So the end is nigh!
Of EPL league hockey for 2011/12 that is! With the league title sewn up there are still some interesting battles to be had this weekend. The main points I wanted to focus on in this post were the battle for 2nd/3rd/4th and the race for 8th!
The battle for 2nd/3rd/4th......
Or after last weekends results should that be the battle for 3rd? The Phoenix hold second place with a three point gap back the Steeldogs, needing only a point to secure it I see that happening in the Phoenix back to back against Peterborough this weekend. So that's why I think it's more a battle for second! So..the contenders?
Sheffield Steeldogs, current holders of third place face a final weekend home to the Bracknell Bees and a trip to Guildford on the final day of the season. The series between the Dogs and the Jets is tied at three a piece, and the goal difference is, currently, in Slough's favour. Which adds a little spice to the last pair of games! Both are winnable for the Dogs, but they can be their own worst enemy. Their style of hockey can come back to.....ahem....bite them on their ass! With such a physical way of playing the game the Dogs will pick up penalties. Against the Bees, who will be hungry to secure that 8th and final playoff berth, and the Flames at home with their potent offence its this syle of play that could be their un-doing.
versus the Bees, I can see the Dogs winning this one though, with 3 of the 5 games played so far going to penalties or OT, this one could very well go the extra distance. Then it's a lottery as to who gets the extra point!
versus the Flames, with the league title sewn up you'd expect the Dogs could win this. They could, but I don't think they will! The Flames are on a run of two losses at the moment, I cant see their pride/professionalism allowing them to loose their last game of the season on home ice.
Slough Jets, the Jets bring their 2011/12 campaign to a close with an away/home series with the MK Lightning, a team that has struggled for consistency this year. But one that does posses some quality in their ranks. MK also have the upper hand in the series with the Jets so far. leading 3-1 and having a perfect record against the Jets in Milton Keynes. The Lightning are safe in 5th but can catch the Jets with a 4 point weekend, so their is motivation there for both the Lightning and Jets! Should be a cracking pair of games then!
Jets @ Lightning, I can see this going into OT but a win for MK in the end.
Jets v Lightning, with the offensive power of Calder/Pliskauskas on home ice I think the Jets will take this in regulation.
The important question.....who will get 3rd? After all that I think the Jets can get enough points for 3rd place.
The race for 8th.....
It's a straight dogfight between the Bees and the Peterborough Phantoms for the chance to play the Flames in the playoff quarters. With only one point in it this could go all the way and be decided on head to heads or goal difference! As it stands in the head to head the Phantoms have it 4-2 so the Bees need to secure it with points, they cant worry about anything else.
The Bees, current holders of 8th, it's always better to be in the position than not! So that instantly gives them the advantage going into the weekend. The face the Steeldogs in Sheffield and the Wildcats back at the Hive. as covered above I think the Bees will lose in Sheffield but will get a point from the game. At home to Swindon, that's another toughie to predict. The Wildcats are hitting form at just the right time, but games between the two have generally been tight affairs. The game v Swindon will probably go to OT again and as the Bees won the last home game against Swindon in OT i'll give the Bees the W.
The Phantoms, well other than a double header against the Flames the Phantoms have the next toughest series, against the Phoenix! That being said, it was the Phantoms that put the Phoenix championship celebrations on ice this time last year defeating the Phoenix. So their is previous there for a Phantoms home win. With the Phoenix not looking to win a league title in Peterborough this game is instantly different. The Phoenix hold a 3-1 series lead against the Phantoms and won the last game down in Peterborough. As the Phantoms are scrapping for 8th I can see this going into OT and, I might give the Phantoms the win. The return in Altrincham I think will be different. The Phoenix will want to round off the season in style at home some im giving the Phoenix the win on home ice.
The important question.....who will get 8th?
The Bees in my opinion. It is always better to be in that place on the leader board going into any weekend, especially the last. Plus the Phantoms have the toughest pair of games.
That's that, I bet all the above is a load of rubbish really! But hey that's half the fun!
Come back next week for a Phoenix v Phantoms game review and some playoff predictions!