Unlikely Playoff Stars Contributing to Crunch's Calder Cup Run

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Despite being a former first-round draft pick, Philippe Paradis isn’t known for his scoring touch.

The Syracuse Crunch grinder was held without a point in his first 11 games of the Calder Cup playoffs as he was more focused on finishing his checks to soften up the opposition’s defense.

With a chance to eliminate the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last Saturday, Paradis finally broke through to the scoresheet in a big way. The Quebec native scored three times in a 7-0 rout, and the Crunch finished off the Penguins in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

"I was just trying to get the first one," Paradis said. "The game was tight; that one was more important than the other ones. I just put the puck on the net and ended up scoring."

While Syracuse’s Ondrej Palat is tied for the postseason points lead with 20 points, and the league’s most valuable player, Tyler Johnson, is three points behind, the Crunch’s depth players -- the shutdown line and crash and bang guys -- have chipped in with some of the more crucial goals.

With Syracuse hosting the Grand Rapids Griffins in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals Saturday, the Crunch are hoping to continue receiving offensive output from each player.

"That's what you need in the playoffs," said Syracuse coach Rob Zettler. "Teams don't make it this far without contributions from everybody."

"Depth, especially in the playoffs, plays a huge role," said Crunch forward JT Wyman. "Every team is going to have great goal scorers, but they're not going to be scoring every goal every game."

Wyman, who had three assists in the first six games of Syracuse’s playoff run, provided two goals in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, when the Crunch finished off a sweep of the Springfield Falcons last month.

"I had that urgency that we had to close them out that night," Wyman said. "There's no need to let a team hang around. If you let a team win a game, that's huge momentum, and the playoffs are all about momentum."

The Crunch have lost one game in the first three rounds. They never trailed against the Falcons, and didn’t lose a lead against the Penguins. In elimination games, Syracuse has outscored opponents, 16-5.

"For me, the hardest game is closing a team out and ending their season," Wyman said. "They're playing with nothing to lose and their backs against the wall. It can be tough to beat teams like that."

For Zettler, it’s nice to see the hard work, especially doing the little things that don’t show up in the statistics, by players like Paradis paying dividends.

"I think he's been valuable for us because he's played a physical game and really made it hard on their D because he's coming every time,” Zettler said of Paradis. “He's finishing every check and skating hard. When you play the game the right way, you get rewarded."

With one round remaining, there’s another chance for more players to be a hero.

"Everybody dreams about it, and now it's a possibility," Wyman said. "We're all preparing hard and doing everything we can, so when Saturday night comes, we're ready."

Pictured: Crunch forward Philippe Paradis shakes hands with one of the Penguins at the end of the Eastern Conference Finals series at the Onondaga County War Memorial June 1.