Thursday, 24 May 2007

All Things Playoff

Since everyone in the hockey world is in playoff mode, this article will be all about who is playing for what trophy. The NHL, AHL, ECHL, and CHL are all winding down, and there are only a couple of teams still standing in each league. Here is who is still standing in those leagues.

#2 vs. #4

We'll start with the NHL. The Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators will battle for the Holy Grail of Hockey in what should be a very good series. I've read elsewhere about how people think this series will be boring. I beg to differ. Both of these teams like to skate, both teams like to hit, and both teams can certainly score. There are so many good storylines in this series that I've planned to write about them tomorrow. That being said, looking at the teams on paper doesn't really tell the story. Anaheim has yet to run into a team like Ottawa in these playoffs. Ottawa has had its share of hot goalies and "better teams" in its run to the Finals, and it has conquered them all. This series looks like it could be a memorable one, and I am looking forward to fast-skating, hard-hitting hockey.

The AHL Calder Cup Playoffs continues tonight as the Hamilton Bulldogs look to sweep the Chicago Wolves out of the playoffs. If the Bulldogs win, they will advance to the Calder Cup Final as the Western Conference representative. Who will they meet? The Hershey Bears have the opportunity to sweep the Manchester Monarchs out of the playoffs on Saturday night. If they do, the Bears will be the Eastern Conference representative in the Calder Cup Finals.

The Hershey Bears are looking to defend their Calder Cup Championship from a year ago where they defeated the Milwaukee Admirals four games to two. This will the 16th time the Bears have appeared in the final, if they close out the series, having won the Calder Cup five times in their history. The Hamilton Bulldogs have been to the final twice, losing both times.

To be honest, Hershey has looked extremely dominant all season, and I see no reason why they would have any trouble winning a second consecutive championship. The Bulldogs, if they make it, have played plucky hockey throughout the playoffs, though, and look to pull off another upset over Hershey as they did the Manitoba Moose, Rochester Americans, and what looks like the Chicago Wolves.

The Dayton Bombers are currently up 1-0 in the Kelly Cup Final over the Idaho Steelheads. Dayton is the ECHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Idaho is the ECHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars. Now, I don't get to see many ECHL games due to my being in Canada, but I do know that the ECHL has produced some NHL talent over the years. Guys such as Derek Boogaard, Andrew Brunette, Olaf Kolzig, Manny Legace, Tomas Vokoun, and Joe Corvo have all started their climb to the NHL in the ECHL.

Since the 1997 season when the Kelly Cup was introduced, the Idaho Steelheads have won it once (2004) while the Dayton Bombers have not won the Cup in that time. The Steelheads are trying to match the South Carolina Stingrays as the only team to have won the Kelly Cup twice.

Dayton finished first in the North Division with a 37-26-2-7 record for 83 points. Idaho finished second in the West Division with a 42-24-2-4 record for 90 points.

The playoff round has been set at the Canadian Hockey League's 2007 Mastercard Memorial Cup. The tie-breaker game that goes tonight will feature the 1-2 Lewiston Maineiacs squaring off against the 1-2 Plymouth Whalers. The Whalers victory came over Lewiston on Tuesday by a final score of 2-1 in overtime. The winner of that game will meet the 2-1 Vancouver Giants in the semi-final on Friday. The winner of that game will meet the 2-1 Medicine Hat Tigers on Sunday in the final. Vancouver's loss came at the hands of their WHL rival Medicine Hat, while Medicine Hat dropped a 3-1 decision to Lewiston earlier in the week.

The Memorial Cup looks like it will be a dogfight to determine the winner as there was no clear-cut dominating team through the round-robin portion. If it makes any difference, 12 of the last 14 Memorial Cup winners have been the team advancing to the finals from the round-robin portion of play, meaning Medicine Hat has to be the favourite right now. However, the Quebec Remparts defeated the Moncton Wildcats last year to be one of the two teams to knock off a round-robin winner. I'm looking forward to this weekend for some good junior hockey action!

Until next time... and until the Stanley Cup Finals begin... keep your sticks on the ice!

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