DENVER – With the 2019-20 AHL season officially cancelled as of May 11, AHL Editor and Colorado Eagles correspondent C.C. Hawkley did a little hypothesizing, taking a stab at who he thinks would have advanced in the Calder Cup Playoffs from the AHL’s Western Conference.

In addition, we ran the first round through a digital simulation as well. Utilizing Playoff Mode on NHL 20, every series was simmed game-by-game for another layer of postseason prediction.

(Seeding is based off of teams’ position in the standings as of March 12. First round is a best-of-five series.)

CENTRAL DIVISION

MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS (1) vs. CHICAGO WOLVES (4)

2019-20 REGULAR SEASON SERIES

Date Home Team Winner Score
Oct. 20 Chicago Chicago 3-2
Nov. 2 Milwaukee Milwaukee 5-2
Nov. 13 Milwaukee Milwaukee 6-3
Dec. 13 Milwaukee Milwaukee 4-1
Dec. 14 Chicago Chicago 3-2
Dec. 29 Chicago Milwaukee 3-2
Jan. 15 Milwaukee Milwaukee 4-2
Jan. 18 Chicago Chicago 4-1
Jan. 31 Chicago Milwaukee 7-3
Feb. 13 Chicago Milwaukee 5-2
Feb. 21 Milwaukee Milwaukee 4-1

MILWAUKEE PROS AND CONS

Pros: The Admirals were piecing together one of their best seasons in team history, sitting atop the league with 41 wins, a .714 point percentage, and 90 points in the standings. The goalie tandem of Connor Ingram and Troy Grosenick also combined for the lowest team goals against average (2.24).

Cons: Hard to find any, really. Milwaukee was in the top seven regarding their power play, penalty kill, goals for per game, and goals allowed per game. It may be grasping at straws here, but a chink in the Ads hefty armor perhaps lies in a lack of discipline: Milwaukee led the league with 925 penalty minutes.

CHICAGO PROS AND CONS

Pros: Coming off of a Calder Cup Finals appearance in 2019, the Wolves always seem to be in the playoff picture. Since joining the AHL in 2001, Chicago has only missed the postseason five times, and never in consecutive seasons. Standout rookie forward Lucas Elvenes gave the Wolves some playmaking ability that gained notice league-wide; his 12 goals and 36 assists were good for fourth among rookie scoring.

Cons: Chicago ranked 29th in goals for (2.54) and 31st in shots for (26.79) per game. Drawing a tough Admirals team that averaged 3.34 goals per game, the Wolves’ low production figures could spell disaster for them come round one.

SERIES PREDICTION

The last time Milwaukee and Chicago met in the postseason was 2010, and while the Wolves won that series in seven games, this old IHL rivalry looks to swing the other way in 2020. The Admirals won eight out of the 11 regular season meetings, and will carry those figures into the first round, defeating Chicago handily in four games.

NHL 20 SERIES SIM

Chicago tooked Game One in overtime by a score of 4-3. Milwaukee came back for a 4-2 victory in Game Two to even the series at one. The Wolves then won another OT bout in Game Three in a low scoring affair (2-1) before blowing out the Admirals 7-1 in Game Four to capture the series three games to one.

IOWA WILD (2) vs. GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (3)

2019-20 REGULAR SEASON SERIES

Date Home Team Winner Score
Oct. 30 Grand Rapids Iowa 4-3
Dec. 20 Iowa Iowa 4-2
Dec. 21 Iowa Iowa 4-3
Jan. 22 Grand Rapids Grand Rapids 4-3
Jan. 31 Iowa Iowa 4-1
Mar. 11 Grand Rapids Grand Rapids 4-1

IOWA PROS AND CONS

Pros: Iowa boasted one of the most potent scoring tandems in the AHL behind league-leading Sam Anas (20G + 50A = 70 PTS) and third place Gerry Mayhew (39G + 22A = 61 PTS). Brennan Menell was second in scoring amongst defensemen (5G + 42A = 47 PTS), and goaltender Kappo Kahkonen (25-6-3, 2.07 GAA, .927 SV%) led the league in wins (25) and shutouts (7). The Wild were nipping at the heels of Central Division leader Milwaukee, just eight points back of the Admirals in the standings.

Cons: Like Milwaukee, I find myself hard pressed to find anything glaringly wrong with the Wild. They do have a middle of the road goals for per game stat (3.08 – 14th), boast losing records when trailing after both one period (8-11-2) and two (7-12-3), and are 8-7-2 in road games decided by one goal.

GRAND RAPIDS PROS AND CONS

Pros: Grand Rapids bodes well when keeping it close in games, especially on the road. Their overall one-goal game record is 13-5-7, while their one-goal game road record is 9-2-2. In contrast, taking two home games against Iowa later on in the season (a 4-3 shootout win on Jan. 22 and 4-1 regulation win on March 11) points to a team that could upset a Wild squad in the divisional semis.

Cons: The Griffins are only one of two playoff bound teams in the West that have more goals allowed (193) than goals for (177). Their leading scorer, Chris Terry, tallied 51 total points on the year. Unfortunately, the next closest on the team was Matt Puempel with 39 points. Both players posted jarring minus-17 and minus-18 ratings, respectively.

SERIES PREDICTION

Iowa has proven a tough customer all around at home and on the road. If Kahkonen carries his winning ways into the postseason, Grand Rapids is all but done for. As previously mentioned, the Griffins did capture two road wins against the Wild, so that will keep things interesting. Iowa takes this series in five games.

NHL 20 SERIES SIM

The Wild seized Game One out of the gate by a score of 5-3. Alas, that is the only victory Iowa would earn, as Grand Rapids would then take three straight games (5-1, 5-2, 4-2) to advance to the Central Division Final against Chicago.

PACIFIC DIVISION

TUCSON ROADRUNNERS (1) vs. SAN DIEGO GULLS (4)

2019-20 REGULAR SEASON SERIES

Date Home Team Winner Score
Nov. 30 San Diego San Diego 6-2
Dec. 31 Tucson Tucson 7-4
Jan. 17 San Diego San Diego 4-1
Jan. 21 San Diego Tucson 3-1
Feb. 7 San Diego San Diego 5-3
Feb. 26 Tucson Tucson 4-1
Mar. 10 Tucson Tucson 3-0
Mar. 11 Tucson San Diego 4-2

TUCSON PROS AND CONS

Pros: The Roadrunners came out swinging during the first part of 2019-20, going 24-7-0 while propelling into first place in the Pacific Division. While Brayden BurkeMichael Bunting, and Andy Miele charted in the top 20 for league scoring, Tucson also managed to have five different goaltenders earn victories and keep them atop the division until the season’s cancellation.

Cons: Special teams is a concern for Tucson, ranking 18th in power play (17.4%) and 27th in penalty kill (79.0%). Having two viable goaltenders that could start in the playoffs — Adin Hill and Ivan Prosvetov — leaves the Roadrunners in the “If you have two starting goaltenders, you really have none” conundrum.

SAN DIEGO PROS AND CONS

Pros: Even with the fourth seed in the Pacific, the Gulls stood only eight points back of first place Tucson. Splitting the season series with the Roadrunners (4-4-0) further drives the parity point home. Having seasoned players like center Sam Carrick, defenseman Chris Wideman, and goaltender Anthony Stolarz gives San Diego a fighting chance in the playoffs.

Cons: The Gulls allowed 33.68 shots on goal (29th) during the regular season. With Tucson netting 3.41 goals on 31.43 shots per game, that would round up to a possible average of three and a half goals per game for the Roadrunners.

SERIES PREDICTION

While Tucson started the year off winning over three out of every four games, their record in the 2020 calendar year after that was 12-12-3. San Diego was also one of only three teams that had a .500 or better record against Tucson this year. Don’t forget that the Gulls made it to the Western Conference Final in the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs, as well. San Diego makes it a tight series, eking out a first round victory in five hotly contested games.

NHL 20 SERIES SIM

Tucson’s perch atop the Pacific Division was indeed precarious, but nothing could have predicted this result from the land of gaming. After earning the overtime win in Game One by a score of 4-3, San Diego then defeated Tucson again on the road and then at home to sweep the Roadrunners three games to none. The Gulls head into round two undefeated.

COLORADO EAGLES (2) vs. STOCKTON HEAT (3)

2019-20 REGULAR SEASON SERIES

Date Home Team Winner Score
Oct. 4 Colorado Stockton 5-2
Oct. 5 Colorado Stockton 4-2
Nov. 29 Colorado Colorado 5-2
Nov. 30 Colorado Stockton 5-4
Jan. 18 Stockton Colorado 4-3
Jan. 20 Stockton Stockton 5-0

COLORADO PROS AND CONS

Pros: Depth for days, versatility, and solid goaltending from Hunter Miska (16-6-3, 2.48 GAA, .924 SV%). In spite of the NHL’s Avalanche plucking players from the Eagles to fill gaps left by injuries, Colorado managed to show off some depth with big contributions from called-up Utah Grizzlies skaters. Defenseman Jacob MacDonald also did well filling in as a forward for parts of the season, notching 16 goals and 26 assists for 42 total points.

Cons: The Eagles had a bad habit of falling behind early in games, forcing them to either succumb to the hole they’d dug or play catch-up for a come from behind victory. Colorado was 3-12-0 when trailing after one period and 5-15-1 when trailing after two.

STOCKTON PROS AND CONS

Pros: The Heat have been absolutely incendiary on the special teams this season, leading the league in both the power play (25.6%) and penalty kill (87.6%) categories. They also posted 3.53 goals per game, good for second in the AHL. Lastly, Stockton boasts a solid road record at 16-7-4.

Cons: Stockton seemed to be limping towards the postseason with a 6-7-2 record in the months of February and March. Primary netminder Artyom Zagidulin posting a 3.07 goals against average is also cause for concern.

SERIES PREDICTION

The regular season series results are a bit skewed, with Stockton sweeping the opening weekend before both teams traded wins back and forth in their next four games. With the Eagles gelling at the right time and Stockton fading a bit, this divisional semifinal will be close. Both teams will earn victories at home and on the road before Colorado wins in five.

NHL 20 SERIES SIM

This was the only Western Conference series that went to all five games in NHL 20. Stockton won Game One in overtime by a score of 3-2. Colorado forged back with consecutive victories — a Game Two shutout (4-0) and another four-goal effort in Game Three (4-1). It took OT in both Game Four and Five — each game a 2-1 victory for the Heat — to give the series (and a Pacific Division Final appearance) to Stockton.

Stay tuned to The Sin Bin for our “What If” 2020 AHL Calder Cup Divisional Finals match-ups! Follow C.C. on Twitter for his continued coverage of the AHL’s Colorado Eagles. And, don’t forget to follow the rest of #TeamSinBin on social media via Facebook and Twitter!

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