The AHL has announced the schedule for the opening round, best-of-five series in the AHL playoffs. Syracuse, as the 3 seed, will be squaring off with the Portland Pirates, which are the 6 seed. The series will begin Saturday night in Syracuse and proceed under a 2-2-1 format as follows:
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals – Series “C” (best-of-5)
3-Syracuse Crunch vs. 6-Portland Pirates
Game 1 – Sat., Apr. 27 – Portland at Syracuse, 7:30
Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 28 – Portland at Syracuse, 7:30
Game 3 – Thurs., May 2 – Syracuse at Portland, 7:00
*Game 4 – Fri., May 3 – Syracuse at Portland, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sun., May 5 – Portland at Syracuse, 7:30
Syracuse will be required to submit their playoff roster to the AHL by 3 pm on Monday. Several players currently with the Tampa Bay Lightning may be on that roster including Alex Killorn, Richard Panik, Radko Gudas, Dana Tyrell, Keith Aulie, and/or Pierre-Cedric Labrie. The Lightning's final regular season game is on Saturday night against the Florida Panthers.
Competitive? Check. Strategic? Check.
Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the loss in his return from a high ankle sprain. I'm going to chalk up his first period performance to rust and compliment him on shutting the door the rest of the way. That's what good goaltenders do after they stub their toes in the opening frame.
00:16 CAR Semin (12), (E. Staal)
10:45 CAR Tlusty (20), (Semin, Corvo)
18:46 CAR Tlusty (21), (E. Staal, Semin)
10:07 TB Stamkos (28), (Salo, St. Louis)(PP)
02:16 TB St. Louis (13), (Lecavalier)
Martin St. Louis was the game's second star.
Again, the big thing for me in garbage time of the season is seeing effort and competitiveness. This string of 1-goal losses may not be the greatest for morale, but they show a team that is still trying and, whether we like to admit it or not, they're helping the Lightning strategically by improving potential draft position. Carolina leapfrogging Tampa Bay now puts the Lightning with the third most ping pong balls, 3 points ahead of Colorado in the standings. And, after 40 minutes, Colorado currently leads in their game 4-2. If they hold on, the Lightning move closer to having the second most ping pong balls.
Why is that important? This is a 3+1 draft, which is to say there are 3 really coveted franchise caliber prospects and 1 wild card (Nichushkin). If the Lightning are in position in the top-3, they might be able to land top defenseman Seth Jones. But, even if they can't, having the opportunity to draft one of the two coveted forwards out of the QMJHL gives the Lightning a lot of flexibility. They could trade the pick for an NHL defenseman. They could hold onto the pick, use it, and trade one of the valuable young forwards they already have for an NHL defenseman. Or, they could trade down and try to extract a king's ransom and take multiple defensemen later in the top-60 in a very deep draft. The world definitely opens up if the Lightning pick in the top-3.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 1 shot in 15:27.
Richard Panik was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 shots in 13:03.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 5 hits in 14:10.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 2 penalty minutes, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 12:11.
After the game, it was barely mentioned.
The regular season had gone from the present tense to the past.
Following a 5-1 loss to the Binghamton Senators at the Onondaga County War Memorial Sunday, the Syracuse Crunch immediately turned their attention to the postseason.
Syracuse, seeded No. 3 in the Eastern Conference as the East Division champions, finished the regular season 43-22-6-5, and hosts No. 6 Portland in the first round. The Crunch are home Saturday and Sunday, and the Pirates host Game 3 and 4 (if necessary) Thursday and Friday.
"We've got a few days here to prepare for them, a few days to rest, and we'll be ready to go on Saturday," said Syracuse coach Rob Zettler.
Get away day at War Memorial.
Pat Nagle allowed 5 goals on 37 shots for the loss. That was Nagle's second appearance of his AHL career and his first decision as the Crunch threw out a B lineup and B effort with nothing much to play for in the last regular season game.
BNG Cowick, (16) (Grant, Schneider), 14:13
BNG Grant, (19) (Wideman), 1:56
BNG Ceci, (1) (Da Costa, Stone), 4:28
SYR Sustr, (2) (Barberio, Sexton), 6:47 (PP)
BNG Schneider, (17) (Cowick), 12:13
BNG Robinson, (2) (Cannone), 19:17
Dan Sexton was the game's third star.
With Portland getting thumped by Bridgeport 4-1, Syracuse's first round opponent is now set. The third seeded Crunch will draw the sixth seeded Pirates. To be honest, if I had to pick an opponent, Portland's not the scariest one on the board. When you look at their lineup, they have some nice defensemen but lack scoring depth up front and, above all, their goaltending doesn't really terrify you. This first round series may be the toughest one for Syracuse to get past, so I am fairly relieved they didn't draw a team like Wilkes-Barre/Scranton right away.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
(4)Florida Everblades 2 vs. (1)Reading Royals 3
Quarterfinals: The best-of-seven series is tied 1-1
D Charles Landry, FLA: 0-0-0, -1, 0 SOG, 5 PIM (fighting)
Playoff totals: 8 GP, 0-1-1, -1, 9 PIM
Season totals: 51 GP, 4-12-16, +7, 33 PIM
Florida was able to split a two-goal deficit late in the first period but Reading answered early in the middle frame and, though the Everblades got within one again with several minutes remaining in regulation, was able to hold off the visitors in order to even the series at a game apiece. The Eastern Conference's best club during the regular season, the Royals again managed to more than double up the Everblades in shots, by a margin of 40-17. Florida again went 1-for-4 with the man-advantage while Reading was slightly more efficient in this contest than in the opening match, scoring once on five power play opportunities. Jesse Deckert was yanked in favor of Brady Hjelle after stopping just 11 of 14 shots in 20:18 of action. Hjelle played the next 38:21, fending off all 26 Royals shots in the process. The series now moves to Estero where both clubs will resume hostilities again on Wednesday night.