Friday, April 2, 2010

Ready For Round 2

For the 4 remaining New York Ranger prospects still alive in the CHL, round two begins this weekend with 2 prospects going head to head with each other. It is rather ironic that 2 defensemen; Sam Klassen, Tomas Kundratek, and 2 left wingers/centers; Ryan Bourque, Chris Doyle are the ones who remain.

We start with the head to head matchup as Chris Doyle and Ryan Bourque are both key parts of their team's chances at winning. Bourque who put up a nice 2-6-9 in the first round leads the Quebec Remparts against Doyle's Victoriaville Tigres.

The Tigres actually had a better record than the Remparts but the Remparts were division champions in the QMJHL which earned them home ice advantage in this round. Going head to head, the Tigres were 3-0-0-1 but 2 of the wins were via the shootout.

In the first round, Quebec had little trouble defeating the Acadie-Bathurst Titan 4-1 but that series was a bounce or two from being a very different story. The Tigre on the other hand were pushed to the limit by the Shawinigan Cartaractes having to come from behind to win 4-2.

The Tigre will have the edge in scoring in this series as they can roll out 3 scoring lines who all can contribute points especially after the addition of Chris Doyle who's role from the Tigre changed from what it was with the Prince Edward Island Rocket.

Doyle has been the power play quarterback instead of setting up in the crease as he did in PEI. It has worked as Doyle had a late season surge of 10-26-36 in 29 games. The other difference with Doyle has been on the defensive end as Doyle was a +8 which is something he never was with the Rocket.

Bourque on the other side has really elevated his game in the post-season as he is healthy and when he has been healthy he has produced. Bourque gives the Remparts a huge weapon at both ends of the ice.

His speed in many ways makes up for his lack of size as his skill on the forecheck has been a great disruption on the defensive end. His impact will be huge as the Remparts need Bourque to not only match the offense of the Tigres but also to help stop the Tigre offense.

Prediction: The Tigre because of their depth will win in 6 games but it should be 6 very close games.

Sam Klassen and his Saskatoon Blades have been fighting all season long with the their second round opponent the Brandon Wheat Kings. For most of the season, the Blades held the division and conference lead over the Wheat Kings but a late season slump gave the Wheat Kings the division title and home ice advantage.

In the first round, Klassen was asked to shut down Willie Coetzee of the Red Deer Rebel and shut down is exactly what Klassen did. Coetzee only had one goal during the first round which he scored when Klassen was not guarding him.

Against the Wheat Kings, Klassen most likely will be asked to shut down Matt Calvert and Brayden Schenn both who put up 99 points during the regular season. This one will be a much tougher task for Klassen and his partner Stefan Elliott but if they can at least keep them in check then the Blades have a real chance at winning the series.

Because the Wheat King's arena is not going to be ready to start the series the opening 2 games will be played in Saskatoon. Win those and the Blades will have a huge edge when the series shifts back to Brandon.

Prediction: The Wheat Kings already know that no matter what they will be in the Memorial Cup so the pressure is off them. They had it easy with Swift Current and it is going to hard to stop their offense. Brandon in 7

Then there is Tomas Kundratek and his Medicine Hat Tigers who face the regular season's best team the Calgary Hitmen. The Hitmen had to come from down 3 games to 1 to win their first round series with Moose Jaw which is also bad news for the Tigers.

The Tigers really do not match up well with the Hitmen in any area so Kundratek has to elevate his game even higher in this round. Kundratek has really taken his game to another level in the second half. His maturity as a player and person has been exactly what the Rangers were hoping for when they sent him back to Medicine Hat for this season.

At first it was feared that Kundratek was not going to report to Medicine Hat but he did and while he went though the expected letdown of being demoted; his play in the second half of the season as well as the first round of the WHL playoffs was a great sign for the Rangers.

Now he needs to work twice as hard for his Tigers to have any chance at winning.

Prediction: Calgary is the team to beat in the WHL's Eastern Conference and after the scare they had from Moose Jaw, they will not take anyone lightly. Calgary in 5

(Klassen courtesy of the Saskatoon Blades)

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