Wednesday, May 4, 2016

President Cup Final Predictions

The QMJHL’s President Cup final begins on Wednesday between the Shawinigan Cataractes and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Here are our predictions for the series.

Lorne: The 2016 QMJHL playoff season has pretty much gone according to Hoyle - except for the huge upset by Blainville-Boisbriand over Val-d'Or in round one.  And now the top two seeds - and two of the three division winners - face-off for league supremacy. 

Shawinigan took some time to jell - notably after major changes during the midseason trading period as well as bringing in a new head coach. But the Cataractes looked very good against Saint John in the semifinals. Led by New York Islanders prospect Anthony Beauvillier, Shawinigan boasts three very strong forward lines and a solid defence. Likely most importantly, they are backstopped by one of the most successful goaltenders in QMJHL history - Philippe Cadorette. 

On the other hand, Rouyn-Noranda has been one of the best teams in the entire CHL all season. And the strong got stronger after Christmas with the addition of power forwards Timo Meier and AJ Greer, along with star defenceman Nikolas Brouillard. Due largely to injuries and suspensions to key players, the Huskies struggled somewhat in the semifinals against Moncton. But led by league MVP Francis Perron, the Huskies dug deep and made it through to the finals. 

Shawinigan will provide stiff opposition but I'm sticking with my choice from the beginning.  It'll be dogs over cats - Huskies in 6. 

Kevin: This should been a great final between two very skilled teams that added plenty of talented players through the season. The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies have been the top team in the league for much of the season - and among the elite teams in the CHL weekly rankings - for good reason. The Shawinigan Cataractes made several deals over the Christmas trade period to improve their roster and seem to have hit their stride at the perfect time.

There isn't a lot separating the two teams with both groups having excellent depth up front and no shortage of skill or firepower. Defensively, I would give the edge to the Huskies, but with the scary injury suffered by Jeremy Lauzon, that tends to even thing up. The goaltending is closer than some people might think when considering the Huskies had two rounds against teams that, perhaps, didn't have as much firepower as Cadorette faced with the Phoenix, Islanders and Sea Dogs.

It comes down to a couple factors that tend to tip the scales for one team:

1.  Overall team chemistry is extremely important
2.  Special teams play

The Huskies, for the most part, have played together most of the season, adding a couple key players through trades. The Cataractes made several trades, and while they are a talented group, the edge has to go to the Huskies in this regard.

Special teams play, again, the edge has to go to the Huskies. While both teams are exceptionally dangerous on the power play, it's the penalty killing of the Huskies that really give them the edge. The Huskies have killed just under 90% of their penalties while the Cataractes are sitting at 77% (and against a team like the Huskies that number could very well drop even more).

My pick for the QMJHL's top prize: Rouyn-Noranda over Shawinigan, 4-3, in a thrilling seven game series.

Jamie: Since everything has pretty much been said, I will say that the semifinals won Rouyn-Noranda the President Cup. As we’ve seen in the past with the Sea Dogs’ glory days, battling some adversity can help out a lot as the post-season moves along. The Huskies got that adversity in the semis against Moncton, and I think that series will be huge moving forward.

The x-factor is Philippe Cadoroette. We’re talking about one of the best playoff goaltenders in QMJHL history here, so the Cataractes certainly have a chance in this series. He looked human at times in the semifinals against Saint John, but in the big moments, he was there.

It’ll be nice to see a new team hoisting the President Cup this year. And I think that team will be the Huskies, winning in six games, 4-2.

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