Friday, April 16, 2010

WHL Semi-Final Predictions

They are down the the final four in the Western Hockey League and one could argue that there really hasn't been an upset yet. The Vancouver Giants were a somewhat of an underdog against Portland but only by the slimmest of point differentials so the fact that they came out victorious from their series isn't really a stunner.

Here's how TPS sees it shaping up for the next ten days...

Vancouver faces a stiff challenge now though in the guise of the Tri-City Americans. Bob Tory's group was the best of the West through the regular season and should be considered the favorites here. However, the Giants will be up to the task if they get solid netminding out of Mark Segal - he'll have to be better than his .891 SV% and bloated 3.59 GAA suggest he's been so far.

The Americans are a tenacious bunch and although perhaps lacking star power, that's a team that plays as tight and unified a game as you're bound to see. Netminder Drew Owsley has been exceptional between the pipes for the last remaining U.S. team and might be the top goalie still active in the WHL.

Vancouver is being led by the duo of 20-year-old Craig Cunningham and nearly 18-year-old Brendan Gallagher who have 37 playoff points between them after 10 games. Former Oil King Tomas Vincour has reportedly been stellar since the January trade; one scout told me recently that the Czech might be the best import the Giants have ever had on their roster. Veteran import Milan Kytnar has also been solid while rookie David Musil continues to impress on the blueline.

Dean: Tri-City in 7
Guy: Tri-City in 6

The Calgary Hitmen finished as the top team in the league but the Brandon Wheat Kings ended just 3 points back - this should be a terrific match up. The Wheaties won 3 of the 4 meetings against Calgary during the regular season making some think they might have an inside track to the Final. Still, it's not like a line up with Brandon Kozun, Joel Broda, Michael Stone, Jimmy Bubnick and Tyler Shattock can be taken lightly. Add in that Martin Jones is probably the best goalie in the Conference and the Hitmen have what it takes to assassinate the Kings.

Brandon already has a date at the Memorial Cup locked up and Dean wonders if they might be better off pushing Calgary to 7... only to lose, get rested and prepare for the big dance while avoiding the travel that the WHL final will involve.

But try telling that to Kelly McCrimmon's roster. Brayden Schenn, Matt Calvert and Scott Glennie might be nearing the end of their junior careers and will want to go out trying their hardest, not mailing it in against Calgary. Brent Raedeke has never been this far in the playoffs, nor has Travis Hamonic on the blueline.

This one could go the distance and see multiple overtime games before a winner is determined.

Dean: Brandon in 7
Guy: Calgary in 7

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