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NA Wild Card Round Prediction


Da_Berr
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With only one or two games remaining in the regular season, who will be participating in the VHL playoffs is almost set in stone.  The only noticeable changes that can happen at this point are centred around the European Conference with Malmo, Prague and Davos fighting for a playoff spot. Of the three, Malmo is leading the pack with 77 points in 71 games. Both Davos and Prague are close with 74 and 73 points each, with a game in hand. Due to the uncertainty of who will make the playoffs in the European Conference, I'll be covering matchups in the NA conference first.

 

If you didn't know already, 5 teams from each conference will make the playoffs. The top 3 teams of each conference will be guaranteed a top seed and a spot in the first round. While the 4th and 5th seed will battle it out in a best of 5 wildcard round. 

 

 

Wild Card Round | VAN vs D.C.

 

Forwards (D.C.)

On paper, purely TPE wise D.C. has a better forward core than VAN. Louth and Graves have both been phenomenal this season, each respectively getting 104 and 103 points. They'll keep each other in check for this series, and the same can go for Tocco and Lesieur, each with 92 and 99 points this season. Despite the top two forwards from each team being comparable to each other, past that D.C.'s forward depth is much better than VANs. Comparing the two rosters TPE wise, only Louth is better for VAN than the opposing man on D.C. Yet, both team's forwards in terms of regular-season production have been nearly identical to each other; that could be a result of line chemistry or puck luck. When these two teams face off with one another, D.C. will have a slight advantage in forward skill.

 

Defense (VAN)
Once again, D.C. seems to have the advantage for D, purely based on TPE and depth. Yet, despite this case, VAN's D core has been outperforming D.C.'s across the board. Downey this season has cemented himself as one of the best D in the league, and an elite two-way player with 104 points. Valentino has also had himself a great, but quieter season having 90 points. Past that, Manzer and Adrienne have both been out competing  their counterparts on D.C. in points, hits and SB. The lowered point totals for D.C. this year is most likely more indicative of their struggles as a team this season, rather than their players' abilities. Even with that considered, it is difficult to ignore pure performance from a player, so I'm giving VAN the advantage here.

 

 Goalies (VAN)
For positions, a goalie's value and performance are difficult to judge, as many of their stats are reliant on the team around them. If we are basing it purely off of TPE, VAN has the advantage with Spyro. It is also worth noting that VAN has a better backup in Sjostrom. Although it is always a bad sign if your starting goalie has to sit a game or gets pulled, a better backup can help relieve some of the stress that lies on the starter's shoulders. Spyro this season has also been outcompeting Wolski in terms of SV%, 0.914 to 0.909. Despite Wolski having a better GAA, I believe that compared to SV%, GAA is more team reliant. Spyro is the type of goalie that can steal a couple of games from a series, which I don't know if Wolski could do.
 

Special Teams (D.C.)
Special teams can either make or break a team, and I believe that this is what will determine the fate of the series. In this category D.C. and VAN are complete opposites. VAN has the second-worst PK in the league with a measly 77.12%, whereas D.C. is fourth-best, with a 82.87% PK. On the PP VAN is third-best in the league with a 22.22%, and D.C. is sitting mid-bottom of the league with a 16.87%. For the majority of the season, VAN has had troubles with penalties, and it shows with them accumulating almost 100 minutes more than D.C. sitting in the box. Despite those concerns, they have reigned in their difficulties and in the last couple of games have been having fewer troubles in the box. Only time will tell if it will stay that way for VAN, or if they'll return to their old ways. If the latter happens, there is a high chance that D.C. will win this series.

 

Momentum (VAN) 
Momentum going into the postseason is huge for any team. VAN in their last 10 games have gone 8-1-1, which was enough to pull them into a playoff spot in the first place. D.C. on the other hand, has been maintaining a steady pace of 5-5-0 in their last ten. This category favours VAN. 

 

FINAL VAN 3-1

Overall
The two teams rosters are extremely comparable. TPE wise both teams star players are almost exactly the same amount of TPE, although D.C. has better depth across the board (past the first 2 players for D and F). D.C. probably should've been a much better team this season than they were with their roster. Maybe it is due to bad luck or poor line choices, but they have been consistently struggling this season. In a way, they resemble VAN before the MAL trade, where Jungkok was shipped off. Despite not being a bad player by any means of the imagination, he just didn't fit into the team that well and as such, was detrimental to the team's success. Maybe if D.C. got rid of a player or two, they could become much better, although I have not idea who they'd get rid of. Also, it's a bit late for that this season. Like I said earlier this series will also greatly depend on VAN's ability to not make penalties. Perhaps the GM will find lines that will really click and make the series more competitive than expected, but as of now, I see VAN having little to no trouble beating D.C.

 

1009 words, claiming week ending Aug 23 and Aug 30

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