Playoff Preview: Sawchuk Semifinals

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2022 at 11:48 am

#1 Adirondack Aces (57-20-5) vs. #4 Farmington Fighting Saints (50-23-9)

Adirondack had the league’s best record, the league’s best rookie, and one of the league’s most consistent starting goalies. Slam dunk against the fourth seed? Not so fast. Farmington, which won its opening round series against Ice Harbor in 7, still had 50 wins and while the Aces took the season series 4-2-1, only one game was won by more than a goal. Even on special teams, Adirondack and Farmington had nearly identical regular season numbers.

The Fighting Saints are a good bit more playoff-tested, however, as the Aces haven’t made it out of the conference semifinals since 2002. Can wunderkind Kirill Kaprizov, who scored 57 goals in his freshman season, stay hot in his first playoff action? With Patrice Bergeron, Johnny Gaudreau and Chris Kreider, the Aces can probably compensate if he can’t. The Saints can score too — they had three forwards with more than 40 goals, and JT Miller and Mikko Rantanen each scored 6 in the Ice Harbor series. But the Fighting Saints also gave up a ton of goals in that series — 5.9 per game! — and platooned Robin Lehner, Ilya Samsonov and Pekka Rinne to subpar effect. If Semyon Varlamov can put up a solid performance for Adirondack, that may be the difference.

#2 West Virginia River Rats (54-23-5) vs. #3 Vancouver Night Train (53-23-6)

Just one point separated these two teams in the standings, so fortunes could very easily have been reversed. That being said, the Night Train struggled with sixth seed San Jose in the opening round, needing overtime in game 7 to move on and failing to win a single game on the road. That will obviously be a problem now that their opponent has home-ice advantage.

More cause for concern if you’re a Night Train fan: West Virginia won the season series quite handily, 4-1-1, although most of the games were at least close. The River Rats have better high-end talent (Leon Draisaitl led all regular season scorers and Jakob Chychrun and Dougie Hamilton put up 90 and 85 points, respectively) but the Night Train’s top line of Connor Brown, Elias Lindholm and Mark Stone all had strong opening rounds, and the Night Train have the special teams edge too, scoring at an insane 40.9% clip on the powerplay against the Hosers. Oh, and one thing the Night Train didn’t have when it was losing games to the Rats early in the season was deadline acquisition Mike Smith, who played to a .921 save percentage in round one. That could make things interesting.


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