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AHL Weekly Release: Regular season finish line in sight

WEEKLY RELEASE #27

cc08.jpgSPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs picture is beginning to come into focus, but there are still plenty of holes to fill as the American Hockey League enters the final week of its 72nd regular season. A playoff berth and a division title are still up for grabs, and all but six teams are still fighting to determine which of the 16 playoff slots they will occupy.

The Atlantic Division races were all settled last weekend, as Manchester became the fourth and final team to secure a postseason bid, its seventh playoff berth in as many seasons. Providence captured its first division title since 2002-03 and fourth overall on Saturday, and now has its sights set on the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy and the AHL’s overall points title.

The Bruins and Monarchs will square off in a rematch of their 2007 division final series, while Hartford will finish second and Portland third, setting up those teams’ third playoff meeting in the last five years.

With 97 points and three games remaining each, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Philadelphia are locked in a fierce battle for the East Division title. The Penguins currently hold the first tiebreaker with 46 wins to 45 for the Phantoms, who are heading to the postseason for the first time since winning the Calder Cup in 2005. Albany sits third with 91 points, the River Rats’ highest output since 1998-99, and Hershey (86), the Calder Cup champion in 2006 and runner-up in 2007, is looking to secure its third consecutive playoff berth, with Binghamton (81) and Bridgeport (80) each in need of a big week to make up the ground.

In the North, Toronto (103) has wrapped up the Sam Pollock Trophy as division champions, while Manitoba (96) and Syracuse (92) have secured the division’s only other postseason bids. The Crunch, who have won 11 straight games and have a point in 19 straight (16-0-0-3), are destined for a first-round series with the Moose, but home-ice advantage in that match-up is still at stake in the season’s final week.

Chicago (107) has sewn up its second West Division crown in team history but is trying to hold off Toronto for the regular-season conference title and home-ice advantage throughout the first three playoff rounds.

Four other West teams have secured playoff bids, but their seeds and match-ups are anything but certain. Rockford (94) sits in second place but can still finish as low as fifth. Houston (92) and Milwaukee (92) are tied for the third spot and will go head-to-head three times next weekend. And San Antonio (90), which will return to the postseason for the first time since 2003, plays all four of its remaining games against non-playoff teams.

The 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs will begin next week with 16 teams looking to capture the American Hockey League championship.

AHL Standings
(through games of Sunday, 4/6/08)

 AtlanticPtsWGRTue
4/8
Wed
4/9
Thu
4/10
Fri
4/11
Sat
4/12
Sun
4/13
yProvidence113534 @WOR MCH@MCHLOW
xHartford104473   @SPRBRI@BRI
xPortland95443 @LOW WOR@SPR 
xManchester86382   @PROPRO 

 Springfield78343   HFDPOR@WOR
 Worcester69294 PRO @PORLOWSPR
 Lowell60244 POR @BRI@WOR@PRO
           
 EastPts
W
GR
Tue
4/8
Wed
4/9
Thu
4/10
Fri
4/11
Sat
4/12
Sun
4/13
xW-B/Scranton97463 BRI @ALBNOR 
xPhiladelphia97453   HER@HERALB
xAlbany91423 NOR WBS @PHI
 Hershey86393   @PHIPHIBNG

 Binghamton81343   NOR@SYR@HER
 Bridgeport80384 @WBS LOW@HFDHFD
 Norfolk61273 @ALB @BNG@WBS 
           
 NorthPts
W
GR
Tue
4/8
Wed
4/9
Thu
4/10
Fri
4/11
Sat
4/12
Sun
4/13
yToronto103474 CHI @HAMRCHMTB
xManitoba96453   @GRA@GRA@TOR
xSyracuse92424@LEM @RCHBNGHAM

 Hamilton78344 RCH TOR@LEM@SYR
Grand Rapids66292   MTBMTB 
 Lake Erie65263SYR   HAM@RCH
 Rochester56234 @HAM SYR@TORLEM
           
 WestPts
W
GR
Tue
4/8
Wed
4/9
Thu
4/10
Fri
4/11
Sat
4/12
Sun
4/13
yChicago107514 @TOR @RFDRFDPEO
xRockford94424 PEO CHI@CHIIOW
xHouston92434 @QCY @MILMILMIL
xMilwaukee92433   HOU@HOU@HOU
xSan Antonio90404@IOW  @PEOQCYQCY

 Peoria81364 @RFD SANIOW@CHI
 Quad City79354 HOU IOW@SAN@SAN
Iowa75344SAN  @QCY@PEO@RFD

x-clinched playoff berth
y-clinched division title


brackets08.jpgIn 2007-08, the AHL will have 16 teams participating in the postseason.

In each division, the fourth-place team will play the first-place team in the division semifinals, while the second-place team plays the third-place team.

There is one possible exception to the qualification rules in 2007-08: if the fifth-place team in the West Division finishes with more points than the fourth-place team in the North Division, it would cross over and compete in the North Division playoffs.

Division semifinal winners face off in the division finals. The winner of the East Division final plays the winner of the Atlantic Division final in the Eastern Conference final, while the winner of the North Division final plays the winner of the West Division final in the Western Conference final. Conference final winners meet in the Calder Cup Finals.

All series are in a best-of-seven format.

TIEBREAKERS … Following are the tiebreaking procedures used in the event of a tie in the standings following the completion of the regular season on Sunday. When a tie among three or more teams is broken resulting in a two-team tie, the original tiebreaking method is used.

Between two teams:
a) wins
b) points in season series between teams
c) goal differential
d) goals scored in season series between teams
e) intra-conference points percentage

Among three or more teams:
a) wins
b) points percentage in combined season series
c) goal differential
d) goal differential in combined season series
e) intra-conference points percentage

CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS … The Syracuse Crunch continue to be the American Hockey League’s hottest team as the 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs approach. The Crunch have won 11 straight games and have a point in each of their last 19 outings (16-0-0-3), both franchise records and AHL season highs. The 11-game winning streak is the longest in the AHL since Manchester won 12 in a row from Jan. 15 to Feb. 11, 2007.

Syracuse is 20-1-0-5 in its last 26 games, and the team has racked up a 25-9-1-4 record at the Onondaga County War Memorial this season with two home tilts left to play. The Crunch are already assured of just their second 40-win campaign in their 14-year history and will return to postseason play after a one-year absence.

Links
AHL standings
Scores and schedules
League leaders

FROM CALDER TO STANLEY? … Four NHL head coaches are heading into the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a Calder Cup championship already on their resumes.

Calgary’s Mike Keenan (Rochester, 1983), Nashville’s Barry Trotz (Portland, 1994), Philadelphia’s John Stevens (Philadelphia, 2005) and Washington’s Bruce Boudreau (Hershey, 2006) all won titles while coaching in the American Hockey League. Boudreau reached the Calder Cup Finals again with the Bears in 2007, and Pittsburgh’s Michel Therrien led Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to the 2004 Finals. Only six men in history – including Keenan – have ever won both a Calder Cup and a Stanley Cup as a head coach.

ETC. … Hershey’s Alexandre Giroux is the first AHL player with four consecutive 30-goal seasons since Chris Jensen did it for the Bears and the Portland Pirates from 1991-95… Giroux had two goals, two assists and a plus-6 rating in Hershey’s 6-3 win over Bridgeport on Saturday… Chicago’s Brett Sterling enters the final week of the 2007-08 regular season tied with three other players for the league lead at 36 markers apiece, looking to become the first player to lead the league in goals in back-to-back seasons since Paul Gardner (1984-85, 1985-86)… AHL rookie of the year Teddy Purcell has a point in 10 of his last 11 games and 16 of his last 19 for Manchester… Rockford center Petri Kontiola has registered multiple points in four straight games (1-7-8), part of a seven-game scoring streak overall (3-9-12)… Toronto goaltender Justin Pogge recorded his fourth shutout of the season on Wednesday, the most by a Marlies goaltender in their three-year history… Providence and Quad City have each won 11 shootouts this season, tying the league record… Syracuse scored six goals on nine shots in the third period of Sunday’s 10-3 win at Rochester… Hartford is 22-2-0-1 this season against the AHL’s three Massachusetts-based teams (Lowell, Springfield, Worcester), none of whom are playoff bound.