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Playoff Previews - "A" Division
(4) Rage @ (1) Thrashers

Rage: 9-8-1, 70 GF, 56 GA, +14 Dif.
Thrashers: 13-5-0, 121 GF, 70 GA, +51 Dif.
Rage
Top 5 Scorers
Thrashers
Top 5 Scorers
Marcel Lafortune 18-18-16-34
Daniel Lafortune 14-13-16-29
Steve Carruthers 17-8-14-22
Mario Bolognese 14-6-6-12
Darren Palmieri 7-5-5-10
Inder Mann 15-29-25-54
Jay Dove 17-14-34-48
Jeff Heer 13-17-10-27
Sanjeev Haer 12-13-14-27
Gary Gill 14-10-17-27

The Thrashers took top spot once again in the regular season earning their 7th Prime Minister's trophy, and more importantly gaining themselves the coveted first round bye. Playoff byes aren't always a good thing as teams tend to get rusty, but the quick "A" first round puts the Thrashers back into action with only the single week layoff, so the rust factor won't be an issue. The Rage were given a fair test by the Ghostriders, but they tended to overpower them in the second half of the two games making the scores look more lopsided then the games actually were. Nevertheless, the Rage stay hot as the two wins now push their unbeaten streak to eight games. The Thrashers won two of the three games against the Rage this season, but both of their victories came early in the season before the Rage were playing their best hockey.  

When it comes to ranking teams on offense, the Thrashers almost always stand alone. Once again they dominated in this department with 121 goals scored, 22 more than the next closest team in either division. If you have any defensive weaknesses the Thrashers will gladly point them out for you. Inder Mann had a breakout year this season as he showed he is one of the young superstars in this game. He recorded 29 goals and 54 points to lead the NWBHL in both categories. He seems to have boundless energy and is always moving at top speed. His body control when cutting through traffic is amazing, and he has the finish to match. Just behind him in the scoring race is the incomparable Jay Dove. Though known for his shot, often cited as the hardest anywhere, Jay led the league in assists this year with 34. He has some good company on the blueline for the Thrashers as Jeff Heer also supplies elite level offense from the back. Heer was one of three Thrashers to record 27 points this year joining Gary Gill and Sanjeev Heer. There are just too many other players to name but Taz Dhillon and Mike Vial are other notables that each have multiple league scoring titles under their belt.

The Rage got a boost in the first round when Orien Matsubara returned to the lineup after missing some games recently. This allows the Rage to increase their depth by moving Steve Carruthers down a line and letting Matsubara play with the Lafortune brothers, whom he has great chemistry with. Another bonus for the Rage is the return from suspension of one of the team's most hard-nosed players in Darren Palmieri, who is never shy of going to the net. An interesting side note to this series is the head-to-head match-up between Marcel Lafortune and Inder Mann that got some recent press on the league's forum board. Though both players will be much more interested in winning the series, it will still make for interesting viewing for the forum faithful involved in the great debate. Edge: Thrashers

The Thrashers are typically a dominant team in terms of keeping down their Goals-Against, but this was something of an off year for them as their 70 goals allowed ranks as one of their worst season totals to date. Not really sure how or why they had the letdowns, but then again there were lots of talented offensive teams in the league, and even those with poor records (the Eastside for example), were capable of filling the net. The team still has a host of talented defenders. Jeff Heer is absolutely amazing; the reach, the stride, the hockey sense, the shot, you name it. Jay Dove's defensive game is often of the league's most misunderstood entities. Yes he does commit a bad turnover at least once a game, but he has the ball all the time and tries to do so much with it. Gretzky used to lead the league in turnovers for the same reason. For every goal against that is his fault, five will go in the other net. It should also be noted that he may be the league's best shot-blocker, something for which he is never given credit. Roy Cabrita only played half the season, but will be a key playoff contributer. There are few that are tougher in front of their own net. As for the forward corps, they are tenacious as a group and are another one of those teams that plays a high pressure pursuit game.

The Rage picked up right where they left off in the regular season by allowing a dangerous Ghostriders team to score only a single goal in the two game first round series. In previous seasons this category would have been a wash, but with 14 fewer goals surrendered than the Thrashers, the Rage take the decision on this one. Edge: Rage

As with the team defense as a whole, Justin Faykosh had an off season statistically. The 3.98 GAA and .846 save % were the worst in his career with the Thrashers, excluding the Spring when the team fielded a bare-bones lineup as the Jets of course. He still managed to put up a good 12-5 win/loss record, and most of the goals against came late in games the Thrashers already had in hand. There is some good statistical news for Faykosh, however. He tied for the league lead in short handed assists. Seriously. Before we go writing off this season for him, keep in mind he is one of the most decorated playoff goalies in league history. Great offense or not, the Thrashers relied on goaltending to help them win all those titles and Justin remains an integral part of the total package that is the Surrey Thrashers.

Tony Ferreira didn't disappoint in the first round, turning away 44 of the 45 shots he faced versus the 'Riders. There is no question, however, that he will be tested much more often and with higher quality chances during this series with the potent offense of the Thrashers. This will definitely be another great goaltending match-up to keep an eye on. Edge: None

For the Thrashers, some of the names have changed, but the message remains the same; Just win, baby! They have laid claim to the NWBHL title five times since the Spring of 2004, but were unseated last year by a hungry young Wolfpac team. The Thrashers would like nothing better than to return to the podium and that road leads through a red hot Rage team. The Rage are playing with confidence at the moment and that is a powerful intangible. For all the years these teams have played in the league, they have surprisingly met in only one previous playoff series. It was the Thrashers that won a three game thriller with an overtime winner in the deciding game, way back in 05/06. This one is a tough call for sure, but I am taking the Thrashers experience and depth over the Rage's current momentum. Edge: Thrashers








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