The first round is in the books in the OHL playoffs and there were no surprises.
All of the top seeds moved on. One through four in both conferences are off to the conference semi-finals. In fact, there were just three series that needed six games. Three were over in five, and two were sweeps.
So now that it’s down to the best of the best and the final four of each conference, it’s time for some first-round thoughts. We’ll tag on our second round picks at the end.
Five OHL Thoughts: Breaking down the first round of the OHL Playoffs
In our first round preview, we had Michael DiPietro stealing a game on his own, but the Sting ultimately winning in five. It was never meant to shortchange DiPietro’s greatness, but to give the Sting credit for what they had built. While we have constantly billed him in this space as the OHL’s best goaltender, DiPietro may have been even better than we expected. He stole Game 1 with a magnificent 43-save performance. Game 2 was a 4-1 loss, but two of those were empty netters as the Vancouver Canucks prospect tacked on another 48 saves. The Sting got to him in Game 3 with four goals on 37 shots, but he followed that up with a 46-save, 4-1 win. Windsor dropped the last two games of the series (4-2 and 5-2), but if anyone wants to question DiPietro in those two, they’ve got a tough case. He left Game 5 with a knee injury (likely a hyperextended knee), came back in Game 6 and stopped 28 saves in a losing effort. Watch out. Unless he’s moved first, he makes the Spitfires an interesting team to watch in the off-season.
Windsor #Spitfires goalie Mikey DiPietro appears to have hyperextended his right knee. He was headed to hospital to have the knee checked and his status for Game 6 is unknown at this point.
“Hopefully, it’s not too bad," DiPietro said.
— Jim Parker (@winstarparker) March 31, 2018
— Jim Parker (@winstarparker) April 1, 2018
What can Brown do for you?
It was a bit of a bumpy stretch run for Logan Brown with the Kitchener Rangers. He was demoted to the fourth line (disciplinary) for a period against the Oshawa Generals, before sitting out four games (injury) and returning for the last three. Over those three games, Brown managed two goals. Once the playoffs started though, the Ottawa Senators prospect flipped a switch. After a single assist in Game 1, Brown netted multiple points in the five remaining games of the series. Capping the first round with an OHL-best 11 assists and 13 points, he will be pivotal in round two against Sarnia.
Sens 1st rounder Logan Brown was the games #1 star tonight as Kitchener beat Guelph to win their first round series in 6 games. Tonight he had 2 goals, 1 assist, +3 and was 61.5% in the circle. In the 6 games of this series Brown had 13 points.
— Dean Brown (@PxPOttawa) April 2, 2018
Attack sweep Knights away
In one of the most surprising developments of the OHL Playoffs, the London Knights were done after four games. The series was closer than the end result indicated, as the Attack snuck out of round one with four one-goal wins, two in overtime. While London will be disappointed with how the season ended at the hands of Owen Sound, there are a lot of similarities between this series, and last year’s first-round matchup with Windsor. Two fairly evenly matched teams where one knew its season was ending. Olivier Lafreniere went wire-to-wire, posting a 2.69 goals-against average and an 0.884 save-percentage. The numbers aren’t pretty, but they got the job done at a position that has held Owen Sound back this season.
After winning the OHL Championship in 2011, the Owen Sound Attack won just 1 of 6 Playoff Series from 2012-16.
Owen Sound has now won 3 of their last 4 Playoff Series (2 last season, 1 this season) and makes the 2nd Round in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2006.
— Mark McKelvie (@Mark14McKelvie) March 30, 2018
Steelheads can’t withstand the Colts
The Mississauga Steelheads threw all they could at the Barrie Colts, escaping the first four games with a split. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough, as Leo Lazarev and the returning Andrei Svechnikov thwarted Mississauga’s long-term plans. Lazarev was a wall in Game 5, as he stopped 46 shots en route to the 5-2 win. Game 6 was Svechnikov’s coming out party in the playoffs. He posted five points following a four-game suspension and a quiet Game 5. Now they’re getting set for a very interesting second-round series with Kingston. Both Lazarev and Jeremy Helvig have something to prove, while there’s plenty of firepower on both sides. Should be a fun one to watch.
A lot of focus on top Barrie line of Luchuk, Svechnikov & Sokolov, and for good reason. But the line of Suzuki, Magwood & Chiodo was every bit as good these last few games. They were dominant at times.
— Gene Pereira (@GenePereira1) April 2, 2018
Dog Day Afternoon
After two close games to open the series, the Hamilton Bulldogs pulled away from the Ottawa 67’s in a big way. They outscored them 17-4 over the final three games, punching their ticket to round two. Overall, eight players played at a point-per-game pace or better over those five games for Hamilton. Between the Niagara IceDogs and Oshawa Generals, Niagara was in control from the start. They took the first two games by a combined score of 10-3, and the last two 10-4, sandwiching a Game 3 loss. Akil Thomas carried over his torrid pace from the regular season, scoring four goals and adding three assists in five games. Sam Miletic matched his seven-point pace. This series could be very interesting, especially since the IceDogs won the season series fairly convincingly (5-1).
Second Round OHL Playoffs Picks
1. Hamilton Bulldogs vs 4. Niagara IceDogs
Bulldogs win in seven
The Key: The Bulldogs have to keep Thomas and Miletic in check. The Bulldogs locked the 67’s down over the last three games, but if it’s wide open like Games 1 and 2? That’s where Niagara’s scorers will thrive.
2. Barrie Colts vs 3. Kingston Frontenacs
Frontenacs win in six
The Key: While Gabe Vilardi comes into this series second in playoff scoring, Jason Robertson‘s success will determine the Fronts’ fortunes. Kingston was 2-1 when the Stars’ prospect had one or fewer points in round one, and 2-0 when he had multiple points. Barrie is no North Bay though. They’ll capitalize if they can keep Robertson under wraps, especially with how their second line has been clicking.
1. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds vs. 4. Owen Sound Attack
Greyhounds win in five
The Key: Owen Sound will have to figure out a way to make Sault Ste. Marie play from behind. Brett McKenzie was massive in the first round and he needs to keep it going. Heading into Game 4, Saginaw had led for just two minutes in the series against the Soo. They led the entire first period that game but still wound up losing. The Attack can build on that with the offence they have.
2. Kitchener Rangers vs 3. Sarnia Sting
Rangers win in seven
The Key: At times the Rangers looked comfortable playing without veteran defenceman Connor Hall (shoulder). Other times they didn’t. The quickly-maturing Kitchener d-core will need to find its groove fast against a powerful Sarnia team. The Justin Fazio/Mario Culina face-off may be one of the most compelling of round two.