There are eight teams left in the Calder Cup Finals. These division previews look like they are going to be classic battles and some could go the distance.
This is my stab at predicting a winner. I was 5-3 last round, and picked three of those five series perfectly, so let’s give it a go again!
Ontario (P1) vs. San Diego (P2)
Pacific Division Final
How the Reign got here: Dispatched the San Jose Barracuda in four games, San Jose gave the Reign a fight, but Ontario was too good to lose in even a five game series.
How the Gulls got here: In a complete role reversal from the regular season, it was the Gulls that got the better of the Texas Stars. San Diego dominated special teams and that is enough to get by an opponent in the short five game series.
How they matchup: They met 12 times with San Diego going 8-4 over the Reign with the Gulls winning once in overtime and once in a shootout.
Key player so far for Ontario: Nic Dowd. Four points (2-2-4) in four games for Dowd. Honorable mention to Peter Budaj, the reigning Goaltender of the Year.
Key player so far for San Diego: Chris Mueller. Anything you can do, Nic Dowd, I can do better. 2-3-5 in four games, including a power play goal and an assist.
Prediction: Ontario in six. These are the Calder Cup Champions from last year who have experience in these big moments. Ontario’s big game background is enough to see them through to the Conference Finals.
Lake Erie (C2) vs. Grand Rapids (C4)
Central Division Finals
How the Monsters got here: A sweep of the Rockford IceHogs. IceHogs didn’t put up much of a fight and Lake Erie breezed through.
How the Griffins got here: Swept the Central Division Champion Milwaukee Admirals. The streaky Griffins are on an uptick right now and that could spell bad things for the Monsters.
How they matchup: Met 12 times. Grand Rapids has the slight edge (7-4-0-1) to Lake Erie (5-3-3-1) in the head to head, and the stats on paper look dead even.
Key player so far for Lake Erie: Joonas Korpisalo. The Monsters goaltender is 3-0 with a 2.00 GAA and a .924 SV% so far in the series.
Key player so far for Grand Rapids: Martin Frk. 1-3-4 in four games so far for the Czech.
Prediction: Grand Rapids in seven. This has the makings of a roller coaster series between these two. Grand Rapids offense trumps Lake Erie’s inexperience and it’s the Griffins moving on.
Toronto (N1) vs. Albany (N2)
North Division Finals
How the Marlies got here: Swept the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in three games. Came back from 4-1 down in Game 3 to win 6-4.
How the Devils got here: Beat Utica in four games. But for one slip up in overtime in Game 3 in Utica, Albany coasted.
How they matchup: They met six times. Toronto won two in overtime. Albany kept the Marlies honest all season at least on paper, but the Marlies were built in the beginning to be a juggernaut.
Key player so far for Toronto: Connor Carrick. Came over from the Washington organization and has flourished. His seven points far and away leads the Marlies.
Key player so far for Albany: Scott Wedgewood. Albany’s “backup” boasts a minuscule 1.93 GAA and a .922 SV%.
Prediction: One of two things will happen in this series. Toronto wins in a sweep or five games or Albany drags this to seven. I think Albany is too good to get swept but Toronto is too deep to lose in a Division Final. Toronto in seven.
Hershey (A1) vs. Wilkes-Barre (A3)
Atlantic Division Finals
How the Penguins got here: Wilkes-Barre swept Providence in three games, all in overtime. Providence’s inexperience in pivotal moments was the key to their doom. An upset, for sure.
How the Bears got here: Beat Portland in five games. After losing in triple overtime in Game 3, Justin Peters only allowed one goal the rest of the way. Portland’s historical inability to close out an opponent on the brink cost them again.
How they match up: About as even as you can get between two teams. Penguins were 6-5-0-1 and the Bears were 6-5-1-0 in the head to head series between the two teams. Justin Peters, the hero against the Pirates this postseason, is 2-2-1 with a 3.45 GAA and a .884 SV% against Wilkes-Barre.
Key Player so far for Wilkes-Barre: Jake Guenztel. The rookie has 7 points in three games plus the series clinching goal for the Penguins over the Bruins.
Key Player so far for Hershey: Jakub Vrana. The Bears rookie leads the team in points this postseason.
Prediction: I’ll give it to you Tuesday.