With the regular season done its now time to look at the playoffs! It's a fun time of year......honest! In reality playoff hockey is special, I know in the UK it really only consists of one of games. Not 7 games series as our friends across the pond experience, but it is different. Any of the eight qualifying teams have a chance and there is always the possibility of an upset. Look at the Wildcats last year in the EPL, look at the Hull Stingrays in this years EIHL playoffs. Who's to say it won't happen again! So we have four pairings, let's have a look at each one before nailing my picks to the mast.
Guildford v Peterborough
EPL champions and EPL cup champions
of the current season take on the 8th placed Phantoms, a team which, like
last year, struggled for most of the 54 games regular season before turning
it on...again, in the stretch to reach the post season. All this, despite
losing one of, along with Bowns, the best goalies in the EPL in Stephen
Wall. As the Phoenix found in their final weekend's games the Phantoms
are a tough team to play this time of year. The Flames are the Flames,
they have skill, some strength and a depth like no other in the league.
The Flames can roll three full strength lines and still have imports sitting
out, this has to have been a factor in their league and cup success. I
love an upset, when it doesn't involve the Phoenix, and i'd love to see
one here. But I cant see it! The key has to be the first leg (probably)
in Peterborough. To have any chance the Phantoms have to take a lead to
the Spectrum, otherwise the Flames machine will roll them!
Prediction: Flames by a few goals!
Manchester v Swindon
I will try and go through this as level
headily as possible! The Wildcats are the form team heading into the post
season, and with Hoog and Nell in form the Wildcats do offer a strong offensive
threat. Swindon hold an advantage over the Phoenix in the link centre,
having won two of the three games down in Swindon so its this vital first
leg that holds the key. The Phoenix go into the post season having secured
second place after a monumental season. One unprecedented in its upheaval
in the Phoenix roster. Having not iced a full side all year, to finish
second is a fantastic effort. An effort that really requires some reward.
Crucially for the Phoenix they won the final two meetings between the sides
and one of those being down in the Link Centre. Both legs will be tight,
if the Phoenix can keep it close, or even bring a lead back to Altrincham
I fancy our chances.
Prediction: Phoenix by the seat of their
pants! I see many other EPL fans see this as an upset. They are right,
but I do believe over 6 periods the Phoenix have the quality to do it.
Sheffield v Basingstoke
My feelings on the Scimitars/Steeldogs
has grown from a 'meh' to a down right hatred of them. I despise the 'brand'
of hockey they play, I hate how certain players have changed teams and
morphed into completely different animals on the ice (rose tinteds firmly
in place)......but.......I respect the job Andre Payette has done. He has
taken a struggling team and turned them into title contenders. They are,
possibly, the toughest team in the EPL to break down. The Bison have struggled,
they certainly haven't done as well as I thought they would since adding
Stephen Wall. That being said they still have quality, Moria is a legend,
Chinn is annoyingly good as is Wiggins. Sheffield's stand-out star is Ozolins,
he will score in the 6 periods of hockey. The key for the Bison is restricting
him and the Steeldogs top line. If they can shut that top line down they
can win this tie.
Prediction: Sheffield hold the advantage
in the season series and, as much as I want them to, I will have to disappoint
Mr Anthony over at Banners on the Wall and go with the Steeldogs.
Slough v MK
This pairing, for me, is the toughest
to predict. even though the season series is weighted in favour of MK the
Jets have some potent offence. In Calder and Pliskauskas they have two
of the best imports at EPL level. I should know both have terrorised the
Phoenix all year! MK are not the team they were, in the three games I have
seen in Altrincham they have skill and talent but, tend to lose their rag
to easily in games. Once this happens their chances have gone. The Jets
are a gritty team and one that has masses of EPL experience, they know
how to play the game and the ref.
Prediction: Well I guess I should nail
my colours to the mast. MK have a chance but, on balance of what Ive seen
in the Phoenix v MK and Slough I would give the tie to Slough.
So that's a Flames/Phoenix/Steeldogs
and Jets final four. Good for the crowds, there's still many possibilities
for an upset. Sure as hell im not feeling the most comfortable about the
Phoenix against Swindon but, isn't that what playoff hockey is all about?
The UN-predictability! Makes the predictions above, utterly pointless really!