(1) Edmonton Oil Kings vs. (4) Medicine Hat Tigers
Season series: Oil Kings 5-0-1-0. Odds favour: Oil Kings 72 per cent. Most mathematically likely outcome: Oil Kings in 5. Prediction: Oil Kings in 6.
Edmonton only suffered one loss throughout the first two rounds while the Tigers found a way to come out on top of two close series.
Even though GM Randy Hansch didn’t add to his group at the trade deadline, the Oil Kings ultimately came into the second season as the favourite to represent the Eastern Conference in the final. They have both top-notch talent and depth at every position as well as a core that knows what it takes to win it all.
In the Oil Kings’ first two playoff rounds, they had no problem controlling the play against the Prince Albert Raiders and Brandon Wheat Kings. They outscored the two clubs 38-17 and had six players (Mitchell Moroz, Curtis Lazar, Brett Pollock, Edgars Kulda, Cody Corbett and Henrik Samuelsson) score at a point-per-game pace or better. One should take into account they squared off against their conference’s seventh and eighth-seeded clubs, though. So it’s not as if their dominance caught anyone off guard because it followed up on how they stood against those respective teams in the regular-season.
The Tigers have to some degree exceeded expectations. For a team that lost their cornerstone stone player – Vancouver Canucks first-rounder Hunter Shinkaruk – to a season-ending knee injury in January, they weren’t expected to win two playoff rounds. Not to mention, they defied the odds again by coming back from a 3-1 deficit to knock off the Kootenay Ice in the second round.
Against the Swift Current Broncos and the Ice, the Tigers showed dynamite does indeed come in small packages. Team captain Curtis Valk, Trevor Cox and Cole Sanford, who average out at just under 5-foot-9, combined for 21 goals and 56 points throughout 13 contests. Their opponents couldn't contain them because of their speed, hunger for the puck and elusiveness.
In addition, the Tigers proved they have a lot more going for them than just their top offensive trio. Blueliners Dylan Bredo, Tyler Lewington and St. Louis Blues second-rounder Tommy Vannelli stood out for their strong play on the back end while Phoenix Coyotes prospect Marek Langhamer was exceptional in the blue paint.
Edmonton hosts Games 1-2 on Friday and Sunday. Here are some questions to ponder about the series.
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