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Playoff Previews - "A" Division
(4) Executioners @ (1) Barons

Executioners: 9-7-2 (.556), 90 GF, 75 GA, +15 Dif.
Barons: 14-2-2 (.833), 93 GF, 53 GA, +40 Dif.
Executioners
Top 5 Scorers
Barons
Top 5 Scorers
Shane Khan 18-18-17-35
Andy Saran 17-9-15-24
Mike Bhayana 16-4-17-21
Bobby Samra 14-6-13-19
Simran Kang 13-6-11-17
Marcel Lafortune 16-12-20-32
Ray Diesel 18-17-14-31
Rod Wardell 13-15-9-24
Lloyd Weir 14-8-11-19
Graeme Spence 14-6-12-18

These two teams met in the Spring Final in 2010 with the Barons taking the series in the third game to capture their second NWBHL Championship in three seasons. The Barons also took the season series this year, winning two of the three games between these two teams. Though a quick look at the standings would seem to indicate a sizeable margin between these two clubs, the Executioners were actually one of the hottest teams in the league during the second half of the season, at one point going on a 6-1-2 run to get themselves back into the playoff picture after a shaky start to the season. The Barons were solid throughout the year and on the strength of a 14 win season were able to coast into capturing the Prime Minister's Trophy as the league's top point getting team.

The Executioners have shown they can score, averaging exactly five goals-per-game. Shane Khan quietly had a superb season for the team, doubling any other Executioner in goals (18) and finishing with 35 points, good for third in the "A" div, behind only Dave Fisher and Tony Chohan. He should earn some serious MVP consideration this year. The always entertaining Andy Saran finished second on the club with 24 points. He has great vision on the floor and makes players around him better. Mike Bhayana is another good passer, and he tied Shane for the team lead with 17 assists. Lee Bryant, saw limited action this year and only got into ten games with the team, but his career production numbers are amazing. Counting playoffs, he has collected 86 points in 42 games, good for an average of 2.05 per game. The team made a huge player pickup down the stretch as Par Sidhu joined the team and managed to squeeze into the requisite six games to qualify for playoffs. He completely changed the team's back end, adding that quarterback they had been missing. Also keep an eye on Ben Saggu, who led the team in scoring last season, and is making a successful return from a lengthy injury layoff. 

The Barons finished the year with 93 goals in 18 games to finish second to only the Wolfpac in that category. Former Rage superstar Marcel Lafortune has fit in nicely with the Barons since his move over to the team and given them the gamebreaker they had been lacking after Stan McClellan's departure. He led the club with 32 point in 16 games this season. A couple of veterans stand next on the scoring chart as Ray Diesel had a resurgent season for the Barons, finishing with a team high 17 goals and a total of 31 points which stands as his highest since 05-06. The 400 goal man, Rod Wardell, fired 15 goals in 13 games to score at a goal-per-game pace, incredibly, for the 28th season. Young gun Brenden Ham was held to just 8 games this season, but showed his typical dominating self in those games. Look for him to be a another big factor during this playoff run. The Barons continue to get great production from the blueline from Craig Houle. He is one of the league's most consistent offensive defensemen and always a threat on the powerplay. Other regular contributors were Lloyd Weir (14-8-11-19) and the always dangerous Graeme Spence (14-6-12-18). The edge in this category goes to the Barons based on their powerplay this year. They capitalized on 37.8% of their man advantages. It should also be noted that the Execs had big problems on the PK this year allowing 16 goals and only killing off 59% of opposition power plays. That could be a key match-up in this series.  Edge: Barons

The addition of the extremely skilled Par Sidhu to the lineup, certainly improves the depth of the defensive corps for the Executioners. The team already boasted a couple of monsters in the 6'5 Steve Tung and 6'6 Mike Hughston, both of whom are great at clearing the front of the net and winning battles in the corner. The team also has Darby Rai, Rick Tung, and Nameet Kumar in the mix along with the feisty Chris Lloyd who can play forward or defense. The Executioners have some highly regarded two way forwards at their disposal as well in Mike Bhayana and Simran Kang. The Exec's, who do have some players that have been known to do a little cherry-picking, will have to play a solid team defense style with everybody coming back if they want to shut down the big shooters of the Barons.

The Barons dominated in the defensive aspect of the game this season. As a team, they allowed fewer than 3 goals per game over the course of 18 games, a phenomenal stat for the usually high-scoring Arenex, and all the more impressive in an "A" division with so many quality scoring threats. Though Craig Houle is easily the top ball-handling defensemen, the team has a bevy of dependable stay-at-home defenders that get the job done. Ed Silva and Scott Rickards both fit that mold, and while each have decent shots from the point, they are mostly considered for the work they do in their own end. Graham Tizzard uses his impressive stride to carry the ball out of his own end and lead the odd rush every now and again. His considerable reach also presents problems for opposing forwards. The team also has another couple of solid defensemen in Ryan Taylor and Dave Penland, the latter of which hasn't played many games over the past few seasons, but always is a threat with his natural offensive ability. The Barons have their own set of top notch defensive forwards including Ray Diesel and Graeme Spence, both of whom have won multiple awards for being the best in the NWBHL in that category.  Edge: Barons

Since joining the Executioners last season, Craig Hagan has really helped stabilize the team's goaltending situation, which has helped them to compete at another level. He is a big goalie who cuts down the angles well, giving the opponents little to shoot at. His GAA of 3.43 puts him fourth in the division as does his .862 save percentage. The team also has former Delta Mickeys mainstay Alam Cheema qualified, but don't expect to see him get the call unless there is an injury to Hagan.

Along with the Stingrays, the Barons have a top goaltending tandem that gives them incredible depth at the position. Dean Salsnek and Tony Ferreira both put in tremendous seasons for the team finishing first and second in the major goaltending categories in the "A" division. Ferreira led in average with his 2.67 and save % at .885 while Dean Salsnek's edge was his incredible record this year at 9-0-1 making him the only tender in the league this year with significant playing time to go undefeated. Both of these teams are solid between the pipes, but the edge has to go to the Barons based on the numbers and the fact they have two different goalies on top of their game.  Edge: Barons

On paper this series looks to be the Barons' to lose. They have the history on their side in regards to the all-time team versus team match-up, which the Barons lead 8-3 (counting last year's finals), and of course, the top playoff seed that comes with having the best record this year. There is also the matter of the considerable edge in playoff experience which the Barons have in abundance. Having said that, the Executioners showed that they could defeat the big boys when they went on a tear in the second half and have played giant killer in previous seasons, including taking out the Thrashers in the first round last season. Still, I can't help but think that the Barons have all the right ingredients to make another cup run.   Edge: Barons








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