The Hamilton Bulldogs have 13 games remaining in the OHL season and are pushing towards the playoffs. The question is how will they be playing and will some of their injured players return when the playoffs begin?
They are in fourth place in the OHL’s Eastern Conference, constantly fighting with the Kingston Frontenacs for the position. It doesn’t look like the Bulldogs will fall any further than fifth unless there is a massive slide and one or two of the teams below them go on a long hot streak. The problem is that the Bulldogs have been a streaky team lately. With Saturday night’s win against the Ottawa 67’s, they have now won four games in a row. Previous to that, they lost six of their last seven games.
Now as the season winds down, injuries and illnesses are becoming a problem on top of the streakiness. Matt Luff is out with a concussion and MacKenzie Entwistle is battling mononucleosis. That is two of the Bulldogs’ top players that are unavailable. Defenseman Ben Gleason left Saturday’s game after a check to the head. Hopefully, he’s not out too long.
What Lies Ahead?
Of the 13 remaining games, only five are at the First Ontario Centre. That might not be much of a problem as they have a record of 14-12 on the road. Not the best record, but anytime you win more than you lose away from your home arena is a good thing. They are 13-11-3-2 at home so they are slightly better on the road than at home.
In terms of opponents, it will be interesting. Monday afternoon’s game against the Kitchener Rangers is their last game against a Western Conference team.
Six of the remaining games are against teams that are below them in the standings, three of them against the 67’s. The other teams they face are the Barrie Colts, North Bay Battalion and Niagara Ice Dogs. They’ve had success against the Ice Dogs, but only middling success against the other two. These are games the Bulldogs need to take advantage of if they want to move up in the standings and enter the playoffs on the right foot.
The key games will be the three remaining against the Peterborough Petes and the two against Kingston. The Petes have the second-most points in the Eastern Conference but sit third because the Central Division-leading Mississauga Steelheads automatically get the second spot. The Bulldogs hold a 2-0-1-0 against the Petes so far. It would obviously be fortuitous if they continued their success against them.
As it stands tight now, the Bulldogs will likely face the Frontenacs in the first round of the playoffs. It’s just a matter of finding out which team will have home-ice advantage. The good news is that the Bulldogs are 3-0-0-1 against the Frontenacs this season. If everything else goes well, the success they’ve had against Kingston could pay dividends.