GWMHL

Playoff Preview: Conference Finals

In Uncategorized on June 8, 2022 at 12:01 pm

And then there were four. Adirondack, Baltimore, Charleston and Vancouver are the only teams left after two rounds of tightly contested playoff hockey. Here’s a look at ahead at the two remaining series.

Plante Final: #2 Charleston Chiefs (43-30-9) vs. #4 Baltimore Crab (42-35-5)

The Baltimore Crab pulled off the biggest upset of the playoffs when they ousted the Plante’s top seed, El Dorado, in six games. The Charleston Chiefs, meanwhile, had their hands full with the playoff-tested Salem Sabercats, although they pulled out a game 7 victory in the end. Charleston won the regular season series between these two teams 4-2-0, including two wins on Baltimore’s turf.

The series will feature a clash of young blueline titans in the Chiefs’ Adam Fox and the Crab’s Cale Makar, which should add some intrigue, and we’re bound to see lots of goals as neither Baltimore’s Philipp Grubauer (13GP, .888) nor Charleston’s Kevin Lankinen (6GP, .874) have been especially strong this postseason. And while Charleston holds home-ice advantage, where the Crab have an edge is up front: Pavel Buchnevich (13GP, 11 goals, 25 points) and Sidney Crosby (13GP, 13 goals, 23 points) were dominant in the previous two rounds, far eclipsing the postseason production of any Chief.

Sawchuck Final: #1 Adirondack Aces (57-20-5) vs. #3 Vancouver Night Train (53-23-6)

To no one’s surprise, Adirondack advanced, although it took a Chris Kreider overtime goal in game 7 against Farmington to get it done. With 57 regular season wins, the Aces were the toast of the GWMHL this year and anything less than a cup final appearance would be a disappointment. Yet the Night Train, who somewhat miraculously got past a strong West Virginia team in the second round, make a pretty worthy opponent. For one thing, Vancouver took the season series 5-1-0, although three of those wins came against the Aces’ backup goalie. For another, these teams’ starters have similar postseason stats so far, with Adirondack’s Semyon Varlamov (7GP, .913) only slightly ahead of Vancouver’s Mike Smith (13GP, .912).

The top Night Train forwards have mostly been getting the job done, with Connor Brown leading the way with 9 goals and 15 points in 13 games, although secondary scoring — especially from Mat Barzal (2 goals and 6 points in 13 games) — has been an issue. On Adirondack’s side, Patrice Bergeron is without a doubt one of the toughest opponents to face in a playoff series, and is scoring at a point-per-game clip so far. Surprisingly, Kirill Kaprizov is off to a quiet start, at least compared to his regular season numbers, with 2 goals in 7 games. If he heats up, the Aces will be trouble.

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