WICHITA, Kan. – The first few days of action in the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs is in the books and with it comes some rather interesting storylines. Let’s get into them…
It was an exciting weekend across the ECHL, with six of the first 17 playoff games (35.3%) going to overtime. In fact, the first four playoff games in this playoff season needed multiple overtimes, something that not happened in league history.
I had a sneaking suspicion going into the playoff series between the Manchester Monarchs and Reading Royals that the teams would have some long games, but there was no way to predict they would hook up for five extra periods of hockey in the first three games. As Josh Heistman reported in his recap of game three, this is the 27th time in league history the first three games of a series have gone to overtime. Just two of those series have had OT in the first four games.
Playing that much hockey (14 periods) in the first five days of a series (with travel, no less) will wear a team down, whether it’s in game four or further down the line. There is no doubt in my mind Manchester will be looking to end things in regulation tomorrow night and hope the other North Division Semifinal goes to 15 overtimes in game seven…in order to get maximum rest.
So far in the opening round of the playoffs, there have been two surprises: one, unexpected; the other, we probably should have seen coming.
First, the unexpected.
Who saw the Orlando Solar Bears going into North Charleston Coliseum and taking two games from the South Carolina Stingrays? If you raised your hand, put it back down…you’re fibbing. Cal Heeter (best name in minor pro hockey,) has been the MVP of this series for the Solar Bears. He is 2-0 with a 0.50 goals against average and has allowed just one goal in the first two games. Up front, the Solar Bears have been led by J.J. Piccinich and Hunter Fejes who have figured into the scoring in each of the first two games.
South Carolina came into this series having scored 214 goals in the regular-season (an average of 2.97/game,) so this club isn’t offensively inept; however, they will need to figure out how to solve Heeter early and often if they want to claw back into this series.
Now, the obvious one.
We should have seen Allen’s 2-0 trip to Idaho coming. It never fails that Steve Martinson will tweak his roster until it cannot be tweaked anymore to find the right combinations of players. By doing so, he acquired Thomas Frazee, (left off the playoff roster because he is an ECHL veteran on a two-way deal and did not play the minimum amount of AHL games  required) signed rookies Jared Bethune, Mathieu Foget, and Braylon Shmyr. Most importantly, got their power-play anchor back in David Makowski and were assigned netminder Jake Paterson on March 1, a move which added playoff experience and stability to the Allen goaltending situation.
In the 13 games since the trade deadline, the Americans are 7-4-2 and are playing some of their best hockey of the season. Don’t look now, but it could be another long playoff run in North Texas.
How Big Are 2-0 Series Leads?
Across the three major league sports (MLB, NBA & NHL) in seven-game series when a team starts on the road and takes a 2-0 lead, their odds of winning game three is 54.7%. If you look at the NHL only, the odds drop to 52.7% and if you look at NHL opening rounds only, the odds drop to 42.4%.
Finally, in the NHL there have been 360 seven-game series where one team has taken a 2-0 lead. The team with the 2-0 series lead has won the series 86.4% of the time.
If you have a 2-0 series lead, chances are decent you’ll be moving on.