The final round of the QMJHL playoffs begins tonight with the top seeded Saint John Sea Dogs facing off against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Saint John made it to the finals by beating Chicoutimi in a highly-contested 6 game series, while Blainville-Boisbriand made it by handily beating Charlottetown in 5 games. The Sea Dogs finished 1st in the regular season as well as 1st in my SRS rankings. On the other hand, the Armada finished 5th in the regular season and 5th in my SRS rankings. Despite this gap, it should be a very close final as Blainville-Boisbriand has been performing at a very high level since mid-way through their 2nd round series.
Building a Championship Team
Before analyzing the final matchup, let’s take a look at how these two finalists were constructed. In terms of player acquisition, both the Sea Dogs and the Armada are built very similarly. As seen in the table below, the cores of their teams are made up of players that they drafted and developed (63% for BLB, 60% for SJ). They also added a few big pieces at the deadline (Dubois and Barré-Boulet for BLB, Booth, Bourque and Gauthier for SJ) to help push them over the finish line.
In the QMJHL, the foundation of a championship team is built on draft day. Whether those draft picks become contributing players or assets in trades, a few strong drafts in a row will create a window to win the President’s Cup. The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, the reigning President’s Cup winners, were the most homegrown team this year with an impressive 79% of players on their roster having been drafted by them. This year’s finalists were 5th (BLB) and 7th (SJ) respectively in terms of homegrown players. Also near the top of that list are two of the most promising young teams in the league, Halifax and Baie-Comeau, who should be championship contenders in the near future.
Saint John Sea Dogs vs. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
As expected, the Sea Dogs have performed at a dominant level throughout these 2017 playoffs. They swept their first two series against Rimouski and Val-d’Or, and defeated Chicoutimi in 6 games. They finished 1st in the regular season and my SRS ranking system had picked them to win the President’s Cup. They have depth and high-end talent across the team, and they go into this final with home ice advantage.
Their opponent, the Armada, swept their 1st round series against Drummondville, overcame a 3-1 series deficit to beat Bathurst in 7 games, then beat Charlottetown in 5 games. Having finished only 5th in my SRS rankings, they were predicted to lose against both Bathurst and Charlottetown. However, there is clearly a quality to this team that is not being picked up by my SRS system. I found two possible reasons for this:
- The SRS system favours teams that win by many goals; Blainville-Boisbriand has won numerous 1-goal games this year due to their defensive system and their star goaltender Montembeault
- Barré-Boulet, Teasdale and Mongo have all increased their scoring output significantly compared to the regular season; Barré-Boulet is leading the playoffs in scoring with 29 points in 16 games
Considering all of these factors, the final should be a hard-fought and thrilling series. The home ice advantage could prove to be a difference-maker in such a close matchup. I will stay true to my SRS methodology and predict Saint John to defeat Blainville-Boisbriand in 7 games. My SRS system has successfully predicted 8 of the last 9 President’s Cup winners, so we will see if that trend continues with a Saint John victory.