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Friday, March 04, 2016

Bulldogs visit Clippers tonight to open up 2016 Playoffs, Mark MacMillan interview

It's the start of the second season tonight as the Bulldogs (4th Island) visit the Clippers (1st Island) to kick off this best-of-seven Island Division Semi Final series.  

Ahhhh, playoffs. This really is what it's all about isn't it?

Playoffs are all about....well, everything. The team that brings the best intangibles, fundamentals, will, skill and mental strength along with coaching, goaltending, special teams, leadership, team unity, fan support and discipline who gets good injury luck can go all the way. A lack of any of the above in any critical moments or for extended periods and you can bet it's going to go the other way.

Playoffs are also all about staying on an even keel and managing the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. It was either Jim Hiller or Nolan Graham that I  remember saying that as their number one answer to me as to what is needed for the post season. One minute you are sky high winning a big OT game or winning a series. The next second you are losing a big game, dropping a triple OT heartbreaker, etc and the next day no matter what you have to come back out and be ready to win a hockey game and what happened the day or game before - good or bad - means absolutely nothing. There is perhaps no better example of that when you think back to last year's series between these teams. The Clippers won the first three games of the series, and had a two goal lead in the late stages of Game four and went to a 5 on 3 power play. The Dogs looked dead in the water and done, their season over and the careers of the 20 year olds over. The Dogs would refuse to quit, killed the penalties and then scored twice in a matter of seconds to tie it before winning it late in overtime. They went from two minutes away from being swept to taking it all the way to Game 7. You just never know.  

It's the sixth playoff meeting between the two franchises since the Bulldogs inaugural 2002-2003 season, when the teams first met each other in a first round series that the Clippers won in six games. In 2004-2005 they would meet again, this time in the second round with the Clippers winning in a four game sweep. The third meeting was in the second round of the 2009-2010 season, this one was a Bulldog win in six games. In the Bulldogs 2012-2013 Island Championship season they reverse swept the Clippers in the deciding game of what was a best of five first round series. Last year the Clippers fought off a valiant Bulldog comeback attempt from a 3-0 series deficit to win the series in a seventh and deciding game by a 3-1 score in a game that was tied at 1-1 until the final 10 minutes.

The Bulldogs were last in action Sunday afternoon at home where they clinched a playoff spot with their third straight win 2-1 over the Powell River Kings in overtime. The Clippers were last in action Saturday night where they also won their third in a row, 6-3 over the Capitals in Duncan.

The Bulldogs went 2-6-0-0 in the season series against the Clippers, winning once at home and once in Nanaimo. Despite the win/loss spread the numbers are closer than one might think - the Clippers out scored the Bulldogs 34-24 while the Bulldogs out shot the Clippers 295-253. The Bulldogs went 9 for 46 on the power play while the Clippers went 11 for 38. The Clippers scored twice while shorthanded, one of which was into an empty net.

The Bulldogs are without question the underdogs and the Clippers are the favorites. You don't win the division and go 38-18-1-1 without deserving it. However, all of that means nothing now, as the slate has been wiped clean. Everyone is 0-0-0-0. Everyone has zero goals and zero assists, a save percentage and a goals against average of 0.00. Players that had a season that they aren't necessarily happy about - here's a mulligan, a chance to show what you are made of at the most important time of the year. Players that had a great year and are happy with what they have accomplished - sorry, it's all back to the start again, and if you can't do it in the playoffs then it simply doesn't matter and you haven't accomplished anything! The Clippers had three players in the top ten in league scoring, and the top goal scorer in Sheldon Rempal. The Dogs will obviously need to give him special attention, along with his linemates in Devin Brosseau and Matt Hoover. At the same time, as dangerous as those players are the Dogs can't lose sight of the fact that it's a team game and focus just on some individuals because if you do that the rest of the team can and will certainly beat you.   

I'm sure there will be a large contingent of Bulldog faithful at the game but for those that don't make it, don't fret as we will bring it to you on Van Isle Ford Bulldogs Hockey on 93.3 The Peak FM. The pregame show will take to the air at 6:45 and the game action will follow at around 7:00pm. I will call the play-by-play with Bruce MacDonald providing the colour and analysis and Dan Tisserand compiling the team and player statistics.

If you aren't in listening range of 93.3 The Peak FM you can listen to/watch the game by:

Listening Live on your computer: 93.3 The Peak FM

Listening Live on your smartphone: Tune In Radio
Watching Live on your computer/smartphone: Fast Hockey 

Tonight's 2nd Intermission guest is former Bulldog Mark MacMillan, now a Senior with the AHL's St. John's Ice Caps, the Montreal Canadiens farm team. 

Mark played with the Dogs in the very memorable 2009-2010 season when the team were the Regular Season Coastal Conference Champs, and Mark was named the Coastal Conference Rookie of the Year. He set and still holds the team record for rookie points, as he played on a line with brother Mitch (who scored 60 goals in 60 games) and David Dziurzynski, who went straight from the Bulldogs to the Ottawa Senators.

Here's a gorgeous goal Mark scored in the 2009-10 season!

And here is setting up Mitch for a Coastal Conference Finals overtime winner.


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