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 third round through a digital simulation as well. Utilizing Playoff Mode on NHL 20, every series was simmed game-by-game for an another layer of postseason prediction.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
IOWA WILD vs. SAN DIEGO GULLS
2019-20 REGULAR SEASON SERIES
|Jan. 8||San Diego||Iowa||3-2|
|Jan. 10||San Diego||San Diego||4-3 (OT)|
|Feb. 15||Iowa||San Diego||5-2|
IOWA PROS AND CONS
Pros: The song remains the same for the Wild regarding their positives. Outstanding scoring, great defense, and superb goaltending have all contributed to Iowa reaching this hypothetical Western Conference Final. Expect the usual suspects (AHL MVP and leading goal-scorer Gerry Mayhew, AHL leading point-getter Sam Anas, AHL Goaltender of the Year Kappo Kahkonen, First-Team All-Star defenseman Brennan Menell, power play league point-leader Luke Johnson, rookie phenom Nico Sturm, and solid forwards like Kyle Rau, Dmitry Sokolov, and J.T. Brown) to contribute and produce in the conference final.
Cons: Iowa’s track record against Pacific Division teams this past season wasn’t particularly good compared to their marks against Central Division rivals. While the Wild went 25-9-5 for a .641 win percentage in the Central, their 12-9-3 record against Pacific foes left them dead even at .500 outside of their own division. Iowa’s one previous playoff appearance in seven seasons points to a potential problem — a severe lack of postseason experience against a seasoned San Diego squad.
SAN DIEGO PROS AND CONS
Pros: The Gulls definitely do not have an edge against the Wild regarding overall regular season special teams figures. Iowa’s power play (21.9%) ranks fifth in the AHL, while their penalty kill (84.4%) ranks eighth. San Diego’s PP (15.2%) and PK (84.7%) rank 24th and seventh in the league, respectively.
How is this a pro for the Gulls? In the four meetings between the two teams in 2019-20, San Diego has surprisingly held Iowa in check. Going 4-for-18 on the power play (22.2%) and 11-for-12 on the penalty kill (91.7%), the Gulls greatly exceeded their regular season man advantage and PK numbers against a stacked Wild squad.
Don’t forget, San Diego went to the Western Conference Final in 2018-19 as well. Experience in the deeper rounds of the postseason speaks volumes.
Cons: Sam Carrick is the leading goal-scorer for San Diego (23), followed by Kiefer Sherwood (16). Comparing those two with the likes of Mayhew (39), Anas (20), and Johnson (15) for the Wild, and it is apparent that the Gulls lack a stand-out scoring threat to counter a potent Iowa offense. San Diego is also 29th out of 31 teams regarding shots against per game (33.68), giving the Wild ample opportunity to shut down the Gulls with their aforementioned offensive firepower.
As stated in my predictions for the West Divisional Finals, Iowa would be put through the ringer against a tough Milwaukee squad. San Diego didn’t get nearly as tough of a draw against Colorado in their division final. They would surprise the Wild by splitting Games One and Two in Des Moines.
The Gulls would also take two of three at Pechanga Arena in California, pushing Iowa to the brink. However, the Wild would rely on the scoring touch of Gerry Mayhew and the focused goaltending of Kappo Kahkonen to take Games Six and Seven and advance to their first ever Calder Cup Final.
NHL 20 SERIES SIM – SAN DIEGO vs. CHICAGO
In a repeat of the 2019 Western Conference Final, the Chicago Wolves came out of the Central Division to face off against the Pacific Division’s San Diego Gulls in NHL 20. With last year’s final going six games, could both teams push the series to that and beyond in 2020?
San Diego won Game One in dramatic fashion at home, defeating Chicago 4-3 in overtime. The Gulls also took Game Two in California by a score of 3-1. Chicago then took advantage of some home cooking of their own, winning Games Three (1-0), Four (4-1), and Five (3-1) at Allstate Arena. While San Diego evened the series at three games apiece after Game Six (4-1), the Wolves gave the Gulls a killing blow in their home arena, earning a 3-1 victory and a spot in the Calder Cup Final against the Binghamton Devils.
Stay tuned to The Sin Bin for our “What If” 2020 AHL Calder Cup 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!