So..the final four have been chosen!
The Guildford Flames, the Manchester Phoenix, the Milton Keynes Lightning and the Peterborough Phantoms will all converge on the Coventry SkyDome for the last hurrah of the 2010-11 EPL season. There were some expected results and, as some of you astute readers will have noticed, a certain team from Slough that will not be appearing in Coventry. Yes, despite my earlier prediction, the Phantoms overcame the Jets with a superb shut out victory in the hangar to send them to the final party.
Going back to my post last week you will see I had a 50% success rating, with the Phoenix and Flames making it comfortably through to the finals weekend. Of the other two, I picked the Bison over MK mainly due to the Bison having the second leg on home ice. It was another tight game, which was to be expected, but the MK LIghtning did just enough in the end. I will defer to the two Bison centric blogs on my blogroll over on the right to fill you in on the details of the two legged series! The other I picked the Jets over the Phantoms. I said the key would be how close the Phantoms kept things after the first leg. After 60mins of hockey the Jets left with a two goal cushion, 2nd leg you would expect the Jets to do it. But no, the Phantoms had other ideas, a 3-0 shutout is simply amazing! That team deserve their place in Coventry on the strength of that performance alone! Even if the Jets were not at 100% I would have expected them to do it over two legs! But hey, as I said, playoff hockey is whole different animal!
With the final four confirmed, the semi-finals look like this:
@3pm - Manchester Phoenix v Milton Keynes Lightning
@7pm - Guildford Flames v Peterborough Phantoms
So lets have a look at the semi-finals and ponder who will make it to the big dance on sunday and who will be left lifting a shiny pot come sunday evening!
Semi Final 1 - Phoenix (5) v Lightning (1)
To be honest, with the Phantoms putting the Jets out, with Stephen Wall capable of wonders in net, I don't think you will find many Phoenix.Lightning fans who are disappointed to be avoiding them in the semi's! The Phoenix/Lightning games have been crackers all year, with one-sided blow outs each and numerous close games. The fixture is already one which both fanbases look for come the fixture announcement! The figures in brackets above show how the regular season series was split. Pretty one sided, to be honest I was shocked when I totted the results up, I thought it was closer! Though the games themselves were, the Phoenix were just able to secure the win on more occasions this year. That said MK will be up for this, they have a chance to topple the new champions, the team that took their crown, and a chance to finish their indifferent season with some silverware. As to who will win, crikey, that's a tough question, Either team could! I am going to go for a Phoenix win, and im basing that on my (trying to be impartial here) view that the Phoenix have more strength in depth than MK along with a massive travelling support to roar them along. That being said, if MK win they could well have my support in the final! It will be a great game, I want the Phoenix to win it, but if not, hey, we did win the big prize!!
Prediction: Phoenix to squeeze through!
Semi Final 2 - Flames (5) v Phantoms (1)
Another one sided season split, but im sure I said that talking about the Phantoms/Slough quarter last week and look what good that did! The Flames are the obvious favorites here, but playoff hockey......etc....you get my drift! This could be a classic game of the irresistible force (Flames offence) meets the immovable object (Phantoms defence). In their pair of games against Slough the Phantoms have shown they can get the job done in difficult circumstances and, while the Flames have been to Coventry before, the Phantoms have won it all in the past and could well have a large portion of the SkyDome backing them! The Phantoms have to play their best, anything less and the Flames will walk it. For the Flames they must guard against complacency, their extra firepower is not going to guarantee them passage to the final. While I would hope (selfishly) for a Phoenix/Phantoms final, I think the Flames will win it. If they can score early they will but, the longer the Phantoms frustrate the Flames, the more I see the Phantoms make it!
Prediction: Flames to have just a bit too much in the end!
The Final - Phoenix (2) v Flames (4)
1st v 2nd, a Phoenix battling the Flames, any more? This is the final I can see, and will probably be the final that we wont see now ive said all the above! Haha! The season split has the nod going towards the Flames, but the Phoenix do have the strength in depth to deal with the Flames and could well win the game. The key will come down to the defence for the Phoenix. If the D help out Steve Fone, and Fone is in top form the Phoenix will win. But if they make any mistakes the Flames will capitalize plus, in Nathan Rempel they have a guy who loves playing the Phoenix! So in terms of a prediction, my heart wants to go for a Phoenix win, but my head thinks the Flames may just do it! They have the added incentive of wanting to finish a superb season with something to show for it, and to banish past losses in Coventry. It will be close, it will be tense, but maybe the big bucks may finally pay for the Flames!
Prediction: Flames to take it in a close one!
So there you have it, a Phoenix fan who things his team wont win it! Im either mad, or keeping my expectations low so a loss wont hurt as much, or a win will feel that much better! Of course all my predictions above could be wrong, lets face it I was 50% in the last round. So, below are the other possible final combinations:
Lightning v Flames
Lightning v Phantoms
Looking at either of those combinations I would pick the Flames against the Lightning based on their excellent run of form going into the playoffs, then I would pick the Lightning in a final against the Phantoms. The Phantoms have great defence, but I just think the Lightning pack the better offensive punch to step up in big games!
Phoenix TV, Steeldogs quarters