The QMJHL Championship will be determined by two rival team both located in the province of New Brunswick, the Saint John Sea Dogs (1st overall) vs. the Moncton Wildcats (3rd overall).
Before the playoffs HockeyPoints predicted that Moncton would win the President Cup and nothing that I've seen so far has changed my mind.
The one factor that could hurt Moncton's chances is that they may be feeling a bit banged up and worn down, having faced a strong opponent during each of the first three rounds - Cape Breton (7th overall), Rouyn Noranda (6th overall) and most recently Drummondville (2nd overall). Meanwhile Saint John has faced weaker opponents - PEI (8th overall), Gatineau (12th overall) and Victoriaville (4th overall). Both the Moncton and Saint John have playoff records of 12 wins and 3 losses.
In terms of key players to watch in this Series, below is a list of three players on each team who should play a major role in determining their team's outcome:
Saint John Sea Dogs:
1. Mike Hoffman (drafted by Ottawa in 2009): Hoffman won the Q championship with Drummondville last year so he knows what it takes to win. As an overager with the Sea Dogs, Hoffman will need to continue to produce above the point per game level. Although a centerman, Hoffman plays the point on the powerplay and he'll need to make sure it's clicking if Saint John want to beat Moncton who are a strong 5 on 5 team.
2. Marco Cousineau (drafted by Anaheim in 2008): I'm probably the biggest non-believer in this guy. Although Cousineau has already accomplished so much during his young career (he has been drafted and signed by Anaheim / he won the Q Championship with Drummondville in 2009 / he played in the Memorial Cup in 2009), I'm still not sold on this goalie. I've seen him play about 10 times during the past two years and I get the feeling that he's nothing more than a big, average goalie that plays on strong teams. Maybe he'll prove me wrong again...either way, he'll be a key piece to the puzzle should the Sea Dogs win or loose.
3. Simon Despres (drafted by Pittsburgh in 2009): Despres has enjoyed a very strong post season. Not only has he been consistent defensively but he has also elevated his offensive game and is averaging nearly a point per game from the back end. At 6'4", Despres is an exciting two-way defensman but he'll probably need to concentrate more on his defensive play in order to shut down the Wildcats' high powered offence.
1. Nicolas Deschamps (drafted by Anaheim in 2008): Deschamps had a phenomenal season and won the QMJHL scoring title with 96 points in 64 GP, earning him a points per game average of 1.50. During the playoffs Deschamps' points per game average has drooped to about 1.00. Should the Wildcats want to win the championship, they'll need this number to increase.
2. Gabriel Bourque (drafted by Nashville in 2009): Bourque is one of those guys who is built for playoff hockey. His intensity and hockey smarts are both above average and he can bring either a skilled game or a physical game to the table, whichever is needed. So far Bourque has brought both. Bourque finishes every check and is averaging over around a goal per game (leads the Q in playoff goals scored). He'll need to keep this up against a very strong Sea Dogs Defense Corps.
3. David Savard (drafted by Columbus in 2009): Savard was voted the top defenseman in the Q this season and is still showing us why. Savard has about a dozen points through three rounds and more importantly has a very positive plus/minus rating (more than his GP - impressive). He is supported by Brandon Gormely (projected to be a top 5 pick in the 2010 NHL entry draft) and Mark Barberio (drafted by Tampa Bay in 2008). Savard will need to focus on his strong defensive play in order to shut down the Sea Dogs' offense.
Final Prediction: Moncton Wins in 6 games
Enjoy the Final Round!!!