2012 QMJHL Playoffs: Third Round

The 2012 QMJHL championships start tonight, so here's some closing thoughts on the last two weeks of playoff hockey in the QMJHL.

  • No surprise that Saint John is in the final, but how about the Rimouski Oceanic? They finished seventh in the league but are now in the final two. Rookie coach Serge Beausoleil quickly becoming one of the more promising names behind the benches in the league.
  • Rimouski averages 4 goals-per-game and allows 3 goals-per-game. Meanwhile, Saint John is scoring at more than 6 goals-per-game rate and allowing just over 2 goals-per-game.
  • One thing that really surprised me with Rimouski was their defensive play. The whole team made an effort to keep Halifax to the outside and block as many shots as they could, which ultimately led to the Mooseheads elimination in the third round. They'll have a tougher job against the talents in Saint John though.
  • Many may have felt that Saint John was closer to the pack this year then last year. After all, this season they only won the regular season by a six point margin compared to 17 points the previous year. But keep in mind the changes they dealt with: Huberdeau, Jurco, Tesink and Galiev all missed major time, while Coyle didn't join the squad until the second half. As scary as it might be, they're better than they showed in the regular season.
  • Dealing with the roster shuffle during the regular season should mean that Huberdeau's suspension for the first two games of the series (due to a dangerous hit on Chicoutimi's Charles Hudon) won't slow the machine down too much.
  • Interesting that Huberdeau is the team's best faceoff guy in the playoffs (57%), although he normally only takes the draw during special teams. 4th liner Jason Cameron is next with (55%). Charles Coyle, Danick Gauthier and Stephen MacAulay are all sub-50% success, while Zach Phillips is barely better at 51%.
  • By comparison, Rimouski's top faceoff guy is Alexandre Mallet with 57%. Mallet at 19 has definitely opened some eyes in this playoff run. He forms the Oceanic's top unit with Alex Belzile and Peter Trainor, all under-rated and undrafted veterans.
  • Rimouski's Pierre-Luc Pelletier seemed to be tasked with defending against Halifax's Nathan MacKinnon in the third round and at times, MacKinnon's frustration was visible. His job will be a lot harder against Saint John's depth though.
  • A pretty impressive turn-around by Columbus prospect Petr Straka. Last year with Rimouski, he scored just 25 points all season long while bogged down with injury. So far in the playoffs, he's got 19 points in 17 games. He adds an important secondary scoring element to the Oceanic.
  • Another interesting story is Scott Oke. Oke was with Saint John last season for the championship and the Memorial Cup. I don't think anyone could have expected that he would be facing his old team in the league championships when they dealt him to Rimouski at the mid-season mark. Draft eligible last year, Oke has a great mix of size and skill. I remember last year it being speculated that if he played a larger role for a different team, he might have been drafted. Could that be a possibility this time around?
  • On Saint John's side, it's easy to forget about Stanislav Galiev after he missed a large chunk of the year with injury, but he continues to show why he's a top flight QMJHL player and a star NHL prospect. Fourth in playoff scoring and averaging two points per game, Galiev has always raised his game for the postseason.
  • Notable as well was the 8th ranked Chicoutimi making it to the third round. They were a team that took some time to gel after some mid-season trades, but it paid off for them. They could lose both Pageau and Gibson to the pro ranks this summer.
  • No playoff goaltenders were busier than Zach Fucale and Christopher Gibson. Both faced over 500 shots in the playoffs (on average 29.8/game for Fucale and 33.1/game for Gibson). Have to wonder how much fatigue was a factor at a certain point, especially for the rookie Fucale who has been playing in every game since December.
  • Much has been written about Nathan MacKinnon, but his linemate and fellow rookie Jonathan Drouin deserves some acclaim. He joined the team at the mid-season point and really came into his own in the playoffs, finishing just one point behind MacKinnon in scoring with 27 points in 17 games. Next season will be an exciting one for Halifax.
  • Final note: Quebec announced that Grigorenko has mono. Apparently he felt tired during the series versus Halifax, which may help explain his lack-lustre play. If he would have been 100%, who is to say how that series would have turned out.
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