Playoffs Recap, Week 1: Heartbreak and a Split

For the first time in 4 years, I finally got to experience playoff hockey without having to drive 2+ hours away and live vicariously through other teams.

And if the last two days are any indication, I want to do this for, oh, three more rounds, if possible.

Looking back at the beginning of a very intense first two games between the Devils and St. John’s, which ended in a split as the best of five shifts way north this week:

Game 1: St. John’s 2, Albany 1

The series began Friday night on home ice, but it was the visitors who drew the first strike.  Eric O’Dell would put the IceCaps up 1-0 4:29 into the first period.  Albany would respond early in the second on a power play goal by Joe Whitney to tie things up at 1.  It then turned into an offensive struggle as both teams locked in defensively and the intensity grew as the game carried into the third.  And not to mention quite a few questionable calls from the referees (which is standard for Chris Brown, but more so now in the postseason).  Just as all 6500 in the building were expecting the battle to carry over into overtime, Keith Kinkaid would misplay the puck by the net and Ben Chiarot would score with just 23.1 seconds left in the third period, giving St. John’s the win and a 1-0 series lead.  Kinkaid stopped 30 of 32 shots in the loss.  Jon Merrill and Mike Sislo had the lone assists.

Lines:

Rod Pelley-Darcy Zajac-David Wohlberg

Scott Timmins-Reid Boucher-Harri Pesonen

Joe Whitney-Mike Sislo-Tim Sestito

Kelly Zajac-Mattias Tedenby-Stefan Matteau

Extra: Chris McKelvie, Cam Janssen, Mike Hoeffel, Ben Johnson, Graham Black

Defense Pairings:

Dan Kelly/Adam Larsson

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Eric Gelinas/Jon Merrill

Extra: Alexander Urbom, Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett

Game 2: Albany 4, St. John’s 2

It was a quick turnaround for the Devils in Game 2, as they faced a virtual must win situation.  Much like in Game 1, it was the IceCaps who got the early lead, this time from Brenden Kichton 10 minutes into the first period.  But Reid Boucher would answer a minute later with his first postseason goal to tie the game at 1.  Stefan Matteau would then give Albany their first lead of the series with a power play goal late in the period for a 2-1 advantage.  Kichton would tie the game at 2 on a power play goal early in the second.  But less than 3 minutes later Mattias Tedenby would give the Devils the lead for good with a power play goal of his own.  Scott Timmins would add an insurance power play marker halfway through the third to seal the win for Albany, and in the process tying the series up at 1 apiece.  Keith Kinkaid got the start again and stopped 30 of 32 shots (that sounds like a pattern) and picked up #1 star honors.  Kelly Zajac added two assists.  And the power play finished at 3-for-9 (and there could have been more power play opportunities but the refs missed a few yet again).

Lines:

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Darcy Zajac

Joe Whitney-Tim Sestito-Mike Sislo

Stefan Matteau-Mattias Tedenby-Kelly Zajac

Scott Timmins-Harri Pesonen-Reid Boucher

Extra: Cam Janssen, Mike Hoeffel, David Wohlberg, Ben Johnson, Graham Black

Defense Pairings:

Adam Larsson/Eric Gelinas

Alexander Urbom/Jon Merrill

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Brandon Burlon, Dan Kelly, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett

Around the League:

So how are the rest of the conference quarterfinals going?  Here’s a quick update:

East: (1) Manchester-(8) Norfolk: tied at 1

(2) Springfield-(7) Providence: Springfield leads 2-1

(3) Binghamton-(6) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: tied at 1

West: (1) Texas-(8) Oklahoma City: Texas leads 2-0

(2) Chicago-(7) Rochester: tied at 1

(3) Toronto-(6) Milwaukee: Toronto leads 2-0

(4) Grand Rapids-(5) Abbotsford: Grand Rapids leads 2-0

We could have our first team heading to the semifinals as early as Tuesday.

Orlando Update:

The Solar Bears are not done yet.  After falling 3-0 in their Kelly Cup Eastern Conference quarterfinal series vs. Cincinnati, they have won their last two to send the series back to Florida for Game 6 on Tuesday night.  Maxime Clermont played a huge role in extending the series by shutting out the Cyclones 2-0 on Friday evening, stopping all 25 shots.  He did not play in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win.

This Week’s Schedule:

The series shifts 1600 miles to the northeast to Newfoundland.  Game 3 comes on Wednesday night at the always sold out Mile One Centre, with a 6 PM EST start (reminder: NST is 1 and a half hours ahead).  Game 4 follows on Friday evening, and if needed Game 5 on Saturday.  I will not be around for Game 3 due to work, but will have tweets for Game 4 and if needed, Game 5.

Calder Cup Preview, Round 1: Albany (5) vs. St. John’s (4)

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY (Games 1 & 2); Mile One Centre, St. John’s, NFLD, Canada (Games 3-5).

When: 

Game 1 at Albany: Friday, April 25th, 7:00 PM.

Game 2 at Albany: Saturday, April 26th, 7:00 PM.

Game 3 at St. John’s: Wednesday, April 30th, 7:30 PM NDT (6:00 PM EST).

*Game 4 at St. John’s: Friday, May 2nd, 7:30 PM NDT (6:00 PM EST).

*Game 5 at St. John’s: Saturday, May 3rd, 7:30 PM NDT (6:00 PM EST).

*if necessary

Regular Season Series:

The two teams did not meet during the regular season.  St. John’s won the season series 3-1 during the 2012-13 season.

2013-14 Records:

St. John’s: 46-23-2-5, 99 points, 2nd place in Atlantic Division, 4th in Eastern Conference

Albany: 40-23-5-8, 93 points, 2nd place in Northeast Division, 5th in Eastern Conference

Rosters:

St. John’s IceCaps

Albany Devils

St. John’s by the Numbers:

Home: 23-10-2-3. Road: 23-13-0-2.

Power Play: 18.1% (13th in AHL). Penalty Kill: 83.5% (9th).

Goals For/Game: 3.39 (3rd). Goals Against/Game: 2.72 (10th).

Leading Scorers (top 5): Jason Jaffray (59); Jerome Samson/Andrew Gordon (56); Kael Mouillierat (53); Brenden Kichton (48).

Goals: Jerome Samson (27)

Assists: Jason Jaffray (41)

Plus/Minus: Ben Chiarot (+29)

Penalty Minutes: J.C. Lipon (136)

Wins: Michael Hutchinson/Eddie Pasquale (17)

GAA: Michael Hutchinson (2.30)

Save Percentage: Michael Hutchinson (.923)

Albany by the Numbers:

Home: 24-9-3-2. Road: 16-14-2-6.

Power Play: 16.2% (21st in AHL). Penalty Kill: 82.7% (14th).

Goals For/Game: 2.89 (16th). Goals Against/Game: 2.54 (6th).

Leading Scorers (top 5): Joe Whitney (53); Kelly Zajac (44); Mike Sislo (41); Scott Timmins (39); Reid Boucher (38)

Goals: Mike Sislo (23)

Assists: Kelly Zajac (32)

Plus/Minus: Corbin McPherson (+16)

Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (100)

Wins: Keith Kinkaid (24)

GAA: Keith Kinkaid (2.29)

Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid (.912)

Media/Blog Coverage:

St. John’s: The Telegram, Rinkside Report

Albany: Times Union, The Daily Gazette

Listen/Watch:

St. John’s: Official Website, Rogers TV/Eastlink TV

Albany: AHL Live

Twitter:

St. John’s: @IceCapsAHL, @telybrendan, @CharlesMDart

Albany: @AlbanyDevils, @Pete_Dougherty, @Bill_Cain_

Predictions?

I am no good at seeing how things will play out, especially with a team I did not see during the regular season.  But what I can say is, if the Devils want to advance to the second round (and they can do it), no worse than a 1-1 split on home ice (which, yes, is pretty obvious).  And the defense needs to keep the third best offense in the league at bay, which they have the ability to do.  And it doesn’t hurt that they come in riding a 5 game winning streak.  If they can play like they did during those five games, big things will happen.

I’m not expecting a 3-0 sweep from either side, but if you had to twist my arm…I’ll say Albany in 4.  But I also would not be surprised to see this go all 5 games.

 

 

Tuesday Linkroll

A few news items to pass along as we wait for Friday evening to get here:

-Per the AHL transactions, Joe Faust was released from his amateur tryout on Monday.  He joined the team on April 8th but never appeared in a game, only warming up before Saturday’s finale against the Falcons.

-But, in much happier news, Graham Black was signed to an entry level contract.  He appeared in two games for Albany since arriving as an amateur tryout on April 8th, going scoreless.

-Now for some required reading/listening:

A Devils preview from The Hockey Writers.  Also from THW…a trip down River Rats memory lane.

My blogging counterpart in St. John’s, Rinkside Report, has their preview.

And check out this week’s episode of Talking Red, not just because I make my annual guest segment.

-My official preview (well, more of a stat pack than anything) will be out Friday at 12 noon.

 

Devils Season 4 in Review, Part 1: The Stats

It’s that time again, the annual Year in Review.  As I have done the past three seasons, I will break down the year in 3 parts: the stats, some fun with numbers, and a few memories of the season gone by.

Welcome to Part 1, Final Regular Season Stats for the 2013-14 season.  A playoff version (part 1A, if you will) will follow upon conclusion of the playoff run, whenever that is (hopefully not anytime soon).

Record: 40-23-5-8, 93 points.  Home: 24-9-3-2.  Road: 16-14-2-6.

Leading Point Scorers (Top 5): Joe Whitney (53), Kelly Zajac (44), Mike Sislo (41), Scott Timmins (39), Reid Boucher (38)

Goals: Mike Sislo (23)

Assists: Kelly Zajac (32)

Plus/Minus: Corbin McPherson (+16)

Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (100)

Power Play Goals: Mike Sislo/Reid Boucher (7)

Short-Handed Goals: Rod Pelley/Mike Sislo (2)

Game Winning Goals: Stefan Matteau (4)

Wins: Keith Kinkaid (24)

Shutouts: Keith Kinkaid/Scott Wedgewood (4)

Minutes: Keith Kinkaid (2518:58)

Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid (.912)

Goals Against Average: Keith Kinkaid (2.29)

Full listing of individual stats: Skaters. Goalies.

LEAGUE RANKINGS:

Record: 40-23-5-8, 2nd in Northeast Division, 5th in Eastern Conference, 10th overall.

Attendance: 3,360 average, 27th.

Penalty Minutes: 1,045 minutes for an average of 13.75 per game.  25th.

Power Play: 16.2%, 21st.

Penalty Kill: 82.7%, 14th.

Shorthanded Goals: 7, tied for 8th.

Goals For/Game: 2.89, 16th.

Goals Against/Game: 2.54, 6th.

Shots For/Game: 28.13, 25th.

Shots Against/Game: 25.42, 2nd.

As always, I used the same categories as the last three seasons.  Looking back over those three seasons to now, I’ve noticed that every year the points total has improved, from the low-mid 70s the last three years to a new high of 93 this season.  They added 9 wins over last season’s record and reduced losses by 9 (not including 4 shootout losses).  Goaltending and defense have steadily improved, dropping a full goal per game since 2010-11 (from 3.54 to 2.54 this season), while the offense has gone from 2.5 goals per game to almost 3 goals this season.

Special teams also have seen more success as well.  The penalty kill has gone from dead last in 2010-11, at 77.1%, to 82.7% percent this season.  After a horrid power play last season at an 11.3 percent success rate, they improved by 5 percent this year to 16.2.

Another category of improvement would be in the penalty department.  The first season saw an average of 24 minutes per game (well, when you have Louis Robitaille and PL3 on the same team, what do you expect?), now nearly 11 minutes less per game at 13.75.  It seems every year the team is becoming more disciplined on the ice, and although there are some stupid penalties that still come up here and there, it’s not hurting the team in the long run.

Parts 2 and 3 are coming soon, I may hold off on those until after the playoff run ends.

 

 

Not Done Yet.

Hard to believe that we have reached the end of the regular season in the AHL.

But the good news for the Devils is…it’s not over yet.

For the first time since 2010, a Albany/Devil team will be playing in the postseason for a chance at the Calder Cup.  And it was a clean sweep for the second straight week to boot.  Here we go with another happy recap of the week:

Tuesday: Per the AHL transactions, Curtis Gedig was released from his amateur tryout contract.  He joined Albany on April 4th, but never appeared in a game.

Wednesday: It appears the Devils will be looking for another ECHL team to assign players next season, as Elmira became the new affiliate for Buffalo and Rochester.

4/16 at Portland: 3-2 W (SO)

The last road game of the regular season saw the Devils in Lewiston, taking on the Pirates with a playoff berth awaiting them with a win.  After a scoreless first, Portland struck early in the second period–23 seconds in–on a Greg Carey goal.  Reid Boucher would answer with his 22nd about 6 minutes later.  Dan Kelly would put Albany ahead late in the period with his 3rd.  But Portland would tie it up with just under 13 minutes left in the third on a power play goal by Lucas Lessio.  The game would carry over into overtime, where Albany would manage the only two shots on goal.  It was on to the 15th shootout of the season, where Mattias Tedenby and Boucher missed in the first two rounds, and Jordan Szwarz would connect in the 2nd to put Portland up 1-0.  In the third round, Keith Kinkaid would stop Andy Miele, then Stefan Matteau would score to tie it up.  Kinkaid stopped Brandon Yip in the 4th round, then Mike Sislo, in his first appearance since March 30th, would connect for a 2-1 lead.  All Kinkaid had to do was stop Carey in the 5th…and he was successful, officially clinching a playoff spot for the Devils, the first since the River Rats in 2010 when Carolina was the parent club.  Kinkaid stopped 20 of 22 saves in regulation/overtime in picking up the win.  Kelly Zajac added two assists.

Note: I was not around to watch online, so no idea how lines/defensive pairings went.

4/19 vs. Springfield: 5-2 W

One game to go, and it was all about the positioning, as the Devils played host to the Falcons.  Win and they finish no lower than 6th.  Lose, and possibly slip into the 8th spot.  David Wohlberg made sure the second scenario wasn’t a possibility, as he scored just seven seconds into the game on former Devil goaltender Mike McKenna for a 1-0 lead.  Scott Timmins would add his 13th goal 8 minutes later for a two goal lead.  Joe Whitney and Brandon Burlon would score 1:18 apart in the second for a 4-0 Devil lead, chasing McKenna in favor of rookie Anton Forsberg.  And the goaltender switch seemed to help Springfield at first, as they would cut the lead in half on goals by Jake Hansen and Darryl Boyce in the third.  But then they would pull Forsberg rather early, and Harri Pesonen would take advantage and score his 15th to put the Devils back up by 3.  Scott Wedgewood would stop 20 of 22 in getting the win, the Devils fifth in a row to close out the regular season.  Ben Johnson would notch his first professional point via an assist on Pesonen’s goal.  Four other Devils each had assists as well.  And all this was despite having half the regulars/NHL callups out of the lineup resting.

Lines:

Darcy Zajac-Stefan Matteau-David Wohlberg

Mike Sislo-Joe Whitney-Tim Sestito

Reid Boucher-Scott Timmins-Harri Pesonen

Cam Janssen-Ben Johnson-Graham Black

Extra: Chris McKelvie, Mike Hoeffel, Rod Pelley, Mattias Tedenby, Kelly Zajac

Defense Pairings:

Brandon Burlon/Dan Kelly

Alexander Urbom/Reece Scarlett

Raman Hrabarenka/Eric Gelinas

Extra: Seth Helgeson, Adam Larsson, Jon Merrill, Corbin McPherson, Joe Faust

Conference Standings:

When the smoke finally cleared on Saturday night, the final results:

1. Manchester–105 points (won Atlantic Division)

2. Springfield–100 (won Northeast Division)

3. Binghamton–96 (won East Division)

4. St. John’s–99

5. ALBANY–93

6. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton–92

7. Providence–91

8. Norfolk–90

That means, Albany will be taking on St. John’s in the first round.  More info on that to come.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

No gloves dropped or faces punched this week.

My Player of the Week:

You know what?  For such a great run in the regular season, let’s reward everyone!  And I really couldn’t pick just one who stood out in both games this week.

Team Leaders:

I’ll have final stats in Part 1 of the Season in Review, details to come on that.

Orlando Update:

The Solar Bears dropped Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup to Cincinnati 4-2 in Florida.  Maxime Clermont drew the start and stopped 22 of 26 in the loss.  Game 2 is Sunday evening, then it’s off to Ohio for Games 3-5 on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

This Week’s Schedule:

Hot off the presses, the first round schedule is out: The series opens in Albany on Friday evening, followed by Game 2 on Saturday.  Games 3-5 will be played in St. John’s on Wednesday, April 30th, Friday, May 2nd, and Saturday, May 3rd (Friday and Saturday if needed).

As far as coverage goes for me blogwise: Monday I will have Part 1 of the Season Review, with all final regular season stats.  No individual pregamers, since it’s the same opponent.  I will have a full stat pack for the series by Friday afternoon, the plan is for a noontime release.  I will do the same for any rounds the Devils make after that.  There will be a recap of Games 1 and 2 next Sunday, and a photo gallery as well.

Twitter wise: I will definitely be on hand for Game 1.  Saturday may be a little tricky, as I am going to Yankee Stadium (yay free tickets in the terrace level!) for a 1 PM game.  I plan on coming straight to the arena when I get home, which if all goes well I’ll miss mostly the first period.  Game 3 I won’t be around due to work obligations, but Games 4 and 5 I will do if they are needed.

With that all said…time to start the journey to the Cup!