Chirps from Center Ice

A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

2018 Divisional Final Previews

Well, since the Penguins are out of the playoffs and nothing to do for the next six months, I may as well stay up with the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs. I have had a few people ask me if I was going to continue to preview the next round and beyond so I may as well continue.

So in this round, it’s the teams that made it, how they got here, how they stack up and my prediction.

I was 5-for-8 in my first round picks. I picked Chicago, Grand Rapids and Providence to advance in round one. Chicago got swept, Grand Rapids got blown out in Game Five on home ice and Providence didn’t have enough for Lehigh Valley, going out in four games.

Hopefully this round will go better for my predictions. Here we go…

     Leh. Val. Phantoms vs. Charlotte Checkers     

How the Checkers got here: Made no mistakes and capitalized on Wilkes-Barre / Scranton’s. It was a methodical dissection of one of the better AHL teams in the league. Charlotte was favored in some circles but the sweep of Wilkes-Barre was a surprise.

How the Phantoms got here: Outlasted a Providence team in just four games. Bruins stole Game 2, and but for a close Game 1 and an overtime series clincher in Game 4, the division champs withstood a good Bruins team that just lacked the offensive punch that Lehigh Valley utilizes.

How they matchup: 4-4 both ways. So an even matchup if there ever was one.

How Charlotte wins: Continue to make no mistakes, push the Phantoms into pressure which worked somewhat for the P-Bruins in round one that got Providence some goals.

How Lehigh Valley wins: Use home ice and the raucous PPL Center crowd and the advantage of being the best team in the Division. There are a lot of similarities between Charlotte and Lehigh Valley, but it was the Phantoms that stayed at the top of the division and Charlotte who remained in fourth for much of the second half of the year.

Prediction: This may be the most exciting of the divisional finals. I got Charlotte in six. I witnessed first hand how it can methodically dissect a team and run away. Lehigh Valley’s inconsistencies are exposed and Charlotte advances.

     Toronto Marlies vs. Syracuse Crunch     

How the Crunch got here: Finished off a sweep of the Rochester Americans quite handily. Syracuse was the better team in the regular season matchup and quickly dispatched Rochester in three games.

How the Marlies got here: Got a scare from Utica, who pushed Toronto to five games. Garret Sparks 37 save clean sheet in Game 5 was enough to push the Marlies past the Comets to avoid the upset.

How they matchup: 3-5 if you are a Crunch fan and 5-2-1-0 if you are a Marlies fan.

How Syracuse wins: This is a strong group, but so is Toronto. So is it a clash of styles or the team that makes fewer mistakes? The Crunch have been here before. So it’s that experience that they need to use to carry themselves against the Marlies.

How Toronto wins: Well, whatever it was in the two games in Utica, burn that tape to the ground. It’s not a back to basics for a team that had 112 points in the AHL this season. But this is a matchup that favors Toronto, so it’s limiting your mistakes and capitalizing on the opponent’s that pushes the Marlies to the conference finals.

Prediction: Toronto in seven. Marlies outlast the Crunch in a classic between two heavyweights.

     Tucson Roadrunners vs. Texas Stars     

How the Stars got here: Needed just four games against an Ontario Reign team that started to give fits. But then Mike McKenna stepped in and didn’t allow a single Reign goal the rest of the way. Texas’ veterans outlasted a Reign side.

How the Roadrunners got here: Dispatches the San Jose Barracuda quite handily in four games. Tucson avoided the hot run that the Barracuda ended the season on and avoided the upset from the fourth seeded Pacific Division team.

How they matchup: 1-1-2-0 if you are a Stars fan and 3-1 if you are a Roadrunners fan.

How Texas wins: Nothing is going to change here. The veteran Stars continue business as usual against Tucson.

How Tucson wins: Continue to be the class of the division. Adin Hill closed out Games 3 and 4 with back to back shutouts. Roadrunners ride they goaltender forward to that special group of forwards.

Predication: I can see an “old lion” of Mike McKenna vs. “young lion” Adin Hill here and a good old fashioned goaltenders duel. Regardless, I get the sense that youth prevails. Tucson in six.

     Manitoba Moose vs. Rockford IceHogs     

How the Moose got here: Took out the defending champion Grand Rapids Griffins in five games. Overwhelmed the Moose in the deciding game and crushed the defending champs on their home ice.

How the IceHogs got here: Swept the Division Champion Wolves in three games. A four seed should not make it look as easy as the IceHogs did against the Wolves.

How they matchup: 2-1-1-0 if you are a Moose fan, 2-2 if you are an IceHogs fan. This one should be fun.

How Rockford wins: IceHogs used swagger and a fearless approach against a Wolves team that looked dangerous. Rockford exploited Chicago’s weaknesses in a big way and made it look easy. They need the same against a Moose team that was on top of the Central for about 90% of the season.

How Manitoba wins: Moose took out the defending Calder Cup Champion Griffins in five games. They outlasted the Griffins and made it count when they needed it to in the decisive game. Outlasting Rockford here is something that a Moose team that spent more time at the top is something that Manitoba will need to do to advance.

Prediction: Series screams seven games. There may be others here that go the distance, but this series in particular talks, walks and looks like a seven game series. Manitoba in seven.

That’s how I see this round shaking out. Good luck to you if you have a team still in it.

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