Chirps from Center Ice

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

2023 Calder Cup Playoffs Preview

Everybody’s favorite time of year, it’s the Calder Cup Playoffs. 23 teams will be vying for the Championship in June.

I expect these to be wrong in parts and right in parts. Just hope to have the Conference Finals right and maybe the Calder Cup Finals participants correct.

I think it’s a wide open field, but the favorites are the favorites because they have played that way all season long.

Let’s pour one out for the San Jose Barracuda, Henderson Silver Knights, San Diego Gulls, Grand Rapids Griffins, Chicago Wolves, Cleveland Monsters, Belleville Senators, Bridgeport Islanders and (sigh) the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins as teams which missed the postseason. Better luck next year, guys.

Here’s how the concept works, the first round is best of three, division semifinals and finals best of five then best of seven for the conference finals and Calder Cup Finals.

Let’s start in the Pacific and work our way east.

First Round Bye: Calgary Wranglers

First Round, best of three.

(2) Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. (7) Tucson Roadrunners: Coachella Valley lost their final two games of the season, handing the regular season title to rival Calgary and have to face an extremely game but equally slumping Tuscon Roadrunners team. I’m not buying the hype though, Coachella Valley in two.

(3) Colorado Eagles vs. (6) Ontario Reign: Likely the most even matchup in the first round. Not a lot separates these teams, so go with the hotter team, Colorado who have won four straight coming in, vs. an Ontaio team who hit a ton of cold spells, losing their final three. Eagles in three.

(4) Abbotsford Canucks vs. (5) Bakersfield Condors: All of these games are going to be played in Abbotsford, which doesn’t bode well for Bakersfield who won 23 games at home. In these scenarios, you take the team with the home ice advantage. Abbotsford in three.

Division Semifinals, best of five.

(1) Calgary Wranglers vs. (4) Abbotsford Canucks: I think that Bakersfield gives the Canucks a run, and using all that energy up is really bad when you are facing a buzzsaw team in Calgary, who won the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the AHL’s best team in the regular season. Dustin Wolf is Him in goal, AHL’s best goaltender. Wranglers puts these other pretender teams on notice and win in a sweep to advance.

(2) Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. (3) Colorado Eagles: Tough one to call. Eagles are good, Coachella Valley played better. Colorado has been here before, the Firebirds have not. I think it goes five. I’m trusting my gut and picking Colorado to advance. Eagles in five.

Division Finals, best of five.

(1) Calgary Wranglers vs. (3) Colorado Eagles: These two teams met in the Pacific Division Finals last year, only the Wranglers were the Stockton Heat. The Heat won that series in four. This Wranglers team is better than that Heat team. Colorado has used up a lot so far, in getting past Ontario and Coachella Valley in the maximum allowable games. I think history repeats itself here, but it’s yet another Wranglers sweep.

First Round Bye: Texas Stars

First Round, best of three.

(4) Iowa Wild vs. (5) Rockford IceHogs: Both teams clinched on the final day of the regular season and needed wins to get there. Iowa went 7-3-1-1 against the IceHogs in the regular season. Let’s not overthink things here. Iowa in three.

Division Semifinals, best of five.

(1) Texas Stars vs. (4) Iowa Wild: Texas’ only loss to the Wild came on the final day of the regular season, when Texas had already wrapped up the Central crown that got them the first round bye. Stars say bye to the Wild via sweep.

(2) Milwaukee Admirals vs. (3) Manitoba Moose: This is a bad matchup for the Admirals. I’d like the Moose if this were best of three. It’s not. Admirals survive a real scare here. Milwaukee in five.

Division Finals, best of five.

(1) Texas Stars vs. (2) Milwaukee Admirals: One of the reasons Texas was one of the final teams to sew up the division crown was the peskiness of the Milwaukee Admirals. I don’t think any of that matters in a tight series here. Stars in four.

First Round Bye: Toronto Marlies

First Round, best of three.

(4) Utica Comets vs. (5) Laval Rocket: It’s a matchup which favors the Rocket, who went 5-1 against the Comets this season, but I don’t like Laval’s inconsistency here and it’s not a good matchup in the present day vs. a whole season, Utica takes this three games and advances.

Division Semifinals, best of five.

(1) Toronto Marlies vs. (4) Utica Comets: Toronto stumbled, in a big way, as the season ended, 1-6-2-1 in their last ten. I think it’s a scenario where either team can advance and you can make a strong case either way, but I think that the players lock in and get past the Comets in a series which will go the distance which sees the Marlies advancing in five.

(2) Syracuse Crunch vs. (3) Rochester Americans: It’s a matchup that favors the Crunch, and I think it’s one that they win in easily, but not without a few scares here and there. Crunch in four.

Division Finals, best of five.

(1) Toronto Marlies vs. (2) Syracuse Crunch: Toronto’s inconsistency at the end of the regular season is their undoing and the Crunch advance in five here.


First Round Byes: Providence Bruins, Hershey Bears

First Round, best of three.

(3) Charlotte Checkers vs. (6) Lehigh Valley Phantoms: All games will be played in Charlotte with Lehigh Valley getting last change in Game 2 as the de facto “home” team. Phantoms give the Checkers a scare, but it’s the Checkers advancing as the most consistent non-top two team as they have played all season long, Checkers in three.

(4) Springfield Thunderbirds vs. (5) Hartford Wolf Pack: Hartford lost a cadre of really good players to recall on Saturday, how many of those players make it back in time for this series against Springfield will really determine how this one goes. In the end though, I think the Thunderbirds advance in three.

Division Semifinals, best of five.

(1) Providence Bruins vs. (4) Springfield Thunderbirds: Bruins tore through the division en route to their third division title in four years. I think Springfield gives them a run, with a few games making it to overtime, but the best team advances here, Bruins in four.

(2) Hershey Bears vs. (3) Charlotte Checkers: Bears inconsistency in the season cost them a chance at the number one seed in the division. I think the Bears inconsistency befells them eventually, but not here in a nail biter of a series, Bears in five.

Division Finals, best of five.

(1) Providence Bruins vs. (2) Hershey Bears: Hershey went 1-5 against the Bruins in the regular season. I think that plays a small role here, but Providence is too good of a team to get knocked out this early. Bruins in four.

Eastern Conference Finals, best of seven.

(1) Providence Bruins vs. (2) Syracuse Crunch: Bruins make this look easy I think, and are just getting going, Providence in five.

Western Conference Finals, best of seven.

(1) Calgary Wranglers vs. (1) Texas Stars: Stars cut the Wranglers, but I just can’t see Calgary having any issues in this series. Wranglers in five.

Calder Cup Finals, best of seven.

Hold up, am I really picking chalk all the way here? I guess I am. I can’t see any viable path for any other team to get to this point other than Providence and Calgary unless there’s a major, major upset. Go back and look. Can Lehigh Valley get here? Conceivably, sure, but they need to beat Charlotte twice in a three game series in North Carolina to do so. Can Colorado get here? Sure, but they went 2-4-1-1 against Calgary, and the Wranglers will have a fully stocked team. I just don’t see how the two best teams in their conferences don’t end up here. On paper. They don’t play games on paper though, so we’ll see!

(1) Calgary Wranglers vs. (1) Providence Bruins: Calgary runs into a really good, really deep, really talented Providence team. But the Wranglers have played at such a high  level all season long, that it’s nothing really they can’t handle. There’s a few scares here. I think Providence takes Game 1 in Calgary, the Wranglers win in overtime in Game 2 to make it 1-1 heading back to Rhode Island. Wranglers win games three and four, Providence wins Game 5 in double OT to send it back to Calgary but it’s the Wranglers winning in a blowout to win the Calder Cup in six games.

That’s how I see it. Let’s see how wrong I am. Congrats on the Calder Cup IceHogs fans!

2 responses to “2023 Calder Cup Playoffs Preview

  1. Kathy April 18, 2023 at 12:13 pm

    This maybe a stupid questi

  2. Jack OMara April 19, 2023 at 9:22 am

    I agree Calgary vs. Providence but the CUP goes to Providence!

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