SYRACUSE, N.Y. – This North Division semifinal pits two evenly-matched teams against each other: the Syracuse Crunch and Rochester Americans. Syracuse may have won the season series 6-2-1-1, but six of the ten match ups were settled by one goal and three of the games went to overtime.
Final Regular Season Records:
Syracuse Crunch: 46-22-3-5, 100 points (2nd in North Division, 3rd in Eastern Conference)
Rochester Americans: 37-22-11-6, 91 points (3rd in North Division, 7th in Eastern Conference)
Game 1 – Friday, April 20 – Rochester at SYRACUSE 7 pm ET
Game 2 – Saturday, April 21 – Rochester at SYRACUSE 7 pm ET
Game 3 – Wednesday, April 25 – Syracuse at ROCHESTER 7:05 pm ET
*Game 4 – Friday, April 27 – Syracuse at ROCHESTER 7:05 pm ET
*Game 5 – Saturday, April 28 – Rochester at SYRACUSE 7 pm ET
*=> If necessary
Season Series Recap:
This should be a long, hard-fought playoff series between these two teams. Rochester won the first two meetings of the year. The Crunch went on to win the next five meetings before losing a game in overtime to Rochester back on March 11.
How Syracuse Wins:
The answer is short. Find some way, by hook or by crook, to stay out of the penalty box. In the last 10 games of the regular season, the Crunch were called for 54 penalties and allowed five goals on the power play as a result. For the regular season as a whole, the Crunch were whistled for a league-high 445 minor penalties and gave up 376 power play chances.
“I think it’s something we’ve got to clean up. This time of year, everybody’s playing hard,” Crunch defenseman Reid McNeill told Syracuse.com. “There’s a fine line between what’s clean and what’s not. That’s on us as players to clean up. That’s not a coaching issue. Going into playoffs, you don’t want to be short-handed. So, it’s something we’ve got to figure out.
You don’t want to be taking stick penalties. You’ve got to be moving your feet. You’ve got to be playing the right way. So, I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. I think our overall game needs to improve heading into playoffs.”
How Rochester Wins:
In short, Americans head coach Chris Taylor is not accepting passengers on this playoff ride:
“It is going to be a short leash. We’ve relied on our depth and relied on every guy this year and we’ll probably have to rely on every guy in the playoffs too,” Taylor told NHL.com’s Brian Duff. “Everybody has to take care of their own game to make our team better and if you don’t…we have guys that will step right into the lineup. So don’t make it easy for me.”
The special teams play could be to Rochester’s advantage in this series. During the regular season, the Amerks finished in the top half of the league in power play conversion (18.3%) and fifth overall on the penalty kill (84.1%). In a match up against two evenly-matched teams, sometimes it is the specialty teams which are the deciding factor.
There is veteran leadership on the Americans – you can’t count out Seth Griffith. Griffith was fifth on the Americans in scoring during the regular season, with 41 points (15G, 26A) in 46 games. He also has plenty of Calder Cup Playoff experience, playing for the Providence Bruins and the Toronto Marlies. In 31 playoff games, he has scored nine goals and recorded 18 assists for 28 points.