(2) North Bay Battalion vs. (1) Oshawa Generals
Season series: Battalion 2-1-1-0. Odds favour: Generals 51%. Most mathematically likely outcome: Generals in 7. Prediction: Generals in 7.
The story is going to be penalties and power plays. There is a little sense dancing around the obvious with an Eastern Conference affray directly out of the old Leyden Division, with the Oshawa Generals seeking to distance itself from a string of underachieving seasons and the North Bay Battalion looking for an OHL final berth in their first season up north.
Oshawa, under OHL coach of the year D.J. Smith, has a chippy disposition and plenty of back-end bulk with the likes of captain Josh Brown (6-foot-4 and 215 pounds), Colin Suellentrop (6-1, 205) and Alex Lepkowski (6-4, 214), one of just two players involved who has been to the final. North Bay has a passel of power forwards, most notably in San Jose Sharks signing Barclay Goodrow and New Jersey Devils pick Ben Thomson, who can wear teams down into mistakes. There might not be a lot of space for creativity by times, so how the penalties are spread out will be a storyline.
"You can't change the way you play — they got a lot of big bodies, we've got a lot of big bodies," Battalion coach Stan Butler says. "We want to play a physical but clean game. Sometimes officials let you play that way and sometimes you don't. You have to adjust period by period, game by game, depending on the standard and where's the game's going."
There isn't necessarily carryover from one series to another with special teams play. North Bay's penalty killing is second-best in the second season at 91.5 per cent. The Generals' Scott Laughton and Michael Dal Colle-led power play, at 30.2%, is the best of any team which can only reach the Memorial Cup by qualifying.
"Sometimes you have to pull it back," Smith says. "It's a fine line and sometimes it's frustrating for us as coaches and for players. You want to keep it as clean as possible but you want to make sure you finish all your checks. I think both coaches would be happy with four power plays a side each game, but we know that's not what's going to happen.
"We both rely on our depth, we're both physical, we both are going to work and grind, try not to give up odd-man rushes and really, there's not going to be a whole lot of cheating going on," Smith adds.
Here's some burning questions to ponder before the series begins Friday at Oshawa.Read More »from Rugged Battalion and Generals have to walk ‘fine line’: OHL Eastern Conference final preview