- The Crunch are 7-0 to begin the Calder Cup Playoffs with sweeps of Portland (3-0) and Springfield (4-0).
- Ondrej Palat is tied for the AHL's postseason lead with 15 points; Tyler Johnson is second with 14 points.
- Syracuse faces the winner of the Providence-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton series in the Eastern Conference Final.
Eastern Conference Semifinals
(3) Syracuse Crunch vs. (2) Springfield Falcons - Syracuse wins series, 4-0
Game 1 - Fri., May 10 - Syracuse at Springfield - W, 5-2
Game 2 - Sat., May 11 - Syracuse at Springfield - W, 5-3
Game 3 - Wed., May 15 - Springfield at Syracuse - W, 3-0
Game 4 - Fri., May 17 - Springfield at Syracuse - W, 5-2
Crunch sweep Falcons, advance to Eastern Conference Final
Syracuse continued its undefeated postseason with home victories against Springfield Wednesday, 3-0, and Friday, 5-2. Syracuse had two best-of-five sweeps (2002, 2013), but had never before taken all four games in a best-of-seven series. The upcoming Conference Final appearance for the Crunch will be the second in franchise history, and first since 1996 when Syracuse lost to Rochester after defeating Binghamton and Baltimore.
The Crunch await the winner of the Eastern Conference's other semifinal series between 1-Providence and 5-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Bruins had a 3-0 series lead, but the Penguins have won the last two, including 4-0 Sunday in Wilkes-Barre. Providence hosts Game 6 Monday and Game 7, if neccessary, on Wedneday. Only twice in AHL history has a team come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven postseason series (Rochester over Cleveland in 1960 and Adirondack over Hershey in 1989).
A Bruins series victory would mean Syracuse would start the Eastern Conference Final on the road this weekend, while a Penguins come-from-behind series win would give the Crunch home-ice advantage.
Scouting the 1-Providence Bruins
The Providence Bruins are the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the AHL’s regular season points champion. The Bruins overcame a two-games-to-zero deficit in the opening round to beat the Hershey Bears three games to two. They now hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The Crunch and the Bruins did not play during the regular season. In the playoffs, the Bruins have been led by Carter Camper (8g-5a-13p), Chris Bourque (5g-8a-13p), and Jamie Tardif (7g-3a-10g). The Bruins also have Niklas Svedberg, the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award winner for best goaltender in the AHL. The rookie hasn't been as sharp in the playoffs, earning a 3.25 goals-against average and a 0.895 save percentage. and a 6-4 record. The Bruins and Crunch have never met in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Scouting the 5-W-B/Scranton Penguins
The Penguins, the fifth seed in the conference, swept the Binghamton Senators in the opening round but trail three games to two in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Providence Bruins. The Crunch and Penguins met eight times this season, with the Crunch holding a 5-3 advantage in the series. Syracuse won the final three, with the last two being shutouts. Those two shutout wins for the Crunch (Feb. 17 and Mar. 20) were the only matches since the turn of the calendar. Former Crunch players Riley Holzapfel and Trevor Smith both had five points in the season series against the Crunch while Brett Connolly and Tyler Johnson countered with seven points apiece. Cedrick Desjardins recorded a shutout in his only start against the Penguins.
Meanwhile, Chad Kolarik, one of the Penguins' leading scorers, only played in one game against the Crunch this season as a member of the Penguins. He was traded from the Connecticut Whale during the season. Syracuse has faced W-B/Scranton once before in the Calder Cup Playoffs, losing to the Penguins, 3-2, in a 2001 first-round series.
WEEK IN REVIEW
ECSF Game 3: Desjardins blanks Falcons, 3-0, for eighth playoff shutout in team history
Ondrej Palat had three points to help beat the Falcons, 3-0, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Wedneday at the War Memorial Arena. Richard Panik scored the eventual game-winner in the first and Cedrick Desjardins made 24 saves to record his second career playoff shutout and the eighth in Crunch postseason history.
With the series shifting to Syracuse for Game 3, the first period was played tighter than the opening periods in Game 1 and Game 2 in Springfield. It stayed tight for the first 15 minutes, until a bad Springfield line change coupled with a turnover at the Crunch blue line allowed Ondrej Palat to send a lead pass ahead to Richard Panik for a breakaway. He took the pass and beat Falcons goaltender Curtis McElhinney with a quick wrist shot to give the Crunch a 1-0 lead 15:15 into the first period.
The second period opened up, with the Crunch generating 12 shots to Springfield's 11. The most dangerous opportunity for the Falcons came on a power play. With J.P. Cote in the penalty box on a tripping penalty, the Falcons controlled the puck in the offensive zone for nearly a full two minutes, but could not find the back of the net. Nick Holden hit a post early in the power play, but the Crunch were able to recover and hold on to a 1-0 lead through two periods.
Beginning the third on a power play, the Falcons allowed an Ondrej Palat shorthanded goal eight seconds into the frame on a wraparound following a neutral zone steal. It was the fastest goal to start a period for the Crunch this season. Later in the frame, with the Crunch shorthanded once more, Palat rushed up the ice, spun at the blue line, and centered for Tyler Johnson, who one-timed the puck past McElhinney to give the Crunch a 3-0 lead at 7:24 of the third. Cedrick Desjardins stopped seven shots in the third to preserve the shutout and put the Crunch ahead three games to zero in the series. The Falcons went 0-for-5 on the power play while the Crunch went 0-for-4.
ECSF Game 4: Syracuse sweeps Springfield, advance to Conference Final
J.T. Wyman scored his first two goals of the Calder Cup Playoffs and the Crunch outlasted the Falcons 5-2 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at the War Memorial Arena to end the best-of-seven series, the first four-game sweep in franchise history.
Philip-Michael Devos set up the opening score, creating a steal behind the Springfield net and centering to J.T. Wyman who slid the puck past Curtis McElhinney to give the Crunch a 1-0 lead at 6:04. The Crunch scored first in every game of the series. The Crunch built on their lead less than two minutes later. Vlad Namestnikov took a pass from Richard Panik and streaked in down the right wing and crashed the net. With the puck trickling along the goal line and McElhinney out of position, Mark Barberio stepped ahead and nudged the free puck in.
Early in the second, a David Savard power-play drive was tipped twice, first by Boone Jenner and then by Ryan Craig, and past Cedrick Desjardins to cut the Crunch lead to 2-1 at 2:38. Syracuse regained a two-goal edge later in the frame when J.T. Brown chipped the puck ahead to J.T. Wyman who scored on a two-on-one breakaway with Mike Angelidis and Syracuse had a 3-1 edge.
In the third, following an after-the-whistle scrum that resulted in a fight between Angelidis and Cody Bass, Andrew Joudrey cashed in on a rebound in front of the Syracuse goal to cut the Crunch advantage to 3-2 with 11:25 to play. Matt Taormina answered shortly thereafer, receiving a pass from Brett Connolly, taking two shots (the first was blocked by Jenner) and beating McElhinney for a 4-2 Syracuse lead. The Falcons would generate several more chances but Desjardins made 11 third-period saves and Dan Sexton buried an empty-netter to make it a 5-2 final.
The Crunch went 0-for-4 on the power play in the game and 4-for-22 in the series and the Falcons finished 1-for-4 in the game and 3-for-22 in the series.
- Syracuse is the only undefeated team in this year's Calder Cup Playoffs and the first team to start the AHL's postseason with a 7-0 record since the 2006 Hershey Bears won their first 10 Calder Cup games, ultimately capturing the title with a 16-5 postseason record. A 7-0 start to the playoffs has been accomplished 10 times in league history. The Crunch's seven-game postseason win streak extends a franchise record (previously five).
- Cedrick Desjardins's shutout Wednesday in Game 3 was the eighth in Crunch postseason history and the first since Pascal Leclaire blanked Manitoba Apr. 21, 2006 in Game 1 of the opening round at the War Memorial.
- Desjardins now has two shutouts in 17 career Calder Cup Playoff games, last notching one for Hamilton in 2010 when he held Manitoba scoreless on 21 shots in his AHL postseason debut. One other professional postseason shutout for Desjardins came in 2008 with the ECHL's Cincinatti Cyclones when he posted an 11-4 record and 1.84 goals-against average, and won the Kelly Cup and tournament MVP. During the 2012-13 regular season, Desjardins had five shutouts (three with Syracuse, two with Hamilton) in 36 games.
- Desjardins is 7-0 for the Crunch in the Calder Cup Playoffs and has 10 straight victories, including his last three of the regualr season. He is now 13-4 in his Calder Cup Playoff career, with a 2.36 goals-against average and a 0.908 save percentage.
- No goalie with over 300 minutes played this postseason (7) has a lower goals-against average than Desjardins's 2.02. Only three goalies have better marks overall (Thiessen/WBS, 1.08; Kuemper/HOU, 1.51; Hellberg/MIL, 1.69), but none have played in more than five games.
- Ondrej Palat is tied for the AHL postseason lead with 15 points (4g, 11a) and is now seventh on the Crunch's all-time playoff scoring list. He was held without a point in Game 4 Friday for the first time in the playoffs. Palat had multi-point efforts in each of the first six postseason games after 14 such efforts during the regular season.
- Similarly, Tyler Johnson did not register a point in Game 4, but his 14 points (7g, 7a) are second most in the AHL and his seven goals are third. He's also the top power play (3g-4a-7pts) and shorthanded (3g-0a-3pts) scorer.
- Vlad Namestnikov registered the first two points of his professional postseason career Friday in Game 4 with assists on goals from Mark Barberio and Dan Sexton. The former first-round pick had 21 points (7g, 14a) in 44 regular season games as a rookie in 2012-13. He amassed 139 points (52g, 87a) in two years with London (OHL).
- J.T. Wyman (2g-3a-5pts) scored his first two goals of the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs in Game 4 Friday. He produced four goals in 51 previous Calder Cup Playoff games and never had a multi-goal effort.
- The Crunch have won four consecutive home games in the postseason after never winning more than three straight at the War Memorial during the 76-game regular season. They notched three straight home wins three times: Dec 7-15, Feb. 20-24 and Apr. 13-20. The Crunch have won seven of their last eight home games overall.
- The Tampa Bay Lightning AHL affiliate has won 17 consecutive postseason games. The 2012 Norfolk Admirals won their final 10 playoff contests to capture the Calder Cup last season, while the 2013 Syracuse Crunch have added seven to the string. The Cleveland Barons won 15 straight Calder Cup Playoff games, starting with nine in their 1964 championship season, and six more in 1966 when they lost in the Cup Final.