Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Down-Low with Bristowe--Western Conference 1st Round Playoff Preview

The Down-Low with Bristowe
Posted by Allan Bristowe

Western Conference Playoff Preview

Where will the West be won? The Western Conference playoffs appear to be a 4 horse race. You may have heard our predictions on The Pipeline Show on Monday night where I had a chance to share my opinions with Guy Flaming and Dean Millard. First and foremost I promise not to go on and on (and on) about the Cougars in their series with the Vancouver Giants.

(1) Vancouver Giants vs. (8) Prince George Cougars

I won’t go on and on….because this series won’t go on for very long. There was a 66 point difference in the standings between the teams in the regular season. The Giants feature arguably the best defence in the league and the Cats main go to player is 16 year old forward Brett Connolly. The Cougars lost the season series 8 games to none and were outscored 40-11. In their last contest over the weekend the Cougars were shut out by the Giants back-up goalie. The Giants will use the series to get their game on track after going 4 and 4 in March. The Cats will use the post season to gain some valuable playoff experience for their young team. Giants in 4.

Key Match-up in the series: Brett Connolly vs. Jonathon Blum

(2) Tri-City Americans vs. (7) Everett Silvertips

This series on paper appears to be a mis-match. The Americans claimed their second straight US division title, while the Silvertips were one of the big sellers around the WHL trade deadline making a block buster deal with Lethbridge where they unloaded Kyle Beach. Tri-City won the season series 8-1-0-1 and held the Tips leading scorer Kellan Tochkin to only 6 points in the 10 games. There is some question about Americans goalie Chet Pickard after suffering a concussion late in the season but he was the teams back-up in their final two regular season games. This is another series where the top team is going after another league title and the lower seed is looking to gain from the post season exposure. Americans in 4.

Key Match-up in the series: Kellan Tochkin vs. Mitch Fadden

(3) Kelowna Rockets vs. (6) Kamloops Blazers

The battle of the K town teams was one sided during the regular season. The Rockets blasted the Blazers this season winning all 9 meetings and had 30 more goals. Kelowna is looking to make a run this season while the Blazers were a middle of the pack team all season and had trouble finding their consistency. I do think the Blazers might give the Rockets a better run in the playoffs. Goalie Justin Leclerc might be able to pull out a game or two. Plus the Blazers do have some guys that could surprise. C.J. Stretch had 86 points while Tyler Shattock was a point a game player. Rockets in 5 or 6 at the most.

Key Match-up in the series: Justin Leclerc vs. The entire Rockets offense

(4) Spokane vs. (5) Seattle

The 4 versus 5 series is usually the closest and that should be the case here. Spokane won the season series with 5 wins in 9 games. The Seattle Thunderbirds could be the team to dethrone the defending Memorial Cup champions. With Canadian World Junior captain Thomas Hickey anchoring their blue line and forwards such as Ottawa Senators first rounder Jim O’Brien up front the T-Birds have more talent than some people might realize. The Chiefs have the experience of knowing how to win going all the way last year. Spokane has the Canadian World Junior goalie in Dustin Tokarski who some how finds a way to get the job done when the games are on the line. I think this will be a hard fought series with Spokane prevailing in either 6 or 7 games.

Key Match-up in the series: Thomas Hickey vs. Drayson Bowman

That’s the Down-Low with Bristowe for the opening round of the Western Conference Playoffs.

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