Dogfight for playoff positioning

Halifax, Mooseheads

With 14 games remaining in the 2016-17 regular season for the Halifax Mooseheads we can start having a look at where the team might finish in the standings and some potential playoff matchups.

The Mooseheads currently sit 12th overall in the standings with 53 points on a 24-25-2-3 record. That’s three points more than the team finished with last season when they wound up 17th overall and eventually won the draft lottery. At the rate things are going the Moose are likely to finish anywhere between 11th and 13th overall this season.

Gatineau has caught fire lately and lead the Herd by one point thanks to their sixth consecutive win on Wednesday night over Rimouski. The Oceanic are also hot on the Halifax’s heels with the 13th place Club only two points back. If the postseason were to begin today the Mooseheads would be matched up against the Charlottetown Islanders. As you can see below, with the standings so tightly packed there is the opportunity for plenty of movement in playoff positioning over the next few weeks with 10th overall Quebec the only team Halifax, Gatineau or Rimouski have a realistic shot at catching. Thankfully the Mooseheads have games in hand on each of them.

*as of February 16th*

1 x-Saint John Sea Dogs 53 36 13 3 1 76
2 x-Shawinigan Cataractes 54 36 14 3 1 76
3 x-Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 55 34 15 4 2 74
4 Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 54 33 14 2 5 73
5 Charlottetown Islanders 54 35 16 3 0 73
6 Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 56 32 20 2 2 68
7 Chicoutimi Sagueneens 55 31 20 2 2 66
8 Acadie-Bathurst Titan 55 30 20 3 2 65
9 Victoriaville Tigres 56 29 20 5 2 65
10 Quebec Remparts 55 27 23 3 2 59
11 Gatineau Olympiques 55 25 26 4 0 54
12 Halifax Mooseheads 54 24 25 2 3 53
13 Rimouski Oceanic 56 23 28 5 0 51
14 Val d’Or Foreurs 55 22 29 2 2 48
15 Drummondville Voltigeurs 54 21 28 0 5 47
16 Sherbrooke Phoenix 55 22 30 1 2 47
17 Baie-Comeau Drakkar 54 19 27 5 3 46
18 Moncton Wildcats 54 13 38 2 1 29

x= clinched playoff position

Halifax has some tough sledding the rest of this season with 12 of the 14 remaining games against teams that are above them in the standings. The Mooseheads will face first overall Saint John four times, fifth overall Charlottetown three times, sixth overall Cape Breton twice and eighth overall Acadie-Bathurst three times. The Herd will face last place Moncton twice when they play a home-and-home series next week beginning on Heritage Day Monday at Scotiabank Centre at 2pm. The Mooseheads will also have the task of playing six straight road games from February 26th to March 11th.

There are a handful of teams that the Mooseheads could be pitted against in the first round of the President Cup Playoffs, but we’ll focus on the two potential Maritimes Division rivals in Charlottetown and Cape Breton as their possible opponents.

Halifax has played the Islanders tough this season, going 3-3 against the high scoring squad. Two of the Mooseheads losses have only been by one goal each. The Islanders have been very strong since making several big moves at the deadline to add players like Francois Beauchemin, Adam Marsh, Alex Dostie and getting Daniel Sprong back from injury. Halifax has been bolstered by a pair of players jettisoned from Charlottetown in forward Jake Coughler and Blade Mann-Dixon. There’s no doubt those two players would love a little revenge against their former team.

A playoff series against the provincial rival Screaming Eagles would make for an exciting first round, especially since the two teams haven’t faced each other in the postseason since the Jakub Voracek days in 2008. The season series has been a good battle again this year with the Mooseheads going 3-3-1-0 against Cape Breton including a thrilling shootout win at Centre 200 last month. Giovanni Fiore has been a bright spot for the Eagles this season and is leading the league with 44 goals in 49 games. Cape Breton has actually seemed to play better since dealing away superstar Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Armada following the World Juniors. For fans this would be the ideal series to begin the playoffs and would most certainly rekindle the historic matchup that has seen some exciting moments over the years.

A lot can happen in the span of 14 games but it’s fun to look ahead at some of the possibilities.

Mooseheads remaining schedule

February 17th Halifax Acadie-Bathurst 7:00pm
February 18th Charlottetown Halifax 7:00pm
February 20th Moncton Halifax 2:00pm
February 23rd Halifax Moncton 7:00pm
February 24th Acadie-Bathurst Halifax 7:00pm
February 26th Halifax Saint John 3:00pm
March 1st Halifax Saint John 7:00pm
March 3rd Halifax Cape Breton 7:00pm
March 5th Halifax Charlottetown 3:00pm
March 10th Halifax Acadie-Bathurst 7:00pm
March 11th Halifax Saint John 7:00pm
March 15th Charlottetown Halifax 7:00pm
March 17th Cape Breton Halifax 7:00pm
March 18th Saint John Halifax 4:00pm

For teams dwelling near the lower part of the standings there is hope to play in the playoffs and still have a shot at a high pick in the QMJHL Entry Draft which will be held in Saint John this June. The draft lottery will be much different this year after changes made to give the bottom five teams a shot at winning the top pick. The 18th place team will have nine chances, 17th place will have six, 16th will have three, 15th will have two and 14th will have one. The last-place team will be given the third overall pick if it does not draw either of the top two selections. In cases where the last-place team is awarded the third pick, the next-to-last team gets the fourth overall pick if it has not already been drawn.

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