Game 1 of the Western Conference quarter finals kicks off tonight and I am certain that people all over Kitchener and Owen Sound are waiting with baited breath for that puck to drop. There's nothing quite like Friday Night Hockey at the old Kitchener Aud, especially during the playoffs.
So how do these teams stack up. There is no question in my mind that the Kitchener Rangers are the better team. They have solid goaltending, strong puck moving defensemen and a couple gifted scorers. But don't forget, Owen Sound won the OHL Championship last season on more than luck. They have strong experienced goaltenders, and a team that can and will push the Rangers every night of this series. They like to play hard hockey. Very gritty and tough in the corners, in front of the net, and they like to hit hard.
However Owen Sound is without Mike Halmo, and those are some big skates to fill. Who on the Owen Sound lineup is tough enough to step up and fill those skates? What if the whole team decides to fill in and take charge? Without Halmo for the final 3 games of the regular season, Owen Sound would lose their last 4 and go 3-7 in their last 10. Kitchener wasn't much better, going 4-6.
Kitchener will be icing a full lineup (with notable exceptions Marcantuoni and McEnemy) for only the second time this season during the playoffs. They've had a slew of injuries all year long, and other players have really stepped up to the plate, and thus the third place finish. But towards the end of Febuary Kitchener struggled. And when they struggled, they had a full lineup. It was almost like the team had become complacent with the fact that they were in third, they had a full team, and it would be someone else's job to step up. That can not be their mentality in the playoffs or the gritty Attack squad will have no trouble disposing of the Rangers.
All that being said, it is my opinion that should Kitchener step up to the plate and not underestimate their opponent, this will be a short series in favour of the Rangers. Game 1 goes tonight.