Blaze vs. Devils Playoff semi-final preview
Genting Casino Coventry Blaze go into the playoff finals weekend looking to beat their own record as the lowest ever seed to lift the trophy. If Blaze were to be successful they would become the third team to retain the trophy after the Sheffield Steelers (in 2008 and 2009) and the Nottingham Panthers (in 2012 and 2013).
Coventry have been to the Elite League playoff finals weekend on seven previous occasions, winning twice, losing once in the final and four times at the semi-final stage.
This will be the fifth time that Coventry have played in the first semi-final (1pm face-off). In the previous four, Blaze have beaten Sheffield in 2005 and Newcastle in 2008, but were defeated by this weekend's opponents the Cardiff Devils in both 2007 and 2010, 3-2 and 6-3 respectively.
Cardiff have appeared at ten of the twelve previous Elite League playoff finals weekends, and return this time around after a rare two years away. On those ten occasions, the Devils have reached the final four times but have never won the trophy, whilst they have fallen at the semi-final stage in the other six.
This will be the eighth time that Cardiff have played in the first semi-final with their previous record standing at three wins (one on penalty shots) and four defeats (one on penalty shots).
If past history is to go by, winning in the earlier first or later second semi-final on Saturday gives no higher guarantee of success in the playoff final the following day – with 6 of the past 12 winners having won in the first semi, and 6 coming from the second semi.
Six of Coventry's successful roster in the playoff final of a year ago look set to be in their roster again this time around - Russ Cowley, Jim Jorgensen, Brian Stewart, Ashley Tait, Cale Tanaka and Ross Venus, whilst twelve players are set to make an appearance for the first time.
As for the Blaze vs. Devils match-up itself, it will be the eleventh EIHL competition meeting between the two, the Devils having the upper hand having won eight of the previous ten games. Blaze though did record a victory in the last clash, winning 2-1 and spoiling Cardiff's final night in the Big Blue Tent.
Coventry have averaged 29.1 shots in EIHL competition games between the teams this season and score on every 11.6 shots. Cardiff average a higher 33.1 shots, and also score on a better ratio of every 8.1 shots.
Blaze netminder Brian Stewart’s goals against average in the 10 competitive games against Cardiff this season is 3.55, his save percentage is 89.04%. Devils' Ben Bowns has recorded a 2.22 goals against average and a save percentage of 92.16% over 9 games played.
Coventry average 23.2 penalty minutes per-game vs. Cardiff, whilst the Devils average a lower 19.5.
The Blaze powerplay is 15% over the ten games (6 from 40, three of which were scored by Ashley Tait), whilst their opponents is a more efficient 21.3% (10 from 47).
Brett Robinson is Coventry’s top point scorer against the Devils, with 4 goals and 4 assists (8pts), whilst Jordan Pietrus and Drew Fisher are joint-second with 7 points each. Pietrus is Blaze’s highest goal scorer vs. Cardiff with 5.
Defenceman Andrew Hotham is Cardiff’s top point scorer in games between the clubs this season with 2 goals and 13 assists (15pts), whilst coach Andrew Lord is second with 13 points. Joey Haddad and Joey Martin are the Devils’ highest goal scorers in Blaze/Devils EIHL competition games with 6 each.