April 1, 2019 6:50 am

Preview: Round 2 of the 2019 OHL Playoffs

Guelph Storm goaltender Nico Daws stops a shot as Alec Regula of the London Knights looks on. The Storm defeated the Knights 5-1.

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The first round of the 2019 Ontario Hockey League post-season ended quickly.

If every series in the opening round had ended in a four-game sweep, the minimum number of games played would have been 32. Instead, it went 35. There were five sweeps, while Oshawa, Niagara and Sault Ste. Marie each won in five games.

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Much of this was expected following the trade deadline back on Jan. 10. It was felt even then that four teams in each conference had separated themselves from the pack, and that’s exactly what Round 1 demonstrated.

Now, Round 2 is set to begin, and this is when things are expected to become very interesting. A case can truly be made for any of the remaining eight teams to advance to the conference finals.

Here is a preview of each series:

London vs. Guelph

Season series: Guelph won it, going 4-1-0-1 against the Knights.

After trade deadline: The Storm won twice and London won once. None of the games were close. The smallest margin of victory was four goals.

Things to know:

London

The Knights had the No. 1 power-play unit during the first round of the playoffs. They clicked at 53.8 per cent against the Windsor Spitfires. (Adam Boqvist is tied with Graeme Clarke of Ottawa for the playoff lead in power-play goals with four.) London’s power play on home ice was a perfect three-for-three.

Alex Formenton put up 11 points in four games in the first round to lead all scorers.

London became the fifth No. 1 seed to sweep the No. 8 seed in the first round of the playoffs. The last time a No. 8 seed won a game was 2014 when the Plymouth Whalers lost to the Guelph Storm 4-1.

Guelph

The Storm are finally healthy. Guelph has battled major injury issues all season. Jack Hanley, Pavel Gogolev, Sean Durzi, Keegan Stevenson and Cam Hillis have all missed chunks of time. Hillis was the final one to return. He suffered an early season knee injury, got back into the lineup and broke his collarbone. The Canadiens draft pick played in just one game in the opening round.

The Storm were one of three teams that didn’t allow a power-play goal in the first round of the playoffs, going 11-for-11 on the penalty kill (Saginaw 15-15 and Niagara 16-16 were the others). Guelph was also the least penalized team, averaging just eight minutes in penalties per game.

Guelph’s roster ranks No. 1 in OHL experience, averaging 3.9 years per player. They made more moves than any other team leading up to the trade deadline.

What to expect:

Both teams come in rolling after first-round sweeps, and both clubs are getting outstanding play from their veteran players. The Knights will want to review the video from Feb. 13 in which they dominated in the faceoff circle and won 6-1. Guelph will want to duplicate their victories from February and March. This will come down to which team can contain the other’s stars the best, especially on special teams.

READ MORE: Around The OHL — The most memorable playoff series of all time

Saginaw vs. Sault Ste. Marie

Season series: The teams split the eight games against one another. Saginaw had the slight edge thanks to an overtime loss in their final meeting.

After trade deadline: Not as enlightening as it might look. The Greyhounds won two of three, but the last game between the teams came on the last day of the season when there wasn’t anything on the line. It ended 5-2 in favour of Sault Ste. Marie.

Things to know:

Saginaw

Florida Panthers prospect Owen Tippett led the Spirit with five goals and eight points in Round 1.

Overage defenceman Justin Murray had the kind of opening series you want a leader to have. He was everywhere on the ice offensively and defensively. Murray had a short-handed goal and five points overall with nine shots on goal and 13 minutes in penalties.

Both Rookie of the Year candidate Cole Perfetti and forward Nicholas Porco missed the last game against the Sting with upper body injuries.

Sault Ste. Marie

The Greyhounds have allowed the most goals (15) among teams that advanced to Round 2.

‘Hounds forward Jaden Peca told the Sault Star that consistency has been the team’s biggest challenge.

“There wasn’t one game in which all 20 guys were going at their best consistently,” Peca said.

Sault Ste. Marie is the youngest of all playoff teams with an average age of 18.53 years old.

What to expect:

The Greyhounds came through the first round feeling as though they kept giving Owen Sound chances to stay in games. If they treat the Spirit the same way, Saginaw will take over. Sarnia roughed up the Spirit without causing them to lose a game. There are health concerns on their side coming in. Expect more of the same from their season series.

READ MORE: Around The OHL — Chatting with former OHLers and looking back at the 2013 draft

Ottawa vs. Sudbury

Season series: Each team won a game in overtime. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 45 saves in the Wolves’ loss and 25 saves in their win.

After the deadline: No meetings

Things to know:

Ottawa

The 67’s had the highest offensive output in the opening round, scoring 5.75 goals per game.

Tye Felhaber and Austen Keating combined for 81 goals during the regular season. Hamilton held both without a goal, but Ottawa flashed their depth by getting 11 of their 23 goals from Graeme Clarke, Mitchell Hoelscher and Noel Hoefenmayer.

One of the things that Ottawa did to prepare for the second round was hold onto a three-on-three tournament.

Sudbury

Quinton Byfield led all 16-year-old rookies with three goals and seven points in four games in the first round.

The Wolves swung their goal differential by 142 between last season and this season. They allowed 94 more goals than they scored in 2017-18. Sudbury was plus-48 this season.

The Wolves won 40 games for the first time since 1994-95. Their leading scorer that year was Zdenek Nedved. He is now 44 years old and has been retired from hockey since 2010-11.

What to expect:

Sudbury has relied on excellent goaltending from Luukkonen all season. He was put to the test and he passed when he helped Finland win the World Hockey Championship. This is his latest and perhaps greatest test of the year. If the future Buffalo Sabre can keep his team in games against all of Ottawa’s depth and firepower, then Sudbury has a shot. Ottawa needs their big guns like Felhaber and Keating to produce like they did in the regular season.

READ MORE: Around The OHL — Scouting the top prospects

Niagara vs. Oshawa

Season series: Oshawa won in overtime and Niagara won 6-2.

After the deadline: The series was over by Dec. 15, well before their final rosters were set.

Things to know:

Niagara

The IceDogs goalie had three shutouts in the five-game series Niagara played against North Bay. He made 23, 20 and 27 saves and yet only ranks fourth in playoff save percentage behind Kyle Keyser, Anthony Popovich and Luukkonen.

Jason Robertson led all players with 33 shots on goal in the opening round, averaging 6.6 per game. Robertson was the early OHL season leader in shots on goal prior to his trade to the IceDogs. He finished sixth overall in shots in the regular season.

Former General Jack Studnicka enters the series as Niagara’s leading playoff scorer.

Oshawa

Anthony Salinitri had the game-winning goal in three of the four Generals victories against Peterborough. He had six game winners in the regular season out of the 48 goals he scored for Oshawa and the Sarnia Sting.

Keyser is the only goalie left in the post-season with an offensive point. He assisted on a goal in the Generals’ series-clinching win. Jacob Ingham of the Mississauga Steelheads was the only other goalie to pick up an assist in Round 1.

Generals defenceman Mitchell Brewer tied for the first-round lead with Nikita Okhotyuk in plus/minus with a plus-9. Brewer played in five games. Okhotyuk played in four.

The Generals made moves for the present and the future leading up to the trade deadline and then went 20-6-1 (with one remaining) after it.

What to expect:

These teams made an interesting trade near the deadline. The Generals dealt two excellent veterans for youth and draft picks from the IceDogs and now have to face former teammates Studnicka and Matt Brassard. Youngster Lleyton Moore also meets his old Niagara teammates. That deal illustrated expectations at the time. The IceDogs believe this is their year. Oshawa is content to contend but also has a very bright future. That makes this Niagara’s series to lose.

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