Memorial Cup preview: Top 10 Rimouski Oceanic observations

·Mike Sanderson
The Rimouski Oceanic defeated the Quebec Remparts in the President's Cup final, winning both games 6 and 7 in overtime to win. (Vincent Ethier)
The Rimouski Oceanic defeated the Quebec Remparts in the President's Cup final, winning both games 6 and 7 in overtime to win. (Vincent Ethier)

With the King of Late Night signing off, Buzzing The Net is borrowing the Top Ten trope to profile the Memorial Cup teams. It's an homage. Or as David Letterman would say to someone who tried to slip a fancy word by him, "you mean stealing."

Presenting the Rimouski Oceanic, who are looking to give the QMJHL its fourth Memorial Cup title in five years, and add to their team’s title in 2000.

10. “We had it in the bag from the get-go.”

Rimouski brings their best Oceanic team to the tourney since the Sidney Crosby-led squad in 2005.

This year's team was never really tested until they got to the President’s Cup final, where it took game 7 overtime to dispatch the Memorial Cup host Quebec Remparts and claim the title.

Rimouski only lost one game until the final, when they ran into big problems with 7-4 and 4-1 losses at home in the first two games. They regrouped and tied the series, dropped game 5 and won 6 and 7 in overtime.

They swept a lousy Victoriaville Tigre team, beat a deceptively-good Gatineau Olympiques team in five, and swept the defending champs from Val-d’Or to reach the finals, and they were the consensus team to finish first overall in the league, which they did.

The advance stats back that up as well, as Rimouski is the best team in Fenwick Close at 56.4% and had the highest number of expected wins, calculated by Pythagorean win percentage, on the year with 45. They have a special teams rate, powerplay plus penalty killing percentages, of 115.2%. Rimouski is the real deal out of the Q.

Rimouski head coach Serge Beausoleil has been behind the bench since 2011, when his boss was current Remparts head coach Philippr Boucher. (Vincent Ethier)
Rimouski head coach Serge Beausoleil has been behind the bench since 2011, when his boss was current Remparts head coach Philippr Boucher. (Vincent Ethier)

9. “Excited for the rematch?”

Both Rimouski and Quebec qualified for the Memorial Cup the moment they eliminated their teams in the league semi-finals, so you can forgive them a little bit if they looked ahead of the President’s Cup final and moved mentally straight to the tournament.

Boy, they didn’t.

The Remparts scored 23 goals in the series and the Oceanic potted 22 of their own in the series, where the last three games were decided by overtime. Michael Joly slid home the series winner in game 7.

Quebec bench boss Philippe Boucher was not happy with the call that lead to the man advantage where Joly buried the winner. Boucher admitted game 7 was the best hockey game he’d ever seen, and that you can’t cut the trophy in two.

You can circle next Wednesday on your calendar, that’s the rematch game, and if these two teams meet in a playoff game, you can rest assured it will be some of the best hockey of the tournament.

8. “Wow, that Morin guy is tall.”

Team Canada fans can be forgiven for not noticing the big defender Sam Morin’s play at the WJC, as he went scoreless in the tourney, and his most memorable moment was getting caught with his pants down. Not during a game, but in a tweet by Alex Bilodeau after the final.

Not to worry. You will notice him at the Memorial Cup as an anchor on the Rimouski blueline.

Morin provides a wide reach in the defensive zone and an offensive flair in the opposing zone, with his 11 points and +10 rating. The Flyers first rounder is physical and strong as an ox, with a booming slapper from the point.

He’s also 6’7” and 225 pounds, so he’s hard to miss.

7. “Even the rest of our blueliners are big.”

Alongside Morin in the size department of the Rimouski blueline are 6’3”, 215-pound Andrew Picco; 6’4”, 214-pound Guillaume McSween and 6’5”, 215-pound Beau Rusk. Three more of their blueliners on their playoff roster are six feet or taller. They have an imposing D-core.

6. “Which goalie are they starting tonight?”

The Oceanic made an interesting move at the end of the mid-season trading period, acquiring Drummondville Voltigeur starting netminder Louis-Philip Guindon to partner up with goalie Philippe Desrosiers in the Rimouski cage.

The plan worked, as when Desrosiers faltered, Guindon was there to back him up.

Guindon got the majority of the playoff starts because he was hot for a solid month, winning nine appearances in a row for the team before coughing up in the finals, getting pulled from game 1 and backing up in game 2, where he made an appearance. He did win games 3 and 4 to right the ship, but he lost game 5 in overtime and wasn’t the goalie to finish the series.

That would be Desrosiers, who played in relief and got the win in game 6 and won game 7, and earned himself CHL goaltender of the week honours. Both goalies have CHL goalie of the week nods in the playoffs. It’s unclear who will start against the Oshawa Generals on Saturday.

Florida Panthers prospect Christopher Clapperton is an important finesse player to the Oceanic lineup. (Vincent Ethier)
Florida Panthers prospect Christopher Clapperton is an important finesse player to the Oceanic lineup. (Vincent Ethier)

5. “That Clapperton guy can really move.”

Maybe the best acquisition of any team heading into the 2014-15 season was Rimouski’s pickup of forward Christopher Clapperton from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.

Clapperton had 76 points for the Oceanic in the regular season, giving the team a great scoring threat, and he added 25 points in the playoffs, including tying a team-lead with 12 goals.

He slotted right in next to Joly, captain Alexis Loiseau, pint-sized scorer Anthony DeLuca and two-way center Frédérik Gauthier. The Rimouski offence matches up well to any other in the tournament. They are fast and they move the puck well.

4. “Clutch!”

Goals from Jan Kostalek in game 6 and Joly in game 7 handed the Oceanic the President’s Cup, and they won four overtime games in their run. Kostalek capped off a 4-1 collapse by the Remparts at home in game 6. Winning the last two games in overtime takes some guts, and the Oceanic pushed through.

3. “They play really well as a team.”

13 of Rimouski’s top 14 scorers in the playoffs are home-grown players; players who have only played for Rimouski in the QMJHL. The lone exception is Clapperton.

Useful players like Anthony Chapados, Tyler Boland, Deven St-Hilaire, and Simon Bourque are all Rimouski products, as well as top scorers Loiseau, Joly, DeLuca, Gauthier and Morin. Desrosiers is a Oceanic pick, and only Charles-David Beaudoin was added to the blueline over the season.

13 Oceanic players are picks from the fifth round or lower, as well, which is a testament to how well your development team has to be to build a championship-calibre team. Those honours go to Beausoleil and Boucher.

Wait, what?

Yep. Philippe Boucher was the Oceanic GM from 2011 to 2013, before he left the team to join the Remparts. Beausoleil took over after that, creating a fun storyline for the tournament. The team Boucher helped build versus the team he now coaches.

2. “Where’s Dunn?”

Senators fans won’t be too happy, but head coach and GM Serge Beausoleil sent power forward Vincent Dunn home in the last week of the regular season, saying: “he has struggled to return to the standards that the guys can play and you could see that the passion was gone. That's all I'll say about it and he was relieved of his duties.”

Dunn was acquired from the Gatineau Olympiques in the off-season. He is a Sens pick and signed his entry level deal before the season began.

The team marched on without him, but the one weapon they are missing up front is a big banger who can score. Dunn was that banger. Once the games against the tight-checking Generals and Kelowna Rockets come around, how much will the Oceanic miss him?

1. “These guys sure seem to know the Colisée ice well.”

The Oceanic are currently rocking a five-game Colisée Pepsi winning streak, including an emotional game 6 overtime win in the finals. That kind of “home-ice” advantage could come in handy if you’re more familiar with your surroundings. It’s clear the Oceanic aren’t intimidated by the Quebec crowds.

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