A look at the first round of WHL playoffs

  • By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
  • Friday, March 25, 2011 12:01am
  • Sports

How will the Western Hockey League playoffs shake out? Here’s Herald hockey writer Nick Patterson’s take on the postseason.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Kelowna Rockets (2) vs. Prince George Cougars (7)

Synopsis: Kelowna finished the season strong, winning 10 of 13 down the stretch to cruise to the B.C. Division title. Prince George was the opposite, needing a late surge to avoid collapsing out of the postseason. The Rockets are a vulnerable No. 2 seed because the B.C. Division was not strong and Prince George has enough talent to surprise.

Prediction: Kelowna in seven games.

Spokane Chiefs (3) vs. Chilliwack Bruins (6)

Synopsis: Spokane isn’t really a three seed. The Chiefs are more of a 1A seed, their duel with Portland for the conference’s top spot going down to the final weekend. Chilliwack had a nice finish to the season, winning eight of its final 12. But Spokane, which put an astounding 78 shots on goal against Chilliwack in a game late in the season, is a totally different animal.

Prediction: Spokane in four games.

Tri-City Americans (4) vs. Vancouver Giants (5)

Synopsis: This series pits the conference’s two fading teams as both struggled down the stretch. Tri-City fell out of the race for the No. 1 seed, Vancouver dropped out of the race for the B.C. Division title. The Americans showed signs of righting the ship the final weekend, and Tri-City has more depth at its disposal.

Prediction: Tri-City in five games.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Saskatoon Blades (1) vs. Prince Albert Raiders (8)

Synopsis: Saskatoon won the Scotty Munro Trophy with the best record during the regular season and enters the postseason not losing a game in regulation in more than a month. Prince Albert grabbed the conference’s final playoff berth during the final weekend of the season and finished 48 points behind the Blades. Saskatoon also won the season series 7-1.

Prediction: Saskatoon in five games.

Red Deer Rebels (2) vs. Edmonton Oil Kings (7)

Synopsis: This one is a lot like the Saskatoon-Prince Albert series. Red Deer won the Central Division title, finishing 35 points ahead of the Oil Kings. The Rebels also won the season series 5-1. And if all else fails, Red Deer has the best goaltender in the league.

Prediction: Red Deer in five games.

Medicine Hat Tigers (3) vs. Brandon Wheat Kings (6)

Synopsis: Brandon is the low seed no one wants to face in the playoffs. The youthful Wheat Kings suffered through growing pains during the first half of the season, but have been lights out since the beginning of February, scoring goals in droves. Medicine Hat is a 100-point team, but the Tigers have their hands full.

Prediction: Medicine Hat in seven games.

Kootenay Ice (4) vs. Moose Jaw Warriors (5)

Synopsis: These are two teams that took different paths at the trade deadline, with Kootenay making a big splash in acquiring sniper Cody Eakin and Moose Jaw choosing to stand pat. Both teams were solid at that point, but not considered contenders. That one move may have elevated Kootenay above the level of Moose Jaw.

Prediction: Kootenay in six games.

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