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Playoff Previews - "A" Division

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

Giants Stats

Record Overall:
16-2-0, 98 GF, 44 GA, +54

Record vs Jaguars:
4-1-0, 32 GF, 18 GA, +14

Special Teams:
PP: 12 for 28 (42.9 %)
PK: 33 for 44 (75.0 %)

Top 5 Scorers:
Harp Kalkat 17-25-27-52
Simran Bhatti 15-13-16-29
Vish Singh 17-11-13-24
Justin Matai 16-9-14-23
Shaun Kalkat 10-3-11-14

Jaguars Stats

Record Overall:
8-8-2, 67 GF, 85 GA, +18

Record vs Giants:
1-4-0, 18 GF, 32 GA, -14

Special Teams:
PP: 10 for 51 (19.6 %)
PK: 30 for 39 (76.9 %)

Top 5 Scorers:
Brenden Ham 14-11-20-31
Stan McClellan 14-12-10-22
Mont Saran 17-5-13-18
Mike Farrington 9-8-7-15
Graeme Spence 12-7-7-14
Series Overview
     Since joining the Northwest League, the Giants have pretty much dominated the opposition. They went 13-3-2 in the 12/13 season on their way to a championship, and they actually bettered that mark this year with a 16-2 record. Having said that, one of those two losses came at the hands of the Jaguars, who are also champs from the Spring session. They are a dangerous team in their own right with a bevy of deadly finishers, but the Jaguars still lost four of five match-ups against the Giants this year, a couple of them by a wide margin. These teams also entered the playoffs heading in opposite directions, with the Giants having won seven straight while the Jaguars lost their final four games. They actually seemed destined for the second seed in the "A" div playoffs before the late swoon that allowed both the Thrashers and Executioners to pass them, setting up this series that a month ago looked like an improbable match-up.
Team Offense
     All talk about the Giants' offense begins and ends with Harp Kalkat. His play since his arrival in the league has been nothing short of astonishing! He led the league in goals, assists and points this season... as a defenseman. His 25 tallies actually tied a league record for goals by a blueliner that was jointly held by Jay Dove and Roy Cabrita. The 52 points was also just a pair short of the record 54 put up by Dove in the 06/07 season. Harp has the fastest (and heaviest) shot you will ever see. Many goalies can get a piece of it, but it tends to drill its way through their equipment due to its sheer power. He also has an unparalleled momentum when he takes off up the floor on a fast break, and few have been able to catch him. Harp has the ability to snap a shot off the rush and routinely beats goalies with his release while racing down the left flank. The Jaguars will definitely have their hands full with him, but they also have the depth of talent you'd expect from a top "A" div team as well. Simran Bhatti has really developed into a premier scoring threat in his own right. He has been over a goal-per-game his last two seasons and was second on the club this year with 29 points. Finishing next on the team was the talented Vish Singh. He can score goals and he can be a play-maker as well. Former Wolfpac mainstay Justin Matai completed his second season with the Giants with a solid stat line of 16-9-14-23. He is a deadly stickhandler and serious competitor out on the floor. The other Kalkat, Shaun, often gets overlooked due to his brother, but he is himself a top player. He is one of the strongest players in the game and uses that to his benefit with a terrific power forward game. He is also versatile enough to be used on D when the team is short. Other than Harp, there are a few good offensive d-men on the team. Alex Bosma, Nathan Pangalia and Jordan Chowsen al have blistering shots from the point, giving a good second option on the Giant's effective powerplay. There are also a couple of other notable forwards that just made the playoff qualification minimum. Bobby Grewal and James Mowat are both veteran, effective scorers that will help put this team's depth over the top.

     The Jaguars were feast or famine this year on offense. They were able to score bunches in many games, but also had some times when they were shut down. There is no question that when their best lineup is there, the Jags are able to put out some top caliber scorers that most teams would have trouble matching up with. That list starts with six time NWBHL scoring title winner, Stan McClellan. He has more points than anybody else in the history of the league (833) and sits second to only Rod Wardell in goals with 439. Stan is known for his blistering slapshot which he likes to set up for on the left boards. He has terrific chemistry with young Brenden Ham, who finished second in this year's "A" scoring race behind Harp Kalkat with 31 points. Ham is likely the deadliest one-on-one player in the league today, making opposing defenders look foolish as he turns them inside out. He also has an underrated shot that is both hard and accurate. The team's hopes received a huge boost when another of the game's greats, Marcel Lafortune returned from a nasty shoulder injury for the team's last regular season game. Marcel is not just an offensive threat with his incredible speed and shooting ability, but his ability to run a powerplay will help a Jags team that struggled in that department this year with just a 19.6 % conversion rate. Mont Saran is a valuable contributor to this team that often gets overlooked. He has put up some impressive numbers the past few seasons, and was third in team scoring this year with 18 points. Mike Farrington was limited to just 9 games played, but he managed 8-7-15 in those games, showing his good scorer's touch. The club also has some good support scoring from Andy Hundhal and Mannu Padda. Both of them are supremely talented stickhandlers that can beat several opponents for the highlight-reel goal. On the back end, look for the big shot from point men Mitch Miller and Craig Houle. Daniel Lafortune is also another wild card in this series that can really add to the Jags' offense if he is in the lineup.
Team Defense
    The Giants dominated this season in many categories and defense was certainly one of them. They gave up the fewest shots in the division (381) for an average of 22.4 against per contest. The team also allowed just 2.59 goals-per-game once their forfeit win was taken out of the equation. Naturally, Harp Kalkat eats a ton of minutes for the Giants and he dominates as much in his own end as he does when rushing up the floor to join the attack. The team also has some other quality defenders such as Alex Bosma, who's impressively tall stature gives him a reach advantage on anyone in the league, and the very mobile Nathan Pangalia. Jordan Chowsen also got into his six games to qualify and adds that extra speed element to the Giants' back end. Gary Chahal, one of the league's fiercest competitors has also played at the back for the team. He can win the physical battles or use his wheels to beat the opposition, but he must make sure to manage his aggression and stay out of the box. The most interesting dynamic of this playoff run is that with the team bringing all of the playoff qualified defenseman on the roster, the minutes that Harp typically devours might get eaten in to. 

    Without question, the Jaguars are a team that thinks offense first. They still performed admirably, surrendering 26.5 shots per game, but too many of those were high quality chances. The result was a team that gave up five goals per game (also with a forfeit win subtracted), which is too many, especially when you are going head-to-head with the top offense in the league. The talented Craig Houle is their most steady defensemen. Though noted for his offensive ability, Craig is always solid in his own zone and makes crisp outlet passes to get the ball out of danger. Mitch Miller is a young defensemen with a lot of natural ability, and he will be called upon to match-up with the Giants' quick offensive players. Gurinder Dhillon and Nameet Kumar will have to be the stay-at-home types for the team, and make sure they play a tidy game in their own end. The team also has Daniel Lafortune on the roster, though he didn't show up at all in the second half of the season, so his status is uncertain. He is an offensive machine from the back end when he is on D, but as he often tries to do to much, there are defensive lapses that could be exploited. The Jaguars are going to have to gel and play a full two way game to shut down the Giants, but more than likely, they'll be looking to simply outscore them.
    For most of this season, Dave Lewis was on pace to rewrite the goaltending record book in the NWBHL, before giving up 10 goals over two games vs the Jaguars near the end of the schedule. As it was, he still finished with a goals-against of 2.20 and a Save % of .904, both of which are phenomenal numbers in the Arenex. Only the Executioners' Adam Butler finished higher in both statistical categories, but that was with Adam only playing in five games this year. Dave's win/loss record on the season was 10-0-0 which speaks for itself. Despite the team's potent lineup, the Giants still rely on Lewis to keep the other teams at bay. On occasion he was relied upon quite a bit, but he came through in fine form finishing in fourth place in the division's 3 star standings. That included three first star performances. The team also has veteran Jas Basra qualified as well as former Crooks standout, Jason Sidhu. Basra put up some fine numbers as well (3-1-0, 2.77 GAA, 864 SV %), and can definitely be relied upon in a tough series if needed. Sidhu struggled in one of his two games, so his numbers aren't pretty, but he is a quality keeper, and a heck of a third option for the team.

    Though the Jaguars actually have four different options to play net during this series, there is no question that they feel the most comfortable behind the league's all-time wins leader, Dean Salsnek. He has accumulated 131 in his illustrious career for an impressive winning percentage of .672. He also tops the career leader list for playoff wins with 47. This year he was 3-5-1 with a GAA of 5.06 and a save percentage of .814. Those numbers are on the low end of the scale in the div this year, but keep in mind the run-and-gun nature of the Jaguars, as well as the fact that four of his nine starts came against the powerhouse Giants, who tend to inflate opposition goaltending numbers in a hurry. Mike Ireland played five games for the club this year going 1-3-1, with his other goaltending numbers being somewhat ugly. The team has promising rookie Harvy Takhar qualified for action if needed as well as Steve Carruthers in a pinch, though the team would rather put his talents to use at forward. 
Overall Outlook
     This series pits an up-and-coming Jaguars team against a polished, veteran team with several championships to its credit in this and other leagues. Even with the great goaltending on display on both sides, look for this to be a high scoring series, with several of the game's most talented finishers in the lineup. The Harp Kalkat factor looms large over this series. The Jaguars will do everything in their power to try to contain him, but so many have failed in the past. As good as he is normally, he also has an extra gear when his team is down in the final minutes and he has been known to single-handedly turn the tide. I'm not sure the Jaguars, who are not particularly known for their defensive prowess, will be able to shut down Harp AND the rest of the potent lineup the Giants can throw on the floor. The season series between these teams spoke volumes with the Giants winning four of the five contests. Look for the Giants to continue their dominant ways and return to another NWBHL final. Series Prediction: Giants in two

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