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.

Playoff Preview: Plante Semifinals

In Uncategorized on May 16, 2022 at 2:38 pm

#1 El Dorado Lynx (44-29-9) vs. #4 Baltimore Crab (42-35-5)

For a time, it looked like the defending champs would surrender the top seed to Charleston, but the Lynx reclaimed the spot down the stretch despite a slightly underwhelming season by Alex Ovechkin (33 goals, 54 points in 66 games). That they were able to do so is largely thanks to a 104-point season by Ryan O’Reilly and a career year from Jeff Petry (28 goals, 95 points in 82 games). The Lynx are, however, facing a looming change in goal, as Tuukka Rask and Carey Price fade. Rask was the better of the two in what may have been his swan song, posting a .910 save percentage, but he’s only eligible to play in four games this round, meaning the Lynx will have to hope Price steps up if the series drags on.

And the Crab have the tools to do just that. They edged the Lynx in the season series, going 3-2-1, and are coming off a strong showing in the opening round against Pittsburgh, where they got clutch performances from Sidney Crosby (8 goals, 13 points) and Pavel Buchnevich (6 goals, 13 points). Their high-octane D hasn’t even gotten into gear yet, but if Cale Makar starts lighting it up, El Dorado will have its hands full. Like the Lynx, the question mark is between the pipes. Philippe Grubauer had a strong regular season, but could only muster a .900 save percentage against the Hornets. This series could see a lot of goals.

#2 Charleston Chiefs (43-30-9) vs. #3 Salem Sabercats (40-31-11)

The Chiefs were something of a surprise this season, as they entered the season with questions about the team’s depth and goaltending. But they got big years from Dominik Kubalik (36 goals, 91 points), three more Chiefs put up 30 or more goals, and Adam Fox emerged as a superstar with 83 points in 81 games. The season series finished at a 3-3-0 deadlock and was high-scoring — with Kevin Lankinen (.900 in 43 games) starting for Charleston, that’s how they’ve had to win games.

They’ll need Lankinen to find a new level against Salem, who are the league’s most battle-hardened group even though the team isn’t the league powerhouse it once was. The Sabercats were the only team whose first round series didn’t go the distance, although — and all due respect to the expansion Hershey Bears here — they were up against a fairly anemic offense. Marc-Andre Fleury continued his excellent play (.940 in 5 playoff starts) and gives Salem a major advantage in this series. It’ll be close, but Charleston definitely has its work cut out for it, despite having home-ice advantage.

Updating the Record Books After a Remarkable Season

In Uncategorized on May 5, 2022 at 9:55 am

It was a year of firsts in the GWMHL, with two new teams and a new playoff format, but it also saw many remarkable personal and team achievements.

Sidney Crosby is now 6th in career points with 1,286, just ahead of Alex Ovechkin‘s 1,280. It should be fun to see these two duel it out in the late stages of their careers. Crosby also climbed to 3rd place in assists (811), although he has a long way to go to challenge Joe Thornton’s 1,144. Claude Giroux (672) and Anze Kopitar (666) both entered the top 10 in assists this season. Likewise, Patrick Kane broke into the top 10 in career goals with 486 and will almost certainly hit the 500-goal milestone next season.

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