The Hamilton Bulldogs head to the postseason with great confidence and a plenty of playoff experience.
With the likes of Thomas, Cammano, Moore, Strome, Bitten and Saigeon leading the charge, the Bulldogs are poised to make a long, deep run into the postseason and ultimately compete for the Memorial Cup. They are ranked first overall in the Eastern Conference going into the playoffs, and have the all important home ice advantage. However, the Bulldogs will face stern competition in the talent loaded upper portion of the conference in event Hamilton advances (see my prediction below).
Here are my three keys to success in the postseason…
- Kaden Fultcher. The Hamilton incumbent netminder will head to this postseason with limited experience. In game four of last year’s playoff series with Kingston, Fultcher relieved Dawson Carty for one period, and did admirably in relief. But when the current campaign commenced in September, it was widely expected that Fultcher was their number one guy, and had to prove that he’s a reliable commodity at a big game setting. With the playoffs in the horizon, and given the loaded talent the Bulldogs assemble, it is critical that Kaden Fultcher steps up and maintain a strong stable presence in net.
- Don’t get overconfident. Given the success of this team this year, it is normal to say that Hamilton can run the table with force in the conference rounds. In one’s opinion, don’t expect that. Regardless of pro, or in this case Major Junior hockey, the playoffs matter by how you deliver in the big games, and not solely on the regular season success. For the Bulldogs, take your opponents seriously and don’t overlook to the next round opponent, or otherwise they will be ousted in the first round like they did last season. In other words, never underestimate your opponent in this magnitude of the league season.
- Special Teams. Hamilton comes in to the playoffs with a great power play and an inconsistent penalty kill. The PP unit, led by Brandon Saigeon (16 goals with the man advantage), will need to answer the tasks of getting the big goal when needed. Regarding the PK, however, the Bulldogs need to step up and frustrate the opposition with the big bodies around the net and close the passing lanes in more efficient speed.
The Bulldogs faceoff against the Ottawa 67’s in the opening round of the 2017-2018 Ontario Hockey League Eastern Conference playoffs. In the regular season, Hamilton convincingly swept their opposition in all five meetings.
Here are my “fearless and passionate” predictions (in honour of Victor Newman parody from the Raw Mike Richards show) for the postseason of the Bulldogs in the Eastern Conference…
- OHL Eastern Conference Round 1 — Hamilton wins series over Ottawa 4-1 (HAM has too much talent to not get dethroned by the still young Ottawa squad)
- OHL Eastern Conference Round 2 – Hamilton wins series over Mississauga 4-1 (Steelheads pull upset over Barrie, but gets overwhelmed with the offensive weaponry and frustrates MISS defence a ton)
- OHL Eastern Conference Round 3 – Hamilton wins series over Kingston 4-3 (Hamilton gets its sweet revenge against Kingston from last year. No better setting to do it than this round with OHL Championship appearance at stake. Hamilton outwits Kingston.)
Hamilton will then face the Sarnia Sting in the OHL Championship. If Hamilton remains healthy by this point, and Fultcher is as better than advertised, Hamilton could pull this one out and go on to the Memorial Cup. But I’ll get my official prediction for the OHL Championship series when the path is crossed.
In closing, it should be an exciting and memorable run for the team that should get its rightful due as one of the league’s best.