GWMHL

First Round Preview: Sawchuk Conference

In News, Special Features on May 25, 2011 at 9:50 am

#1 Portland Winterhawks (52-23-7) vs. #4  Farmington Fighting Saints (40-34-8)

 

Here they are again. The Portland Winterhawks, thanks to a late-season surge from wingers Ilya Kovalchuk and Jarome Iginla, recaptured the season conference title. But the Farmington Fighting Saints came up big late in the schedule, too, and have three 40-goal scorers in Bobby Ryan, Mikael Samuelsson, and Dustin Penner. Make no mistake – if Farmington prevails over the four-time Gump Cup champ, it will be an upset for the ages.

Season Series
A power imbalance, you say? Not so fast. In their 6 meetings during the season, Portland barely came out ahead at 3-2-1, and one of those wins needed overtime. Both teams scored in bunches, promising an exciting playoff series.

Portland 2 at Farmington 5
Portland 1 at Farmington 5
Portland 6 at Farmington 5 (OT)
Farmington 4 at Portland 4 (OT)
Farmington 7 at Portland 9
Farmington 1 at Portland 5

Top Scorers – Regular Season

Portland

LW Ilya Kovalchuk    71  52  67  119
RW Jarome Iginla     82  62  55  117
C  Joe Thornton      76  18  73   91
D  Lubomir Visnovsky 73  27  45   72
C  Jason Spezza      60  29  42   71

Farmington

C  Mikko Koivu       80  20  74   94
C  Paul Stastny      81  22  65   87
LW Bobby Ryan        81  47  34   81
LW Dustin Penner     82  40  41   81
RW Mikael Samuelsson 74  46  27   73

Starting Goaltenders

Portland

G  Martin Brodeur    63  41-16-5  2.86  .909

Farmington

G  Niklas Backstrom  41  20-17-3  3.31  .904

Notable

– Portland’s Lubomir Visnovsky led all defensemen in goals this year with 27
– The Winterhawks had the league’s third best powerplay; Farmington finished sixth
– Niklas Backstrom may be Farmington’s go-to guy, but where does that leave Jose Theodore, who actually played one more game and had 6 shutouts?

#2 West Virginia River Rats (51-22-9) vs. #3 Saint Louis Blues (50-25-7)

 

Midway through the season, the Blues looked like they might take the Sawchuk crown – but they now find themselves the third seed, facing the West Virginia River Rats, the league’s scoring champ in Sidney Crosby, and its most potent line in Crosby-Vanek-Semin. But the Blues have some aces in the hole: namely, the league’s top two defensemen in Drew Doughty and Chris Pronger.

Season Series
The Rats are one of the few teams that managed to give the Blues fits this year – West Virginia won the season series with a 5-2-1 record. The Blues are going to need Cam Ward to step up or it’ll be a short series.

Saint Louis 1 at West Virginia 4
Saint Louis 3 at West Virginia 6
Saint Louis 4 at West Virginia 6
Saint Louis 4 at West Virginia 4 (OT)
West Virginia 5 at Saint Louis 2
West Virginia 5 at Saint Louis 6
West Virginia 8 at Saint Louis 1
West Virginia 3 at Saint Louis 5

Top Scorers – Regular Season

West Virginia

C  Sidney Crosby     81  52  84  136
RW Alex Semin        73  60  50  110
LW Thomas Vanek      69  43  54   97
D  Brian Rafalski    71  11  50   61
C  Eric Staal        69  25  35   60

Saint Louis

LW Jussi Jokinen     81  54  47  101
C  Henrik Sedin      82  36  54   90
D  Drew Doughty      82  14  69   83
RW Kyle Okposo       80  34  40   74
D  Chris Pronger     82  11  63   74

Starting Goaltenders

West Virginia

G  Ryan Miller       70  46-17-6  2.60  .919

Saint Louis

G Cam Ward           41  26-13-1  3.09  .901

Notable

– Pronger led the league in plus-minus with a lofty +76
– Did anyone expect Saint Louis’ Jussi Jokinen to get 100 points? If he continues that torrid pace, he’ll be a key to the series
– Saint Louis was the league’s most penalized team – and West Virginia had its second best powerplay

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