Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Race to the Finish

As the final week of the CHL regular season gets underway, teams like Tomas Kundratek's Medicine Hat Tigers are still jockeying for playoff position.

Entering Tuesday's game against the Red Deer Rebels, the Tigers were holding the 5th seed in the WHL's Eastern Conference. The Tigers were chasing the Swift Current Bronco for 4th and trying to hold off the Kootenay Ice to avoid dropping to 6th.

The Tigers were able to defeat the Rebels 3-1 to close to within one point of the Broncos and increase their lead to 3 points over the Ice. The problem is that the other 2 teams have 2 games in hand over the Tigers so it does not look good for the Tigers and their playoff hopes.

As for the game itself; Tomas Kundratek had a quiet night going scoreless but more importantly for our standpoint staying out of the penalty box. With the Tigers struggling over the last month of the regular season it is not going to be hard to predict that they might not make it out of the first round.

For Kundratek who is under contract to the Rangers then he more than likely will be heading to Hartford to finish his season. The problem in our eyes is that we do not think that Kundratek is ready for the AHL

The practices and experience seeing how the next level is will be help Kundratek but it would be asking too much to expect him to step in and play any kind of regular role with the Wolfpack. Maybe next year but not now.


The Rest of the Races

In the OHL, Evgeny Grachev and his Brampton Battalion have 3 games to earn the top seed out of the Eastern Conference but can finish no worse than 2nd seed.

In the Western Conference, Michael Del Zotto and his London Knights will settle for the 2nd seed as they can not catch Windsor but have secured their spot.

Mitch Gaulton and the Erie Otters on the other hand have 3 games remaining and could finish anywhere from 5th seed to 8th depending on how well they play this week. The bigger question for us is will Mitch Gaulton play his way out of coach Robbie Ftorek' doghouse?

In the WHL, Tysen Dowzak and his Kelowna Rockets are going to have 4 important games this week as the Rockets are holding the 3rd seed in the WHL's Western Conference by one single point over 4th seed Spokane.

The fun news is that this race for the 3rd seed could come right down to the very last game of the regular season when Kelowna will face Spokane in Spokane.

Over in the QMJHL, both teams with Ranger prospects have secured their spot in the playoffs starting with Chris Doyle and his PEI Rocket who will be the 4th seed in the Atlantic Division where they will be huge underdogs against whoever they play (we expect it to be Moncton).

In the Western Division, Antoine Lafleur's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies know that they will be playing the Montreal Junior. What they do not know is which team will have the home ice advantage. The Huskies trail the Junior by 3 points in the standings with 2 games to play but one of those games will be against each other so anything is possible.

It will be interesting though to see if the Huskies go with the experience but inconsistent Lafleur or the green rookie Mikael Audette in goal.

(Kundratek courtesy of the Rangers)

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