Barrie, Belleville, Owen Sound and Plymouth each go up 2-0 in their series. Can someone tie up a series on Sunday? On with the Post-Game Questions:
Owen Sound 4 Sault Ste. Marie 2 (with an empty-netter; Attack lead 2-0) — How much basis is there to believe the Greyhounds could win the next two even the series? The Soo, which had star defenceman Ryan Sproul smoke the crossbar moments before the Attack's open netter, nearly forced overtime for second consecutive game in one of the OHL's toughest places for a road team.
They have also limited Owen Sound's odd-man rush opportunities. The Attack have barely had any through the first two games, although captain Keevin Cutting's 2-2 goal with 5:36 left in the second period came off the rush. That goal was part of the game's decisive stage; the Soo's Tyler Gaudet was penalized on the next shift and Gemel Smith scored the game-winner on the ensuing power play.
Speaking of special teams, the 'Hounds were 0-for-6 on the PP while the Attack were 2-for-5. The law of averages might suggest that returns to equilibrium as soon as Game 3 on Monday.
It's also possible that Attack goalie Jordan Binnington (41 saves on 43 shots) could regress. The Greyhounds' Matt Murray (56 saves on 61 shots so far) has been good in a series that's demanding great.
Murray solid again, but binnington, well, he showed why he's all world, spectacular
— bill montague (@billmontague) March 24, 2013
Who helped the Attack compensate for having Cameron Brace suspended? Centre Zach Nastasiuk (2G-1A, +2), who's going to a high NHL pick in June, has made an outsized contribution in each of the first two games. Nastasiuk scored the Attack's first goal, won several faceoffs down the stretch in one-goal game and helped Owen Sound kill off a potential costly penalty that veteran Daniel Catenacci took in the final minutes.
Plymouth 3 Sarnia 2 (Whalers lead 2-0) — Could the Sting be short-staffed for Game 3? Defenceman Alex Basso got a match penalty in the second period for a retaliatory slash on Whalers wing Tom Wilson. That probably will be reviewed by the league.
Sarnia D Alex Basso slash late 2nd period has been called match penalty.
— Loosepucks.com (@loosepucks) March 24, 2013
Was there a conscious effort by Plymouth to get into a close game after Friday's 11-2 cakewalk? Strange how it works out that way in playoffs, eh? The Sting were bound to have a better showing after being humbled on Friday. Plymouth, which got two-point nights from Mitchell Heard and Zach Lorentz, might have been willing to play rope-a-dope. It built a two-goal lead through two periods before hanging on in the final frame, when 16-year-old rookie Alex Nedeljkovic made 12 of his 25 saves.
What possible salvation is there for the Sting? The same old-same old: pucks to the net, traffic in front. Twenty-seven shots will not do for Sarnia coach-GM Jacques Beaulieu, whose team is oh-fer at even strength.
From Paul Owen (@ObserverOwen):
Both of Sarnia’s goals came on the power play for the second straight night as the Sting went 2-10 with the man advantage, and even-strength play is something that has to improve if the Sting hope to still be playing after Wednesday.
“Our five-on-five play has to be better,” Beaulieu said. “I don’t think we’ll win a hockey game unless we get 40 shot s on net against this team, and that’s what we need to do.” (Sarnia Observer)
Barrie 7 Kingston 4 (Colts lead 2-0) — Will Colts captain Ryan O'Connor face #BranchJustice? Defending a 1-on-1 rush in the third period, O'Connor knocked Frontenacs rookie Spencer Watson down and with a heavy check where the head was not targeted. Watson was cut — perhaps when his chin struck the ice — and returned to finish the contest. It didn't look like headhunting and it looked like Watson was caught with his head down. It shouldn't be a suspension.
What chance do the young Frontenacs have of bringing the series back to Barrie? Kingston is having some difficulty slowing down the Colts' big three of Winnipeg Jets first-rounder Mark Scheifele (2G-3A, +3 in two games), Boston Bruins pick Anthony Camara (3G, +3) and Detroit Red Wings pick Andreas Athanasiou (1G-3A, +3).
Still, the Colts have had lukewarm opening periods in each game and Kingston, for however long it can keep it up, isn't giving Barrie too much respect. Centre Sam Bennett, who's looking like a high-end 2014 draft prospect, has had an excellent first two games.
Sam Bennett the most dangerous forward on the ice. Feet are outstanding. Plays with a really impressive pace in possession.
— Sean Lafortune (@SeanLafortune) March 24, 2013
Belleville 4 Mississauga 1 (Bulls lead 2-0) — How much do the back-to-back games play into Los Toros' hands? It's right in Belleville's wheelhouse. The Bulls, who have allowed just a singleton in each of the first two games, seem to be taking advantage of the Steelheads' reliance on their three drafted defencemen, Stuart Percy, Dylan DeMelo and Trevor Carrick. It's daunting to overplay two defence pairs on Belleville's Olympic-sized ice and the Steelheads took some tired penalties in the third period.
How important is the offensive balance for Belleville? Depth comes to fore with each passing round. It's only the second game in, but the championship-seeking Bulls had two assists on each goal Saturday yet only one player, Minnesota Wild draft pick Tyler Graovac, had a multi-point night.
Day 4 docket — Sudbury-Brampton, Game 2, 2 p.m.; Saginaw-London, Game 2, 2 p.m.; Belleville-Mississauga, Game 3, 2 p.m.; Niagara-Oshawa, Game 2, 6:05 p.m.; Guelph-Kitchener, Game 2, 7 p.m.
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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