Thursday, April 21, 2016

Things To Watch For In The Semis

The most anticipated matchup of the 2012 QMJHL playoffs has arrived – in 2016.

Yes, the Sea Dogs and Cataractes met twice in the 2012 Memorial Cup, but it just wasn’t the same as a playoff series. We will never truly know who the better team was in a seven-game series.

This year’s playoff matchup – the first ever between the two – may not have the same hype and off-ice drama as a 2012 series would have, but there is plenty of intrigue. These are two games – the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds – going head-to-head in the league semifinal. This has the potential to be very entertaining.

Here are five things worth watching out for in this series.

Can Saint John keep scoring?
The Sea Dogs eliminated the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles without Mathieu Joseph, Adam Marsh and, for much of it, Bokondji Imama. Joseph and Marsh were two of Saint John’s top offensive players in the regular season, and having neither of them in the second round was a reason why many picked the Eagles to win the series (like me!).

But Saint John found ways to score. Other guys stepped up. The backend delivered offensively. Thomas Chabot had a crazy 12 assists in the seven games. Mathew Highmore had six goals and Sam Povorozniouk had five. In total, 15 different players had at least a point. Will they be able to keep that going in this series?

No home ice
Unlike the first two rounds, Saint John won’t have home ice advantage in this series. The Sea Dogs will need to find some success in Shawinigan if they want to move on. Saint John is 3-2 on the road in the playoffs, but the environment in Bathurst and Cape Breton were nowhere near the level of intimidation Shawinigan will bring. There will probably be more horns than fans in the building.

For what’s it worth, the Cataractes are 4-2 at home in the post-season.

The Cadorette factor
Shawinigan has their own version of Matt Murphy in goaltender Philippe Cadorette. The 20-year-old has appeared in 71 playoff games in his career, posting a 46-25 record to go along with a 2.65 GAA and .909 SV%. We’ve seen what Murphy can do when the games get big. Now the Sea Dogs will have to face a goaltender with just as much big game experience.

Will Shawinigan simply collapse?
To put it simply, the Shawinigan Cataractes have never been an organization that thrives at playoff time. They haven’t made it to the semifinals since 2009 where they went on to lose the league final in seven games. We all remember their 2012 second round exit. The team has been around since the beginning of time (or around there at least) and has never won a QMJHL championship. Will the ghosts of past playoff failures haunt the Cataractes again?

Will we see 2012 flashbacks?
No, these two never met in the playoffs in 2012, but the games they did play against each other were, for the most part, spectacular. The regular season meetings were as intense as regular season meetings get. And the Memorial Cup was something else – especially the round robin game that was nasty, nasty, nasty. But that was some time ago. Is there still a rivalry here? We’ll find out.

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