Following on from my 'Title Run-in' post the other day, and with recent result between the bottom 3 clubs I thought it worthwhile looking at the battle for the final playoff place this season. Currently in that coveted eighth spot and facing a playoff quarterfinal against the first placed team is the Sheffield Steeldogs. A very difficult team to beat and the possessor of of the most promising players in the EPL, Janis Ozolins the Steeldogs could well hold on to 8th. The Tigers are making a late bid for 8th though, and are probably the hardest working team in the EPL, none of the bottom 3 teams are involved in any cups so for them, every game is like a final!
Current league placings are:
8th / Sheffield Steeldogs Pld 48, 28 Pts
9th / Bracknell Bees Pld 49, 23 Pts
10th / Telford Tigers Pld 48, 22 Pts
With 5 points in hand over the Bees and 6 over the Tigers, the Steeldog's should hold onto that final playoff spot. However, with up to 12 points left for grabs for both Sheffield and Telford, there is potential for change! Let's have a look at the remaining games for the three teams in contention!
12th Mar @ Milton Keynes
13th Mar @ Peterborough
15th Mar v Basingstoke
23rd Mar v Milton Keynes
26th Mar @ Swindon
27th Mar v Basingstoke
The Steeldogs have the luxury of being in that 8th spot, and 5 points in hand, this means they will have to loose 3 times before the Bees can catch up (if the Bees win their games of course!). The Dogs have a difficult series of games before the end of the regular season, games against the Phantoms and Wildcats are must wins for the Steeldogs to secure their playoff berth. I honestly cannot see Sheffield taking points from MK and Basingstoke, the Lightning and Bison should be too strong for them. The Steeldogs change in style has now made them a different prospect for their opposition since Mr Payette took over, and Janis Ozolins can run rings around any defence. Keeping hold of him must be the number 1 priority for the Steeldogs this summer. While I do not see the Dogs beating MK/Basingstoke, I can see them nicking the odd point, and its these little extra points that may push them beyond the reach of the Bees/Tigers!
12th Mar @ Slough
13th Mar v Telford
19th Mar v Guildford
20th Mar @ Peterborough
27th Mar v Peterborough
The Bees are a club run using money from the fans, so will never have the biggest budget in the league. But they are a competitive club who have players that could walk onto any roster in the EPL. In Jaroslav Cesky and Michael Pinc they have two of the best players in the league and when put together, are a leathal combination. The Bees are just 5 points behind the Steeldogs, looking at their run in I can see them getting 6 points to snatch that 8th spot, but that relies on the Steeldogs loosing all there remaining games. It's the Telford game and the home/away set against the unpredictable Phantoms where I see the Bees best chance of getting the W's! In reality I cannot see the Bees making the post season, so their main focus must be to avoid the wooden spoon!
12th Mar v Peterborough
13th Mar @ Bracknell
16th Mar v Milton Keynes
20th Mar v Slough
26th Mar @ Guildford
27th Mar v Guildford
Telford are a team, I have admitted on this blog, I have a soft spot for! Having played there as a junior and the Tigers being the Phoenix 2nd local rivals I like to keep an eye on their results. Which I know I started covering on this blog, but a recent house move has cut down the time I have to put a post together. Sorry Tigers fans! The Tigers have pushed the Phoenix close on a couple of occasions this season and, had they had their full quota of imports all season, could well be securely in the playoff places. However the playoffs couldnt have been a goal at the start of the season, just finishing the season intact would/will be a massive achievement. One that will go miles in securing sponsorship and new fans for next season, as they will see a fan owned/run team can work in UK hockey. Just think, what a playoff appearance could do to the coffers? Ive already talk about how the Tigers are possible the hardest working team on the ice. But they have other parts which make me think they will make the post season. In Andres Maslovskis they have a talented import who regularly scores points day in day out, and in Luke Brittle they have one of the hottest young British talent on the ice. Finally, and the biggest reason I think they could make the playoffs, is their goalkeeping tandem of Declan Ryan and Martin Clarkson. Both these goalies have frustrated the Phoenix every game and are surely destined for big things in their careers. The Tigers have been hampered all season by playing with less than the full quota of imports, but this hasn't defeated them. Realistically, their remaing games does not offer enough points to overhaul Sheffield in 8th. But with the way they play, and more home than away games. There is opportunity there for the Tigers to do it!
So after all that, while the heart says the Tigers can nick that 8th spot, the head says they won't! I do believe they can take 7th spot from the Bees and get close to the Steeldogs, but there is just to few games left for Telford to make up the points needed!
What do you think? Agree or, more likely, completely disagree? Let me know!