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Playoff Previews - "A" Division

(4) Jaguars @ (1) Executioners

Jaguars: 7-10-1 (.417), 88 GF, 103 GA, -15 Dif.
Executioners: 13-4-1 (.750), 123 GF, 74 GA, +49 Dif.
Top 5 Scorers
Top 5 Scorers
Daniel Lafortune 10-12-26-38
Mont Saran 15-17-17-34
Zach Kelm 8-7-11-18
Waseem Khalil 9-7-9-16
Orien Mastubara 11-9-6-15
Chip Gill 12-16-17-33
Jay Dove 15-15-17-32
Shane Khan 16-14-18-32
Bryce Goligher 12-7-21-28
Dave Fisher 14-13-14-27

Based purely on the regular season, this series seems like a bit of a mismatch. The Executioners won three of the four games between these two teams during the regular season, though the Jags did win the final game which happened to be both team's final game of the campaign. The standings also show some dominance by the Executioners as they earned the top spot in "A" with a very impressive record of 13-4-1, to edge out the Barons by a point, while the Jags had to settle for a sub .500 record. With all that said, one has to keep in mind that the free playoff pass the "A" teams were handed this season has changed the Jaguars approach to the postseason. The emphasis has been on getting players qualified and making sure they are committed to the playoffs without much worry about getting full lineups for regular season games. Rest assured it will be a new look Jaguars team come their first playoff date.

GM Mike Bhayana has done a great job adding pieces to the club as the team has matured, and the acquisition of some former Thrashers in the offseason, Jay Dove and Dave Fisher, has brought the team up to the next level. Dove continues to collect points from the blueline at an astounding rate, as he is once again above the two-point-per-game mark, finishing with 32 points in 15 games. Fisher has also torn up the league as usual, recording 27 points, but just as important, inspiring his teammates with his unbelievable work ethic. There was a great team scoring race among some of the Execs' this season, eventually won by Chip Gill, who put together some impressive numbers (12-16-17-33), to finish a single point ahead of Dove and Shane Khan who also finished with 32 points. The team also has another big shooter on the back end apart from Jay Dove, and that would be Lee Bryant. They make for a pretty imposing duo on the point of the Executioners powerplay, which ran at a league best 43.9% efficiency this season. Other key players in the team's offensive arsenal are Ben Saggu, Andy Saran, and the highly underrated Bryce Goligher, who scored a career high 28 points in just 12 games. This team was head and shoulders above all others in 11/12 when it came to creating scoring and their 123 goals scored equates to almost seven per game. The Jaguars will have their hands full with this group for sure!

It's easy to overlook the Jags in this category as they finished with 35 fewer goals than the Executioners, but the fact is if you take out their forfeit game, they still averaged more than five goals per contest, and often did that with sporadic lineups. There is a nice collection of game breakers on this club, and they will certainly generate enough chances to win any given game. Daniel Lafortune relished the extra floor time he received this season, as he fell just short of his brother Marcel for the "A" scoring title. 38 points in 10 games is a pretty impressive total for a defenseman, no matter how you slice it. He is the single most dangerous man on the Jaguars and the Executioners are going to have to put two-man pressure on him or risk getting burned. Mont Saran was the great revelation of this season as he burst on to the scene with an MVP candidate type of season, scoring the bulk of the goals for the Jags in the first half. Things dried up a bit for him after that, but he still finished with some excellent numbers (15-17-17-34), and will be a go-to guy in the playoffs. There are a couple of secret weapons the team will employ in this playoff run. Zach Kelm would also be mentioned as an MVP favourite had he played more than 8 games, yet he still managed to come third on the team in scoring. He has great balance and is incredibly shifty, combined with some great finish. Bobby Grewal also played the game minimum this season, but he is a veteran scorer who knows how to play in big games. Other players to watch out for on this squad include the always dangerous Waseem Khalil, Orien Matsubara, and Andy "Showtime" Hundhal, who turned in the prettiest goal of the season in a recent game. Edge: Executioners

It's not unusual to see higher GAA's in "A" as compared to a lower div due to the amount of high-end scorers on each team. Neither of these teams have particularly pretty defensive records, but these are run-and-gun style clubs. Nevertheless, neither team wants to let the other's best players run wild, so there will be some attention played to keeping the ball out. The Executioners gave up 74 goals against, which is still the second best total in the div. I have said this many times before, but Jay Dove is one of the best shot blockers you will see in ball hockey. Yes, he might make the odd egregious turnover as he handles the ball so much (typically one per game), but this gives the appearance that he is less sound defensively than he actually is. The Tung brothers, Steve and Rick are usually the defensive conscience of the back end, but they haven't been around for the last month so their status is uncertain. There are some good checking forwards on the team, with the great two-way centreman Simran Kang being at the top of that list. Mike Bhayana, and Ben Saggu are also noted for their ability to chase down and dispossess opposing players. The one big area of concern for the Executioners is their penalty killing, which struggled to a dreadful 65.5% this year.

This area of the game is going to be a real challenge for the Jaguars. Allowing 5.72 goals per game actually tied them with the Spartans for second worst, but then you once again have to factor in a zero due to a forfeit. The hope is that once the entire team is assembled, the team dynamic will change, but it may not be as easy as flipping on a light switch. The team does have some players that do think defense first such as Sat Ahluwalia, and Kuldip Grewal. Their steadiest defensemen in his own end is Steve Gill, who worked hard to get in the required six games to be playoff eligible. He is a master at reading the play and cutting off the passing lanes. Amrit Virk is probably the most dependable forward for the team, defensively, though the whole squad will have to come together to tighten things up a bit. Edge: Executioners

Alam Cheema's game has improved greatly since he joined the league in 2008. He posted a 10-3 record this season with a 4.02 GAA and .825 save percentage. Other than the win total, those numbers aren't particularly great, but one has to remember the team was offense first all season long. The Executioners also have Jeff Fernquist qualified. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see him in the playoff games as he has the reputation as a championship goaltender, and can lay claim to more titles than you can shake a stick at. Having said that, he struggled in his few games this year finishing with a GAA and Save % well below Cheema's. Still, if you've got a big game goaltender, you might as well give him a shot, right?

The Jaguars also went with a two goalie system this year, of sorts. Jas Basra played some games early before Mike Ireland took over as the every day stopper. Basra returned for the final regular season contest and backstopped the team to a win over these same Executioners. It would be his only win of the season, yet there is little doubt that he is the man at the top of the totem pole here and as one of the ball hockey's best keepers over the last few years, he has earned that right. Though it's a close race, I'll give the slight edge to the Jags on this one. Edge: Jaguars

This is the first year for the Jaguars in the "A" division and the guaranteed playoff berth also played a role in how this team was operated throughout the regular season. GM Pawan Bains is going for the sneak attack in this playoff series with the Executioners, nor anybody else, having seen the real Jaguars roster show up for a game. The big question is whether or not a team can just turn things on when they need to, though I think the team's lack of familiarity with itself will be a sizeable issue. The Executioners have been playing to the maximum all season, as evidenced by their terrific record. Furthermore, the team was locked in a heated battle for first place much of the season, and has therefore already had a number of important games under their belt, something the Jaguars can't say. After several years spent as the third or fourth best "A" team, the Exec's have patiently built and have now put together a formidable lineup that has earned the tag as championship favourite. Though there is a chance the Jags will steal a game, this should be the Executioners' time to shine. Edge: Executioners

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