Kris Knoblauch led the Erie Otters from last place in the Western Conference – and the league’s second-worst record – to a franchise-record 52 wins and the Western Conference championship series. But that wasn’t enough for Knoblauch to capture the OHL’s Coach of the Year award.
Knoblauch earned 47 voting points, one behind Oshawa’s D.J. Smith, in balloting. Smith led the Generals to the Eastern Conference’s regular-season championship and into the conference finals against North Bay. Guelph’s Scott Walker, whose club won the Hamilton Spectator Trophy as the league’s regular-season champion and face the Otters in the conference finals, finished third with 38 voting points.
Smith will receive the trophy at the OHL Awards Ceremony on June 3 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. He also will be the league’s nominee for CHL Coach of the Year.
WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
No. 1C Colorado Avalanche vs. WC1 Minnesota Wild
Season records: Colorado 52-22-8, Minnesota 43-27-12
Season series: Colorado won 4-0-1
Players to watch
Colorado – G Semyon Varlamov (41-14-6 record, 2.41 goals-against average, .927 save percentage, 2 shutouts), C Matt Duchene (23 goals, 47 assists, 70 points), LW Gabriel Landeskog (26-39-65), C Ryan O’Reilly (28-36-64), C Nathan MacKinnon (24-39-63), D Tyson Barrie (13-25-38, plus-17); Minnesota – RW Jason Pominville (30-30-60), LW Zach Parise (29-27-56), C Mikko Koivu (11-43-54), D Ryan Suter (8-35-43, +15), LW Matt Moulson (23-28-51), G Darcy Kuemper (12-8-4, 2.43, .915, 2 SHO)
Fast facts: Duchene reportedly could miss the first two games with a knee injury. … O’Reilly, a former Erie Otter, set career highs with 28 goals and 64 points, and nearly was the first NHL player to finish a season without any penalty minutes (2 PIMs). … Moulson had six goals and 13 points in 20 games since being acquired from the New York Islanders.
Outlook: The Avalanche are having a dream season after struggling the past few years. They will most one step closer to their dream of capturing the Stanley Cup.
Prediction: Avalanche in 6 games
Game 1 – Thursday at Colorado, 9:30 p.m.
Game 2 – Saturday at Colorado, 9:30 p.m.
Game 3 – Monday at Minnesota, 7 p.m.
Game 4 – April 24 at Minnesota, 9:30 p.m.
Game 5 – April 26 at Colorado, TBD*
Game 6 – April 28 at Minnesota, TBD*
Game 7 – April 30 at Colorado, TBD*
* If necessary
No. 2C St. Louis Blues vs. No. 3C Chicago Blackhawks
Season records: St. Louis 52-23-7, Chicago 46-21-15
Season series: St. Louis won 3-2
Players to watch
St. Louis – G Ryan Miller (25-30-4, 2.64, .918, 1 SHO), LW Alexander Steen (33-29-62), RW T.J. Oshie (21-39-60), C David Backes (27-30-57), LW Jaden Schwartz (25-31-56), D Alex Pietrangelo (8-43-51, +20), D Kevin Shattenkirk (10-35-45, +1); Chicago – LW Patrick Sharp (34-44-78), RW Patrick Kane (29-40-69), C Jonathan Toews (28-40-68), D Duncan Keith (6-55-61, +22), RW Marian Hossa (30-30-60), G Corey Crawford (32-16-10, 2.26, .917, 2 SHO)
Fast facts: Miller had a 10-8-1 record, 2.47 GAA, .903 save pct. and one shutout in 19 games since being acquired from Buffalo. … Kane and Toews reportedly said they are ready to play after missing the last 12 games with injuries. … Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013. … St. Louis won the first three regular-season meetings, while the Blackhawks won the last two.
Outlook: The Blues have been touted as a Cup contender all season long. But the Blackhawks are the defending champion. So they know how win at this time of year.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 6 games
Game 1 – Thursday at St. Louis, 8 p.m.
Game 2 – Sunday at St. Louis, 3 p.m.
Game 3 – Monday at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.
Game 4 – April 23 at Chicago, 9:30 p.m.
Game 5 – April 25 at St. Louis, 8 p.m.*
Game 6 – April 27 at Chicago, 3 p.m.*
Game 7 – April 29 at St. Louis, TBD*
* If necessary
No. 1P Anaheim Ducks vs. WC2 Dallas Stars
Season records: Anaheim 54-20-8, Dallas 40-31-11
Season series: Dallas won 2-1
Players to watch
Anaheim – C Ryan Getzlaf (31-56-87), RW Corey Perry (43-39-82), C Nick Bonino (22-27-49), C Andrew Cogliano (21-21-42), D Cam Fowler (6-30-36), G Jonas Hiller (29-13-7, 2.48, .911, 5 SHO); Dallas – C Tyler Seguin (37-47-84), G Kari Lehtonen (33-20-10, 2.41, .919, 5 SHO), LW Jamie Benn (34-45-79), D Alex Goligoski (6-36-42, +9), RW Alex Chiasson (13-22-35), C Cody Eakin (16-19-35)
Fast facts: Getzlaf finished second to the Penguins’ Crosby in the league’s scoring race. … Seguin set career highs in goals, assists and points in his first season with the Stars. … Goligoski, the former Penguin, set career highs in assists and points. … Dallas snapped a six-year streak of missing the playoffs under former Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff.
Outlook: The secret to the Ducks’ success isn’t a secret at all. Hiller has to be strong in net, while Getzlaf and Perry have to spark the best forward line on the ice.
Prediction: Ducks in 5 games
Game 1 – Today at Anaheim, 10 p.m.
Game 2 – Friday at Anaheim, 10 p.m.
Game 3 – Monday at Dallas, 9:30 p.m.
Game 4 – April 23 at Dallas, 8 p.m.
Game 5 – April 25 at Anaheim, 10:30 p.m.*
Game 6 – April 27 at Dallas, TBD*
Game 7 – April 29 at Anaheim, TBD*
* If necessary
No. 2P San Jose Sharks vs. No. 3P Los Angeles Kings
Season records: San Jose 51-22-9, Los Angeles 46-28-8
Season series: Los Angeles won 3-1-1
Players to watch
Anaheim – C Joe Pavelski (41-38-79), C Joe Thornton (11-65-76), LW Patrick Marleau (33-37-70), G Antti Niemi (39-17-7, 2.39, .913, 4 SHO), C Logan Couture (23-31-54), D Dan Boyle (12-24-36); Los Angeles – G Jonathan Quick (27-17-4, 2.07, .915, 6 SHO), D Drew Doughty (10-27-37, +18), C Anze Kopitar (29-41-70), C Jeff Carter (27-23-50), RW Justin Williams (19-24-43), C Mike Richards (11-30-41)
Fast facts: The Kings eliminated San Jose in the conference semifinals a season ago, with five games being decided by one goal. … The Kings had identical 23-14-4 records at home and on the road. … Former Otter Jordan Nolan set career highs with six goals and 10 points in 64 games in his first full season with the Kings.
Outlook: The Sharks score goals, but the Kings shut down teams that score goals. Defense is more important at playoff time.
Prediction: Kings in 6 games
Game 1 – Thursday at San Jose, 10:30 p.m.
Game 2 – Sunday at San Jose, 10 p.m.
Game 3 – Tuesday at Los Angeles, 10 p.m.
Game 4 – April 24 at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m.
Game 5 – April 26 at San Jose, TBD*
Game 6 – April 28 at Los Angeles, TBD*
Game 7 – April 30 at San Jose, TBD*
* If necessary
Five former Erie Otters are set to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin tonight…
(includes position, age, current NHL club, total NHL games played and years played)
* Spent most of the season with Hamilton (AHL), where he scored a career-high 18 goals and had 36 points, one shy of his career high (37 with Rockford, 2007-08) … had no points and five penalty minutes in seven games with the Canadiens … hasn’t recorded a point in the NHL since the 2011-12 season (two goals, four points in a career-high 39 games)
D Carlo Colaiacovo (31), St. Louis – 401 games(2002-04, 2005-14)
* Played in 25 games, and was a healthy scratch numerous times … has one goal, four points, a minus-4 rating and 18 penalty minutes this season … has played in 31 games the past two seasons after topping the 60-game mark every year from 2008-12 … has 20 games of playoff experience, including nine with Detroit a season ago C Jordan Nolan (24), Los Angeles – 134 games (2011-14)
* Set career highs with six goals, 10 points, 54 penalty minutes and 64 games in his first full season with the Kings … made his playoff debut a season ago (no points, no penalty minutes in seven games) … played in his 100th career game Dec. 21 against Colorado … son of Buffalo Sabres head coach Ted Nolan
F Ryan O’Reilly (23), Colorado – 345 games(2009-14)
* Led the Avalanche with 28 goals, third with 64 points and fourth with 36 assists … set career highs in goals and points, and was one assist shy of matching his season best (37 in 2011-12) … nearly became the first player in NHL history to finish a season without any penalty minutes … had two PIMs this season and eight in the past three seasons LW Mike Rupp (34), Minnesota – 610 games (2002-04, 2005-14)
* Played in only 13 games this season, partly because he was recovering from offseason knee injury … has to serve the final three games of a four-game suspension for a hit to St. Louis center T.J. Oshie’s head last week … has played in 58 NHL games the past two seasons after playing in 60 or more every year from 2006-12
Note: Detroit C Riley Sheahan, 22, was the Otters’ fourth-round pick in the 2007 OHL Priority Selection, but never signed with the club.
Get ready for the Erie Otters’ Western Conference final series against Guelph with an hour-long edition of Otters Talk on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Share your questions and thoughts with Victor Fernandes by heading to the Shootout blog. Can’t join in at that time? Post your questions on Twitter at www.twitter.com/goeriehockey or send them by e-mail to email@example.com, and then check out a recap of the chat on Shootout and Twitter.
GUELPH, Ontario – The Erie Otters and Guelph Storm – the OHL’s top two teams in the regular season – will meet for a chance to play for a league championship.
The Storm edged Midwest Division rival London 5-4 in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals Friday night at Sleeman Centre to close out the series and clinch a matchup with the Otters in the best-of-seven conference finals, which begin Thursday at 7 p.m. in Guelph. The Storm (52-12-2-2) and Otters (52-14-2-0) had the top two records in the league.
The top-seeded Storm also will host the third-seeded Otters in Game 2 Friday at 7:30 p.m. before the series heads to Erie Insurance Arena for Games 3 and 4 on April 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. If necessary, the Storm would play at home in Game 5 on April 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Game 7 on April 28 at 7 p.m. The Otters would host Game 6 on April 26 at 7 p.m.
The Storm won the regular-season series 4-2.
No. 3 Erie vs. No. 1 Guelph
Game 1 - Thursday at Guelph, 7 p.m.
Game 2 - Friday at Guelph, 7:30 p.m.
Game 3 - April 21 at Erie, 7 p.m.
Game 4 - April 22 at Erie, 7 p.m.
Game 5 - April 25 at Guelph, 7:30 p.m.*
Game 6 - April 26 at Erie, 7 p.m.*
Game 7 - April 28 at Guelph, 7 p.m.*
* If necessary
Erie Otters C Kyle Pettit was back on the ice for a full practice for the first time since having his left calf slashed by a skate blade in Game 4 of the opening-round series against Saginaw. He’s expected to rejoin the lineup for the start of the Western Conference finals. For now, he will focus on regaining his game shape.
“It’s pretty exciting again. It’s been a slow process, but it’s getting a lot better, ” said Pettit, who skated on his own twice earlier in the week without pain. “That was really surprising to me,” he said. “Maybe I’m a little hesitant, but it’s going to take some time just to get back to normal. … It’s what the practice is for.”
Some players watched the webcast Game 4 in the Guelph-London series on their off night Thursday. Some enjoyed a second day away from hockey. But the coaching staff was hard at work, as they traveled to London, Ontario, to watch the Storm’s 6-3 win at Budweiser Gardens. They are familiar with the Storm and Knights, as the Otters faced their Midwest Division rivals six times apiece in the regular season. But the Otters have tinkered with their strategy from series to series, head coach Kris Knoblauch said. Those teams have done that as well.
“They’re always changing their game a little bit, and they’ll change their game when they play us,” Knoblauch said before Friday’s practice at Erie Insurance Arena, the team’s first time back on the ice since completing a four-game sweep of Sault Ste. Marie on Tuesday in the conference semifinals. “You can watch games on video, but you only see a third of the ice. (Watching games live) gives you a better idea of what’s going on. It gives you a little bit better perspective of what they’re doing.”
Looks like the Otters will have a full week of practice before starting the conference finals. Knoblauch said he expects the best-of-seven series to begin next Friday. So he will need to keep practice fresh to keep his players sharp.
“This time of year you can only practice so much,” he said. Pettit is happy about the long break, though. “I’m getting a lot of rest and working on (my leg),” he said. ”
____________________________________________________________________________________________________Oscar Dansk seems like a more confident goaltender these days. He’s still adjusting to what he called a “new experience” – life as a backup to Devin Williams. But Dansk has worked hard in practice to regain the form that made him one of the league’s top goaltenders in the regular season. He also has returned to the old pads he used in the regular season.
“I just have to learn how to handle this kind of situation myself,” he said. “A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to get my feel back, getting back in the groove. I’ve felt really good in practice.”
The Erie Otters’ No. 1 line of Connor Brown, Dane Fox and Connor McDavid moved another step closer to each winning an OHL regular-season award.
McDavid joined Fox – the league’s overager of the year – as an award winner Friday, as the second-year center captured the William Hanley Trophy as the most sportsmanlike player after ranking among the league leaders with 71 assists, 99 points and a plus-47 rating. He had only 20 penalty minutes, which was the lowest among the top 12 scorers overall.
McDavid is the second player in franchise history (Brad Boyes, 2001 and 2002) and third 17-year-old in league history (Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, 1978 with Sault Ste. Marie and Kirk Muller, 1983 with Guelph Platers) to earn the honor. McDavid had 71 voting points to lead a list that included Oshawa left wing Michael Dal Colle (50 points) and London center Chris Tierney (35 points) after finishing second in voting to Belleville center Tyler Graovac as a 16-year-old rookie a season ago. McDavid will receive the trophy at the OHL Awards Ceremony on June 3 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Brown could McDavid and Fox at the annual event, since the veteran winger and captain is a finalist for the Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s most outstanding player. McDavid also will be the league’s nominee for CHL’s Sportsman of the Year, which will be announced at the CHL Awards event May 24 in London, Ontario, as part of the Memorial Cup tournament.
“It’s a tremendous honor to win this award,” McDavid said in a statement. “It’s really important to me to be respectful on the ice, and there’s a reward for that.”
William Hanley Trophy voting
(voting points in parenthese)
C Connor McDavid, Erie (71) – 28 goals, 71 assists, 99 points, +47 rating, 20 PIM (56 games)
LW Michael Dal Colle, Oshawa (50) – 39 goals, 56 assists, 95 points, 34 PIM (67 games)
C Chris Tierney, London (35) – 40 goals, 49 assists, 89 points, +44, 12 PIM (67 games)
Minnesota Wild winger and former Erie Otter Michael Rupp has been suspended four games without pay for a hit to the head of St. Louis Blues winger T.J. Oshie on Thursday night, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced Friday.
Rupp was given a match penalty for intent to injure. Rupp, who has one point and 23 penalty minutes in 13 games of an injury-plagued season, begins serving his suspension in Sunday’s regular-season finale against Nashville, and continues with the Wild’s first three Stanley Cup playoff games. Rupp also will forfeit $7,692.31 from his salary, which will be added to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund, according to the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Check out video of the hit, more about this story and the league’s explanation for the ruling here…