AHL Morning Skate: East, West begin division finals
AHL Quick Hits is now the Morning Skate… Every morning, take a spin around the AHL ice with recaps and previews, news and notes, facts and figures, and the top headlines from around the American Hockey League.
E1-W-B/Scranton Penguins vs. E2-Philadelphia Phantoms || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., May 1 – Philadelphia at W-B/Scranton,
Game 2 – Sat., May 3 – Philadelphia at W-B/Scranton,
Game 3 – Mon., May 5 – W-B/Scranton at Philadelphia, (WC)
Game 4 – Wed., May 7 – W-B/Scranton at Philadelphia, (WC)
*Game 5 – Fri., May 9 – Philadelphia at W-B/Scranton,
*Game 6 – TBD – W-B/Scranton at Philadelphia (WC)
*Game 7 – Tue., May 13 – Philadelphia at W-B/Scranton,
North Division Finals – Series “K” (best-of-7)
N1-Toronto Marlies vs. N2-Syracuse Crunch || Preview
Game 1 – Fri., May 2 – Syracuse at Toronto,
Game 2 – Sun., May 4 – Syracuse at Toronto,
Game 3 – Tue., May 6 – Toronto at Syracuse,
Game 4 – Wed., May 7 – Toronto at Syracuse,
*Game 5 – Fri., May 9 – Syracuse at Toronto,
*Game 6 – Sat., May 10 – Toronto at Syracuse,
*Game 7 – Mon., May 12 – Syracuse at Toronto,
West Division Finals – Series “L” (best-of-7)
W1-Chicago Wolves vs. W2-Rockford IceHogs || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., May 1 – Rockford at Chicago,
Game 2 – Sat., May 3 – Rockford at Chicago,
Game 3 – Sun., May 4 – Chicago at Rockford,
Game 4 – Wed., May 7 – Chicago at Rockford,
*Game 5 – Fri., May 9 – Rockford at Chicago,
*Game 6 – Sun., May 11 – Chicago at Rockford,
*Game 7 – Tue., May 13 – Rockford at Chicago,
*if necessary… All times Eastern
(WC) – WachoviaCenter
GAME NOTES (all times ET): Game 1 – Philadelphia at W-B/Scranton,
Fresh off an epic seven-game triumph over Albany in the division semis, Philadelphia opens the East Division finals tonight at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which took out Hershey in five games in the opening round… The Penguins are making their fifth straight division finals appearance, including a victory over the Phantoms in 2004 en route to the Calder Cup Finals… Philadelphia earned revenge in 2005, taking out the Penguins on its way to the Calder Cup title… The Phantoms won all five visits to the Wachovia Arena during the regular season, allowing a total of five goals… Wilkes-Barre forward Tim Brent leads all AHL playoff scorers with 11 points (5-6-11) in five games, while Alex Goligoski paces all rookies and defensemen with eight points (2-6-8)… The Penguins boast the AHL’s top postseason power play at 29.6 percent (8-for-27)… Philadelphia goaltender Scott Munroe notched a 1.29 GAA and .952 save percentage in the seven-game win over the River Rats… Stefan Ruzicka tallied 10 points (4-6-10) in 10 games against the Pens this season… Philadelphia averaged 1.57 goals per game in the division semis, the lowest of any team remaining in the playoffs.
Game 1 – Rockford at Chicago,
One of the AHL’s newest rivalries adds its first postseason chapter tonight when Rockford takes on Chicago at Allstate Arena to kick off the West Division finals… The IceHogs are coming off a five-game opening-round win over Houston, while the division-champion Wolves dispatched Milwaukee in six games… Rockford goaltender Corey Crawford allowed only six goals on 134 shots in the first round; his .955 playoff save percentage ranks second in the AHL while his 1.10 GAA is a league low… Kris Versteeg is pacing the IceHogs in the postseason with three goals and five points, while Second-Team AHL All-Star Martin St. Pierre put up four points vs. Houston (1-3-4), including his first career AHL playoff goal… The IceHogs’ power play went 0-for-19 in the series against Houston, but their penalty-kill was a perfect 20-for-20… AHL MVP Jason Krog posted a team-high six points – all assists – in Chicago’s first-round win over the Admirals, and had 21 points (6-15-21) in 10 games vs. Rockford in the regular season… Both the Wolves and IceHogs netted a pair of shorthanded goals in their division semifinal series… The Wolves won all five regular-season home games against Rockford, outscoring them 28-13 in the process.
GOALIES GRAB CENTER STAGE FOR WOLVES, ICEHOGS
Tim Sassone, Daily Herald
There are so many interesting aspects to the American Hockey League Calder Cup playoff series between the Chicago Wolves and Rockford IceHogs that begins tonight at Allstate Arena. But when all is said and done, like in any important hockey playoff series, it figures to come down to goaltending. That means the Wolves’ Ondrej Pavelec vs. Rockford’s Corey Crawford. “Last series it was the same thing with me and (Milwaukee’s Pekka) Rinne, but I think it’s going to be Rockford against Chicago,” Pavelec said. “He’s a great goalie, he played in the NHL and played a great first round. We’ll see what’s going to happen.” With Rockford the top affiliate of the Blackhawks, the series is going to allow Hawks fans to closely watch Crawford, the franchise’s goalie of the future and the likely backup for Nikolai Khabibulin next season.
The Rockford IceHogs allowed the Houston Aeros six goals in five playoff games. The next opponent averaged nearly that nightly against Rockford in the regular season. OK, not quite. The Chicago Wolves averaged 4.3 goals in 10 games against Rockford. The point is, there should be a big difference in style of play from the first AHL West Division series. Defense, the IceHogs said, will be the key to success in the best-of-seven series that starts Thursday night. “If everyone commits to good team defense, we all feel we have a chance to win the series,” defenseman Jerramie Domish said.
Rookie winger Luca Caputi hasn’t been in the AHL long enough to offer a detailed scouting report on how the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins match up with the Philadelphia Phantoms. But he’s been in town long enough, Caputi figures, to take the temperature of the Penguins as they prepare for Game 1 of the East Division finals tonight. “Rust?” Caputi said while taking off his shin pads after practice Wednesday morning. “There’s no rust in this room.” That’s easy for Caputi to say. He’s 19. Walk over to Alain Nasreddine and ask him if there’s any rust in the room. You might get a different answer. “Let me check my knee and see,” the 32-year-old defenseman said with a laugh.
It was a sign of the hockey maturity Justin Pogge has acquired with the Toronto Marlies this season. When asked yesterday about his continued role as the Marlies’ backup goalie in the AHL playoffs, Pogge actually hoped his team would have no need to start him in net. “It’s tough to say … but hopefully I don’t (start) because that means we’re winning and Scott (Clemmensen) is playing well,” Pogge said yesterday as the Marlies returned to practice after a grinding seven-game, first-round triumph over the San Antonio Rampage. Pogge’s position of placing his team first over his tag as the “goalie of the future” for the Leafs is serving him well, with the Marlies set to open the second round tomorrow night against the Syracuse Crunch at Ricoh Coliseum.
PERSONNEL LOSSES LEFT RATS SHADOW OF FORMER SELVES
Pete Dougherty, Albany Times-Union
A trip into hockey history will be the biggest memory from the Albany River Rats’ fortnight in the postseason, which ended Tuesday night with a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phantoms in the finale of a best-of-7 opening-round series at Wachovia Center. One week ago tonight, in Game 5 at Times Union Center, the teams played far into the night, a game that lasted an American Hockey League-record five overtimes before a 3-2 Phantoms win. That game pretty much summed up the Rats’ playoff run, if not their entire season.
At every level of hockey, Sean Bentivoglio has managed to improve his game. The 22-year-old Thorold native began his junior career with his hometown Blackhawks where, after a satisfactory rookie campaign, he exploded for a 97-point season. That earned Bentivoglio a full scholarship to NiagaraUniversity. He netted just two goals in his sophomore season, but by his senior year had upped his production to 16 goals and 46 points in 37 games and was named College Hockey Association player of the year. Those numbers opened the eyes of the scouts and the speedy winger joined the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League for the end of the 2006-07 season, where he made a strong impression and earned a contract with the New York Islanders last summer. He recently ended his first season in Bridgeport, Conn., where he put up nine goals, 32 points and a plus-3 rating.
HITTING THE GYM A CAREER CHANGER FOR GRABNER Lindsay Kramer, NHL.com Manitoba rookie forward Michael Grabner wanted a hobby in the middle of the season. Well, maybe “wanted” is over-stating it. He really needed it. He had a lot of free time since Moose coach Scott Arniel was cutting into his minutes. He had to find something to stimulate some growth, since he had wasted down to 171 pounds from his normal weight of 185. This is the part of the tale where your typical hotshot prospect invests in a good video game system, or maybe buys a new car. Grabner took a different route. He joined a gym near his Winnipeg residence. After all, what could be better after a regular practice and lifting session than doing a couple more hours of cardio and weights? http://www.nhl.com/nhl/app/?service=page&page=NewsPage&articleid=361883
FROM CALDER TO STANLEY: 2005 Calder Cup champion R.J. Umberger scored twice as Philadelphia dropped Montreal by a 4-2 count last night to take a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal… Umberger now has six goals in four games in the series.
2001 AHL All-Star Brian Campbell, a Calder Cup finalist with Rochester in 1999 and 2000, assisted on the game-winning goal as San Jose avoided elimination with a 2-1 victory at Dallas last night.
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 – Teams in the 2008 Division Finals round who did not advance that far in 2007 (Portland, Philadelphia, Toronto, Syracuse, and Rockford)… Providence, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and Chicago are this year’s returnees.
ON THIS DATE:
May 1, 2007 – Jason Jaffray records a hat trick and Yannick Tremblay scores the tiebreaking goal with left in regulation as Manitoba defeats Grand Rapids, 4-1, in Game 7 of their North Division semifinal.
May 1, 2005 – Ilya Bryzgalov makes 23 saves and Mark Popovic scores with 13 seconds left in regulation as Cincinnati stuns defending champion Milwaukee, 4-3, in Game 7 of their first-round series at the BradleyCenter, capping a comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.
May 1, 2004 – Jason Pominville has a goal and an assist and Norm Milley nets the game-winner 17:53 into overtime as Rochester defeats Syracuse, 4-3, in Game 7 of their North Division semifinal.