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Playoff Previews - "A" Division

"A" Div. Semifinals: (4) Bullies @ (1) Giants

Giants Stats

Record Overall:
13-3-2, 97 GF, 71 GA, +26

Record vs Bullies:
1-1-2, 20 GF, 20 GA, 0

Special Teams:
PP: 14 for 43 (32.6 %)
PK: 24 for 44 (54.5 %)

Top 5 Scorers:
Harp Kalkat 15-21-26-47
Vish Singh 14-9-23-32
Simran Bhatti 10-14-12-26
Shaun Kalkat 14-5-14-19
Alex Bosma 16-8-10-18

Bullies Stats

Record Overall:
8-8-2, 87 GF, 77 GA, +10

Record vs Giants:
1-1-2, 20 GF, 20 GA, 0

Special Teams:
PP: 15 for 41 (36.6 %)
PK: 32 for 47 (68.1 %)

Top 5 Scorers:
Mont Saran 18-14-16-30
Jeremy Skinner 18-6-19-25
Brad Crawford 12-8-10-18
Rajan Boparai 8-10-7-17
Bronson Cooper 10-7-8-15
Series Overview
     Though there may be some disparity in the two team's overall records, they were as closely matched as any two teams could ever be in their head-to-head series in the 2012/13 season. In fact, not only was the series tied with each team winning one, losing one, and tying the other two, but both wins were by a single goal with one of those coming in overtime. That makes three of the four games that required extra time. Match-ups are huge in hockey and despite the Bullies relative inexperience at this level, they showed they can go toe-to-toe with the real heavyweights in this league and beat them on any given night. 
Team Offense
     There is little doubt about the key to the Giants' offense. Harp Kalkat lived up to every bit of the hype surrounding his first season in the NWBHL, capturing the goal and point crowns, despite playing as a defenseman. The next highest goal total in the division was Dave Fisher with 16, which is well behind the 21 goals put up by Harp. He can beat you in a variety of ways. His shot is so heavy that he has had the ball power through goaltenders that were seemingly there in time to stop the shot. His speed is impressive as he is nearly unstoppable once he picks the ball up in his own zone and streaks up the floor, releasing a bullet wrist shot against the grain while in motion. The Bullies had their troubles containing Harp this season, but then again who didn't? The Giants did have another major weapon in their arsenal for the first half of the season, but an unfortunate injury ended the season for Simran Bhatti, who himself was putting together a strong bid for league MVP. Simran's absence has forced others to step up to replace his scoring, but the Giants have gotten good production out of Vish Singh (14-9-23-32), who finished fifth in league scoring and also from mid-season acquisition, Justin Matai. The former Wolfpac mainstay has been a solid contributor with 16 points in 10 games. Shaun Kalkat, who sometimes gets overshadowed by his brother Harp, would be a front line player on most any other team. He has tremendous size and strength and can definitely finish. The team also has a couple of premier offensive defensemen on the roster. Alex Bosma has been starring for a few seasons in the league and has finished with better than a point-per-game in each one. Herman Bains Jr. didn't play many games this season, but he did qualify for playoffs and will bring his deadly combination of toughness and talent to this series. This team can come at you with multiple weapons and it is no accident they were the highest scoring team in the division this season with nearly five and a half goals per contest.

The Bullies bring a unique attack to the "A" division. Rather than having elite star power like most of the other teams, it is a full team concept on the Bullies that sees them roll three balanced lines, with every player being counted on to do his part to add to the offense. However, the one guy they do have which the Giants may need to pay a little more attention to is Rajan Boparai. He only played eight games this season, but put up big numbers when he was in the lineup. He has amazing speed and one of the elite shots in the league. Rajan always plays on the edge, and often over it, so it will be key for him to be able to know where that line is and not cross it. Mont Saran was the team scoring leader, hitting the 30 point mark which put him in the top six of league scoring. Mont is a smart player who always makes things happen, and can beat goalies cleanly with his top weapon, the big slapper. Jeremy Skinner also put up some good numbers in "A" this year. He may be the second hardest working player in the league after Dave Fisher. Whether you need a ball dug out of the corner or a battle won in front of the net, he is your man! The Bullies also feature Brad Crawford and Matt Lisson, the Henrik and Daniel of the league. These two guys play so well with one another, always knowing where the other will be. Other players to be aware of are Riley McQuillan, Marcel Bouwens, and the dangerous one-on-one player Bronson Cooper. Of course you can't be successful in "A" without some good offensive defensemen and the Bullies have a few of them as well. Mike Antoniali has a big blast from the point and will be key figure on the Bullies powerplay, and the unmistakable Larry Mey will also be counted on to carry the ball and win battles with his sheer will. 
Team Defense
    The Giants are a big strong team on the back end and they will always make things easy on their goaltenders by clearing out the front of the net. Naturally, any ball that comes within the vicinity of Harp Kalkat will be sucked up and sent the other way in a hurry. As he plays the majority of the game, opponents find themselves with a big challenge and it also cuts down on the amount of defensemen the team has to carry. Alex Bosma is also hard to play against due to his incredible reach and ability to handle the ball. Herman Bains Jr. is another guy who has to be careful about not getting himself into penalty trouble, but when he's on the floor he is an absolute monster at both ends. Shaun Kalkat is another big body that often gets put on the back end to solidify things when needed. One of the big concerns the team did have this year was the penalty kill. They allowed 20 PP goals against this year for a penalty kill percentage of just 54.5, which was the worst total in either division. The Giants are going to have to improve that stat dramatically, or just cut down on how many penalties they take during this playoff run. 

    The Bullies gave up a similar number of shots this season as the Giants (around 28 per game) but some noticeably higher quality scoring chances on average. They still play defense with that same team philosophy that sees every player on the team accountable for helping keep goals out of the net. They do have a couple of horses on the back end in Larry Mey and MJ Brown that can always be counted on to win battles. MJ is also one of the league's premier shot-blocking defensemen. A host of other players that don't put up big offensive numbers, but can always be counted on for their play in their own half are a big part of this team. Azaad Bharmal, Ricky Janda, and Jamil Jeraj all fit the Bullies concept perfectly. This team knows that if they can prevent the rebounds and clear some screens, they have a goaltender who will stop the shot.
    The Giants have an interesting choice on their hands. Like the Canucks, they feature two high quality goaltenders that each put up great numbers. They are both veterans with plenty of playoff experience, but there is only one net available. Dave Lewis went unbeaten this year, going 5-0-2 with a league leading 3.077 GAA and .896 save %, which was also tops in the league. He was the go-to guy early in the season for the Giants and also played a few games toward the end of the schedule. In the middle of the year, the team relied heavily on Jas Basra, who also posted a strong record, going 7-1 on the season. His 4.639 GAA and .829 Save % weren't as tidy as Lewis' numbers, but Basra made the big saves at the right time and has many previous titles to his credit showing that he can definitely be a big game goalie. This option gives the Giants some good flexibility, and a chance to change things up if either starts to struggle. It's an impressive tandem and against any other team they would probably be given the goaltending edge, but...

    Cristian Campeanu has picked up where he left off from previous seasons, which is to say he has pretty much been the best goalie around. Although Dave Lewis and Rick Baker each boast better numbers in Average and Save % (Cristian finished third in both categories at 4.074 and .857), anyone who has watched the Bullies this season understands that Cristian has been a legitimate MVP candidate for this team. He finished the season as one of the leaders in the 3 Star standings with 3 firsts, 2 seconds and 2 thirds. That total put him behind only Harp Kalkat and Brenden Ham  (the latter having had fewer overall stars, but more firsts to win the tiebreaker). Cristian uses his lanky frame to stretch his legs post to post and stop the shots he can't even see coming. He really shuts off the bottom of the net where most goals are scored, yet is so tall that you have trouble getting it over him. There are few holes to his game, and though the Bullies as a whole are inexperienced, Cristian truly has been the great equalizer.
Category Breakdown
Special Teams
Overall Outlook
     This series is not as easy to pick as one would think based on the standings. The Bullies really match up well with the Giants and have the goaltending to steal a game or two. A couple other things also work in their favour. They must capitalize on the powerplay, as the Giants have shown that is the one area where they may be vulnerable, while staying out of the box themselves. The Giants also lost one of their top players in Simran Bhatti which has forced them to rely on scoring support from some other sources. The good news for the G-men, is that Harp Kalkat has pretty much had his way with the Bullies this year, and though they will try to contain him, that is much easier said than done. Overall I still give the edge to the Giants, as they showed throughout the year that they can win the tight games, hence their impressive 13-3-2 record, not to mention their extensive playoff experience gained through years of playing in the other top leagues. Either way this one should be a fun one to watch! Series Prediction: Giants in three

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