As most people predicted, the Oilmade quick work of their first round opponent the Kootenay Ice winning the series in five games. Aside from an overtime loss in Game 2, the series really wasn't even close which isn't unexpected in a 1 versus 8 matchup. What was not expected was a second round matchup between the Oil Kings and the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Tigers were the seventh ranked team in the WHL's Eastern Conference but surprised everyone with a sweep of the Saskatoon Blades. As the Memorial Cup host the Blades will now have an even 50 days off between games.
By the Numbers: Head to head this season the Oil Kings went 5-1-0-0 against the Tigers with one of the five wins coming in overtime. When the two teams last played the Oil Kings won by a score of 6-0 but that loss seems to have been a bit of a turning point in the Tigers season. Following that loss they were two games under .500 but since then have won 15 of the last 21 games they've played including their first round sweep of the Blades.
Looking at the numbers below the Tigers matchup a little better with the Oil Kings than the Ice did in the first round but things still look lopsided towards Edmonton.
|Edmonton Oil Kings||Medicine Hat Tigers|
|Record||51-5-2-4 (2nd)||36-33-2-1 (13th)|
|Goals For||278 (4th)||243 (9th)|
|Goals Against||155 (1st)||244 (13th)|
|Power Play||28.6% (1st)||21.2% (9th)|
|Penalty Kill||87.5% (2nd)||80.4% (10th)|
Who to Watch on Edmonton: The line of Curtis Lazar, Henrik Samuelsson, and Dylan Wruck got off to a slow start in the series versus the Ice but finished well combining for five goals and eights assists in the series. They weren't the Oil Kings best line during that series but they will be a key to how successful this playoff drive ends up being. If they're not playing up to par the Oil Kings will be an easier team to shut down but if they're clicking it's a completely different story. A strong playoff could help push Lazar up this summers draft board as well.
Who to Watch on Medicine Hat: On the topic of the upcoming draft, another player to keep an eye on is Tigers forward Hunter Shinkaruk. Shinkaruk landed at 13th in the most recent rankings from ISS, two spots behind Lazar. The 5'11" centre from Calgary finished the regular season second on the Tigers in scoring with 37 goals and 49 assists for 86 points in 64 games. His numbers are actually down a little this season compared to last but with Emerson Etem's graduation to the pro ranks Shinkaruk has had to do a lot more of the work himself this season and he has shown he's more than capable of handling that load.
Key Matchup: A big part of the Oil Kings run to the Memorial Cup last season was the play of their goalie Laurent Brossoit who signed a three year entry level contract with Calgary on Thursday. In the first round Brossoit was once again outstanding turning away all but four of the 124 shots he faced posting a 0.968 save percentage and a 0.76 goals against average. But as good as his numbers were his performance was only the second best by a WHL goalie in the opening round.
The top honours in that category go to the player who will be between the pipes at the other end of the rink in this series, Cam Lanigan. Langian, who actually started his junior career with the Oil Kings playing in 74 games before being traded to Kamloops part way through the 2010/11 season, surrendered four goals on 166 shots in the first round posting a 0.976 save percentage and a 1.00 goals against average. He wasn't the only reason the Tigers won their first round series but he was a huge part of it and he'll likely have to be just as good in this series in order for the Tigers to win.
Schedule: Doesn't look to be any TV options for this series. Sportsnet is showing Calgary and Red Deer on their Friday Night Hockey and Shaw is Showing Kamloops and Kelowna. So the options for those unable to attend are listening to the games on the Team 1260 or tuning into on WHL Live on the web.
|Friday April 5||@ Edmonton||7:00 PM|
|Sunday April 7||@ Edmonton||4:00 PM|
|Tuesday April 9||@ Medicine Hat||7:00 PM|
|Wednesday April 10||@ Medicine Hat||7:00 PM|
|Friday April 12||@ Edmonton||7:00 PM|
|Sunday April 14||@ Medicine Hat||6:00 PM|
|Wednesday April 17||@ Edmonton||7:00 PM|
Prediction: Medicine Hat is playing good hockey right now but I don't think it'll be enough to get them past the Oil Kings. There is too much skill from the top to the bottom of the Oil Kings lineup that I can's see them getting derailed at this point. Langian is the wildcard of course, if he plays like he did in the first round the Tigers have a chance but that performance was well above his normal level of play. I'm going to go with the same prediction I made in the first round: Oil Kings in five.