The Mississauga Steelheads took a stranglehold on the opening series against the Ottawa 67’s on Thursday night with a 6-3 win. With their backs up against the wall in stranger territory the following night, however, 67’s netminder Leo Lazarev pulled out his biggest performance of his OHL career, stopping 51 shots to secure a 5-3 win and force a game 6 back in Ottawa on Sunday.
Alex Chmelevski – He returned to the top line in Game 4 for the first time in about a month. He had been spending some time on the third line and was even moved over to the wing. He played the wing in this game and only took two faceoffs. He’s earned a lot of his points on the power play lately and tonight was no different, registering a point on Austen Keating’s power play goal. Chmelevski’s ability to find his teammates to set up a scoring chance is uncanny but he did not have his best game and was inconsistent throughout. He has the ability to score clutch goals and we’ve seen it from him in Ottawa before. The skill is all there but we see it in flashes. He plays much better with skilled guys around him which has me thinking more and more that he’s more of a complementary player than one that can take over a game himself.
Due to the antics that happened in Mar. 30, Travis Barron was out of the lineup with a concussion. This opened up a spot next to Artur Tyanulin. Chmelevski has had success with Tyanulin in the past and was reunited for Game 5. The pair feed off of each other and show great chemistry. Chmelevski assisted on Tyanulin’s first goal and set him up for another couple chances on Tyanulin’s six-shot performance. His vision and knowledge of the games are his strengths but this inconsistency is the reason for his drop in NHL draft rankings.
Noel Hoefenmayer – He has been Ottawa’s strongest defenceman throughout the season and this series has been no different. He logs the most minutes and has been effectively playing in a variety of scenarios. His active stick combined with his highly-developed anticipation skills allows him to break up plays. He sometimes gets caught chasing a player and that has burned him at times. He’s also comfortable joining the rush but sometimes forgets that he’s a defenceman. In this series he’s been lights out. His cannon of a shot has been his secret weapon helping him tally seven points in five games this post-season. He had three-points in game four, but was left off the scoresheet the net game. With veteran Ryan Orban out of the lineup with an injury, Hoefenmayer will be relied upon even more and has already stepped up to the challenge. Don’t be surprised to see him as the highest selected Ottawa 67 in the upcoming NHL draft.
Austen Keating – He had a strong and very impressive performance in Game 4. The clearly banged up forward has been targeted all series and still puts forward strong efforts while he’s not at 100 per cent. Scoring two goals and adding an assist, Keating was a one of Ottawa’s best performers in the game. He drives to the net with the puck and without the puck looking for scoring opportunities – he did this effectively on his first goal. On his second goal he planted himself on the side of the net and tipped in a Noel Hoefenmayer point shot. He won a battle at centre ice and fed Patrick White for a shorthanded breakaway goal. He does a lot of things well on both ends of the ice but does not necessarily stand out in any particular category. His skating could use work – otherwise he has potential to be a solid bottom-six forward with his two-way play and hockey sense but still remains a bit of a project player.
In Game 5 Keating was unable to generate much offence at all even though he worked hard. Mississauga did a good job of wearing him down to the point where he looked exhausted at times.
Mississauga Prospects –
Owen Tippett – He has been a rock for the Steelheads throughout the season and one of the top NHL eligible players in the OHL. In Game 5, he made some excellent zone entries with the puck from passing to carrying it up. His speed assists him with gaining the zone quickly and smoothly – he’s hard to catch at top speed. Tippett is very much a ‘shoot on net’ every chance you get and it just so happens that his shot is lethal.
Not only can he shoot, but he can also make good plays. He doesn’t let his opponents know where he’s passing. He knows the game well – knows where his teammates are and where they will be. He got in a bit of penalty trouble in Game 4 taking two minors including one for interference and one for high sticking. It’s rare that this is ever a problem, in fact, he only took 30 PIMs all season.
Tippett played a little more physical than usual on Friday and this did not affect his game in a negative light. He generated a lot of grade-A scoring chances on a night where Leo Lazarev was almost unbeatable. He’ll be relied upon to help lead this team to their first second-round appearance and continue to solidify his draft stock.
Nicolas Hague – He had been logging a lot of minutes with the Steelheads and that should be no surprise from what he’s accomplished up to this point in the season. He’s a workhorse on the power play and get regular minutes on the penalty kill too. At 6’6, 216lbs, his size automatically attracts NHL teams. But like many young tall kids, his skating was a concern early in his career. Since he started in the OHL, he has improved his skating and is better able to move around in small areas – although sometimes this still gives him issues.
Hague missed the final period of Game 4 and the next one because he was suspended indefinitely for an incident with 67’s captain Travis Barron. With tensions already running high, the two got into a spirited battle near the players’ benches. The incident ended with Hague knocking Barron’s head into the ice giving him a concussion. NHL scouts know that this is not normal in Hague’s game, but he let the emotion get the better of him. I wouldn’t expect this to affect his draft stock in June.
Shaw Boomhower – He is an energy player and showed spurts of that in Game 4 and more consistently in Game 5. His hard work didn’t go out noticed and appeared to earn him more ice time. He’s very much a third or fourth line role player and has filled his role well. If he can start to chip in more offensively in his sophomore year, he may get some more looks down the road.