Hey guys, welcome back to my preview and predictions article! If you did not get a chance, please take a look at the Eastern Conference predictions posted earlier in the day. As a reminder, these predictions are mostly going to be based off of team stats and are meant to be fun and a means for discussion rather than a means to insult or demean a particular team. Also, as a member of the San Diego Gulls, I will preview the match-up between the Gulls and the Chicago Wolves, but will not make a prediction because of my bias (Go Gulls Go!). I hope you enjoy the final preview of the first round of the AHL Playoffs!
#1 Tuscon Roadrunners (63-17-2) vs #4 Stockton Heat (50-28-4)
The Roadrunners are racing into the AHL Playoff picture winning the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy for most points in the AHL regular season! They scored the 2nd most goals and allowed the fewest goals all season, making them the preseason favorite for the Calder. Some keys to their success are their ability to generate shots, just another stat which they lead the league in. This team will get the puck on the net and make things happen. They are ranked 12th in TOA as well, which is impressive because it shows they do damage even when they aren't in the offensive zone setting up the whole game. They take a minimal amount of penalties (3rd in the league) and when they do, it usually does not matter (1st in PK at 87%). No matter the line, the offense and defense is dangerous, and Carbo/GarRA deserve a ton of credit for building such a great lineup.
Stockton comes into the playoffs with a roster who finished 11th ins coring and 17th in goals allowed. The team went around .500 the last week of the season and look to turn it up against the roadrunners. They are above average in getting shots on net (11th), which will be important in this massive. However, the Heat were 2nd to last in hits. We all agree that positioning can be more important than hitting, but it will be interesting to see if the Heat turn up the pressure and get aggressive against a stacked team like Tuscon. The heat sit mid pack in penalty minutes and have an above average power play. However, their PK is a tick below average. It will be important for the heat to stay out of the box against their opponent. The heat do have a balanced forward line working in their favor, with 6 players all averaging above 2 PPG. Depth like that can be useful in this playoff format. The pair of Melting Snowman and Kozma are going to have to come up big for their guys to pull off the upset, but anything can happen.
I hate to say it, but my gut is telling me to get the brooms out. It is no disrespect to Stockton because they have had a great season, but this Roadrunner team is for real and it will take some solid defense from the Heat to pull out this series.
Prediction: The Roadrunners will sweep the Heat in 4 games.
#2 (58-22-2) Chicago Wolves vs #3 San Diego Gulls (50-22-10)
The Chicago Wolves come into this series ready to make some noise, led by PuckZone, Dxcibel, and Biebsinthetrap. They rank 7th is goals scored and 6th in goals allowed, a solid balance when it comes to production. They rank 4th in TOA and 13th in shots, which shows that they like to set up and try to find **** scoring opportunities. As a team, they tend to play fast rather than physical, ranking 9th lowest in hits. They also are ranked 4th in penalty minutes, which could be a sign of aggression with the R1 button instead of the hit stick. The Wolves do have a great special teams unit, finishing 3rd in both PP and PK. We all know the importance of those stats come playoff time. In net, they are led my MaxAttack, who is having a great season with a 2.61 GAA and an 82% save percentage.
The Gulls come into this series with some impressive wins and some momentum for their playoff run. The team comes in ranking in the middle of the pack in goals scored and goals against. They are led by impressive two way forwards like TylerisGod, Just_Heinz, Kroogs, Arpine, and BeerLeagueLegend. (I promised them all a shout out, I'll quit being bias now). The team ranks 11th in TOA and 16th in shots, a stat that they will most lucky try to improve upon during their first playoff series. The Gulls are ranked 9th in hits, with players like Rasta, Jaie, Smoked, and Mark setting the physical tone of the game. The team does not take many penalties, ranging in the top ten in fewest minutes, but they do have the 5th worst PK unit. That is something the team will have to fix against the Chicago Wolves. Finally, the Gulls have some solid goaltending, led by their 1-2 punch of Dat and ****** (What a goalie name...). While the team does not have the statistics like the Wolves, they do have heart, grit, and the ability to win tight low scoring games as shown by their record. It will be a fun series against the Wolves and I wish both teams the best of luck.
#1 Milwaukee Admirals (56-19-7) vs #4 Texas Stars (50-25-7)
The Milwaukee Admirals come into the playoffs on a tear to end the season. They ranked 6th in goals scored and 10th in goals allowed for the season. They are led by explosive forwards like Debarrd, Galchy, and Canucks. As a team, they rank 5th in TOA and 9th in shots, keeping the pressure on their opponent at all times. The Admirals are a fast team that is below average when it comes to hits, but above average when it comes to taking penalties. They must use R1 aggressively as well. With an above average PP and PK, this team has all the tools to get the job done and be a serious contender for the cup. To top it off, they also have a great net minder in Sgtvandoos, who finished the season with a 2.70 GAA and an 80% save percentage.
The Texas Star come limping into the playoffs after finishing the year 3-7 over their last ten games. They are led offensively by players like LuckyCeez and shockers, who both average around 2.5 PPG. The team comes in with an average amount of goals scored and goals allowed. They also come in 16th on TOA and below average in total shots for the season. This may be something they work on improving on come playoff time. Their special teams is also in the middle of the pack. They do not take a lot of penalties and they have the 4th fewest hits for the season. It will be interesting to see if they turn up the physicality to try to control the Admiral's offense. In net, they have a revolving door of net minders who are going to try to shut down this Milwaukee team.
Unfortunately, this looks like a situation where pre-trade deadline call ups poorly affected the outlook of this Stars roster. Hopefully, they are working on gaining chemistry and have a game plan in mind to stop their opponent. However, I am feeling a sweep once again.
Prediction: The Admirals are going to sweep the Stars in 4 games.
#2 Colorado Eagles (56-22-4) vs #3 Iowa Wild (55-21-6)
The Eagles come in flying high after a fantastic end to their season. JcFalcon has the group working together and with the help of in-season call-ups, has formed a contender in the West. The Eagles are 9th in goals scored and 3rd in goals allowed. This team looks to lock down skaters on defense, and capitalize on their opponent's mistakes. They are 2nd in TOA and 5th in shots, showing their patience in their offensive zone and their aggression to get pucks to the net. Colorado doesn't use the body often, ranging in the bottom 5 in hits, which is okay if positioning is great. This team does not take a lot of penalties, finishing 3rd in fewest penalties minutes for the season. With an above average PP and an average PK, this team is set for playoff hockey.
The Iowa Wild come into this series finishing 5-3-2 over their last 10 games. The Wild are 13th in goals scored and a fantastic 4th in goals allowed. This team leans on their defense to keep them in tight, close games. Their TOA is above average and they are 6th in shots taken, which means they like to pepper the opposing goalie at will. The Wild are another team that tend to be less physical and have great discipline when it comes to taking penalties. The Wild have a great PK unit, and an average PP that will look to improve in the playoffs. In net, the Wild are led by a great 1-2 punch in net (Bouyhead, cujokilla), who both have GAA under 2.50. This team will lean on its defense to try to create opportunities against the Eagles.
This match-up seems like a defensive battle that will have 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 final scores. While they are both great defensively, I believe the Eagle's offensive talent will make a difference in this series. I will give the Wild 1 or 2 games, but I do not think they can win 4 out of 7 games.
Prediction: The Colorado Eagles will beat the Iowa Wild in 5 games.
I hope you guys enjoyed my analysis of the 1st round of the VGAHL playoffs! I look forward to seeing which teams advance to the next round. Will there be an upset? We will have to wait and see!