The playoffs long ago started for a few teams.
Whether it's working into a higher seed or just getting into the dance, the next 48 hours should provide plenty of drama across the CHL. Figuring out what to keep an eye peeled for across these final three nights of action can be difficult — would that one could hide under a big pile of coats and hope it all somehow works out, but the sports world doesn't work that way.
Some races are headed to the wire. Other teams are scraping to be one of the elite 80 per cent of teams in major junior hockey that make the playoffs since, low bar or not, that determines the self-worth of an entire organization heading into the summer. Here's what to watch, including some individual races, starting Friday.
Does Drouin do it — Like Ron Burgundy when he was faced with the biggest story of his career or saving the life of the woman he used to have familiar relations with, the Halifax Mooseheads are in a real pickle.
Jonathan Drouin is coming off a minor injury, but how often does a 17-year-old have a chance to win the scoring title despite only playing 70 per cent of the schedule? The left wing, with 104 points in 47 games, is with P.E.I. Rocket overage Ben Duffy, who is three years older and has played in 19 more games. Duffy's tag-team partner Josh Currie is lurking with 101.
Halifax, though, has to be mindful of injuries. It finishes against Saint John, whom it could face in the first round. Then it wraps up with a first-vs.-worst game vs. Cape Breton, who could come into the game with a rather antisocial attitude at the end of their frustrating season. Giving Drouin free rein might be tempting fate.
Second seed in the QMJHL, does anyone want it — The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (88 points), led by linchpins Samuel Carrier and Xavier Ouellet, could nab the Q's No. 2 playoff seeding from the Baie-Comeau Drakkar and Rimouski Océanic (dead even at 89). Division champions are seeded 1-2-3 throughout the QMJHL playoffs. The Armada were eight points out of second a month ago, but have narrowed the game.
The Armada, who chipped, chased and chirped a string of opponents of late, will have to do it on the road vs. Val-d'Or and Rouyn-Noranda. Rimouski, whose recent funk helped create this fight, has to contend with the surging Quebec Remparts in their season finale on Sunday. Baie-Comeau finishes at home vs. Victoriaville and Drummondville, neither of which is a contender nor a lightweight.
The OHL's race for the final two — Like March Madness, the OHL could have a play-in game if two teams among the Mississauga Steelheads (58 points), Peterborough Petes (57) and Kingston Frontenacs (57) tie for the Eastern Conference's eighth slot.
By now, you know the Petes were once 16 points behind the playoff pack before Jody Hull was hired as coach and the team off-loaded several of its veterans. Nineteen-year-old goalie Andrew D'Agostini found his form in the second half and the Petes closed ground, helped along by getting the extra point in the shootout an OHL-high eight times in 12 tries. Mississauga and Kingston have each had epic losing streaks that has led to each team having its fate in its own hands.
The Petes and Frontenacs go head-to-head on Friday (7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet). Mississauga hosts the Belleville Bulls, who have yet to lock up the conference regular-season title.
The other variables involves whether the last-place Ottawa 67's have the stuff to play spoiler. Following their game Friday, the Steelheads and Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder Stuart Percy have to haul up to the nation's capital for a 2 p.m. Saturday game against Ottawa. The 67's and top draft prospect Sean Monahan might be extra eager to make a good showing in their regular-season finale. Sunday, Ottawa's at Kingston. The 67's have beaten Kingston three times this season, but a day trip at the end of a terrible season could be a bigger blow-off than some of Jeff Winger's electives at Greendale Community College.
Peterborough is at Brampton, which is locked into the fourth seed. It would seem out of character for a Stan Butler-coached team to mail it in, especially for the final regular-season home game at the Powerade Centre.
This week, Kingston and 2014 draft prospects Sam Bennett and Roland McKeown outshot division champions Belleville and Barrie by a combined 92-62. Each time they lost 4-2 despite being within a goal with four minutes to play.
Speaking of which, Barrie and Belleville — This one is easy to figure. Malcolm Subban and the 92-point Bulls need a 3-of-4 weekend vs. Mississauga and Sudbury to get home ice for the first three rounds of the playoffs. The 90-point Colts and Mark Scheifele, who's been bull-in-a-china-shop around the net since returning from the Winnipeg Jets, wrap up at Brampton and home to Niagara.
Schiefele has 14 points during the Colts' seven-game win streak. One cannot say he's been a hot streak since that's not too far above the 39-goal, 78-point line the centre has posted in 44 games up by Georgian Bay.
The OHL's scoring race — Recent Anaheim Ducks signing Charlie Sarault (22 goals, 106 points for the Sarnia Sting) and Florida Panthers prospect Vincent Trocheck (49 and 104 for the Plymouth Whalers are two points apart in the scoring race. Each has two games to play against opponents with nothing on the line.
Like Drouin, the Jack Reacher 'drifter with nothing to lose' factor is in play with Trocheck. The Whalers wrap with a home-and-home with the already eliminated Windsor Spitfires. Back-to-back nothing games between rivals have a high silliness potential. Trocheck could essentially have to get his points in 40-minute games. Sarault and the Sting have a home-and-home with the stingy Owen Sound Attack. However, Owen Sound is locked into the third seed.
Spokane, Tri-City begin their best-of-9 — The WHL races mostly have been wrapped up in a neat little package. Really, I mean that. Sorry if it came out sarcastic. There's at least two points separating every Eastern Conference team which has clinched. The Calgary Hitmen have a magic number of one to ensure they would have home-ice advantage if they and the Saskatoon Blades meet in Round 2.
State rivals Spokane and Tri-City seem to meet in the playoffs every season. It's almost reminiscent of the four-division format the NHL spent 20 years forgetting before recycling it and having everyone call it the greatest thing since ... The Chiefs (86 points) and Americans (84) have a Friday/Saturday home-and-home. Uniquely, all they have to determine is who would host Game 7, since a conflict with the NCAA Tournament has meant using a 2-3-1-? series format.
The Ams were supposed to fall apart without injured goalie Eric Comrie, but helped by overage Justin Feser's 102-point year, they've held it together. That brings it back to one of junior hockey's charms, we can always be surprised.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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