Note: This article was written before the first round of simulations occurring on 6/27/20
Hello, and welcome to the first edition of a new season of Under 250: The VHLM Report. In these series, we will be taking a look at the trends and topics from the past week in the VHLM. What twists and turns will our minor league hold? Stay tuned to find out!
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Another regular season has come and gone, and it is time we head into the playoffs! Who will be crowned this season’s Founder’s Cup Champions? Will it be our Prime Minister’s Cup-winning Minnesota Storm? Or will it be a plucky underdog, taking out the big teams on their route to immortality? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out! Without further ado, let’s dive into our regular season review and see just how the end of the season shook out.
The aforementioned Minnesota Storm lead the league as they have for a while now, ensuring the number one overall spot heading into the playoffs. They will be matching up in the first round against the Miami Marauders, who make the playoffs as one of the league-wide wildcard spots. The second overall Saskatoon Wild will go up against the next wildcard of the Ottawa Lynx. Following this is the Theusch Division winners of the Philadelphia Reapers, who will be playing the Mississauga Hounds. The final matchup of the first round will be between the Mexico City Kings and the Las Vegas Aces, two teams which finished with just a point between them, the Kings advancing with their additional three overtime losses, despite their wins being one fewer than the Aces. Missing out on the playoffs we have Halifax 21st, the Yukon Rush, the San Diego Marlins, and the Houston Bulls. Good luck next season!
Let’s post the ELO chart one final time, and with those statistics in mind, dive into the first round preview!
First Round Preview
Minnesota Storm (1) vs Miami Marauders (8)
Certainly, making the playoffs in their inaugural season is cause for celebration in Miami, but is it crazy to think they have a chance in upsetting Cup contenders in Minnesota? In their regular-season matchups, while the Storm were able to score consistently against the Marauders, Miami also caused Minnesota some trouble of their own, conceding the most goals against of any regular-season series. Granted, there were eight games played against each other compared to some 5 or 7 game series, but ultimately it is clear that the Marauders can do some damage to the solid Minnesota defence, as evidenced by them beating the Storm in 3 of 8 matches. Not a majority, but good enough to not write a surprise victory off!
The Storm relies on a host of depth talent, with top goalscorer in the league Ike Bennet providing a real threat in front of the net. While Bennet is the only member in the top 10 players in the league for points, the whole team produces, as evidenced by their league-leading 345 goals scored. This season, VHLM vet Mickey Dickson has stepped up to the plate, reaching a career-high of 95 points, while defensemen Liam Flaten sits at third in the league for defensemen with 111 points. The Marauders rely on a studded blue line themselves, with Kosmo Kramerev and Wolf Stansson at first and third on their roster for points. They are particularly strong at the centre position, with Dakota Lamb and Andre Lebastard reaching third and sixth in the league for points scored by centres.
Saskatoon Wild (2) vs Ottawa Lynx (7)
Our next series will pit the Corcoran Division champions Saskatoon Wild against the Ottawa Lynx. The Lynx finished the regular season last in their division, but their division was the strongest of any, with the highest total points between their three teams. The Wild should feel strong going into this matchup, which they are heavily favoured in after winning all six of their regular-season matchups against the Lynx, including one shootout win. The Wild scored more against the Lynx than any team not named Houston or San Diego, and are looking to continue this trend.
The Lynx are not likely to go down without a fight, but a lot will be riding on their rookie goaltender Ajay Krishna to carry the team as their highest TPA player, after their midseason firesale to Philadelphia. Saskatoon, on the other hand, has a host of top talent, including four players at the cap. Their top centre, Lucas Brandt, will be looking to lead the line along with the team’s highest goalscorer Timothy Brown whose 58 goals is tied for fourth in the league. Tyler Walker is tied for the league lead in assists and is vital in moving the puck around for those scoring opportunities. As shown in the ELO charts, the Wild are top contenders along with Minnesota, as they made up the difference, each with essentially the same ELO by the end of the season.
Philadelphia Reapers (3) vs Mississauga Hounds (6)
The Philadelphia Reapers were on a bit of a run there to end the season. With 26 games remaining, they moved for Ottawa’s big stars of Adam Syreck, DeFenz Mann, and Big Chungus, as well as Rich Dickbutt McFudderdudder for some very solid depth, to complement their already star-studded roster. The Reapers have an incredible six capped players and are looking very dangerous on both ends. They have four of the top 10 players in the league for points, including Adam Syreck and Bob Helminen leading the pack with the top two slots, and those two are joined by Big Chungus’s 61 goals, good for second in the league. With all that power it seems difficult for the Mississauga Hounds to mount a challenge, but not impossible.
The odds are certainly stacked against them, as the Reapers have shown they can consistently beat the Hounds, winning six times while only losing twice, though each team won once in a shootout. One thing in the Hound’s favour is their own ability to score, and while they might not be exactly favoured in a shooting gallery, it might be their best chance. Other than the Minnesota Storm, the Hounds were the team that scored the most on the Reapers, although they did have three more games to do it in compared to the Aces and Kings, for example. Led by right-winger Michael Mac, the Hounds have a competitive roster, with a lot of balanced scoring options. Their goaltender Jacob Tonn will be very important in seeing how far they can go; the capped netminder had a relatively poor regular season compared to his ability, but if he turns it up in the playoffs the Hounds have the opportunity to go far.
Mexico City Kings (4) vs Las Vegas Aces (5)
Finally, we come to the closest out of all the first-round matchups, with the Mexico City Kings taking on the Las Vegas Aces. Despite the Kings maintaining a steady ELO lead, they have never really widened the gap since they split apart around their 45th game of the season. This is the only match in which the lower-seeded team might actually be favoured. Despite the Kings coming away with one more point in the regular season, thanks to their extra overtime losses, the Aces were the team that narrowly took the regular-season matchup. The two teams went three regular time wins apiece, but the Aces took two additional matches in the shootout, giving them a 5-3 edge. Additionally, they scored almost identically, with the Aces once more narrowly taking the lead, 22 goals to 20.
The Kings don’t have many statistical leaders on their team but are built to last with all of their players up and down the roster getting on the score sheet. Chris Hylands is their top guy with 107 points, while their goaltender is Zamboni Driver, a strong performer that is looking to improve on his play in last season’s playoffs that saw his team lose in the second round. Their field general of Viktor Alexei Kamenov is integral to their play, leading the team in assists from the blue line along with Chance Rust on the second pair. The Aces have a little bit more star power, with the top assist man in the league, Alex Letang, leading their blue line (he is tied for first with 94 assists). Gregg Stallion and Jeff Blaze, each with 49 goals, are lethal in front of the net, and will be key in this series. Additionally, the Aces have strong depth options, having attracted a number of midseason signings of players from reputable agencies whose skills will help to even the playing field in the playoffs.
That’s all for this edition of Under 250: The VHLM Review. Thank you all for reading, and stay tuned next week for the inside scoop on all that’s going on in the league. Until next time!
Players Mentioned: @Caboose30, @Brewins15, @flatl99, @Mongoose87, @ahockeyguy, @dlamb, @Andre LeBastard, @Hooperorama, @twists, @a_Ferk, @Advantage, @Spade18, @Mike, @Ferda, @Weretarantula, @Big Bob, @LastOneUp, @MexicanCow123, @Hylands33, @Tape-to-Tape, @BigTittySmitty, @turkey2349, @Spartan, @SweatyBeaver, @NyQuil
VSN Writer Mr_Hatter