Palat on the spot.
Syracuse Wins the Best-of-Five Series 3-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on just 18 shots for the victory. Once again, he allowed another wraparound goal that was on the soft side and once again the team bailed him out. Mind you, he made some incredible saves in Overtime to make up for it, but as the competition level rises in the next round Desjardins has got to get better.
POR Miele, (1) (Bolduc, Brown), 15:57 (PP)
SYR Gudas, (1) (Taormina, Sexton), 6:57 (PP)
POR Bolduc, (1) (Miele, Lessio), 0:19
POR Johnson, (2) (Stone, Conner), 10:47 (PP)
SYR Angelidis, (1) (Wyman, Barberio), 13:59
SYR Palat, (2) (Connolly, Sustr), 18:48
SYR Palat, (3) (Taormina, Johnson), 19:43
Ondrej Palat was the game's first star. Oddly enough, I thought his first two games of the series were better than tonight, but he was in the right places at the right times for the two biggest goals of the series.
Let me tell you a little something about Brett Connolly, who turned 21 today and celebrated by knifing Portland in the heart late in regulation. Hopping on the ice as the sixth attacker to try to tie the game late in the Third Period, the puck came to Connolly who circled through the neutral zone and cut down the left wing boards into the offensive zone. For the life of me, I thought Portland's defenseman had the angle on Connolly at the blueline and would squeeze him off, or at least get enough of him to separate the puck. Nope. Connolly has deceptive speed a la Alex Killorn and he squirted by without being touched, went to circle behind the net, and just before he went behind dished a beautiful little backhand pass to Palat for the stuff. Tie game. What an individual play by Connolly. Truly cold blooded.
Let me also tell you a little something about faceoffs. Gudas' power play goal came directly from a bang-bang play off a faceoff win by Dan Sexton. And then, with just 17 seconds left in Overtime, Palat's second goal came off a faceoff win by Tyler Johnson that led to a Taormina shot that gave Palat the rebound he needed to send the Crunch to the first round pay window. Those quick plays off clean faceoff wins in the offensive zone are instant scoring chances, and almost as valuable as forcing turnovers out of your opponent.
It's not all good news, though. Although Syracuse outshot Portland 45-18, I suspect the scoring chances don't reflect the disparity. There was a distinct lack of GMT in this game for the Crunch. GMT = goal mouth thrills. Syracuse got a lot of traffic and a lot of greasy chances in the first two games of the series and they were absent tonight, with the exception of a few shifts by the Angelidis line. As the level of competition goes up in the next round, more GMT is required. If you don't muck it up in the high traffic areas, you invite a night like tonight where Portland's goaltender gobbled up a lot of clean, unscreened, undeflected shots.
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference tonight, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finished off their own sweep of Binghamton and Manchester won their first game of their series. Springfield still holds a 2-1 edge, but the series continues on. Top seed Providence is down 2-0 to Hershey. If either Providence or Springfield get upset (and Providence going down looks distinctly possible right now) Syracuse will get home ice for a second round series against the Penguins. Tough opponent. It'll be a great series.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Game Two goes according to plan.
Syracuse Leads the Best-of-Five Series 2-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 2 goals on 20 shots for the victory. He looked much more solid tonight in net. The team needs him to play like that moving forward if they want to reach their ultimate goal.
SYR Palat, (1) (Johnson, Taormina), 9:33
SYR Brown, (1) (Angelidis, Wyman), 10:41
SYR Johnson, (2) (Palat), 0:49 (SH)
SYR Connolly, (1) (Sexton, Devos), 14:36
POR Gormley, (1) (Shinnimin, Johnson), 16:50
POR Johnson, (1) (Lessio, Gormley), 9:40
I continue to be extremely impressed by Palat. He's been the complete package through 2 games in this series. Just like last season, good things happen when the man has the puck. I was also impressed with Vladislav Namestnikov, who got a lot more ice time with Richard Panik getting kicked out after a secondary altercation. Portland tried targeting Namestnikov, and Vladdy rose to the challenge. He was feisty and he landed some good hits in the Third Period, to go along with his usual puckhandling and playmaking.
Game Three is Thursday in Portland. This is where Zettler's going to earn his big boy coaching pants. Portland's going to throw everything they have left at Syracuse in the First Period, and if Syracuse is complacent, bad things will happen. Playoffs are about attrition as much as anything, and if you have a chance to finish an opponent off, you do it. Anything that extends a series is another set of shifts where one of your key players can get hurt, so you have to finish the drill ASAP, and with Providence falling behind 2-0 in their series and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton up 2-0 in theirs, it's looking like a very good Pens team is lurking on the horizon. Syracuse wants to be healthy and rested for that potential opponent.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Syracuse withstands Portland's best punch.
Syracuse Leads the Best-of-Five Series 1-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the victory. 2 of those goals were softies on wrap-arounds that Desjardins needs to wipe out of his game quickly moving forward in these playoffs. He scares me. Point blank, the guy scares me.
POR Dziurzynski, (1) (Werek), 10:53
POR Rundblad, (1) (Gormley, Martinook), 17:16 (PP)
SYR Johnson, (1) (Panik, Palat), 6:37 (PP)
POR Brown, (1) (Lane, Miele), 8:23
SYR Barberio, (1) (Palat, Johnson), 13:32 (PP)
SYR Sexton, (1) (Sustr, Devos), 7:54
SYR Panik, (1) (Palat, Johnson), 6:36 (PP)
Richard Panik, Tyler Johnson, and Radko Gudas were the game's three stars. While not terribly visible at even strength, Panik showed great hands around the net on the PP setting up Johnson's goal and outwaiting Portland's netminder on the game winner. Panik attack, y'all.
That, I suspect, was Portland's best chance to seize upset momentum in this series. They got a couple of softies out of Desjardins and had the 2 goal lead on the road with a chance to steal home ice in a short 5-game series. The Crunch kept chipping away at it though and eventually wore out the Pirates, who now may have to go without Boris Valabik for a few games after a vicious elbowing major that led to Panik's winner. Syracuse now just has to make sure Brett Connolly, the recipient of that elbow, is healthy along with Johnson and Mark Barberio, each of whom also got banged up during the game. All three returned to action, so hopefully everything is going to be fine.
As quiet as a 3 assist night can be, I thought Ondrej Palat along with Johnson were Syracuse's best players tonight. Palat also drew three penalties out of Portland on top of his scoresheet production.
Game Two is tomorrow night. We'll see what Portland has in the tank.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Wow. I feel like we need to issue a formal apology to all our friends in Norfolk for that savage beat down tonight.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the victory. For those wondering, Pat Nagle has been backing up Desjardins because Riku Helenius had some family issues back in Finland that required attention. Hopefully Riku will be back for the playoffs.
SYR Angelidis, (11) (Wyman, Brown), 14:20
SYR Johnson, (34) (Sexton, Wyman), 14:58
SYR Wyman, (13) (Palat, Johnson), 19:02
SYR Namestnikov, (7) (Devos, Connolly), 11:56
NOR Maroon, (25) (Guenin), 13:32
SYR Johnson, (35) (Palat, Sexton), 19:11
SYR Johnson, (36) , 7:48
Tyler Johnson, J.T. Wyman, and Mike Angelidis were the game's three stars. The freshly minted AHL MVP, Johnson, celebrated with an incredible 3 goal, 4 point effort to start off a 3 game weekend set that will be so critical for playoff position.
Brian Lee was +4 in the contest. Several members of the Bolt Prospects message board's heads just exploded after reading that. Mind you, he also took a major for slashing and got kicked out of the game. I would suspect a suspension may follow.
Two games remain in the regular season. Providence toppled Springfield tonight 5-3, which clinches the top seed in the East for Providence. However, with Springfield going down and Syracuse winning, the Crunch now move to within 2 points of the Falcons with a game in hand. The Crunch also expanded their division lead over Binghamton to 3 points after Bingo lost to Manchester tonight. Each team has 2 games left on their schedules, including the head-to-head matchup Sunday. The loss for Norfolk was a particularly bad one with the Admirals, at this moment, in a 4-way tie at 79 points for one of the last 2 playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. How deeply ironic would it be if Syracuse had to face Norfolk in the first round? That prospect looks much more remote after tonight, but it's still at least on the edge of the table right now.
So here's the schedule for Saturday: Springfield draws Adirondack (eliminated from playoff contention), Binghamton gets Hershey (one of the clubs in that 4-way tie), and Syracuse gets Worcester (eliminated from playoff contention). Syracuse can make the division elementary with a win, thereby clinching not less than the 3 seed for the playoffs. Jumping Springfield may be a harder task for the Crunch with the Falcons likely holding the tiebreak at the finish line with a 2 game lead in the regulation win column right now.
Some other accounting issues heading into the end of the regular season:
- Syracuse still leads the AHL in goals scored by 10.
- Tyler Johnson is 8th in the AHL in scoring and Brett Connolly is currently tied for 10th.
- Mark Barberio is in 6th amongst AHL defensemen in scoring.
- Johnson also leads the league in goals by 3 with Connolly tied for 4th.
- Johnson is also 6th in power play goals.
- Connolly is tied for tops in game winning goals.
- Ondrej Palat is tied for 8th in the league in helpers.
- Despite being in Tampa for about a month, Radko Gudas is still 6th in the AHL in penalty minutes.
- Gudas is also still leading the league in +/- with teammates Johnson, Palat, and J.P. Cote all tied for 3rd. Dmitry Korobov is tied for 8th.
- Barberio is 9th in the league in shots on goal.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Back on track.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 1 goal on 21 shots for the victory.
SYR Connolly, (28) (Namestnikov, Korobov), 1:37
SYR Connolly, (29) (Johnson, Palat), 8:28 (PP)
SYR Johnson, (33) (Palat, Taormina), 10:11 (PP)
SYR Wyman, (12) (Angelidis, Cote), 19:33
SYR Connolly, (30) (Paradis, Lee), 2:08
RCH Biega, (5) (Ellis, Mancari), 4:53
The cavalry arrived, and just in time. Brett Connolly threw in a hat trick, his first as a pro, to get to 30 goals. For my money, this guy needs to be in the AHL MVP discussion prominently. He's been the most consistent Crunch player all year long, even more so than Tyler Johnson whose stats sagged a little after coming back from Lightning camp midway through the year. Connolly and Johnson are tied for 8th in the league in scoring at 60 points.
Binghamton absolutely throttled Albany 5-0 to start the day, which put huge pressure on Syracuse to win. Meanwhile, Providence beat Springfield 2-0 in a head-to-head matchup that was advantageous for the Crunch. Syracuse remains 4 back of the Bruins, pulls into a tie with Springfield at 93 points, and remains 2 up on the Senators. All three teams have a game in hand on Syracuse, though. Next weekend, starting Friday, will be a 3-games-in-3-nights set to complete the regular season, all at home: Norfolk, Worcester, and a game against Binghamton that may well decide the East Division title. With Mark Barberio out of the lineup for Tampa Bay tonight and Victor Hedman back in, I would think more reinforcements are on the way, too.
Box score from TheAHL.com.