*Man, we almost had a cool coincidence where the eight volume of Snap Shots was talking about the final eight teams. That would have been cool, too bad it was spoiled by my school schedule and my laziness. Oh well, a lesson learned. I'll try to be more vigilant next season. Speaking of that, today's soundtrack is the album "California Cursed" by Drain, and right now "Hyper Vigilance" is on. If you like hardcore/metal, give these guys a listen. This thing fucking rips.*
The first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs has come and gone, and it certainly wasn't short of surprises. We saw the winners of the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy ousted in a shocking defeat, we saw teams talk shit about my prediction of their series but it actually come true (sorry Bluntz/Grecy/Whatever it is), and we saw Crocodile Dundee and the Rocket blow it. Sixteen teams made the playoffs, and just like that, we're left with eight teams to vie for the title of the best team in the VGAHL.
For the eight teams eliminated, get fucked. You blew it! Just kidding, congratulations on a great season, and sorry you couldn't make it further. These remaining eight teams represent a variety of identities: offensive juggernauts like San Diego and Hershey, defensive stalwarts like Charlotte and San Antonio, and Cinderella stories waiting to happen like Tuscon and Rockford. Anything can happen in these playoffs, and this week will be no different as we cut the competition in half and prepare for the conference finals.
Eight teams are four wins away from the Calder Cup conference finals, so let's take a quick look at how they got there. Then, we'll predict the four matchups that those eight teams find themselves in and see if we can do a bit better than our predictions last week.
Let's take some snap shots!
Series 1: Hershey Bears (1) vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers (4)
Result: Hershey Bears win 4-1.
DD Prediction: Bears win 4-1.
What Happened: the series seemed relatively even after the first three games, with the Bears winning two of the three games and only outscoring the Sound Tigers by two goals. However, a pivotal game four win by a one goal margin set the stage for a game five blowout as the Bears won this series in four games.
Series 2: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (2) vs. Charlotte Checkers (3)
Result: Charlotte Checkers win 4-3.
DD Prediction: Checkers win 4-3.
What Happened: in arguably the biggest matchup of the first round, the Checkers and Penguins traded wins for the first four games, with Charlotte taking the lead after a game five overtime victory. Although the Penguins outscored the Checkers by a goal in this series (20-19), they were ultimately defeated in seven games.
Series 3: Syracuse Crunch (1) vs. Springfield Thunderbirds (4)
Result: Syracuse Crunch win 4-1.
DD Prediction: Crunch win 4-1.
What Happened: I'm Nostradamus, bitch! The Crunch stood atop the east all season long, but faced a team with a similar strategy in the Thunderbirds: pucks on net. Another close series after the first three games, with the Crunch leading two games to one and only outscoring the Birds by a goal, Syracuse took games four and five to move past Springfield.
Series 4: Laval Rocket (2) vs. Rochester Americans (3)
Result: Rochester Americans win 4-1.
DD Prediction: Rocket win 4-2.
What Happened: I blew it! The Rocket were a team with combustible elements that were ready to ignite all season long. The Americans and the Rocket were tied in scoring with eight goals apiece after the first three games, with the Americans having won game one and three, but then decisively won games four and five, each with a score of five to two, and won the series.
Series 1: Utica Comets (1) vs. Tucson Roadrunners (4)
Result: Tucson Roadrunners win 4-2.
DD Prediction: Comets win 4-1.
What Happened: the Walls have fallen! Glorious and Prosperous Utica was fresh off winning the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy and lost to a team that had a lot of momentum from midseason signups. Tied two games a piece and with the Comets outscoring the Roadrunners by a goal after four games, the Roadrunners outscored the Comets nine to two to take the series in six games.
Series 2: San Diego Gulls (2) vs. Ontario Reign (3)
Result: San Diego Gulls win 4-2.
DD Prediction: Gulls win 4-0.
What Happened: San Diego were an offensive force all season long, while they were matched up against a relatively average Ontario Reign team. Fivepointohh and Steel could only do so much as they watched their team get dismantled in four games, being outscored by ten goals.
Series 3: San Antonio Rampage (1) vs. Bakersfield Condors (4)
Result: San Antonio Rampage win 4-1.
DD Prediction: Rampage win 4-2.
What Happened: San Antonio won two of the first three games in overtime, each game finishing with a three to two result. The Condors got their only win of the series in game 2 with a five to four victory, but were outscored by five goals in the final two games. Bakersfield put up a good fight in the first two games, but fell apart as the Rampage moved onto the conference semifinals.
Series 4: Rockford Ice Hogs (2) vs. Iowa Wild (3)
Result: Rockford Ice Hogs win 4-0.
DD Prediction: Wild win 4-3.
What Happened: The Ice Hogs scored twenty nine goals against the Wild, the most of any team in the first round. The Wild's lack of substantial goaltending was evident from the first game, allowing eleven goals and setting a tone for the series that they would be unable to change. I gotta stop shitting on Sportsgeek, man.
As I said, the first round was filled with shocking upsets, dismantling of teams, hard fought hockey, and more. However, the eight remaining teams are about to turn it to eleven as they take one step closer to the Calder Cup. Let's see if we can do a little better than last week, as I only accurately predicted five of the eight series (but got three spot on!)
Series 1: Hershey Bears (1) vs. Charlotte Checkers (3)
Hershey Bears: what more can be said about the Bears that hasn't been said already? Hershey employs two of the biggest offensive threats in the VGAHL with Youngboog and Blades, as well as a supporting cast that includes Marty, midseason defensive pickups in CT83 and DCLight, and strong goalies in Chemtrails and Snipeshotty. Capitalsfan has built a Hershey squad that may not have had the toughest first round, but is more than ready for the Checkers.
Charlotte Checkers: after a grueling first round matchup, the Checkers find themselves right back into the fire. However, this is a team that has scorched teams with their stagnant defense, and held a team that averaged over five goals a game to under three a game. With a management core that excels in both ends of the ice, and scorers like MT and Jaali, Charlotte has all the weapons they need to go to war against Hershey.
The Verdict: Charlotte trounced us whenever we played them, and for some reason we always had the Bears' number. I'm certain that the winner of this series wins the Eastern Conference, and defense wins championships. Checkers win 4-3.
Series 2: Syracuse Crunch (1) vs. Rochester Americans (3)
Syracuse Crunch: a stalwart in the Eastern Conference all season, it was no surprise that the Crunch were able to dispose of the Thunderbirds with relative ease. The Crunch's possessive offense and shooting tendencies are a lethal combination perpetrated by Murph and Tychi, and with defensive support from Killswitch and Sniper, the Crunch have cores in their respective zones that have dominated all season long and continue to do so in the playoffs. However, they face a tough challenge this round.
Rochester Americans: the Americans have some of the best goaltending in the league, as Devindags and Wulf have been holding down the net with relative ease. Only letting up twelve goals in the first round (third lowest in the league), Rochester are going to expect a lot out of their goalies as they face the highest shooting team in the league. However, FUCKNUTZ and Graham aren't coming empty handed, as Overkill, Gods-Jesus, and Stonerboy lead an offensive core primed to take the next four steps towards the Calder Cup.
The Verdict: this series is a little tough to predict, as Syracuse were on a downward swing heading into these playoffs and have really stepped up their game. However, Rochester has a deeper roster and an advantage between the pipes. Americans win 4-2.
Series 1: San Diego Gulls (1) vs. Tucson Roadrunners (4)
San DiegoGulls: I don't think many are surprised by the outcome of San Diego's first round matchup against the Reign, as the Gulls averaged four and a half goals for, while only giving up 2 goals a game. That offense was guided by Campbell, who played in all four games, but had big games from Trav, Topshot, Smetty, and a plethora of dynamic players. Ducky and Austin held it down in net, as the Gulls bring a team that is talented top to bottom and are riding high on a wave of momentum.
TucsonRoadrunners: speaking of momentum, the Roadrunners have it in spades right now after their elimination of the Comets. The Tucson Frenchies are being led by BoilyHP, another late season sign up, and PerfectSkillz, who finally decided to play a bit more. Chris and Hamantor have gotten their Roadrunners up and running at the perfect time, as they have scored 23 goals, the second most of any team in these playoffs. However, they're going to need more than goal scoring to beat arguably the best team in the Western Conference.
TheVerdict: Tucson scored the upset in the first round, but I don't believe that lightning will strike twice. The Gulls are way too talented of a team to get caught with their pants down like Utica was, but I feel like the Roadrunners will pose a bit of a challenge. Gulls win 4-2.
Series 2: San Antonio Rampage (1) vs. Rockford Ice Hogs (2)
San Antonio Rampage: San Antonio won their first round series but still had a bit of trouble against the Condors: they were in their own end more often, they weren't as physical as they normally are, and took more penalties than any other team in the league. Their wins were in large part due to goalieman, saving 87% of shots and posting a 1.86 GAA in three games. Motown, CFlowz, and Whitetees contributed offensively, but Owen's Rampage are going to need to return to their roughshod ways if they want to beat a motivated Rockford squad.
Rockford Ice Hogs: making me eat my words, the Ice Hogs decimated their first round opponents and emerged as the highest scoring team in the playoffs. They played arguably the weakest team out of the sixteen, but credit must be given where it is due. Krazy, Nick, and Gustav combined this series for twenty five goals, and Sportsgeek is hoping they can continue that absurd pace in front of him. They'll need to if they want to get past the Crunch's elite goaltending.
The Verdict: San Antonio underperformed in their first round matchup but were still able to come out as the victors. Meanwhile, Rockford dominated their opponent and have some of the best offense going right now Given Rockford's momentum and ability, I think they'll get past Goalieman. Ice Hogs win 4-3.
As eight teams remain, the competition is about to get a little stiffer. You have squads of incredibly motivated players, all trying to prove one thing: they're the best team in the AHL. However, every team has different ways of doing it: overpowering teams with their offensive prowess, frustrating teams with their defense and goaltending, taking advantage of opportunities when presented, or smothering teams into submission. Regardless, all these teams are twelve wins away from the Calder Cup, and will not be taking their feet off the gas until they get there.
Good luck to all the teams this week, we'll see you next Sunday! It's time for some Mad Men; Draper just got made partner and I can't wait to see what happens next. Fuck ya spoilers!