Something has to give.
The OHL Finals begin Friday night when the Erie Otters face the Oshawa Generals. This is your classic matchup of a high-powered offense vs. a very good defense. But those aren’t the only things that make each respective team good.
The Erie Otters come into this series as the highest scoring team in the playoffs, with 71 goals for. But how did they get to this point? They’ve been able to play solid defense. They’ve allowed only 42 goals in 15 playoff games. When you consider that 6 of the 15 games came against the powerful Sault St. Marie Greyhounds, that’s impressive. Everyone in the lineup has contributed, from Connor McDavid, all the way down. It’s the team defense that has the Otters primed to win this series.
The Oshawa Generals come into this series allowing a stingy 2.31 goals/game in their 16 playoff games to this point. They allowed the fewest amount of goals as a team in OHL history this past season. What doesn’t get enough attention is how prolific a scoring team the Generals are. They finished the regular season as the 3rd highest scoring team in the league, only behind the Otters and Greyhounds.
Both teams are outstanding at both ends of the rink. So who has the advantage? Who is going to win the right to play at the Memorial Cup starting on May 21st?
Regular Season Meetings
The teams met twice during the regular season, once in each building. Oshawa won both meetings with Erie, by scores of 4-1 and 5-1. It appears that the Generals would have the upper hand based on these scores. Not so fast.
Both games took place during Connor McDavid’s 20 game absence. Without him, the Otters couldn’t get much offense going. Their power play got held to just 1 goal. At the same time, Oshawa was missing regular starters , such as Michael Dal Colle. Given who was missing from the games, it’s hard to use those to predict how this series will go.
McDavid Vs. Historic Defense
This will be the matchup to watch. Can Connor McDavid continue his insane scoring pace against this defense? McDavid comes into this series with 19 goals and 42 points. Nobody has been able to stop him to this point. Can the likes of Mitch Vande Sompel, Chris Carlisle, Dakota Mermis, Stephen Desrocher, and Josh Brown slow the McDavid effect? Whoever wins this battle will go a long way to winning the OHL Title.
Devin Williams Vs. Ken Appleby
Many will view this matchup of goalies and think that it is a clear advantage to Oshawa. The numbers suggest Appleby is better, but don’t discount Devin Williams. As inconsistent as the season was for Williams, he has put his game together at the right time. Williams has gone 11-3 in these playoffs, with a 2.82 GAA and .905 save%. Given he has these numbers thanks to 6 games with the Greyhounds, it’s impressive.
Appleby’s GAA coming into this series is 2.14 and save% is at .926. He was the backstop that led the Generals to one of the greatest defensive season’s in OHL history. This will by far be his biggest test. Can he rise up and win a best of 7 series against this offense?
Win Special Teams, Win The Series
In the 2 regular season meetings, Oshawa won the power play battle. They held the Otters to just one power play chance in the 1st game. In the 2nd game, the Generals went 3/4 of the power play, while allowing the Otters to go just 1/7. This series will be no different.
Whoever win special teams, will win this series. The Otters just finished off the Greyhounds, thanks to their power play going an amazing 10/20. Oshawa’s power play is just as dangerous, if the regular season proves anything. If Erie’s power play clicks, it will be hard for Oshawa to match them in scoring. If the Generals limit the Otters power play, it will be hard for Erie to overcome.
What a fantastic series this will be. Both teams have size, skill, and speed to match. I picked against Erie the last time. I’m not going to make that mistake again. Nobody has proven they can stop Connor McDavid. Oshawa can do it, I’m just not convinced they will do it. Erie’s top 6 will prove too much for Oshawa. I’m taking the Otters to win the OHL Championship on home ice in Game 6.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager. Please take note of the updated Twitter handle: @mark_scheig.