Monday, 4 February 2013
Talk About Parity
Who Will Be The Beast Of The East?
There's no doubt that games are becoming more and more important everyday as the Ontario Hockey League closes in on the post-season.
With less than 20 games to go before the playoffs start, there are still a lot of questions to be answered in both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference.
Currently, the only sure thing is that the London Knights will reach 40 wins. And the reason I am sure of that, is the fact they have 39 right now and have 17 games left.
Okay, so that wasn't much for analysis, but we'll get more into it from now on.
In the East, there isn't much certainty, other than the Ottawa 67s won't make the playoffs. While they're mathematically still alive, they're 13 points out of the final playoff spot, currently held by Kingston and while the Frontenacs have lost 11 in a row and only have three points in that span, chances of them continuing their poor play isn't like, especially not for the remaining month and a half of the season.
Between spots one and seven in the East, there's a 20-point difference, but between first and fifth place, there's just an 11-point difference, which means teams can still make jumps, and quite easily.
The Barrie Colts currently rank first, sitting with 68 points, just four up on second-place Belleville and 10 up on the fourth place Sudbury Wolves, are ranked second in the Central Division.
Barrie likely won't finish out of the top two, but after the top two places, which are basically a battle between three teams, there is absolutely no sure thing.
The Wolves have been the hottest team in the league since the start of December, having only three regulation losses in that time and producing a record of 14-3-6 which has moved them from eighth, all the way up to fourth.
But they're far from safe in that spot.
Mississauga is only 10 points behind the Wolves, and they are currently in seventh place, meaning there is a good chance the teams between four and seven move spots before the playoffs start.
And, on top of that, third place isn't out of the reach of any of those teams either. Oshawa currently holds down third place, but are only eight points ahead of sixth, so again, a bad weekend or a few losses in a row and things could change for any of these teams – and in a hurry.
With Scott Laughton being returned to the Oshawa Generals, to go along with Boone Jenner, Lucas Lessio and their in-your-face style, the Gens might be the team to beat in the East.
Barrie is an excellent team, but without Mark Scheifele, they aren't as dangerous and the Belleville Bulls, despite being ahead of the Gens right now, took one on the chin Sunday, losing 8-2 to Oshawa.
There's no debating whether the rest of the season will be exciting, but there is a tonne of debate as to where the teams will finish.
How Will The West Be Won?
The London Knights have been and most likely will be on top of the West when all is said and done, but they're not out of the woods.
The Owen Sound Attack are 13 points back, but with their potential, anything could happen.
There will be two key races in the West – one will be for the top four spots, especially third, fourth and fifth.
Right now, the Attack sit third, the Kitchener Rangers are fourth and the Guelph Storm are fifth, but there is only five points separating those teams, and that's not even mentioning the Soo Greyhounds who have been playing extremely well lately, and are just three points behind the Storm.
The other big race in the West will be in the West Division, which is, without a doubt, up for grabs.
The Plymouth Whalers currently hold a one point lead over the Greyhounds for first place, who are one point ahead of Sarnia.
One win, one loss and all of a sudden there is a new division leader, so for those teams, the best of which will finish no worse than second in the conference, winning the division is huge.
Home ice, a second place finish and a seventh-seeded opponent await the winner.
For the other two teams, it will be tough to crack the top four and will hit the road for the first round of the playoffs.
The Rangers and Attack made the biggest splashes at the trade deadline, adding a lot of talent.
The Attack added Cody Ceci and Steven Janes from Ottawa, while the Rangers acquired Frank Corrado, Josh Leivo and Joel Viennuea from the Wolves.
Every player added by the two Western Conference contenders has played a key role in the team's success lately, and will down the stretch.
Erie will not make the playoffs, but the Windsor Spitfires only sit five points back of Saginaw for the final playoff position and although they've been struggling lately, a push in the final 15 games could make all the difference.
This was the season the Knights were supposed to win the OHL title and while they still might, but it shouldn't surprise anyone if they don't.
For a lot of the teams in both conferences, this is their last shot to win because of the player turnover that is going to happen after this season ends.
Many teams will lose key players, so going for it now is their best and maybe only shot at a title