2008-09 RECORD: 39-31-4-3, 85 points, (24-11-2-1 home, 15-20-2-2 road), fifth place, North Division
THIS WEEK'S GAMES
Wednesday, April 8 vs. Binghamton (40-28-5-4, 89 points) fifth place, East Division
Friday, April 10 @ Rochester (27-42-0-8, 62 points), seventh place, North Division
Saturday, April 11 vs. Rochester (27-42-0-8, 62 points), seventh place, North Division
LAST WEEK'S RESULT
Friday, April 3 - Rockford 3, CRUNCH 2 (SO)
Saturday, April 4 - CRUNCH 3, Rochester 2
HOME TEAM IN CAPS
DOWN TO THE WIRE: This time of year, meaningful games are being played all across the American Hockey League and that is no different for the Syracuse Crunch.
When the 2008-09 schedule came out, Syracuse fans were confident that the last three games of the Crunch's regular season would be very important. With a traditionally home-heavy second half schedule, it has seemed to help the Crunch greatly.
On February 20, The Crunch were 26-25-3-2, just one game over .500. Since that point, Syracuse has gone 13-6-1-1, with 10 of those 13 wins coming inside the friendly confines of the War Memorial at Oncenter.
Currently, the Crunch sit one point behind the Toronto Marlies for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division.
THE UNSTOPPABLE FORCE: Left wing Alexandre Picard continued his torrid goal-scoring pace last week, appearing in both games for the Crunch, tallying two goals while helping the club to a 1-0-0-1 record and extending the Crunch’s four-game points streak (3-0-0-1). By accumulating two more goals, Picard now has 18 over his last 19 games, giving him 20 goals on the season, a new career-high.
On Friday night against Rockford, Picard's game-tying goal at the 4:24 mark of the third period personified the way he has been playing lately. He took a long pass from Derek MacKenzie and bulldozed his way to the cage down the middle. As Picard split the defense, he fell down but did not give up on the play. While lying down on the ice, he one-handed a shot on goal that squeezed through Rockford starter Corey Crawford's legs. Picard's game-tying marker helped earn him second star honors and the Crunch an important point with an eventual shootout loss.
On Saturday night vs. Rochester, Picard's power play goal at the 1:50 mark of the third period put the Crunch ahead in what turned out to be a 3-2 win for Syracuse. His six shots on goal gave him 12 shots over the Crunch's two weekend games, leading all Syracuse players. For his effort Saturday, he was named the game's first star.
Picard has appeared in 46 games for the Crunch this season, notching 20 goals, 10 assists and 102 penalty minutes. A native of Les Saules, Quebec, Picard was drafted by Columbus in the first round, eighth overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
THIS WEEK'S OPPONENTS:
BINGHAMTON SENATORS (OTTAWA SENATORS): The Crunch welcome in the Binghamton Senators for the eighth and final meeting of the year between these two clubs. The Crunch are 2-3-1-1 vs. the B-Sens this season. This is the first meeting of 2009 between these two clubs, as the Crunch and Senators have not played each other since December 30, 2008. These two teams are in similar positions as far as the playoff picture is concerned, both one point behind the fourth place club in their respective divisions for the final spot. Craig MacDonald (2g, 3a) and Maksim Mayorov (1g, 4a) lead the Crunch in scoring against Binghamton this year. Mattias Karlsson paces Binghamton and leads all players in scoring in the season series with nine assists. Brian Elliott, currently on recall with Ottawa, has appeared in all seven previous games against the Crunch this year, going 5-1-1 with a 1.94 goals against average and .933 save percentage.
ROCHESTER AMERICANS (FLORIDA PANTHERS): The Crunch travel to Rochester Friday and then come back east on I-90 on Saturday for a weekend home-and-home series to close out the regular season with their arch-rivals. The Crunch are 7-3-0-0 in the 10 previous games this season and have dominated the Amerks in recent years, going 28-14-1-3 over the past five campaigns, including a 10-2-0-0 mark against Rochester in 2007-08. The Crunch have won 11 straight games at home against Rochester, dating back to April 14, 2007… Derek MacKenzie (4g, 5a) and Mike York (1g, 8a), pace the Crunch in scoring against the Americans this season, while current Syracuse netminders Dan LaCosta and Kevin Lalande have combined to go 7-1-0 with a 1.57 goals against average against Rochester this year. Amerks' second-leading scorer Janis Sprukts leads all Rochester players in scoring against the Crunch this season with seven points (2g, 5a), while goaltender Mike Brodeur is 3-3-0 with a 2.34 goals against average and .927 save percentage in the season series.
The Crunch power play has notched at least one goal in six straight games and is 10-for-32 (31.25%) over that span…Despite ranking 23rd overall in the league on the power play, Syracuse ranks 12th with the man-advantage at home, going 39-for-211 (18.48%)… The Crunch are 20-9-4-3 in one-goal games… Syracuse is 15-4-2-0 against North Division opponents at home this season… Derek MacKenzie is currently riding a six game point streak (1g, 5a) and a five game assist streak.