Here is day 2 of my Eastern Conference playoff previews. I said the Warriors-Ice series should be close, well this one absolutely will be too.
Here it is:
Medicine Hat Tigers (3) vs. Brandon Wheat Kings (6)
This should be another interesting battle in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. The Tigers have stayed strong down the stretch to retain the number 3 seed. They also come into the playoffs with 8 wins in their last 10 games. The Wheaties are no slouch either. They are a team that was in the middle of mediocrity in the first 1/3 of the year. After a few smart trades and some solid contributions from veterans, they salvaged their season and come into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the country, not only the WHL.
The Tigers are led by WHL player of the year candidate Linden Vey. The Wakaw, Saskatchewan product led the league in scoring with 116 points, including 46 goals. But, he’s not their only weapon. First round pick of the Anaheim Ducks, Emerson Etem, had 45 goals this year. He provides unparalleled speed and jump, as well as a threat to score shorthanded. He had 9 during the regular year. They scored 265 goals, good for 5th in the East.
The Wheat Kings might have the deepest, veteran group of forwards in the entire conference. Sens prospect Mark Stone had a breakout year with 106 points. Scott Glennie was solid with 91 points. Matt McKay was lights out after a trade brought him in from Vancouver. He had 52 points in 31 games with Brandon. They had 281 goals this year, 2nd only to Saskatoon in the East.
Like I said, the Wheat Kings are as deep as they come up front. They are a team that has been together for several years and have experience going on deep playoff runs. I like Brandon’s group more, so I give them the edge here.
Medicine Hat is led by a virtually nameless group on the blueline. But that doesn’t stop them from holding the opposition to low offensive totals. The two top players for the Tigers are Jace Coyle, who had 28 points in 48 games, and Thomas Carr had 41 points in 71 games.
Brandon might have the youngest blueline of any team in the playoffs. They played several games this year with only one 18 year old and the rest being 17 or younger. Those young legs are going to be tested by the speed of the Tigers attack. Brodie Melnychuk is going to have to eat a ton of minutes. 16 year old Ryan Pulock also quarterbacks their first PP unit, so he needs to have a great series for them to win.
I think the age factor will definitely hurt the Wheaties here. Medicine Hat might not have the biggest names, but they did only surrender 196 goals this year. Only the Rebels were better in the Eastern Conference. Yes, that has a lot to do with goaltending, but it does say something about their defenders. Medicine Hat wins this category.
Between The Pipes
This is one area where Brandon is going to truly need to get some great performances. They have relied on two 17 year old goalies, and both of them have been up, down and all over the place this year. Tyler Bunz has been very good for the Tigers this year after being a bit of a sleeper draft pick by the Edmonton Oilers last June.
Tyler Bunz was 35-13-4-4 with a 2.47 GAA and a .919 save %. He had 3 shutouts.
Liam Liston was 20-16-0-1 with a 3.77 GAA and an .880 save %. He had 1 shutout.
Corbin Boes was 10-12-1-6 with a 3.44 GAA and an .888 save %. He had 1 shutout.
I would imagine that Liston gets the ball to start the series, but I’ve seen both players have stellar games this year and Kelly McCrimmon won’t hesitate to throw Saskatoon-native Corbin Boes in between the pipes. Either way, I like the Tigers in this area of the series.
The Tigers finished T-9th on the powerplay at 21.2%.
The Tigers finished 7th on the penalty kill at 81.9%.
The Wheat Kings finished 3rd on the powerplay at 23.3%.
The Wheat Kings finished 21st on the penalty kill at 74.9%.
Game 1 - Fri Mar 25 7:30 PM Brandon @ Medicine Hat
Game 2 - Sat Mar 26 7:30 PM Brandon @ Medicine Hat
Game 3 - Mon Mar 28 7:30 PM Medicine Hat @ Brandon (Winnipeg)
Game 4 - Thurs Mar 31 7:30 PM Medicine Hat @ Brandon (Winnipeg)
Game 5 - Sat Apr 2 7:30 PM * Brandon @ Medicine Hat
Game 6 - Mon Apr 4 7:30 PM * Medicine Hat @ Brandon (Winnipeg)
Game 7 - Wed Apr 6 7:00 PM * Brandon @ Medicine Hat
I’m finding it really hard to bet against the Wheat Kings here. Like I said, they absolutely tore up February and March to get into the postseason. They have a scary dangerous group up front. But with that being said, their young blueline and combo of 17 year old goalies will hold them when it’s truly crunch time. Tyler Bunz is just exponentially better than either Boes or Liston. I take the Tigers in 7 games.
Up next, I will preview the Red Deer Rebels and the Edmonton Oil Kings tomorrow.