Welcome to a brand new edition of the QMJHL Playoff Watch. We’re coming down to the wire with just a few days remaining in the regular season, and the race for the final three playoff spots couldn’t be any closer to being determined.
The gap between the first available playoff spot to the first spot out of the playoffs currently sits at five points coming out of this weekend’s action. Once again, teams have found themselves bouncing from one position to another.
If you recall last week, the Chicoutimi Saguenéens secured the 13th overall position in the QMJHL standings, likely securing a first-round date with the Rimouski Océanic. Although depending on the outcome of Rimouski’s final three games, they may find themselves in a position to unseat first place Baie-Comeau and give the Saguenéens a first-round match-up against the Drakkar instead.
Looking at the three remaining spots up for grabs, we could see a resolution to the playoff picture as soon as Wednesday when Charlottetown, Shawinigan, Saint John and Sherbrooke would have played their 66th game of the season, finally putting them on equal footing with Acadie-Bathurst.
Let’s look at how each team is doing in the order they currently sit in the standings beginning with 14th place.
With their epic comeback on Sunday, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan leaped back into the 14th overall position with 48 points and just two games remaining this weekend. Idle until Friday night when they travel to Charlottetown, they will be scoreboard watchers Tuesday night to see how things go down between the Islanders and the Halifax Mooseheads.
In addition to the aforementioned road tilt against the Islanders on Friday, the Titan will play their final game in Moncton against the Wildcats on Saturday. Only four points remain available to the Titan to cement their spot in the post-season, which would give them a possible maximum total of 52.
The problem for the Titan is that the four teams below them in the standings all have a game in-hand, and could pass the Titan if they were to each win those games. At best, the Titan can finish 14th. At worst, the Titan could finish 17th and just out of playoff contention.
A first-round match-up with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada would be on tap were the season to end today.
For the Islanders, a pair of losses over the weekend saw the team remain at 47 points and drop them to 15th overall with three games remaining. A Tuesday night tilt at home against the Halifax Mooseheads will be just as important as Friday’s game against the Titan.
A victory against the Mooseheads would vault them ahead of their Friday night opponents and spare them a first-round playoff series against the very team they play on Tuesday. The advantage the Islanders have against their divisional rivals is that all three of their remaining games are being played in the friendly confides of EastLink Arena, meaning that for the next five days, the Islanders will get to sleep in their own beds and not expend energy on travelling to enemy arenas.
Rounding out the season will be a Saturday night affair against the Saint John Sea Dogs, the Islanders will be fighting to achieve every single one of the six points still available to them. Being able to finish with 53 points would put them as high as 14th, although the prospect of finishing as low as 17th – and thus out of the playoffs – still looms.
After stealing a much-needed point from the Saguenéens on Saturday, the Shawinigan Cataractes sit in the 16th overall position with 45 points. They currently sit two points ahead of 17th place Saint John for the final playoff spot, and control their own destiny on Wednesday night.
With three games remaining, they begin their final week of the regular season in a game that could not be more critical. Hitting the road that night, they will visit Sherbrooke for another tangle with the Phoenix, who they last needed a shootout to defeat back on February 28. The two points would not only put them ever-so-close to clinching a playoff berth, but it would effectively eliminate the Phoenix from post-season contention.
As it stands, the Cataractes after Wednesday night will have games remaining against Victoriaville and Blainville-Boisbriand. If the Cataractes were able to bring home all six points available to them, they could finish with a maximum of 51 points and place themselves as high as 14th. However, if fortune were to turn against the Cataractes, they could still see a future where they could finish in 18th place. Remaining in 16th would see the Cataractes face either the Drakkar or Océanic in the first round.
This brings us to the first of two teams still fighting to avoid their season ending on Saturday night. The Sea Dogs currently sit in 17th with 43 points and three games left to play. The team has been decimated by injury and suspension, and are coming off one of the most shocking defeats all season on Sunday. Two points on Sunday would have brought the Sea Dogs above water, enforcing tie-breakers that would push them to 16th.
The Sea Dogs are in the unenviable position of finishing out their season with three games on the road. The first coming Wednesday evening in Sydney. NS against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. A win, coupled with a loss by the Cataractes will bring them to a tie for 16th. Anything else leaves the Sea Dogs once again just out of reach. A win by the Cataractes in addition to a Sea Dogs loss would be the worst thing that could happen, as it would place a four-point gap between 16th and 17th and likely seal up the playoffs for the Titan, Islanders and Cataractes.
A maximum of six points are still up for grabs, which if the Sea Dogs were able to defeat the Screaming Eagles along with the Mooseheads and Islanders would give them a maximum of 49 points. At best hope, the Sea Dogs would barely qualify for the playoffs. At worst, the Sea Dogs could finish as low as 18th. It will be a fight to the finish for the Sea Dogs, and with their selection of opponents, one would have to place them as the underdogs in the fight.
Rounding things out in the 18th and final spot in the standings are the Phoenix who currently have 40 points with three games remaining. Everything for the second-year team out of Sherbrooke hinges on Wednesday. A win in regulation and they stay alive in the playoff hunt. Anything else sees their season end Saturday. No more, no less.
It will be no easy task as their opponents on Wednesday are one of the teams they’re fighting for a playoff spot with: the Cataractes. If the Phoenix manage to survive that encounter, they still have tough tasks ahead in the Gatineau Olympiques and Val-d’Or Foreurs.
Six points remain available to the Phoenix which would put them at a maximum of 46. The dream scenario would see Shawinigan and Saint John lose their three remaining games in regulation and Sherbrooke win their remaining three games and sneak their way into 16th. The harsh reality may be that Sherbrooke will be picking first overall in the 2014 QMJHL Draft. How the final act on how the season ends for the Phoenix will be written Wednesday night at the Palais des Sports Léopold-Drolet. For the Phoenix, their hope is for a happy ending.
We’ll be back Thursday to recap the mid-week action and see where things stand while preparing you for the final two days of the QMJHL season. Who will be left standing when the dust settles on Wednesday? While we wait to learn the answers, here’s the latest look at the standings.