Play-Off Quarter Finals Preview

Forget about the league, the play-offs are here and this weekend is the weekend before the weekend….I think I’ve just confused myself! Anyway, here is a preview of all four of this weekend’s match ups, starting with…..

Sheffield Steelers v Edinburgh Capitals

1st leg Friday 27th March Ice Sheffield
2nd leg Sunday 29th March Murrayfield

The champions take on 8th placed Edinburgh for a place in the final four. Straight forward win for Sheffield then? Well no, not exactly. The Caps reached the play offs on the back of some scintillating form, winning seven of their last ten regular season games, including wins against Coventry, Belfast and Cardiff. The Caps can go in to this tie full of confidence and they certainly won’t give the Steelers an easy passage into the final four, and in forward Mark Hurtubise and Netminder Pasi Raitanen they have two players who could pull a shock.

As for the Steelers, everyone knows their quality and their uncanny ability to grind out results. The defence and Jody Lehman in the nets have had a superb season and they are the key to their success, probably not the most entertaining but when winning is all that matters entertainment is secondary. Personally I’d love to see The Caps pull off a shock (to be honest if the Steelers were playing an Al Qaeda Select I’d probably be on the side of Bin Laden!!) but I feel the Steelers defence will be too strong and they’ll make the final four.

Coventry Blaze v Newcastle Vipers

1st leg Saturday 28th March Coventry Skydome
2nd leg Sunday 29th March Metro Radio Arena

On paper this is perhaps the easiest tie to call, the Vipers are down to bare bones with only 11 fit skaters and some of them carrying injuries. Despite the Blaze finishing the season with just four wins from their final eight games, including losses to Edinburgh, Hull and opponents Newcastle I can’t see anything other than an overall win for Paul Thompson’s men especially as the Vipers have won only four of their last fourteen games!

The only slight glimmer of hope that the Vipers have is their netminder Andrew Verner. If he can produce two sensational performances then the Vipers do have a chance of making the NIC. The form of Blaze netminder JF Perras will also be key especially as he has been ridiculed by many Blaze fans this season for his performances, personally I think he is being unfairly blamed for not being Trevor Koenig. Blaze to take this with two wins, however I may start a campaign for the Vipers to qualify automatically on the grounds that MRA hog roasts are so flippin’ lovely and deserve recognition!

Nottingham Panthers v Manchester Phoenix

1st leg Saturday 28th March National Ice Centre
2nd leg Sunday 29th March Altrincham Ice Dome

I hate having to predict this one. Both heart and head say Panthers all the way, but there’s always that little bit of a nagging doubt hanging around like the smelly, unpopular kid at school! Look at it this way, we were here last year when Cardiff went and knocked us out, could the Phoenix do the same? The difference this season is that the Panthers have a bit of mettle and in Bruce Richardson have a born winner, who will accept nothing but 100% from himself and his team mates. This is now also the stage for Jade Galbraith to shine, there is absolutely no doubt that the guy has talent, he now has to show it consistently along with some gut busting effort for four games if we are going to win the thing. Panthers should take this over two legs, but……..

The Phoenix have probably the most consistent and naturally gifted player in Tony Hand, despite his 41 years, and also have goal machine David Beauregard. They are not a two man outfit though, far from it. Luke Fulgham, Bruce Mulherin and Josh Garbutt are more than capable of making their own stamps on the tie. The big question mark against the Phoenix is how much has the Challenge Cup and BKO cup final defeats taken out of them. How much do they have left in the tank? On that basis I will take Panthers to win the tie over two legs………Please!

Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils

1st leg Saturday 28th March Odyssey Arena
2nd leg Sunday 29th March Cardiff Bay

This one is far, far too close to call. The staunch defence of the Devils versus the free flowing attack of the dual cup winning Giants. The irresistible force against the immovable object. This one is the most intriguing of all four ties as I don’t think anyone knows which way it will go. As with Manchester, a lot will depend on how much Belfast have left after their two cup triumphs, but they have several individuals who could win the game such as coach Steve Thornton, Bobby Robins, Paul Deniset and top points scorer Colin Shields.

The Devils though have ended the season in tip top form, winning their last six league games, so they are the form team going into the play-offs. Want another reason why they could go through? Pyre of Sheffield Brad Voth, who I believe is more robot than hockey player! Here is a player who can genuinely win a game on his own. Add a great defence and I’ll stick my neck out and say Devils will win…….Just!


1 Response to “Play-Off Quarter Finals Preview”

  1. 1 Becky March 28, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Heart says Phoenix, head says there’s just not enough left in the tank to be able to put in the sort of performance to do these guys justice. The fixtures have been less than kind to us and the lads are dead on their feet.

    Whilst I would love to see us make it to the final four, I feel it’s just going to be out of our reach again.

    As long as I don’t have to see Belfast win another ruddy cup, I don’t mind 🙂

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