Thursday, April 4, 2019
DARREN DUPONT'S AROUND THE DUB
1 - RECAP: Let’s start by looking back at the opening round and evaluating how we did on our picks. This is where you go back and look at your own predictions and share your results in the comments.
In the east, I had PA in five (won in 4), Saskatoon in four (bang on), Edmonton in six (again, correct), and Lethbridge in seven (Calgary won in seven). We will call that an overtime loss in the column. So mark it down as 3-0-1 in the East. I was off by a single game in series lengths.
Over in the west, I had Everett in four (took them five), Portland in seven (Spokane won in five), Vancouver in five (won in six), and Kamloops in six (lost in six). Not as hot out west finishing 2-2.
So, 5-2-1 in the opening round. Moving on…
2 - BRICK WALL: What a run it’s been for Saskatoon Blades’ goaltender Nolan Maier. Recently named WHL Goaltender-of-the-Month, Maier was 9-0-0 in March and hasn’t lost at home in regulation since the 12th of January!
Can the Blades ride his hot play against the Raiders?
3 - VETERAN PRESENCE: Davis Koch is enjoying his best season as a junior and his 10 points helped Vancouver get past Seattle in the opening round (also tied for tops in the WHL). The 20-year-old forward is a veteran of 320 games in the league split between Edmonton and Vancouver and had another three assists in the series-clinching victory.
Another veteran, Jadon Joseph, a 19-year-old former Regina Pats’ and Lethbridge Hurricanes’ forward, had six goals in the series, tied for most in the WHL playoffs.
4 - TOUGH EXIT: It’s tough this time of year not to feel for the players, coaches, general managers, and team staff of teams who work so hard to make the playoffs only to be knocked out in the opening round. I look to Lethbridge and the great people in that organization who had done a wonderful job reaching the conference final in each of the past two seasons. I really thought Peter Anholdt had put another great group together with acquisitions like Nick Henry and Jake Leschyshyn from the Pats however Steve Hamilton has his Calgary Hitmen rolling. I said you could flip a coin and, in the end, it came right down to the wire in game seven.
Regan Bartel, the radio voice of the Kelowna Rockets, sums it up nicely on twitter:
Easy to throw stones @SCBroncos last season for moving prospects/high draft picks to build a winner. Easy to chuckle at @WHLHurricanes for giving up two 1st round picks and losing in round 1. Fact is, nothing is guaranteed. GM's deserve credit for having balls to make bold moves.
Yes, they do.
5 - TRADE: The Regina Pats made a trade with the Winnipeg Ice (still feels weird saying that and I honestly typed Kootenay first!) on Wednesday trading the playing rights of Carter Savoie to the Ice in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick and a couple conditional picks.
Carter is the older brother of Matthew Savoie who could be taken number one in this May’s bantam draft. Both have committed to Denver University but the Ice are hoping a package deal for the brothers could bring them to Winnipeg.
6 - (1) PA vs (2) SAS: Get ready for one helluva ride! The first three can be seen across the country on Sportsnet.
Both teams can score, have depth, good goaltending and a solid back end. Ten Raiders had multi-point series against Red Deer as they spread around the offence and really flexed their depth. It’s tough for any team to match them line-for-line.
For Saskatoon, captain Chase Wouters should be a player to watch in the series. He was great in a shutdown role in round one but also scored the overtime goal in the opener and won over 50% of his faceoffs.
If special teams is going to be a factor, look to the Blades’ penalty kill. Saskatoon was successful in round one ,allowing just one goal on 11 Moose Jaw opportunities and that unit will need to be good against the Raiders.
Both of these teams are great on home ice and this could go the distance. I feel something special happening in Saskatoon but the numbers say take PA in six.
7 - (1) EDM vs (3) CGY: What is happening in Calgary is special. Clearly Mark Kastelic is their leader. The 20-year-old centre from Phoenix, AZ scored five times in a seven game series with Lethbridge, and won 92 of 151 faceoffs. That’s 60.9%!
For Edmonton, Trey Fix-Wolansky is wide awake. The 19-year-old picked up six points over the final three games of the series to lead the Oil Kings past Medicine Hat in round one. They’ll need more consistent goaltending if they want to reach the conference finals but getting their offensive leader going is great news.
Edmonton went 7-0-1 in the season series and I’ll take them in seven.
8 - (1) VAN vs (2) VIC: I mentioned in my first round predictions that veteran netminder Griffen Outhouse needed to be good for the Royals to win and he was just that. The 21-year-old, who has played in over 200 games, posted a sparkling .923 save percentage and one shutout in the series. They’ll need him to be good again and he has shown a tendency to be great against their west-coast rivals in the past.
Victoria will be without forward Kody McDonald for the first four games of the series after the stick swinging incident we told you about last week.
For Vancouver, we touched on them a little bit off the top but, in goal 18-year-old Trent Miner has been great as well. The Brandon, MB product was 2-1 in the series against Seattle with a .927 save percentage. He’s enjoying a carryover from a terrific regular season in which he won 24 games posting a .924 save percentage. A goaltending duel perhaps! It also appears as though 17-year-old and 2017 first-round pick (#3 overall) Justin Sourdif could be ready to return to the lineup for game one.
I’ll take the Giants in five.
9 - (1) EVT vs (2) SPO: I’ll be honest, I was very surprised that Spokane was able to push aside the Portland Winterhawks in five games.
The Chiefs held WHL scoring champ Joachim Blichfeld to just four points in the five-game set while Vegas Golden Knights’ first-round pick Cody Glass only appeared in one game. On the other side, Riley Woods was red-hot picking up eight points in the series and Bailey Brkin was sensational in goal, posting a .922 save percentage.
I also said that the Chiefs would need to be good on the powerplay. How’s six-for-11?
Everett continued to get great goaltending from young Dustin Wolf in round one, and 19-year-old Bryce Kindopp scored five times. The penalty kill did allow five goals on 16 Tri-City opportunities.
This will be a good series. Everett went 6-0-1-1 in the regular season against Spokane. I’ll take Everett in six.
10 - ONE YEAR AGO: Do you remember where you were one year ago Saturday? I was driving from Regina to Saskatoon when I first heard the news. I had to pull over. My phone wouldn’t stop. It wasn’t until I made it to the Bridge City that the reports began to surface as to just how bad it was. It’s remarkable how far that community has come in such a short time. So much courage and strength.
Be well everyone.
*SJAY UPDATE: The Final Four is now the Final Three. Battlefords swept Yorkton with a Game 4 victory Wednesday night and they've moved on to the Canalta Cup. Meanwhile the other SJHL semifinal series is down to a Best-of-3 after Estevan beat Melfort in both games in the Energy City this week to tie the series up at 2-2. Game 5 goes Friday night at the Northern Lights Palace!
(Follow Darren on Twitter at @darrendupont)