All six first round BCHL playoff series get started this weekend.
In the Island Division, the first place Victoria Grizzlies will take on the fourth place Nanaimo Clippers.
The Grizzlies finished the season with 83 points, fourth most in the BCHL and 30 more than the Clippers. I don’t expect Nanaimo to go down easy because they never do, but I do expect them to go down.
The Grizzlies are too deep and their goaltender Matthew Galajda, the Island’s most valuable player, is just too good.
Grizzlies in five.
The second place Powell River Kings finished the season with 76 points, 21 more than their first round opponent, the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
Expect the Kings to end this one quickly, in no more than five games, and meet the Grizzlies for the Island division crown.
While the league did the right thing and got rid of the playoff format that saw the three division winners play a third round round-robin series to decide the two league finalists, a look at how the Interior division sets up proves that the format still needs fixing.
All six teams in the division qualified for the playoffs with the top two teams, the Penticton Vees and Vernon Vipers receiving first round byes.
The Vees finished with the season with 86 points, third best in the league and giving the league’s third best regular season team a first round bye can certainly be justified.
However, the Vipers receiving a free pass into round two is something that should not happen.
They finished the season with 69 points. Five teams finished higher and hopefully the league finds the right playoff format this off-season.
The four Interior division teams that will skate in round one all finished within four points of each other so expect both series to go long.
The Trail Smoke Eaters (58 points) finished third and will face the sixth place Salmon Arm Silverbacks, who finished just four points back of the Smokies.
The West Kelowna Warriors finished tied in points (56) with their first round opponent, the Merritt Centennials but will have home ice advantage based on having more wins.
These series are tough to call but I’ll take the teams with home ice advantage to win in seven games.
Another thing that the league will need to look at during the off-season is division alignment.
The Wenatchee Wild, who are located approximately 400 kilometers south of our province’s Lower Mainland finished first in the Mainland division with 94 points.
In round one, they’ll face the fourth place Prince George Spruce Kings who are located just under 700 kilometers north of the Lower Mainland.
That is extremely tough travel for a division winner.
Still, the Wild will win this series easily in four games.