Here are Station Nation’s picks for the first round of the QMJHL playoffs.
(1) ROU vs. (16) DRU
Lorne: Rouyn-Noranda enters the playoffs on a roll and have arguably the strongest lineup in the QMJHL this season. On the other hand, Drummondville - despite adding pieces at the trade deadline - just fired their GM and will be lucky to keep the scores close. Rouyn-Noranda in 4.
Kevin: Rouyn Noranda is the top ranked team in the CHL for a reason. The Huskies just have too much firepower and the Voltigeurs will be doing well if they don’t get blown out. This should be a warmup for the Huskies. Look for some very lopsided scores in this series. Rouyn-Noranda in 4.
Jamie: The Huskies are ridiculously good and should have no problem at all with the Voltigeurs. As if Rouyn-Noranda’s 54-9-3-2 record wasn’t impressive enough, they enter the playoffs on a 14-game winning streak. Rouyn-Noranda in 4.
(2) SHA vs. (15) SHE
Lorne: Shawinigan added several weapons to a solid line-up over the holidays. But an inability to dominate led to a coaching change. Sherbrooke was expected to challenge for a title but have stumbled through a forgettable season. With star defenceman Jeremy Roy injured, the Phoenix are in trouble. Shawinigan in 5.
Kevin: Shawinigan traded for a lot of pieces to build this team. While I’m not a big fan of making too many trades this should be a pretty easy series. Sherbrooke has had a disappointing season as they appeared to be much stronger going in. A multitude of injuries to their top players has put a damper on their campaign. Shawinigan in 4.
Jamie: Despite some shaky moments in the second half, the Cataractes managed to finish second overall and pull things together a bit down the stretch. Sherbrooke’s season has basically been a disaster and it should be over quickly. Shawinigan in 4.
(3) SNB vs. (14) BAT
Lorne: Despite being one of the top teams in the second half, the Sea Dogs stumbled a bit in the final two weeks and have a few top players injured as they enter the playoffs. Bathurst is full of high-end young talent, especially at forward and in goal. BUT, Saint John has found a way to win close games against the upstart Titan all season. Saint John in 6.
Kevin: Saint John has had their fair share of injuries this season and enter the playoffs with a few unknowns. Both teams are relatively young but the depth of the Sea Dogs coupled with breakout seasons from Mathieu Joseph and Matthew Highmore will prove too much for the Titan. Expect some close games - but the Sea Dogs have been winning close matches most of the season and I’m not looking for that to change in the opening round. Saint John in 5.
Jamie: Saint John is stumbling and limping into the playoffs but should still win this series. The season series was close between these two and featured more offense than defense. The Dogs should pull through – but I think the Titan will give them a scare or two. Saint John in 5.
Lorne: Val-d'Or finished the season with the second highest point total but was awarded the 4th seed since Rouyn-Noranda won the West. The Foreurs are big and can score virtually at will. Blainville-Boisbriand play a strong defensive system and have one of the league’s best goaltenders - Samuel Montembeault. However, Val-d'Or is just too strong for the Armada. Val-d'Or in 4.
Kevin: Val-d’Or is going to give Samuel Montembeault plenty of work in this series given their ability score goals in bunches. Montembeault will have to be a rock for the Armada to have a chance at even stealing a single game. The Foreurs are built for a long run in the playoffs and they should have little trouble with dispensing the Armada in this series. Val-d’Or in 4.
Jamie: The Foreurs were neck-and-neck with the Huskies up until the final few weeks of the season. This team is quite good and should cruise through the first round. Val-d’Or in 4.
(5) GAT vs. (12) QUE
Lorne: Benoit Groulx found a way to ice another serious contender and the Olympiques have been very strong in the second half. Quebec entered full blown rebuild mode at Christmas after going all in last year to host the Memorial Cup. Callum Booth and a solid Remparts defense could steal a game - but that's about it. Gatineau in 5.
Kevin: Another series that could get ugly on the scoreboard as Quebec sold the vast majority of their assets at the Christmas trade period. The Remparts are only where they are in the standings because of their performance prior to the trade deadline. The Olympiques’ lineup has plenty of firepower and solid a defense core that will make for a quick exit for the Remparts. Gatineau in 4.
Jamie: Like Kevin said, the Remparts are only in this position because of their performance in the first half. After selling off at Christmas, they have certainly struggled. Gatineau, on the other hand, is quite good. Gatineau in 4.
(6) MON vs. (11) VIC
Lorne: Moncton has been something of a “Jekyll and Hyde” team in the second half. Goalkeeping and defense have been inconsistent. But with the CHL's leading point getter - Conor Garland - and a solid forward crew, the Wildcats should prevail over a promising young group of Tigres. If Moncton falters, this could be an "upset special." Moncton in 7.
Kevin: Looking at the standings, this comes across as a bit of an upset. But since the break, these teams have a similar record. Might expect some 5-4 and 6-5 games in this series as both teams have question marks between the pipes. I’m picking this one to go the distance and might be the most fun to watch as the teams exchange plenty of goals - causing grey hairs for their respective coaches. Victoriaville in 7.
Jamie: The Wildcats had an impressive collapse in the second half of the season, almost falling to third in the Maritimes. Their defence and goaltending faltered and Conor Garland cooled down a bit, causing some problems. I really don’t know what to expect from this team in the playoffs, but I think they will pull it together. No, seriously. Moncton in 6.
(7) CAP vs. (10) CHI
Lorne: Cape Breton is loaded with three high-end forward lines and have a solid defense led by Olivier LeBlanc. Chicoutimi relies heavily on Julio Billia in goal and Nicolas Roy upfront. The Sagueneens will make things interesting but don't appear to have enough fire power to match the Screaming Eagles. Cape Breton in 5.
Kevin: This has the makings of a heck of a series with no shortage of intrigue – especially with former No. 1 overall pick Nicolas Roy facing the team that drafted him. Both teams finished the season strong and while the Screaming Eagles have plenty of firepower the Sagueneens have the league’s top goaltender. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. Cape Breton in 6.
Jamie: The Screaming Eagles have one of the best forward groups in the QMJHL and have been on fire for the past few weeks. They enter the playoffs on a seven-game winning streak. Although it goes against my better judgment to predict playoff success for the Eagles franchise, I think they’ll have some this series. Cape Breton in 5.
(8) RIM vs. (9) CHA
Lorne: Rimouski had a solid year as defending President Cup champions and their core knows how to win. But Charlottetown retooled and welcomed back Daniel Sprong in December. The Islanders have been strong in the second half and they are prepared to make some noise, at least in round one. Charlottetown in 6.
Kevin: The Islanders finished the season with seven straight victories, giving them momentum entering the playoffs. The Oceanic traded away a gifted goal scorer to Cape Breton as they look to retool their roster. The Oceanic still have some quality players and one of the best goaltenders in the league - but the Islanders will give them a steady dose of Sprong and company on a regular basis and should get quality goaltending from Mason McDonald. Charlottetown in 6.
Jamie: The Islanders are probably better than their record indicates and they have a true game breaker in Daniel Sprong. Charlottetown should pull off the mini-upset here. Charlottetown in 5.