(7) Belleville Bulls vs (2) Ottawa 67's Playoff Preview
The 7th place Belleville Bulls will play the Eastern Conference 2nd seed and East Division winner the Ottawa 67's in the 1st round of the 2012 OHL Playoffs. Ottawa won the season series 7-1. At times the 67's handed it to the Bulls. In February Ottawa defeated Belleville 9-0, that was good for the 2nd worst lose in Bulls history.
The last couple seasons Vs the 67's have not been kind to the Belleville Bulls. They haven't won in the Nation's Capital since November 2008. Something they will get an early chance to change as the 1st two games will be played in Ottawa on Thursday and Friday.
Belleville and Ottawa have met 7 others times in playoff history with the Bulls holding the edge, 4-3. Last time they met in the post season was 2006-2007 with Belleville ousting Ottawa in 5 games in the 1st round.
Goal tending : Very few series are won without good goal tending, This series should be no different. Both teams have very capable net minders that have the tools to lead their team to the next round. Ottawa will go with World Jr's stand out and Detroit Redwings Prospect Petr Mrazek. He played in 50 games this season, winning 30 while posting a 2.84GAA and a .917SV%
Belleville will go with Top NHL Prospect Malcolm Subban. Malcolm was slow to recover from a mid-season groin injury, but looks to be coming around and ready to carry the Bulls. Subban finished the year strong and was an amazing 16-2 when he faced 30 shots or more this season. His 2.50GAA and .923SV% are both top ten numbers in the OHL. Belleville will go as far as Subban can carry them.
Home Ice: Home ice will be huge in this series, If Belleville wants to win, they have to win at least one game in Ottawa, something they don't do. With the 1st two games in Ottawa the Bulls have to at least take one and come home with the split. You don't want to be down 2-0 early. Ottawa was 20-11-2-1 at home this season, Belleville was 14-19-1-0 on the road.
At the Yardman the Bulls have a 21-13-0-0 record. The 67's are a very good road team at 20-9-3-2 on the season. The big ice doesn't hurts the 67's and the standard ice doesn't hurt the Bulls. Fans in Ottawa come out strong in support of their 67's, anything less then 7000+ a game will be a surprise. The Belleville Bulls had a hard time drawing over 3000 fans a game this season, but should top that in their home games. When motivated the Yardman faithful and their cowbells can be loud.
Advantage - 67's
Forwards: Belleville's group has started to come together. The Bulls have a Top NHL Prospect in Brendan Gaunce who is a point per game player. You could also argue that Gaunce is the best two way player available in this years NHL cattle call. Austen Brassard will be counted on along with import Daniil Zharkov and OA's Adam Payerl and Jordan Mayer to provide the bulk of the Bulls scoring. Captain Luke Judson, Joesph Cramarossa and Micheal Curtis all will chip in. Belleville has a good tight defensive group of forwards, who can and have all played together at some point this season.
Ottawa is loaded up front. The OHL's Jim Mahon Memorial Trophy winner Tyler Toffoli and his league leading 52 goals and 100 points lead the way. Toffoli, Shane Prince and Sean Monahan's numbers are all double digits higher then the Bulls leading scorer.
Every year the 67's have player that saves his best for Belleville. This year its Dalton Smith.
Smith has 15 goals this season, 5 have come Vs Belleville..
Advantage - 67's
Defense: Ottawa has veteran's Cody Ceci, Marc Zanetti and Jake Cardwell for a very nice top three, who combined for 32 goals this season. Pims leader Michal Cajkovsky is +21. Every regular d-man in the 67's line up is a plus player. Belleville's group is not as high powered as the Ottawa group. But every member of the Bulls blue line brings something different. Jason Shaw and Brady Austin have been playing some of their best hockey of late. Stephen Silas had a career best 6 goals. Rookie Jordan Subban will make some mistakes, but at 16 the long term reward will be worth letting him play good minutes. If the Bulls keep it simple and play together they will be fine.
Advantage - Draw
Special Teams: Bulls have a slight edge on the PK, at 83.2 to Ottawa's 81.0. On the PP its all about the 67's. The Bulls have the least ranked PP in the OHL and some nights it looks every bit the part.
Advantage - 67's
To end the season the Ottawa 67's where on a little bit of a slide losing their last two and going 4-5-1 in their last ten. Belleville on the other hand was heating up at the right time going 6-4-0 in their last ten and enter the playoffs on a three game winning streak, their 1st since early Dec. I like the Bulls chances in this series if they can steal a early win in Ottawa, if Malcolm Subban does his thing and allows his team to settle in to their game, Belleville will drag this out. A longer series favors Belleville. The Ottawa 67's are capable of ending this real quick, a few times this season Ottawa has laid some huge beatings on the Bulls out scoring them 41-18 and if they start rolling and lighting the lamp, it will be over before it starts.
Prediction: 67's in Six