Play-Off Quarter Finals 2011 Preview

It’s that time of year again, the regular season is over and it’s time for the Elite League’s Top Eight teams to battle it out for a place in the Final Four. I preview the four quarter finals:

Sheffield Steelers (1) v Dundee Stars (8)
1st leg Tuesday 22nd March Motorpoint Arena
2nd leg Saturday 26th March Dundee Ice Arena

The Elite League Champions take on 8th placed Dundee for a place in the Nottingham finals. To be honest I can’t see anything other than a Steelers victory over two legs as I think they will prove far too strong for the Stars, especially in the home leg tomorrow night. Steelers will be on a high after winning the league on Sunday night and I can only see a large Steelers win in Sheffield, although I expect them to have a harder time of it in Dundee.
I don’t really want to get to down on Dundee though, they have done magnificently to reach the play-offs when you consider that it took them 15 games to even register a point, Coach Dan Ceman deserves a huge amount of credit for getting them this far, but I can’t see them getting past the Steelers. Wouldn’t it be lovely if they did though? 😉
TCW prediction: Steelers to reach the final four

Cardiff Devils (2) v Hull Stingrays (7)
1st leg Saturday 26th March Hull Arena
2nd leg Sunday 27th March Cardiff Bay

I expect this to be quite a close one, especially after seeing the way Hull took apart a rather depleted Panthers side on Sunday night. If they can repeat such a performance in the close knit and atmospheric confines of Hull Arena on Saturday night they could make it very tough for the Devils. However, the Devils have quality running right through the side and once again I can’t see them losing over two legs. I can see a split series though with Hull taking their home leg and Cardiff theirs. Hull will have to hope that the can get enough goals ahead on Saturday to make Sunday interesting. However, we all remember the 12-0 live Sky game, I hope there isn’t a repeat!
TCW prediction: Devils to reach the final four

Belfast Giants (3) v Coventry Blaze (6)
1st leg Saturday 26th March Odyssey Arena
2nd leg Sunday 27th March Skydome

This one is easy to predict. Giants will win and win at a canter. The Blaze have gone from bad to worse to shocking recently and to be honest I think it will an absolute miracle if they make the finals weekend. Paul Thompson must be wondering where it has all gone wrong and he was dealt a further blow today with Dan Carlson announcing his retirement at the end of the season (which will probably be this weekend. The Giants ended the regular season in excellent form, beating the Blaze 7-2 at the Skydome on Sunday to send a message for this coming weekend. I can see this getting quite messy for the Blaze!
TCW prediction: Giants to reach the final four

Nottingham Panthers (4) v Braehead Clan (5)
1st leg Friday 25th March Braehead Arena
2nd leg Saturday 26th March Capital FM Arena

This has to be the tie of the round. The clash of the sibling’s, the master against the apprentice, the battle for their father’s love (OK, that’s enough thank you!) Sorry! This will be a close one to call. The league series was split 3-3 and personally I think this tie could be won or lost in the 1st leg in Braehead, in fact I fancy the Panthers to take the first game but slip up in the return at the NIC, it will all depend how big a lead Panthers can build in Braehead. Let’s face it, no-one knows Corey Neilson’s Tactics better than Bruce Richardson, what you’ve got to hope is that the Strachan factor will come into play. It could end up in overtime or penalties but however it finishes, I expect it to be close.
TCW prediction: Panthers to reach the final four…….Just!

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