So just for a little fun and hopefully some insight for those of you reading, I thought I would look at all the match-ups in the Calder Cup this year and take a stab at seeing whether I can predict the ties.
After covering the East in my first article, it’s time to take a look at the Western Conference, which I should hopefully know a little bit more about as I follow the Toronto Marlies!
Some really intriguing encounters in the first round so let’s get going.
Western Conference Quarterfinals – (best-of-5)
1-Texas Stars vs. 8-Oklahoma City Barons
The Texas Stars were the draw everyone wanted to avoid in the west.
The top team in the entire AHL blasted 274 goals part oppositions this season while still allowing less then 200. No place like home for Texas this year, recording twenty-nine win and they will keep home advantage in this 2-3 series.
The teams met twelve times this season and despite struggling at times this year, Oklahoma battled well to only lose the series 4-6-2-0. With six of those game decided by a solitary game, this match-up may not be the one sided affair that it may appear on paper.
OKC will get some help from the Oilers whilst Texas don’t look to be getting any help from Dallas soon as they fight out in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
The Barons have made the conference finals for the last two years and beat Texas in the second round last time around.
Prediction: Texas in 5.
2-Chicago Wolves vs. 7-Rochester Americans
Perhaps the most difficult series to get a real hold on.
The two sides met just twice in the season series with the home side winning comfortably on each occasion. The Wolves finished the year with a real flourish to usurp Grand Rapids Griffins in taking the second seed. No more so however then Rochester who needed a great late run themselves to take one of the lower seeds when it looked as if they may miss out.
Chicago will be relying on Jake Allen to give them more fantastic goaltending and they’ll be another team not to receiving any help from the NHL. However Rochester will be gaining some bodies from Buffalo which will make them a tough opposition for anyone.
The Amerks will doubtless be glad not to be facing Toronto who they have been swept by the last two seasons in the first round and you could argue they have a stronger team this time around.
The series starts in Rochester with Chicago keeping their home advantage in a 2-3 series.
Prediction: Chicago in 5.
3-Toronto Marlies vs. 6-Milwaukee Admirals
It’s very hard for me to view this series without having a little bias.
Milwaukee won both games during the regular season and Toronto had real difficulty dealing with their brand of hockey.
The Admirals have made the playoffs for eleven straight seasons, though they have failed to get past the first round in the last two years. Toronto have created history by winning the North division for three straight years and have lost to the eventual champions in the previous two Calder campaign’s.
The Marlies will be receiving plenty of help from the Leafs while Milwaukee can count on a full roster with Nashville not involved in the NHL post season. Perhaps from the Marlies point of view the big key may be getting back Spencer Abbott, who’s been one of the best players in the AHL this season.
With Toronto keeping home advantage in yet another 2-3 series, they may be enough to see them through.
Prediction: Toronto in 4.
4-Grand Rapids Griffins vs. 5-Abbotsford Heat
The Griffins fell out of the second seed position on the last day of the season and will now be faced with two bouts of long travel (in and out of Abbotsford), having decided to keep home advantage.
The Calder Cup champions will be shorn of a lot of players who took them to that success, as they have made the jump to the NHL and Detroit are currently doing battle with Boston.
Abbotsford don’t face that problem and with this being the last season of the team in existence, you imagine the AESC will be a tough place to come and play for Grand Rapids with the home town fans in full voice, wanting their team to go out with a bang.
Grand Rapids won the season series 3-1 with Abbotsford ‘s sole victory coming on the road.
With Abbotsford’s strong road form in general this year, I’ve a gut feeling they may sneak this series in what would be considered an upset.
Prediction: Abbotsford in 5.