GWMHL

Playoff Preview: Plante Semifinals

In Uncategorized on May 16, 2022 at 2:38 pm

#1 El Dorado Lynx (44-29-9) vs. #4 Baltimore Crab (42-35-5)

For a time, it looked like the defending champs would surrender the top seed to Charleston, but the Lynx reclaimed the spot down the stretch despite a slightly underwhelming season by Alex Ovechkin (33 goals, 54 points in 66 games). That they were able to do so is largely thanks to a 104-point season by Ryan O’Reilly and a career year from Jeff Petry (28 goals, 95 points in 82 games). The Lynx are, however, facing a looming change in goal, as Tuukka Rask and Carey Price fade. Rask was the better of the two in what may have been his swan song, posting a .910 save percentage, but he’s only eligible to play in four games this round, meaning the Lynx will have to hope Price steps up if the series drags on.

And the Crab have the tools to do just that. They edged the Lynx in the season series, going 3-2-1, and are coming off a strong showing in the opening round against Pittsburgh, where they got clutch performances from Sidney Crosby (8 goals, 13 points) and Pavel Buchnevich (6 goals, 13 points). Their high-octane D hasn’t even gotten into gear yet, but if Cale Makar starts lighting it up, El Dorado will have its hands full. Like the Lynx, the question mark is between the pipes. Philippe Grubauer had a strong regular season, but could only muster a .900 save percentage against the Hornets. This series could see a lot of goals.

#2 Charleston Chiefs (43-30-9) vs. #3 Salem Sabercats (40-31-11)

The Chiefs were something of a surprise this season, as they entered the season with questions about the team’s depth and goaltending. But they got big years from Dominik Kubalik (36 goals, 91 points), three more Chiefs put up 30 or more goals, and Adam Fox emerged as a superstar with 83 points in 81 games. The season series finished at a 3-3-0 deadlock and was high-scoring — with Kevin Lankinen (.900 in 43 games) starting for Charleston, that’s how they’ve had to win games.

They’ll need Lankinen to find a new level against Salem, who are the league’s most battle-hardened group even though the team isn’t the league powerhouse it once was. The Sabercats were the only team whose first round series didn’t go the distance, although — and all due respect to the expansion Hershey Bears here — they were up against a fairly anemic offense. Marc-Andre Fleury continued his excellent play (.940 in 5 playoff starts) and gives Salem a major advantage in this series. It’ll be close, but Charleston definitely has its work cut out for it, despite having home-ice advantage.

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