SPRINGFIELD, MASS.– March has become synonymous with the excitement of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, as every spring we all fill out our brackets and try to predict the outcome. The bracket provides an easy to understand chart which shows who will play who, and the path each team must take to claim a championship.
With the NCAA Tournament reaching the Sweet 16 and the AHL playoffs a month away, The Sin Bin has gone division by division to tell you which Sweet 16 teams we think will make the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs.
We will tell you who is a ‘lock’, meaning the team either has clinched a playoff spot or is almost guaranteed to clinch soon, which squads are ‘on the bubble’ of making the playoffs, and who is ‘barely breathing’. If you do not see your team… well, there is always next year. Sorry, Cleveland.
Before we begin, it may help to explain the concept of a “magic number”. A team’s magic number is the number of points for, or opponents points against, needed to clinch.
For example, Lehigh Valley has a “magic number” of five. Every time Lehigh Valley gains a point the magic number goes down one, and every time the team chasing fails to grab a point it goes down one. So you chip away from both sides until you hit zero because at that point the team has clinched.
|1||Lehigh Valley Phantoms||66||42||16||3||5||92||0.697||40||232||187||4-0-0-1||8-1-0-1||3|
|5||Bridgeport Sound Tigers||64||31||25||5||3||70||0.547||28||173||172||0-2-0-0||7-3-0-0||28|
|6||Hartford Wolf Pack||66||29||29||5||3||66||0.500||21||183||223||3-0-0-0||4-5-1-0||32|
Lock: Phantoms. Lehigh Valley is the only team in the Atlantic with a “magic number” under 10 – it currently needs only five points to clinch. This is an inevitability.
On the Bubble: Penguins, Bruins, Checkers, Sound Tigers. The Penguins and Bruins are very close to locking up a spot, however, a poorly timed slump could still spell playoff doom for either. Additionally, the Penguins have had to use an array of netminders, but have proven the ability to win with any of them. They have had seven goalies register a win, led by 16 from Casey DeSmith. This gives them an edge knowing they can get the job done as a unit, and consistent play in net goes a long way. The Checkers and Sound Tigers are in a less comfortable position, as there is likely room for only one of them.
Barely Breathing: Wolf Pack, Bears, Thunderbirds. While no team has been mathematically eliminated yet in the Atlantic, it will take a near-perfect effort and lots of help for one of these three clubs to claim a postseason birth. Of these teams, Hartford seems to have the most life left, but it is still an uphill battle for the Wolf Pack.
Prediction: 1. Phantoms 2. Bruins 3. Penguins 4. Checkers
|1||x – Toronto Marlies||63||44||17||1||1||90||0.714||42||205||135||0-1-0-0||6-3-1-0||—|
|2||x – Syracuse Crunch||65||39||19||3||4||85||0.654||36||207||169||4-0-0-1||7-1-1-1||—|
Locks: Marlies, Crunch. There is no prediction to be made here as Toronto and Syracuse have already clinched a spot.
On the Bubble: Americans and Comets. These two have yet to mathematically clinch but have little to fear from the remainder of the division. With Rochester having a magic number of three, and Utica nine, it is only a matter of time before Rochester and Utica join Toronto and Syracuse among the locks.
Barely Breathing: Rocket, Senators, Devils. While there is always room for hope until you are killed by the math, playoff hockey hope is fading fast for these three squads. They need to win and win now, but even that may not be enough. At this point, they also need Rochester or Utica falling apart to open a spot for Laval, Belleville, or Binghamton.
Prediction: 1. Marlies 2. Crunch 3. Americans 4. Comets
|4||Grand Rapids Griffins||64||33||24||1||6||73||0.570||30||195||182||0-1-0-0||5-5-0-0||24|
Lock: Moose. There is still work to be done, but even if fifth-place Rockford goes 12-0-0 the rest of the way, Manitoba only needs to play .500 hockey to stay in front. The Moose currently holds a 12-point lead over the IceHogs, and would need four teams to pass them to get bumped from the postseason picture.
On the Bubble: Wolves, Wild, Griffins, IceHogs, Admirals. This is going to be an exciting race with only three spots available between five teams. Chicago leads the way among this group, having won 7-of-10 to climb within seven points of Manitoba. While the Wolves could very easily catch a Moose squad which is without its top two netminders Eric Comrie and Michael Hutchinson (called up to NHL Jets), a losing streak of any length could be enough to knock the Wolves completely out of the playoffs. Rockford has been making a late charge, going 6-2-1-1 in their last ten to pull within a point of fourth.
Barely Breathing: None. It is not your year Cleveland Monsters fans. Time to get ready for the NBA playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena.
Prediction: 1. Wolves 2. Moose 3. Griffins 4. IceHogs
|3||San Diego Gulls||57||32||21||3||1||68||0.596||28||180||165||0-1-0-0||4-3-2-1||19|
|6||San Antonio Rampage||65||30||25||10||0||70||0.538||25||168||181||1-0-1-0||3-4-3-0||26|
|7||San Jose Barracuda||56||26||23||4||3||59||0.527||25||146||164||0-1-1-0||4-4-2-0||29|
Locks: None. This is by far the most competitive division in the AHL, with every team sitting at least three games above .500. While Tucson is the closest to solidifying a playoff spot, even the Roadrunners need to keep their foot on the pedal if they do not want to be golfing with the Monsters.
On the Bubble: Roadrunners, Reign, Gulls, Stars, Heat. These five have begun to separate a bit from the bottom three, but the margin is still slim. If you are a fan of any of them, you had better have your inhaler ready. Tucson has been coasting along just ahead of the pack, but 2-5 have been changing daily in the Pacific. Ontario has been soaring up the standings led by G Cal Petersen, who is 4-1-1 in his last six games, and is single-handedly improving Ontario’s playoff probabilities.
There is the matter of scheduling to discuss, as San Antonio and Texas play eight games more than the other five teams in the Pacific. For this reason, points percentage is looked at instead of points itself. Normally the extra games are seen as advantageous, but with point percentages, you better win or be prepared to watch it plummet.
Texas has done well winning close games this year, but now likely has lost Mike McKenna to the NHL for the foreseeable future. This will put a heavy load on two rookie goaltending tandem of Landon Bow and Philippe Desrosiers to keep the Stars in the top four. It will be a sprint to the finish; this is not a race to take your eyes off of.
Barely Breathing: Rampage, Barracuda, Condors. Sometimes you are just up against the wall from the beginning, and this division is absolutely loaded. It is tough for a team to finish five games over .500 and still be last in its division, but that is very possible here. Though playoff dream for San Antonio, Bakersfield, and San Jose is not completely dead, fate is out of the hands of each as they will need teams in front to falter to have even a chance of catching up.
Prediction: 1. Roadrunners 2. Reign 3. Gulls 4. Stars.
However things shake out down the stretch, it is going to be one wild and crazy ride as we fill in the blanks in the bracket. @SinBinNews on Twitter will be keeping you posted on all AHL playoff news as the teams hurtle towards the beginning of Calder Cup play on April 16th.