It was supposed to be a tighter series than this. At least Game 4 reflected that.
After both teams completed opening round sweeps, Adam Boqvist’s top seeded London Knights were faced with a second-round Ontario Hockey League playoff series against the fourth-ranked Guelph Storm, a team that features fellow Blackhawks prospect and talented two-way forward MacKenzie Entwistle.
It was the presence of the latter — along with a number of veteran juniors and other prominent acquisitions prior to the trade deadline — that was supposed to tip the scales somewhat in Guelph’s favor, with some (including myself) picking the Storm to prevail in seven (probably close) games.
Always the powerhouse, London is proving to be just too damn good, in no small part due to Boqvist’s continued dynamic play with the puck.
Here’s how the series has played out so far.
Game 1: London 3, Guelph 2
Boqvist: 0 points, 4 shots
Entwistle: 1 goal, 1 shot, 1 for 2 in the faceoff circle
Entwistle’s goal pulled the Storm to within one in the third period, but that’s as close as Guelph would get anytime soon.
Game 2: London 7, Guelph 0
Boqvist: 1 power-play goal, 1 shot
Entwistle: 0 points, 2 shots, 2 for 4 on faceoffs
Boqvist’s goal put the Knights up 6-0 in Game 2, and was the fourth of five goals allowed by Guelph in the final frame.
Instead of heading home on a storm surge, Guelph’s playoff chances were severely downgraded.
Game 3: London 7, Guelph 4
Boqvist: 1 power-play goal, 1 secondary power-play assist, 2 shots
Entwistle: 1 primary assist, 1 for 4 on faceoffs
This goal opened the scoring and was Boqvist’s eighth of the postseason, putting him in a tie for the OHL playoff lead up to that point.
Adam Boqvist gets his 8th goal of the playoffs on a power play. 1-0 Knights. pic.twitter.com/Ee48hUGrWu— Mike Stubbs (@stubbs980) April 8, 2019
It was a back and forth affair, but Guelph ultimately couldn’t keep up, even with the home crowd behind them.
Game 4: Guelph 4, London 3
Boqvist: 1 goal, 1 secondary power-play assist, 4 shots
Entwistle: 1 secondary assist, 1 for 1 on faceoffs
I was in the press box for this one, so I was able to keep a closer eye on Boqvist’s play without the puck, and I liked what I saw, for the most part.
Much has been written about Boqvist’s ability to put up points and create chances, and for good reason. His offensive skills are legit, and that’s largely what made him such a high NHL draft pick. Still, I’ve heard many question about his play in his own zone, and rightly so. Here’s what I saw from a bird’s eye view, keeping in mind it’s a small sample.
In the first period, Boqvist retrieved the puck behind his net with a pair of Storm forwards bearing down on him, and quickly tapped it to an open teammate to spark a rush in the other direction. Late in the second period, he tracked Guelph forward Liam Hawel behind the London net, and pressured him out toward the Knights blue line, forcing the puck away from the danger zone.
On the flip side, I noticed him waiting outside his own blue line as his defensive partner was looking to make an outlet. A bit too eager to get up the ice there, as opposed to kicking all the way back to offer some support and an easier first pass. He and Evan Bouchard — who was taken No. 10 by the Oilers in 2018 — have developed a nice working relationship, but that might not fly with his mates at the NHL level.
His defensive game has room to grow, that’s no secret. But his offensive upside is electric. In the first period alone, he scored this goal and recorded three shots.
1-1 as the first comes to an end in Guelph. Boqvist ties in on the man advantage the same way the Storm opened the scoring. Bo with 9 goals now in 8 games after finishing a great pass from Regula. pic.twitter.com/KhoDoDHLYu— John Morris (@JohnMorrisR53) April 10, 2019
The strike came on the power play, and tied him once again for the OHL playoff lead with Saginaw Spirit forward Owen Tippett, who was drafted No. 10 overall by the Panthers in 2017.
Boqvist later recorded a secondary power-play assist that brought the Knights to within a goal late in the third period.
Boqvist was denied another primary power-play assist early in the second as the Storm goalie made an amazing save on a one-time chance and later led a promising solo rush up the ice in a four-on-four situation that was summarily ended by a forceful check from the opposition.
Overall, his defensive game isn’t perfect, but he’s by no means an easy target in his own zone, and his offensive abilities definitely offset any defensive deficiencies, at this level at least.
Lest we forget Entwistle, he drew a secondary assist on Guelph’s third goal of the game, which was scored by Nick Suzuki (Canadiens). Again, Entwistle’s game doesn’t pop, and you have to pay attention to appreciate it. He fights for the puck along the boards, puts his big body to use by staking his claim out in front of the net, and doggedly back checks in order to lend support in his own zone.
There’s a lot to like about his game, and it should translate well to the pros.
Updated playoff stat lines:
Boqvist: 8 games played, 9 goals (7 PP), 3 assists (3 PP), 25 shots
Entwistle: 8 games played, 3 goals (1 PP), 5 assists (1 PP), 15 shots, 10 for 19 on faceoffs
Game 5 – Friday, April 12: Guelph at London – 7:30 p.m.
*Game 6 – Saturday, April 13: London at Guelph – 7 p.m.
*Game 7 – Tuesday, April 16: Guelph at London - 7 p.m.