While teams in the National Hockey League compete for the game's ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup, franchises in the Canadian Hockey League compete for a chance to play in the annual Memorial Cup Tournament. But to earn a spot in the tournament a team first need to win their own league's playoff title. For QMJHL teams this means hoisting the President Cup.
The 2010 QMJHL playoffs start this Thursday and I've made my predictions as to which team will win each series:
Saint John Sea Dogs (1st overall) vs. P.E.I. Rocket (8th overall):
The Sea Dogs should out play the Rocket in every aspect of the game. P.E.I. was a "seller" at the trade deadline and, to make matters worse, they traded their goalie Marco Cousineau to the Sea Dogs! Cousineau won the President Cup as a member of Drummondville last year and will be looking to repeat.
Prediction: Saint John wins in 5 games.
Drummondville Voltigeurs (2nd overall) vs. Lewiston MAINEiacs (16th overall):
Perhaps the most lopsided match up of the first round, expect the Volts to walk all over the MAINEiacs. Drummondville goaltender Jake Allen shouldn't receive too many shots against but will close the door when necessary. Voltigeur forwards Chris Didomenico, Gabriel Dumont and Sean Couturier (the Q's leading point scorer this season) will dominate offensively.
Prediction: Drummondville wins in 4 games.
Moncton Wildcats (3rd overall) vs. Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (7th overall):
This should be the best series of the first round, by far. Both the Cats & Eagles were major "buyers" at the trade deadline this year. Both teams are stacked with plenty of fire power up front. Each team boast one of the strongest goaltenders in the league (Roy in the Cape and Riopel in Moncton). The difference maker in this series may be the stronger defence corps of Moncton led by their Top 10 ranked 2010 NHL draft prospect Brandon Gormley). But who knows, maybe the Eagles, who are a better physical team, will be able to wear down the Wildcats? Either way, it'll be a war.
Prediction: Moncton wins in 6 games.
Victoriaville Tigres (4th overall) vs. Shawinigan Cataractes (10th overall):
The Tigres have incredible offensive depth and boast a lineup that includes 7 NHL affiliated players. This depth will likely be too much for the Cataractes who are not as prepared for a deep playoff run as they were last season (lost in game 7 to Drummondville in the finals). Victoriaville finished the season with a goal differential of +105 while Shawinigan was -23. Any more questions?
Prediction: Victoriaville wins in 5 games.
Quebec Remparts (5th overall) vs. Acadie-Bathurst Titan (14th overall):
Quebec GM Patrik Roy didn't make a push at the trade deadline to improve his team, and strangely, he didn't really become a "seller" either. Having said that, the Remparts remain the favorite to win this series. Led by a couple of intense forwards speedster Ryan Bourque (son of Ray Bourque & NYR draft pick) and power forward Danick Paquette (ATL draft pick), the Remparts have the right guys leading the way in order to get the job done.
Prediction: Quebec wins in 5 games.
Rouyn Noranda Huskies (6th overall) vs. Val D'Or Foreurs (15th overall):
If Patrice Cormier didn't receive a "rest of year" suspension Rouyn Noranda may have been my favorite team to win the Presidents Cup. While they probably won't win the Cup they should still be able to defeat Val D'Or with ease. This is a bulky team with plenty of skill up front led by Jordan Caron (BOS draft pick) and Phillippe Cornet (EDM draft pick). The team's biggest strength lies in the back end. The Huskies defense corps can stack up with any team in the league and are backed by goaltender Nicholas Champion, who has been riding a hot streak since the beginning of March. Val D'Or may steal a couple of games but in the end Rouyn Noranda should prevail.
Prediction: Rouyn Noranda wins in 6 games.
Rimouski Oceanic (9th overall) vs. Chicoutimi Sagueneens (13th overall):
Both of these teams are filled with young talent and are bound to be two of the best teams in the league two years from now. It'll be interesting to watch how the young players on each team respond to their first playoff series and it could really go either way. Rimouski's offence should be the deciding factor.
Prediction: Rimouski in 7 games.
Montreal Juniors (11th overall) vs. Gatineau Olympiques (12th overall):
I originally said that Montreal would win the series in 6 games and I'm sticking to it (even considering the Stich suspension). The Olympiques' biggest asset is goaltender Maxime Clermont. If the Juniors can get pucks past him early it'll be easier for them to win. The Juniors must also rely on playing well defensively paired with maintaining a well balanced attack with contribution from all three scoring lines.
Prediction: Juniors win in 6 games.
Enjoy Round One!!!