Mutually assured destruction…. Nixon era Cold War style.

      Part of me thinks the Oil Kings will find a way to beat MH just because they havn’t all season. It’s one of those crazy records that could be snapped in the crucial tie-breaking game. That’s just a silly gut call though.

      I believe Edmonton will push Brandon harder, but as you said, they havn’t been too convincing down the stretch either..

  3. Dawna says:

    So the way I see it, the Hurricanes dropped 3 of their 4 games this season against Regina. They were never blown away (although not sure what you’d call that 9-8 shoot out loss) but obviously Regina is one of the teams that seems to have had the ‘Canes number all season. What do the Lethbridge boys have to do to get through this series against a team they have struggled against this year?

    Dawna

    1. Brock Boot says:

      Dawna – that’s a great question. It’s something I’ll be focusing on in-depth when I write our 1st round preview this week.

      For now I will simply say that the Canes need to play the Pats more tactically. Regina is one of the few teams in the league that can out skate Lethbridge. It exposes the Hurricanes defense, and in turn, the goaltenders as well. Lethbridge may need to clog up the neutral zone and rely on their powerplay to put them in a position to get some wins.

    2. dbourassa says:

      A couple things came to mind right away for me. After the last two meetings in particular, I’d say that tightening up on defense first and foremost is obviously very important for both clubs. Smothering Adam Brooks specifically could go a long way for the Hurricanes, as he has had a touch on nearly 50% of the Pats’ goals this season, but of course that’s easier said than done. From an offensive perspective, the Hurricanes have the advantage of already knowing they can come back from some pretty nasty looking defecits and make it a one goal game against the Pats, which should be a confidence builder regardless of how the season series went.

      I think relying a bit more on the powerplay to get ahead is a really good strategy. The Pats are one of the more highly penalized teams in the league and the Hurricanes’ powerplay is lethal, so making sure the Pats pay dearly for the time they spend in the box could prove to be a key factor for the Hurricanes. At the same time, they will have to remain cautious of the forwards on the Pats’ top two penalty kill units, who are aggressive, fast and always looking for that demoralizing shorthanded goal.

      1. Brock Boot says:

        Hey dbourassa!

        Would love your thoughts on the potential lines/line matching that Paddock might employ against Lethbridge.

        Working hard on our series preview… Need some insight from Regina.

        1. dbourassa says:

          Sorry I didn’t spot this comment earlier! It’s not much use now, but here’s some observations about the Pats’ lines in the last few games and a few inconsequential odds and ends.

          It seems that Paddock favours the Steel/Sanford line against Wong’s line. Given the strong starts that this line has given the Pats in the last two meetings, I’d expect that to remain the same in playoffs whenever possible. This puts the Brooks centered line against the Lindgren centered line, I suspect due to the similar amounts of experience and relative size, with Steel’s line stacking up better size wise against Wong’s. I’m not sure which winger will end up rounding Steel’s line out. It’s been youngster Riley Woods as of late, but it was Richards earlier in the season and in the past two meetings with the Hurricanes. It seems to come down to who wants it more and is performing better in any given game. I’d almost expect Richards to move back up initially as he’s stronger on the forecheck, but Woods has also been potting some timely goals as of late, so it’s kind of a toss up. Whichever one doesn’t get that wing tends to be a scratch, though I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the odd man out ending up on the fourth line, as this series is likely to be a be a battle of skill and not one where two enforcer/grinder type players (Smith and Macklin) are needed.

          In Lethbridge, I’d expect there to be some minor juggling with the lines. Brooks occasionally double shifts as the fourth line center in away games to try and slip any line matching going on, and I’d say that’s especially likely if the Pats find themselves behind in scoring. Should anyone end up leaving the game early, Brooks and Steel usually end up alternating those extra shifts from period to period until they shorten the bench.

          I’m fairly uncertain of the most desirable defensive pairings. Hobbs/Hilsendager will almost certainly be matched against the first line whenever possible, but the Zborovskiy/Harrison line hasn’t faired well against the second offensive line of the Hurricanes, mostly due to their tendency to play soft and opt for the stick check instead of pinning their man to the boards, which is a choice that gives highly skilled players all the room they need to make something happen, nevermind the number of turnovers and unnecessary icings they seem prone to giving up. It puts the Pats in a predicament that can really only be remedied by swapping that line for another or that line making the appropriate adjustments, which thus far has never happened. The alternative line would be Williams/Freadrich, which I would say is a preferrable match up, but perhaps not feasible with Williams having just returned from injury. If Williams is however ready for increased ice time, I would expect that pairing to be matched against one of the top two lines as Williams’ skill set has proven significant in shutting down top lines in the past.

          Additionally, there’s always a pair of defensemen scratched, usually Schioler and Pouteau, both of which have seen a fair bit of playing time throughout the season prior to Williams’ return. I’m not sure if I’d expect to see either in the line up often or at all as Freadrich seems to be the rookie that’s taken the biggest strides over the season, but any injury/suspension or exceptionally bad performance from the main three pairings could result in one of them making an appearance. Schioler’s style strikes me as ideal for a shut down role against the third or fourth line, but it’ll depend on whether they feel they can risk the chance of rookie mistakes or not.

          The same goes for potential fourth line forwards, with two rookies, Gardiner and Elmer, being called up at the end of their respective seasons. They didn’t see any ice time during the regular season and I don’t think they’ll be likely to dress unless it’s absolutely necessary as a result, but since the Pats were plagued with suspensions and injuries in their last playoff run, I think Paddock might just be playing it safe. On the other hand, last year saw Leschyshyn and Berg playing third/fourth line minutes in playoffs after being called up, so it’s hard to say for sure.

          So there’s a fair bit of uncertainty as far as the lines go, which is one of the burdens of rolling with so many rookies, but other than a few guesses about which third and fourth liners may or may not find their way into the line-up there’s not a whole lot to add on my part. You covered it very well!

          1. dbourassa says:

            HA! Good thing I didn’t get any of that out before your preview because Paddock stuck to none of it besides occasionally double shifting Brooks, putting Woods and Richards both in the line-up and moving Richards back up on Steel’s line for part of the game. Defensive pairings were mixed up from the regular season ones and the match-ups were met with disastrous results. The Hurricanes’ powerplay had their way with Zborovskiy and Harrison, which is about what I expected, and then if there was ever a game plan for possible ways to beat the Hurricanes, the Pats did absolutely none of it the third period and the Hurricanes pounced on the opportunity to close the deal. I’ll be interested to see what changes come tomorrow night because a special teams battle is not what I was hoping to be watching in this series.

            Meanwhile in Brandon, I’m shocked to see the Oil Kings come away 2-0. Talk about tipping the series in your favour, heading back home for three games in a row. I didn’t think they would be in this series at all given the way they kind of limped across the finish line to get into playoffs, but they sure seem ready to play now that the post-season is here. Playing the Wheat Kings rough has been a recipe for success for various teams all season long, as they tend to wilt when they’re getting beaten up a bit. Adding to that the fact that the Oil Kings aren’t spending a ton of time short-handed while putting this plan into action and when they are, they kill the penalties fairly easily, it’s making this series far more interesting than I had anticipated and not the sweep to the finals fans in Brandon were hoping for.

  4. Brock Boot says:

    Dbourassa,

    You should copy-paste your thoughts from tonight’s game into our post game article. We juuuuust posted it.

  5. dbourassa says:

    Really disappointed, although not really surprised, that the Oil Kings weren’t able to put the squeeze on the Wheat Kings, but they played a terrible game tonight. While the series is far from over, the Wheat Kings didn’t offer them anything tonight and seemed completely dialed in to their usual gameplan, which I don’t expect to change going forward.

  6. dbourassa says:

    This is the first time in recent memory where I’m pulling for the Warriors to take any series in the post-season. Granted the rivalry between them and the Pats isn’t what it used to be, but when you add the fact that they have a former Pat in the form of Dryden Hunt putting up numbers, Brayden Point who’s just a phenom and impossible not to enjoy watching if you’re a fan of junior hockey and are facing the Wheat Kings which makes them huge underdogs by default, all of the sudden there’s a lot of reasons for me to cheer for them. I don’t really think they’re going to be able to pull it off, but with Brett Howden finally starting to score again and a pretty weak secondary defensive pairing on the Wheat Kings end (though who doesn’t look weak when Provorov is on the first pairing?), it’s possible they could make more of a series out of this than people are thinking. I think they have the better goaltender in Sawchenko, but the Wheat Kings’ offense always has the ability to make solid goaltenders look silly, especially when the defense isn’t up to par, which I feel is the Warriors’ biggest weakness this year.

    For the Rebels/Pats series, like you, I don’t fully believe in the team Red Deer put together at the trade deadline. I feel they traded away some solid character players in exchange for some guys that can put up impressive numbers, but have been among the first to stop playing on tough nights, which isn’t a quality I like in general, let alone in a Memorial Cup squad. That being said, they aren’t really an offensive minded team to begin with. If the Pats continue sticking to the defensive gameplan they used against the Hurricanes, they have a good shot at shutting down the Rebels’ offense, especially if Ivan Nikolishin remains out. At the other end, it will require them pushing back physically against a much larger Rebels team. If guys like Brooks and Steel are able to create the space they need in the Rebels’ zone, I really like their chances. The Rebels’ goaltending has looked very suspect to me in every game I’ve watched and it’s always been a matter of persevering against a very smothering defensive presence.

    In the west, between Everett and Seattle, I agree the Thunderbirds are probably coming out on top, though the Silvertips consistently outshot Portland throughout their series, which is flat out bizarre for them and their strictly defensive mindset. I’m interested to see if they’ve finally come into the playoffs looking to do what it takes in order to take that next step or if those were nights that the Winterhawks just didn’t show up to play. I didn’t pick either team to sweep in the first round, but I also found out about all the behind-the-scenes nonsense going on with Portland and Prince George afterwards, which I believe is a factor in some regard, though not one that changes who advanced in each series, just perhaps not in a first-round sweep. Six games sounds about right for this series, just because I expect Carter Hart to steal a couple for Everett, as he’s been known to do this year.

    And finally, I have to say I’m really glad they decided to broadcast the Royals/Rockets series. I’ll be following that one on any night that I can. It’s a solid rivalry to begin with these days, but when it’s also between two top teams, I think it’s a no-brainer to showcase this series. Before playoffs began, I thought Victoria would be on a tear all the way into the conference finals, but their first round series was a lot closer than I had anticipated. The reverse goes for the Rockets, who I thought could be easy pickings for a first round upset by the Blazers, with the Blazers hitting their stride on home stretch and the Rockets having some really key players injured. It almost happened, but the Rockets pulled through and actually had some pretty dominant performances among those seven games. I’m still leaning towards Victoria in this one, but I’m not so sure they’re going all the way anymore. I think the difference in this one will be on the back end, where I feel the Royals have an advantage. They have a more experienced group of defensemen and have rolled with both Vollrath and Outhouse as starting goaltenders for various stretches during the year, while Herringer is in the unenviable position of stepping in as the starter very late in the year. He’s done well, but with the number of rookies in Kelowna’s D-core, any soft goal can hurt them badly. Looking forward to checking out game one tomorrow night.

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