Friday, April 13, 2012

The QMJHL's Most Intriguing Playoff Team

By Andrew McGilligan
SN Staff

Of the teams the Saint John Sea Dogs could face in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League semifinals, the Quebec Remparts are by far the most intriguing.

They’ve got the superstar coach (Patrick Roy), one of the elite draft eligible players (Mikhail Grigorenko) and a whole host of young talent, but that’s not what makes Quebec interesting in these playoffs. It’s the way they’re winning.

They’re the cardiac kids. Take for instance some of the numbers coming out of the Remparts-Halifax Moosehads series (I’m going on record as saying these are the two teams in the 2013 President’s Cup final) laid out by Halifax Metro QMJHL reporter Matthew Wuest:

  • Despite leading the series 3-1, the Remparts have not held a lead heading into the third period in this series and have trailed heading into the final frame three out of four games.
  • The Mooseheads have led for 101:59 of the 246:02 minutes of action in the series. The Remparts have led for just 30:10.

Not exactly a recipe for success, but the Remparts can never be counted out.

Given the nature of their wins, you’d think the team would be leaning heavily on offensive dynamo Grigorenko to use his great one-on-one skill to bail them out of trouble. However, that’s not the case. Quebec – despite its star power – is winning with team defence and solid goaltending.

The Remparts only have one player among the top 20 in playoff points (Gabriel Desjardins with 11 points). Grigorenko and regular season top scorer Frederik Roy have nine points apiece in the playoffs, but it’s the defence corps that has stepped up in the postseason with Martin Lefebvre, Ryan Culkin and Vincent Bernard totalling 24 points in eight games.

Next is team defence. The Remparts are allowing a league-low 2.21 goals a game as well as permitting the fewest shots at 23.85 per game.

The solid play in their own end has led to a resurgence for netminder Louis Domingue who was replaced as starter for a portion of the season by rookie Francois Brassard. Domingue has found his groove in the playoffs posting a 2.22 goals against and a .907 save percentage, second only to the numbers posted by Saint John goalie Mathieu Corbeil.

Finally, there’s the intangibles. One of the reasons I believe the Remparts are succeeding in the pressure of the playoffs is they play on a big stage every home game (the Colisee is usually packed with a rabid fan base) and aren’t frightened by the spotlight.

So as the second round continues to unfold, I’m eyeing a potential matchup with the Remparts. By the sound defensive numbers and confidence that they’re never out of a game, it appears they would provide the best test and series to date for the Dogs.

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