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Matt Murray, Soo Greyhounds force Attack into best-of-3: OHL post-game questions

Neate Sager
Buzzing The Net

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Pens pick Matt Murray had his first OHL playoff shutout on Wednesday (Kenneth Armstrong, The Canadian Press)

Ryan Sproul scores in the 80th minute to give the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds a series-tying 1-0 victory over the Owen Sound Attack in the league's most riveting series so far. Meantime, Barrie and Plymouth have breezed through to Round 2. On with the post-game questions!

Western Conference

Sault Ste. Marie 1 Owen Sound 0, overtime (series tied 2-2) — How is Pittsburgh Penguins-drafted Soo goalie Matt Murray faring in the goalie matchup vs. world junior netminder Jordan Binnington? By the numbers, Murray has stopped 114-of-122 shots (.934 save pct.) through four games while Binnington has stopped 149-of-157 (.949). Binnington has been challenged more by a 'Hounds team which has been Owen Sound's equal or better in every game so far.

However, Murray also seems to be radiating an off-the-charts certitude. The third-year 'tender from Thunder Bay seemed to be just as locked in, coming up with a game-saving right pad save on Gemel Smith while also helping the Soo kill off a too many men on the ice penalty in overtime.

Sproul's winner on Binnington 19:12 into extra time was the classic playoff OT goal, decisive action sprouting from chaos and entropy. The Greyhounds earned a power play late in the frame, which was a prime opportunity to end it since teams are more ragged toward the end of the extra period. Plus the penalty was on one of Owen Sound's best defencemen, sophomore Chris Bigras Owen Sound survived the first minute and change and Binnington stopped Brandon Alderson twice in a scramble situation. But defenceman Brayden Rose's rushed clear was trapped by the size-13E (guessing) skate of Sproul. The Detroit Red Wings pick has one of the hardest shots of any player in junior and he had infinity plus a minute to wind up and pick his spot.

How long could this have gone if the Soo hadn't struck on that power play? Binnington stopped everything he had a half-chance on, robbing Los Angeles Kings pick Michael Schumacher midway through the third period after a turnover created a glorious opportunity. He also had much traffic around him than Murray.

Having the more experienced goaltending prospect is the Attack's fallback. The other is it that is really hasn't played near its regular-season form yet in the series, yet has the Soo in a best-of-3 situation with Game 7 possibly at home.

How close has this series been? Try two overtime games and two others where the losing team hit either a post or crossbar in the final 90 seconds of regulation when it the goalie out in a bid to tie. This matchup would be the talk of the OHL if it involved a Southern Ontario team.

Plymouth 5 Sarnia 2 (Whalers sweep 4-0) — How hard is it to remember these teams were once neck-and-neck in the standings halfway through the season? That was when the Sting had Alex Galchenyuk and Connor Murphy with a sound pair of knees. The Whalers had also yet to make their play for Vince Trocheck, who had a dozen points (5G-7A) across this four-game sweep.

Plymouth, with 48 shots on Wednesday on JP Anderson, hit 40 on the shot counter in every game of the series. It is cliché, but they were too much for the Sting. Washington Capitals first-rounder Tom Wilson (2G-6A) also had a prolific series.

Eastern Conference

Barrie 8 Kingston 2 (Colts sweep 4-0) — How unscathed are the Colts entering their second-round series? Last year this time, Barrie was a beaten-up bunch by the end of its six-game win over Mississuaga. This series was shorter and nowhere near as physical, but captain Ryan O'Connor will not return before the third round and rugged winger Anthony Camara has one game left on a suspension.

The Colts are no sure thing to reach the Eastern final without O'Connor. That being said, they will have more time to rest before conference semifinal. They are still somewhat deep, by Eastern standards, on the back end, considering that their

Mark Scheifele had a series, with four goals and 10 points. He factored into more goals than the entire Frontenacs team.

What is Kingston planning to do with its No. 5 overall pick in the OHL priority selection draft next week? According to Doug Graham, the Frontenacs are more likely to select a forward to add to their nucleus, most of whom will be in their 17- through 19-year-old seasons in 2013-14. Another off-season priority will be kicking the tires to upgrade the goaltending now that overage Mike Morrison has graduated.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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