What to Expect – Storm face Guildford Flames in playoff Quarter Finals action!

Manchester Storm are back Saturday 13th April 2024 taking on Guildford Flames in #Playoff Quarter Final action! It all comes down to this – Doors open 6PM for a 7PM start.

Here is your guide to the Manchester Storm’s first round matchup this weekend verses the Guildford Flames.

Firstly, if you are unsure as to how the Elite League play offs work, read the ‘Beginners Guide To The Elite League Playoffs‘ article HERE to get an understanding before reading this one!

The Storm will play their most crucial double header of the season this weekend; this article will cover the key factors that have gotten both teams to this position, looking at player and team statistics to gauge who has the upper hand, before giving you a few names to look out for when watching the games this weekend.

The Storm’s biggest strength heading into this series is netminder Evan Weninger. His 92.93 save percentage is just 0.03% behind Sheffield’s Matt Greenfield, who took home the top spot. However, Weninger’s save percentage is impressive because he faced 375 more shots than Greenfield and managed to keep such a close record. Weninger has been outstanding all regular season. He was dependable when the Storm were struggling and stood tall when the team heated up towards the end of the year. The Saskatoon native deservedly won fans’, players’, and coaches’ player of the year, and if the Storm progressed to the finals weekend, you would think he would play a big part in that success.

For the Flames, Taz Burman has emerged as their starter as this season has progressed. However, possibly linked to the team’s drop in performance towards the end of the season, his numbers aren’t comparable with Weninger’s. He has only won nine games from 23, with an average of over three goals conceded every game. Therefore, Storm fans can head into this series with a strong sense of confidence, knowing they have better support between the pipes. 

Whilst neither team can boast about their power plays, the Storm’s penalty kill could be the difference maker when it comes to special teams. Guildford’s 20.22% power play is only good enough for 6th in the league, with a penalty kill second from the bottom at just 75.165%. On the other hand, the Storm’s 15.89% man advantage is statistically the least threatening in the league, with the team scoring a majority of their goals at even strength. However, their penalty-killing success rate of 80% puts them third in the league, ahead of Cardiff and Belfast. This should give Storm fans confidence in their team, even when playing a man down. 

Looking at their head-to-head scores this year…

The Storm had four wins from six games, with the series tending to force overtime. Half the games played between the two teams during the regular season went to overtime or a shootout, with the Storm getting the better of Guildford every occasion. These statistics also favour the Storm to win the series this weekend. 

Finally, here’s who to expect on the scoresheet in this series:

For the Guildford Flames

Peter Crinella 

Guildford’s top goal scorer is no stranger to netting against the Storm, with four goals against us this regular season. Being a part of their successful first line and their man advantage units, Crinella is usually in the right places to score, and he doesn’t need an invitation. He’s scored 24 goals this season, and the Storm defense will be challenged to keep him quiet in this series. 

Ryan Tait 

Ryan Tait, a reliable forward for the Flames, has featured in every game this season, demonstrating his consistency and dependability. His significant time on ice average, one of the highest on the team, ensures that you’ll see him out there on the ice more often than not. His time on ice is always productive, spent in the offensive zone, and his keen eye for a pass has earned him the top spot, alongside Lewis Hook, for points and assists this season.

Ben O’Connor 

The British defenseman has the most points out of Guildford’s blue line this season by far, rivalling the top forward line for points, with 35. The Storm must be aware of his ability to disguise a pass, with forechecking hard to reduce his time on the puck being key to keeping him off the scoreboards.

For the Manchester Storm

Tyler Hinam 

Manchester’s top goals scorer has scored big goals on big occasions, with arguably his biggest recent goal coming in a shootout win against the Flames a month ago today. Since joining the Storm last summer, Hinam has become a fan favourite inside the Storm Shelter, and it would be foolish not to include his talent in this list.

Joe Morrow 

The former NHL player has featured in high-stakes playoff matches before. Having played in 11 NHL playoff matches, it is well known that Morrow even scored a game-winning goal in a series with the Winnipeg Jets. As for his career with the Manchester Storm, the veteran is the top scorer amongst defensemen, scoring half of his total goals tally in the last month, meaning he is heating up at the right time. Expect Morrow to be in and amongst the line celebrations if the Storm score this weekend.

Cameron Critchlow 

When the Storm needs a response, be that physical or with a moment of brilliance with the puck, look no further than Captain Critchlow! He finished the season as the joint top point scorer with Hinam, and his leadership can boost the team to respond in crucial moments. He will undoubtedly play a massive role in the team’s success, should they go on to win this weekend. 

This is the last chance you’ll get to cheer your team on in the Storm Shelter this season, so if you haven’t already, make sure to buy yourself a ticket and get down there to be loud and proud for your Manchester Storm.

by Matthew Finnigan