Here is the latest when it comes to the various playoff races of interest to Oiler fans:
The unthinkable has happened in Red Deer, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' Rebels being eliminated in five games by the Medicine Hat Tigers. Darcy Kuemper, who was stellar in goal for Red Deer against the Oil Kings, did not play up to snuff in the first three games of the series. In the last two he was injured and replaced by Dawson Guhle, who played admirably well under the circumstances; shutting out Medicine Hat in game four. In game five Guhle was average at best, allowing 5 goals on 33 shots, including 3 goals on 8 shots in the third period with his team up 4-1. Goaltending was the story in this series, with Oiler prospect Tyler Bunz all but totally shutting the door before allowing 4 goals on 45 shots in game 5. All told, Bunz allowed just 7 goals in the five games on 166 shots. Nugent-Hopkins was held off the scoresheet in the first four games of the series before netting 2 assists in game 5, but it was not enough. He finished the series as a minus-5 with 2 points in five games. He ends the 2011 playoffs with 4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points and a minus-3 rating in Red Deer's 9 games played. The numbers are not exactly awe-inspiring, but they don't necessarily reflect his overall ability.
Sean Couturier's Drummondville Voltiguers were also eliminated from the playoffs today in six games by Gatineau. They faced similar problems to Red Deer in that their goaltending was well below average and the oppositon's was solid. Guillaume Nadeau started well in net for Drummondville, but couldn't keep it up. A switch in game six to rookie Domenic Graham did not help, as he allowed 4 goals on 18 shots. Couturier had 3 goals, 0 assists in the 6 games in the series, along with a minus-6 rating. He completed the playoffs with 6 goals, 5 assists, 11 points and a plus-3 rating in 10 games. Once again, not exactly awe-inspiring.
It is now left to Huberdeau's St. John Seadogs and Ryan Strome's Niagra IceDogs to wow scouts during their playoff runs. Both teams are in the Conference Finals of the QMJHL and OHL.
The Oklahoma City Barons are down 2-0 in their series against Hamilton. The Barons outshot the Bulldogs 39-23 in game two, but lost 2-1. Other than goaltending, the powerplay has been a major story, with the Bulldogs going 4/12 in the series and the Barons 0/6. Game 3 goes Tuesday in OKC. The AHL uses a 2-3-2 style of playoff, which means that after 2 games in Hamilton, the teams will play the next 3 in Oklahoma City before going back to Hamilton for games 6 and 7 (if necessary).
The San Jose Sharks aren't doing Oiler fans many favors. Once again, this team is proving to be extremely mentally fragile. After dominating the Kings in the first period of game one, LA has come back to control much of the play since then. The Sharks barely escaped game one with a win and got shut out in game two, surrendering home ice advantage to the Kings. Oiler fans will be hoping for a San Jose win in game three on Tuesday, because the Oilers' pick from Los Angeles will be better the sooner the Kings get eliminated from the post season.
Happy playoff watching! More later...