Like it or not The London Knights have their work cut out for them in the first round of the 2015 OHL playoffs with their rivals The Kitchener Rangers coming to town. Eight wins separated these two teams and as always a series between these two will shape up to be a good one. Over this season London and Kitchener have been very evenly matched as both teams have come out on top on three separate occasions, but when it comes to the playoffs it’s a different story. The last time the two matched up in the playoffs The Knights came out on top 4-1 in the series and went on to win their second OHL championship in 2 years. Taking a look back at this season we can see how evenly matched these teams really are.
October 3, 2014- Rangers win first meeting between the teams in London 4-1 thanks to a 3 point night from Justin Baily and a 30 save performance from goaltender Matthew Greenfield
December 16, 2014- Knights get out played in the first 2 periods getting out shot 35-15 but manage to keep the game tied before Mitch Marner scores in the 3rd to give the knights the lead for good. Final Knights 5 Rangers 4
January 20, 2015- regulation solves nothing the game is forced to overtime where Ryan Rupert scores on the power play to give the Knights the 3-2 win.
February 3, 2015- Rangers take an early 2 goal lead and potted 2 more after a Victor Mete goal to secure a 4-2 win over the Mitch Marnerless London Knights.
February 24, 2015- Rangers once again come out of the gate hot as they take an fast 3 goal lead in the first driving Knights goaltender Michael Giugovaz form the net after allowing 3 goals on 7 shots. The Knights managed to get one in the second frame before Mitch Marner and Matt Rupert score in the 3rd to force overtime. Overtime as usual solved nothing forcing a shootout. In the shootout Matt Rupert was the only one of both teams to plot a goal giving The Knights the 4-3 win.
March 20, 2015- The Rangers took advantage of a tired Knights team who just came off a 5 game road trip and pounded them 8-1 witch tied the knights biggest loss of the season, (the other came 10-3 to Barrie in January) both Ryan MacInnis and Max Iafrate had two goals for the Rangers as they pick up the momentum going in to the post season.
Going in to game one between these teams on Friday it is clear that The Rangers have all the momentum after the 8-1 beating they gave to The Knights. The house of green is not likely to forget that and will try and come out with a better effort. After the 8-1 loss Knights Defenseman Victor Mete said “They can take this (win) the right way or the wrong way, if they take it the right way we will come out that much harder if not they will play us the same way they did tonight “, the idea is that the knights hope to lull the rangers in to a false sense of and advantage and take advantage of the mindset to gain a series lead, and try to get it over fast but that is easier said than done
The Breakdown- who has the advantage at each part of the ice.
Forwards- I don’t believe there will be a person who can say that Kitchener has the better forwards they do have talent in forwards like Ryan Macinnis, Brandon Robinson and David Miller (who the acquired at the trade deadline from Sault Ste. Marie) but combined they only have 164 points combined while the Knights on the other hand Mitch Marner Christian Devorak and Max Domi who combined for 337 points witch is the second best 3 man total in the OHL. With that in mind the knights clearly have the superior firepower.
Defense- defense is a different story from the forwards because the knights sport a much younger and inexperienced defense core (4 rookies on the lineup at the end of the season) especially after trading top defenseman Dakota Mermis this is a defense more suited to a run next year, on the other hand Kitchener has one of the better top defense pairings in the League with Max Iafrate and Frank Hora running the back end. At the end of the day the rangers just have the more experience on the blue line and that is where it will count.
Goaltending – possibly the most important category another where experience is on Kitchener’s side they come into this series with one of the best goalies in the OHL over the last 3 years Jake Paterson. Now fans of the London knights have been blessed with having a flurry of very good goalies over the last few years including Steve mason and Michael Houser but this year tandem of Michael Giugovaz and Tyler Parsons have shown sighs go greatness and stellar play they don’t quite match up very well against one of the best in the OHL.
Special teams – special teams always play a key role in the playoffs and they will do the same here and either way it is a close competition for power play and penalty kill. The Rangers have the number 2 power play in the OHL while the Knights are no pushover themselves sitting at number 5. On the penalty killing side the rangers hold down the 4th best penalty kill in the league witch crushes the knights who sit with the 5th worst in the league. While there is very little difference in how the 2 teams run the power play the fact that it will come down to the PK will make a big impact on the series as a whole.
X-Factor- If The Knights want to succeed in this first round they will need to rely on their number 1 defenseman Julius Bergman. The young Swedish defenseman has been the bright spot on The Knights blue line and has been able to adjust to the North American style of play. The quarterback of the Knights power play has been able to chip in with some secondary scoring. Kitchener will be relying on their all-star goaltender Jake Paterson the OHL Journeyman has been a thorn in The Knights side for years and it is doubtful that that will change in his last in the League if he can stand on his head he may be one of the only goalies in the OHL that can stop the powerhouse that is The London Knights offense
Conclusion- while the rangers may have the advantage in goaltending defense and special teams the knights offence is the 4th best in the OHL and have the potential to overwhelm a team’s defense and goaltender. But this will come down to the last game to decide this one
Winner: London in 7
The London Knights and The Kitchener Rangers are one of the hardest hitting rivalries in the OHL today and with the 2015 OHL playoffs about to kick off this series will add to the fire that that is the distain these teams have for each other. The long road to the memorial cup starts now.