Friday, April 7, 2017

Five things to watch for in quarterfinal

The Saint John Sea Dogs' quarterfinal playoff series against the Val-d'Or Foreurs begins tonight at Harbour Station. Here are some things to watch for in this series.

1. Val-d'Or's momentum
There's no question that the Foreurs are massive underdogs heading into this series. But after pulling off a big upset over the No. 3 seeded Shawinigan Cataractes in the opening round, the Foreurs will no doubt be carrying some confidence into this series. Translating that confidence into victories will be a challenge against a Saint John team that, I believe, anyways, is quite a bit better than the Cataractes. But we'll see!

2. Saint John's power play
Saint John had the QMJHL's best power play for the most of the regular season and was a key part of the team's success. In the first round against Rimouski though, the Sea Dogs' power play scored just two goals on 16 chances, even allowing a shorthanded goal. Saint John has the worst power play ranking of any remaining team. The Oceanic no doubt put a focus on the Sea Dogs' PP, but will the Foreurs be able to contain it as well?

3. Val-d'Or's penalty kill
Speaking of special teams, Val-d'Or had the worst penalty kill in the league during the regular season and have the second worst so far this post-season. However, they've found a plan to improve this - they aren't taking penalties. The Foreurs averaged a league low 7.67 penalty minutes per game in the opening round. If Saint John can get its power play going and get Val-d'Or to take penalties, it could be a short series.

4. Julien Gauthier faces old team
Sea Dogs forward Julien Gauthier spent three-and-a-half seasons with the Foreurs before being traded to Saint John after this year's world juniors. His time with Val-d'Or included a President Cup championship in 2014, a 38-goal season in 2014-15 and a 41-goal campaign in 2015-16. He'll be facing his old team for the first time in this series.

5. Will we see Alex Bishop?
The former Sea Dogs goaltender landed with the Foreurs for the second half, playing in nine games for the club. He didn't see any action in the first round against Shawinigan, and given how good Etienne Montpetit has been, you have to think the only way Bishop will play against his old club is if there is an injury or blowout. Val-d'Or also features former Dogs defenceman Jason Bell.

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