And just like that the 1st round of the Western Conference playoffs were over before the 2nd weekend of the playoffs started. The 3 total losses by the winning teams matches last year’s total as the lowest since 2009 when the winners only lost 2 games in the opening round. With no games going past the 5th game it is the first time that has happened since 2009 as well.

 

(1) Guelph Storm 4 vs (8) Plymouth Whalers 1

Aside from game 3 where top 2014 NHL draft prospect Alex Nedjeovic stood on his head for the Whalers this series was never in doubt. Guelph outscored the Whalers 23-7 in their 4 wins and 24-9 overall in the 5 game series. The Storm averaged 45 shots a game in the opening round which was tops in the Western Conference and outshot Plymouth by an average of 14.4 shots per game.

Offensive leaders for the Storm in the opening round were Zach Mitchell with 2G 6A for 8 points and defender Nick Ebert who tallied 4G and 1A for 5 points. Justin Nichols will look to carry his strong play into the 2nd round as he finished with a .941 sv% in the 5 game series victory.

Where to Improve

Well hard to find an area to improve when you played as well as the Storm did in round one. If you were to nitpick you would hope that they have a little more success in converting on their chances than they did in round 1. Also the Storm will look to maintain their disciplne and play with a physical edge against London without crossing the line and picking up any more suspensions.

Round 1 Cost

The Round 1 victory did come at a cost as Brock McGinn was given an 8 game suspension for a vicious head check in game 3 of the series. With 6 games left in the suspension the only way he will see any action in the 2nd round is if it goes to 7 games. On the injury front Robbi Fabbri has been out since taking a hit behind the net in game 1. A scoring presence like his will be sorely missed against London if he cannot get back in the lineup.

(2) Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 4 vs (7) Owen Sound Attack 1

The Greyhounds exacted some revenge on last year’s opening series defeat by handling the Owen Sound Attack rather easily. Aside from an opening game loss in OT where the Hounds looked uncharacteristically sluggish they outscored the Attack 20-7 and 8-1 in the final two games. The Hounds had the smallest differential in shots among the 4 winning Western Conference teams but they held the Attack to the lowest shot total of 29.2 per game.

Offensively the Greyhounds were led by overage forward Tyler Gaudet who paced the teams attack with 2G 6A in 5 games while 2014 NHL draft riser Michael Bunting added 5G 1A in 5 games with the help of a hat trick in the series clincher. Matt Murray finished the series with a .918 sv% and was particularly sharp closing out the series, only giving up 1 goal in his final two games and picking up his 2nd career playoff shutout.

Where to Improve

The Greyhounds will probably look to improve on their power play in round 1. Aside from game 5 where they were 4/10 on the man advantage they were 3/19 from games 1-4. Going up against Erie in round 2 in what will be a more closely contested match up 5 on 5 the power play could be the difference.

Round 1 Cost

The Greyhounds were able to get through the opening round relatively unscathed with the only scare coming in game 4 when Attack forward Kyle Hope caught Jared McCann with a late hit. Jared went to Owen Sound hospital for a CAT scan but was given a clean bill of health and suited up for the series clincher in game 5.

 

 

 

 

(3) Erie Otters 4 vs (6) Saginaw Spirit 1

The closest of the 4 opening round Western Conference matchups with 3 of the 5 games going to over and another finishing within a goal.  While the score sheet was close the Otters outshot the Spirit by an average of 14 shots per game. It was also the highest scoring 1st round matchup in the west with 42 combined goals. The Erie offence was led by Dane Fox and Andre Burakovsky who each scored 6 goals which accounted for 50% of the Otters offence in the series.

Where to Improve

With a significant jump in competition coming the Otters goalies will need to step up their game. Erie gave up 18 goals on 149 shots and a repeat of that in Round 2 will make advancing very difficult

1st Round Cost

Oskar Dansk only played 46 out of 308 minutes in round 1. While Devin Williams is a more than capable goalie the Otters would probably like a healthy and sharp Oskar Dansk when facing the Hounds.

 

(4) London Knights 4 vs (5) Windsor Spitfires 0

 

The only sweet of the opening round in the West it was also probably the most chippy. Multiple suspensions were doled out as well as some auto suspensions bought out by teams which they can do in the playoffs. Aside from the final game which finished 4-3 the Knights had their way with the Spitfires winning by scores of 6-1, 6-3 and 10-2.

Teirney, Horvat and R. Rupert led the scoring charge for the Knights with 9, 8 and 8 points respectively. Between the pipes Anthony Stolarz had a .933 sv% and Jake Patterson had a .919 sv%

Where can they improve?

Going up against the Storm the Knights will need to play a lot more disciplined. Windsor averaged 7.5 powerplays per game in the opening round and while they had little success I can guarantee you the Guelph Storm will not have the same struggles.

1st Round Cost

Thanks to an 8 game suspension due to a high stick in game one the Knights have lost starting goalie Anthony Stolarz for the 2nd round no matter how long it goes. On top of that OA defenseman Zach Bell has been lost for the remainder of the playoffs after breaking his leg near the end of game 4.