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VSN Presents: Under U250- S76 VHLM Playoff Preview


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BoG Update 2/22  |  75: 25-1  |  Around the VHL- Feb 14  |  The Talents Behind the Trophies: Matt Bentz Trophy

 

 

With the regular season coming to a close and the playoffs just around the corner, this week we are going to preview each VHLM playoff series and check out which key players could make an impact for their teams. The standings pretty much played out the way most expected them to. In the West, the Houston Bulls maintained their dominance over the entire league and finished with a very convincing 123 point season. This is their best showing in team history and will nab them their second ever Prime Minister's Cup. In a distant, but still very respectable second spot in the West, were the Mexico City Kings. Although they couldn't catch the Bulls, Mexico managed to eclipse the 100 point plateau by finishing with 53 win, 106 point season. This strong performance netted them the third seed for the playoffs. Yukon came in 12 points behind Mexico with a 43-21-8 record which was good for 94 points and the fourth seed in the playoffs. The Rush fans and organization were definitely happy with how their campaign turned out this season but going into the playoffs I would say there is still a very clear divide from the top 3 seeds and the rest of the field. And finally, the last team to make it out of the West was the Las Vegas Aces. They limped into the playoffs with a subpar 32-33-7 record, but don't let that fool you. They've been playing very strong hockey for quite awhile now. If you recall earlier in the season, the Aces started very slow and in my first Power Rankings of the season I mentioned that you shouldn't sleep on this team.  They will get the sixth seed in the playoffs and will have their hands full with the Kings, but I wouldn't rule out an upset. 

 

Over in the East,  things were equally as predictable. Minnesota tightened their grip on the top spot of the Eastern Conference in the ladder end of the season. They finished with 108 points which was 28 points ahead of the next team. It was really never in doubt. The Storm boasted the best offense in the league this season and they will look to keep things going in the playoffs at they with get the 2 vs 7 matchup to start their trophy hunt. The next closest team in the East was the Miami Marauders who finished with 37-29-6 record which was good for an even 80 points. Rounding out the 8 playoff teams are Ottawa in the 7th seed and Philadelphia  in the 8th seed. As previously stated, it feels like there is a massive drop-off outside the top 3 seeds this season. I don't foresee any major upsets this season, but within the top 3 I feel like it's anyone's game. Now that we've recapped which teams made the playoffs, let's start breaking down each series!

 

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This matchup is somewhat poetic. On one side you have the Bulls who are undeniably the best team in the league this season, while on the other side you have the defending champions from Season 75. I see this as a passing of the torch-like scenario. Houston is just too skilled and too deep to go out in the first round. They can roll 3 lines that are legitimate threats every time they are on the ice, and their defensive core can shut you down on any given night. The early season waiver claim of defenseman Reylynn Reinhart has proven to be crucial for the Bulls, as he has moved his way up the depth chart over the course of the season and been one of the key players on the Bulls' blueline. Netminder Trent Gibson has seen his stats stabilize  nicely after a rocky start as well, and if he is on his game for the playoffs, teams are going to have a tough time. While the Reapers do boast some lethal forwards with the likes of Kjell Nilsson and Thomas King, I don't think that will be enough to pull of the shocking upset. That kind of offense is tough to contain so I could see Philly taking a game or two and avoiding the sweep. Prediction: HOU in 5

 

 

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This matchup features two teams who were at the very bottom of the heap last season. That being said, this is a great example of how quickly you can turn your team around in the VHLM. Minnesota made a massive overhaul during the draft last season and loaded up on second and third round draft picks. They drafted well and then bolstered their team even more with trades to become a legitimate powerhouse this season. On the flipside though, you have Ottawa who were forced to forfeit their 1st round pick, and while they have a couple nice pieces, they just don't compare to Minnesota. The Lynx have done well to get themselves into the playoffs, but with two total defensemen who are both under 100 TPE, and only one forward over 200 TPE, I don't see Ottawa being able to hang with with best team in the East. The Storm are stacked offensively and are led by Brendan Telker who put up 115 points during the regular season. While the Storm aren't quite as deep on defense, they are still formidible and are led by their top blueliner Logan Moore. On their last line of defense, the Storm have netminder Tater Tot who has been amongst the best goaltenders in the league all season. I think the Storm will make short work of Ottawa in Round 1, but with that being said, crazier things have happened. Prediction: MIN in 4

 

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The 3 vs 6 matchup is an intriguing one, as two of the hottest teams in the Western Conference will clash. This is a rematch of the VHLM Semi-Finals from last season as the Aces will be looking for redemption after being ousted in 5 games. This will be a tall task for the Aces as the Kings are arguably just a strong as they were last season. This will also be the last shot at a Founder's Cup for Mexico City general manager Hylands, before he accepts his new gig in Malmo next season. Mexico features 2 solid lines of forwards that are absolute gamechangers and many of them have playoff experience to boot. They were also able to strengthen their defensive core with a pair of trades this season that saw them bring in top end players such as Clinton Giftopoulos and Yuuto Kira Cloudera. For Vegas, while they don't have quite the same high end talent, or depth, they still field a very solid roster and should not be counted out. While they are certainly underdogs in this series, they always have a chance to steal games with guys like potent 50-goal scorer Evgeni Shevkov and one of the top goalies in the league in Aksu Maronen. This could be a scrappy series that could be alot of fun to watch. I expect Mexico City to move on, though they will be tested. Prediction: MEX in 6

 

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The last matchup of Round 1 features fourth seed Yukon Rush taking on 5th seed Miami Marauders. Naturally the 4v5  matchup is a close and entertaining series, and this one looks to be no exception. Both teams are solid but I think the edge goes to Yukon thanks to their dynamic defensemen. When you are getting 70+ points from your d-men to help supplement your offense, you are getting a unique advantage that most other teams don't have. Yukon has 3 blueliners with 60 or more points, with Olof Samuelsson leading the entire team in scoring with 86 points. The Rush also get a balanced attack from their top 6 forwards, meanwhile in net, Matthew Sovick Jr has been rock solid this season. For Miami, while their defensemen may not match up to Yukon, I would say their forwards definitely pack a bit more of a punch. This is especially true for the duo of Phoenix Dawson and Alexander the Great. Also, in true Miami Marauders fashion, they made a nice mid-season addition by picking up recreate Zeedayno Chara. Chara helps stabilize an otherwise weak defensive core and was a massive pickup for Miami.  ClapbombsRUs has enjoyed a relatively steady season in net for Miami and he will have to play his best hockey if Miami wants to move on to the second round. Prediction: YUK in 6

 

That wraps up the Season 76 VHLM Playoff Preview. Do you agree? Disagree? Comment down below your own predictions and state who you think will go all the way to win the Founders Cup! Thanks for reading and until next time, take care!

 

Thanks to @Zetterberg for the playoff matchup graphics.

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