A couple people asked for it, so here it is. My stab at predicting the 2017 Eastern and Western Conference Finals which will include the San Jose Barracuda vs. the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Western Conference and the Providence Bruins against the Syracuse Crunch in the Eastern Conference. Here goes, starting in the Western Conference…
San Jose (P1) vs. Grand Rapids (C2)
How the Barracuda got here: They beat the pesky Stockton Heat in five games in Round 1 and dismantled a stronger San Diego Gulls side in just five games in Round 2. Barracuda have been a consistently great team now for months.
How the Griffins got here: Swept Milwaukee in Round 1 and dispatched the Central Division Champion Chicago Wolves in five games. The only team left which hasn’t been tested yet.
How they match up: The Barracuda own a regulation and shootout victory over the Griffins from the regular season.
Key player so far for San Jose: Ryan Carpenter leads the way for the Barracuda with 10 points in 13 games.
Key player so far for Grand Rapids: Jared Coreau is a quiet 7-1 in the postseason for Grand Rapids in net.
Prediction: San Jose in six. Griffins will put up a fight and may jump out to a 1-0 series lead or a 2-0 lead in a game, but Roy Sommer’s group overcomes and advances against a Grand Rapids group who finally get a challenge here in the Calder Cup Playoffs that they cannot overcome.
Providence (A4) vs. Syracuse (N1)
How the Bruins got here: Playing out of the four seed in the dangerous Atlantic Division, the Bruins went on the road four times in elimination games and won all four games, the first team in AHL history to accomplish such a feat. They beat Wilkes-Barre twice on the road to win Round 1 in five games and beat Hershey twice on the road in Round 2 to beat the Bears in seven games. Providence was a team which limped into the playoffs as a four seed but had a complete transformation as the best, most complete team in the Eastern Conference, and you could argue overall of the four teams left.
How the Crunch got here: They beat St. John’s in four games in Round 1 and used home ice advantage to dispose of Toronto in seven in Round 2 in a series which saw the home team win every game. The fact that Syracuse, who won the North Division, does not have home ice advantage over a four seed playing out of the Atlantic in Providence, is more of an outrage than it is anything else.
How they match up: Both split a win and a loss in two meetings during the regular season.
Key player so far for Providence: Remains Zane McIntyre. His timely saves in big moments for the Bruins against Hershey in Round 2 energized his side and got them rolling in the right direction.
Key player so far for Syracuse: Cory Conacher had seven points in the Toronto series. He missed out on a chance to bring home a Calder Cup for Syracuse a few seasons ago. He doesn’t want to miss this time.
Prediction: Providence in six. You have Syracuse, who have battled adversity all season long and has played the role of underdog and come away clean as a whistle in the end. But regardless of who came out of the Atlantic, advantage was going to lie with that team because they came out of a den of hornets in the regular season and played out of a pool of fire in the postseason. Syracuse steals a game in overtime, but Providence is a team firing on all cylinders at the right time and not rattled by a thing and make it to the Calder Cup Finals.
So that’s how I see it boiling off. If you are a fan of one of the four, good luck and enjoy the games.