The 2019 CHL playoffs promise to be entertaining. There are at least five legitimate contenders in the QMJHL, starting with the CHL’s top team in Rouyn-Noranda. The Huskies established a new league record with 59 wins and tied a 45-year-old record by winning 25 consecutive games. The Q boasts three other 100-plus point teams in Drummondville, Halifax and Baie-Comeau.
In the OHL, the London Knights stumbled down the stretch, but still managed to finish tops in the Western Conference with 99 points. But don’t sleep on perennial contender Sault Ste. Marie, the banged-up Guelph Storm or the upstart Saginaw Spirt. The Eastern Conference is as good as it’s been in years. Top-ranked Ottawa was the only OHL team to eclipse 100 points, but Niagara, Oshawa and Sudbury are all legit contenders.
In the WHL, Prince Albert ruled the roost for most of the season. Saskatoon, Edmonton and Lethbridge all have reason to be optimistic. Everett was the talk of the Western Conference in the first half, but Vancouver stole the spotlight in the second half. US division rivals Spokane and Portland have flown under the radar, but are battle-tested.
With several contenders in each league, here’s a look at a few interesting numbers leading into the 2019 CHL playoffs.
The point differential between the Edmonton Oil Kings and their first-round opponent Medicine Hat. The Oil Kings won their last 11 games to ward off the Lethbridge Hurricanes for the Central Division title.
That was extremely important because while Edmonton gets a favourable matchup Lethbridge, which won its last eight games, draws scrappy Calgary in Round 1. The Oil Kings have been playing playoff hockey for the past month. Will they have enough juice to continue their winning ways when Game 1 against Medicine Hat goes Saturday night?
The combined numbers of London goalies Jordan Kooy and Joseph Raaymakers. Into early January the Knights played Raaymakers two out of every three games and the two goaltenders were lauded for their play. Then, Raaymakers played 11 straight due in part to a Kooy injury.
On Jan. 10 their combined numbers were 2.84/.911. Down the stretch, however, it wasn’t quite as rosy, as the Knights rotated goalies for the final five games of the season, winning just two against powerhouses Saginaw, Guelph, Sault Ste. Marie and lower-light Flint. Whomever starts in Game 1 against Windsor will get a chance to find solid footing as the Spitfires’ 3.18 goals for per game is the lowest of all OHL playoff teams.
The regular season home record of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. The Huskies are so powerful that their home record may not matter until the semifinals should they make it that far. If all of the QMJHL favourites win out there would be a semi-final showdown between Rouyn-Noranda and Drummondville and that’s where the home record may come into play.
In the regular season series between the two clubs, the Huskies won all three match-ups at home, outscoring Drummondville 21-3. Over the past five seasons, Rouyn-Noranda is 12-1-0-2 against the Voltigeurs on home ice.
The last time Sudbury made it beyond the second round of the OHL playoffs. It’s been a long run of futility in the Nickel City, but it looks like the Wolves are ready to howl once again.
That year, under coach Mike Foligno, Sudbury made a miraculous run to the OHL final after entering the playoffs as the sixth seed in the east. The Wolves went 12-3 defeating Mississauga, Barrie and Belleville en route to a date with the powerhouse Plymouth Whalers.
Led by Marc Staal, Adam McQuaid, Nick Foligno and Kevin Baker Sudbury actually rode the play of goalie Sebastian Dahm, who ended up 14-4-3 with a 2.53 GAA and .934 save percentage before being defeated by the Whalers in six games. Sudbury fell just short of a Central Division title this season, but still managed 43 wins and 91 points. The Wolves will have their hands full against Mississauga in Round 1, but boast Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who may be the best goalie in the league.
The last year a Memorial Cup host team won its league championship. The Kitchener Rangers out-duelled the Belleville Bulls in a highly entertaining seven-game OHL championship series. Kitchener won the first three games of the series by a combined 15-7, but the Bulls rallied to win Game 4 in overtime then won the next two, but dropped a 4-1 decision in Kitchener in Game 7.
The Rangers are the last team to go through the front door as Cup hosts. Peter DeBoer’s Rangers lost to Bill Peters’ Spokane Chiefs in the Memorial Cup final.
This year, 2019 host Halifax goes into the QMJHL playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and the No. 3 seed overall based on league standings. The Mooseheads host Quebec in the opening round, beginning Friday night.
The number of playoff wins for Sault Ste. Marie goaltender Matthew Villalta. He’s by far the most tenured playoff goalie. The L.A. Kings prospect recorded 14 wins last year en route to an OHL Western Conference title. The next-best playoff win total is Victoria’s Griffen Outhouse, who checks in with eight post-season victories. The next most successful OHL playoff goalie is Mississauga’s Jacob Ingham, who has six career playoff wins.
The number of US Division teams that earned playoff berths. The WHL employs an NHL-like playoff format, where each division winner draws a wild card team in Round 1. Typically that means a weaker opponent. In the case of BC Division winner Vancouver, though, we’re seeing the rare occasion where that’s not the case. The Giants, who finished with 101 points, draw 70-point wildcard Seattle in Round 1 while Victoria, which finished second to Vancouver with 72 points, draws 64-point Kamloops to start the playoffs. The Blazers even needed to win a play-in game against Kelowna just to be here.
The Moose Jaw Warriors’ regular season home record. Moose Jaw is the only team in the WHL playoffs with a true losing record at home. From Jan. 15 to Feb. 14, the Warriors played 12 of 13 games on the road and picked up 17 of a possible 24 points. That run essentially allowed them to finish third in the Eastern Division.
On the positive side of things, the Warriors will open the 2019 playoffs on the road in Saskatoon. But the series will by no means be an easy one. The Blades won five of the six regular season meetings between the two clubs, with Moose Jaw’s lone win in Saskatoon coming on Dec. 7, 2018.
The number of points separating the second and third place teams in the QMJHL’s Western Conference. Second place Drummondville finished the season with 107 points, well ahead of third place Sherbrooke.
A much bigger gap of 86 points exists between first place Rouyn-Noranda and eighth place Shawinigan. Those two teams will meet in the first round, which would’ve happened anyway under the old 1 vs. 16 playoff format, which was previously in place for the QMJHL. Meanwhile in the Eastern Conference, there’s a gap of just 17 points separating second from seventh.