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Playoff Previews - "A" Division
(3) Rage @ (2) Thrashers


Rage: 11-6-1 (.639), 87 GF, 73 GA, +14 Dif.
Thrashers: 14-3-1 (.806), 106 GF, 48 GA, +58 Dif.
Rage
Top 5 Scorers
Thrashers
Top 5 Scorers
Marcel Lafortune 16-25-24-49
Daniel Lafortune 12-13-12-25
Jeff Massullo 16-3-22-25
Steve Carruthers 17-8-12-20
Orien Matsubara 12-4-10-14
Jeff Heer 15-11-22-33
Dave Fisher 12-14-18-32
Jay Dove 18-11-20-31
Roy Cabrita 11-11-12-23
Inder Mann 10-5-18-23

The Thrashers took two of three games in the season series between these two teams. The Rage have historically struggled to get wins against this powerhouse team but then that can be said for most teams in the league. The Rage did earn a victory against this team fairly late in the season with an extremely short bench as well, in a rare game in which the Thrashers looked asleep at the wheel. Don't expect to see that again, though, as the Thrashers are built for the playoffs and have the hardware to prove it. 

Marcel Lafortune started this season on fire and simply never slowed down. With 49 points in 16 games he laid claim to the scoring title edging out a hard charging Mike Sanghara. Surprisingly, this is Marcel's first scoring title in the NWBHL, though he has picked up the MVP trophy before and is the odds on favorite to do so again. His brother Daniel finished second on the club with 25 points, good for 7th in the league, and would have finished higher had he not missed six games. They remain one of the league's most unstoppable duos and will give the Thrashers' checkers a stiff test. The consistent Jeff Massullo put up another solid season from the blueline notching 25 points, marking the fifth time he has reached that plateau in a season. Only Jeff Heer and Jay Dove finished above him in defensemen scoring. The secondary scoring on the team will have to come from sources such as Steve Carruthers, Orien Matsubara, and Graeme Spence. The Rage also managed to help their depth when they picked up Darcy McNeil late in the season. He brought a real spark to the team and showed he can contribute on the scoresheet with 8 goals and 12 points in just 7 games. All things considered, though, the Rage's second and third lines don't stack up to the incredible depth of the Thrashers, so this team will need to continue to get the bulk of their scoring from the Lafortune line.

It is always a struggle to sufficiently give credit to all the Thrashers that make up this amazing offensive unit. Once again they led the league in goals scored, averaging just under six per game. It was a three horse race for the club lead with Jeff Heer edging out Dave Fisher and Jay Dove to be tops on the team with 33 points. As per usual, the bulk of the Thrashers offensive attack is generated from the back end with the killer duo of Dove and Heer. The Rage will have to find a way to get people into their faces to take away their booming shots, yet not over commit and get beaten on a rush, which they can both do exceedingly well. Up front, other than the hardest working man in any game, Dave Fisher, this team has a fantastic collection of snipers. Inder Mann couldn't match his astounding numbers from 08/09, but still managed 23 points in 10 games. The tenacious Roy Cabrita finished with similar numbers of 11-11-12-23. The deadly combo of Sanjeev Haer and Bobby Grewal is always fun to watch as well. Grewal played a limited amount of games this season but is always good to go for the playoffs and will act as setup man for Haer's patented one timer. The Thrashers powerplay was absolutely lethal this season, finishing up at better than a 46% rate of efficiency. Staying out of the box will be critical for any Thrashers opponent during this postseason.  Edge: Thrashers

The four+ goals against the Rage have surrendered on average this year, while still not a bad number, represents a significant increase over what this team has given up over each of the last few years. The Rage have long been known as one of the top checking teams. They feature a few forwards renowned for their defensive capabilities. Graeme Spence, and Caleb Chiu are both recipients of the league's award for "Top Defensive Forward". Jeff Massullo proves year in and year out that he is one of the very best in his own zone, be it in front of his goalie's crease or in the corners. A big key to the Rage's defensive game has always been the play of Graham Tizzard, who was limited to just 7 games played this season. He will be a key playoff figure for this team if they can get him in the lineup. This team will really need to get back to the game they have played over the last several seasons if they want to slow the vaunted Thrashers attack. 

The Thrashers play a high pressure system. As soon as the opposition gets the ball, they are on you trying to force a turnover. Players such as Dave Fisher and Roy Cabrita are relentless in chasing down the ball carrier. When you do manage to get it into their zone, Dove and Heer have excellent stick position, cutting off passing lanes with their long reach and sacrificing the body to dive in front of shots or just to knock the ball to safety. The Thrashers also have some stay-at-home type of defenders in Gurp Siekham and Brit Katnich that don't get much press on the team but play a solid game in their own zone. Any team that finishes an 18 game season with less than 50 goals surrendered as did the Thrashers with 48, definitely knows how to play defense.  Edge: Thrashers

Andy Vandenberg finished in the middle of the pack in most of the statistical categories for "A" division in what was a bit of an up and down season for him. He is a real veteran of this league with 179 career regular season games to his credit, almost all of which came for the Burnaby Rage. Andy is also one of the most intense individuals you will see, and it will be very important for him to remain focused and not get distracted with any Thrashers crease-crashing antics. The Rage also have an extra card up their sleeve in the form of Tony Ferreira who played extremely well in his two games for the Rage as well as an emergency start for the Barons. As Andy played the bulk of the season it is presumed he will get first crack, but the door may open for Ferreira if Vandenberg falters in game 1.

Justin Faykosh played every minute of the season for this Thrashers team, and has proven remarkably durable during his career. He put up one of his best seasons to date, leading the entire NWBHL in wins (14), and Goals-Against-Average (2.69), and finishing behind only Black Aces netminder Cristian Campeanu in save percentage (.877). His career playoff stats are truly telling. His record is 26-10 with a 2.63 GAA and an even more impressive .899 Save %. Though many would say he has been the beneficiary of a great team in front of him, those that have seen Justin play over the years know just how big a part of the championship puzzle he really is.  Edge: Thrashers

It will be a simple game plan for the Thrashers in this series. They must find a way to contain Marcel and Daniel Lafortune. Stopping them completely seems like an impossible task, but they really only need to slow down their production and wear out the Rage defense and goaltending with their unrelenting offensive onslaught. For the Rage it is imperative that their goaltender can steal at least one game in this series and have their team mesh into a cohesive unit. I do think the Rage are capable of taking this series to the maximum, but the Thrashers have shown time and time again that they are just too strong for teams in a playoff series. Look for the Thrashers to head to the final against the Wolfpac for a great rematch of the 07/08 championship.  Edge: Thrashers








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