#QPlayoffs Series Preview: Acadie-Bathurst vs. Victoriaville
The QMJHL semifinals showcase four high-octane offensive teams. In this matchup, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan enter the third Round on a high after sweeping the Sherbrooke Phoenix, while the Victoriaville Tigres only needed five games to dismantle the youthful Drummondville Voltigeurs.
The Titan swept the regular season series both franchises, beating the Tigres 4 -1 on home ice on October 29th and then 5 -1 on November 9th at the Centre Desjardins. But that was then and this is now.
Both these first-place teams in their respective divisions have drastically changed their rosters since those two early regular season encounters. The Titan and Tigres boast powerful offensive attacks, solid defensive structure and veteran presence between the pipes. This series could go the distance with both teams being mirror images.
The Titan and the Tigres are built to win it all. The Tigres acquired Vitalii Abramov late November and went on to add veteran rear-guard Dominic Cormier and veteran netminder Étienne Montpetit to solidify their backend over the Holiday trade period.
Abramov’s addition, combined with Anaheim Ducks prospect Maxime Comtois and fellow Russian Ivan Kosorenkov, has given the Tigres one of the most lethal line combination in the league. However, throughout the 2018 QMJHL playoffs the Tigres have been getting offensive contributions by committee, which undoubtedly has lead to their playoff success.
Through the first two rounds the Tigres have been led in scoring by Blue Jackets Prospect Abramov (7G-6A-13P), Kosorenkov (3G-9A-12P), Félix Lauzon (2G-7A-9P), Jimmy Huntington (2G-6A-8P) and Simon Lafrance (2G-6A-8P).
Speciality teams have been the Tigres source of strength throughout the regular season after ranking in the top 3 in both the power play (23.2%) and penalty kill (84.8%) categories. The Tigres have struggled slightly on the power play in the postseason, which is currently clicking at 20%, but have been able to match their production while shorthanded (84.2%).
Between the pipes, Monpetit has been a rock for the Tigres; he boasts an 8-2 record to match his outstanding 1.91 GAA and 0.927% save percentage. But Monpetit and the Tigres will be tested by one of deepest and most skilled teams in the entire QMJHL in the semifinals.
The Acadie-Bathurst Titan have a plethora of talent and depth at every position. The Titan are backstopped by veteran netminder Evan Fitzpatrick who was acquired from the Sherbrooke Phoenix during December’s trade period. The St. Louis Blues Prospect has been nothing but spectacular in his team’s deep playoff run; the 20-year old also has an 8-2 record, with a league-leading 1.79 GAA and 0.930% save percentage.
The Titan are led defensively by arguably the best D-corps in the QMJHL which boasts the likes of 2018 NHL Draft prospect Noah Dobson and veteran rear-guards Adam Holwell and Oliver Galipeau. Up front the Titan can throw four solid lines over boards at any given time and have been getting inspired performances from Jeffrey Truchon-Viel (6G-4A-10P), Mitchell Balmas (5G-4A-9P), Samuel Asselin (2G-6A-8P) and Jordan Maher (2G-6A-8P). The team’s regular season top scorer Antoine Morand, along with German Rubstov, Liam Murphy and Ethan Crossman, have all had dominant two-way performances as well throughout the postseason.
The Titan seems built to play any style of game and its versatility has been on display in many different ways. However, improvements must be made on its power play, which is currently scoring at a 9.8% success rate, way below its regular season average of 25.4%. Luckily for Acadie-Bathurst though, its penalty kill is at a whopping 91%, which is 7% higher than in the regular season.
As proven by past series, anything can happen in the playoffs, but all indications point to a very intense and highly competitive series between these two powerhouses.