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Syracuse Crunch Week 21: A steep hill to climb

The sun is starting to set on the 2013-2014 AHL season. Syracuse has just 24 games left.

Crunch forward Cedric Paquette has finally surpassed Nikita Kucherov for the rookie lead in scoring in Syracuse. He has 32 points (14g; 18a)
Crunch forward Cedric Paquette has finally surpassed Nikita Kucherov for the rookie lead in scoring in Syracuse. He has 32 points (14g; 18a)
Robert Dungan

It has been a very long season for Syracuse Crunch fans. It's very difficult to say much of anything else at this point, but it's also equally difficult to keep harping on how hard this has been for the Crunch organization and their fans. The "good" news is that it's almost over. For better or for worse, Syracuse has just 24 games left.

Where the Crunch will be at the end of those 24 games, whether the reigning Eastern Conference champs will be seeing playoff hockey or seeing the golf course, is still to be determined. The Crunch is currently in 12th place in the Eastern Conference. 12th place might not be anything to write home about, but the silver lining is that, thanks to a five point weekend, Syracuse was able to jump up two spaces from 14th place, which is where they were Friday morning.

To put that into perspective, 8th place Norfolk has 64 points right now. Syracuse has 49. So, yes, the Crunch has a long road ahead of them if they are serious about any kind of playoff push. But, it is not technically impossible for Syracuse to squeak into the playoffs.

It’s a safe estimation to say that an AHL team needs at least 80 points to make the post season. Last year’s 8th place Eastern Conference team, the Hershey Bears, cleared with 81. In the Western Conference, 8th place Milwaukee had 89 points. The previous year, Manchester slid into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference with 83 points, while over in the Western Conference Houston made it with 86. So, 80 points is probably on a low end of a playoff contender, but still not too far out of reality.

Syracuse has 48 points still on the table. I'd say they need to get at least 36 of those available points to be totally comfortable in a playoff spot. Those 36 points would put them at 85 for the season and would probably be enough to secure 7th or 8th place in the Eastern Conference.

However, one of the biggest catches here is that the Crunch has yet to learn how to win consistently at home in the Onondaga County War Memorial. Syracuse has only won eight games at home this season. Five of those games have gone to either over time or the shootout, only to have the Crunch fall short of a win. They've played a total of 22 games at home so far. In contrast, the Crunch are 13-14-2-2 on the road this season.

This is a huge concern because the Crunch plays 16 of their final 24 games at home. 10 of those games are in March, six of them are in April. Syracuse is only away three times in the entire month of March. The boys in blue need to figure out how to best use home ice advantage if they are going to make a serious run at the playoffs.

Latest Stats for the Syracuse Crunch:

  • Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 20-23-4-5

  • Place in the conference standings (top 8 make the playoffs): Twelfth

  • Place in division standings: Fifth

  • Top scorer: Vladislav Namestnikov, 15-19-34
  • Top scoring defenseman: Dmitry Korobov, 2-18-20

  • Top defenseman, +/-: Jean-Philippe Cote, +7

  • Top rookie: Cedric Paquette, 14-18-32

Other Syracuse Crunch Player notes/transactions:

-P.C. Labrie scored his second AHL goal of the season this past Friday night.

-Mike Angelidis is on a three-game points streak (1g; 2a)

-Richard Panik netted four points (1g; 3a) in Sunday's game

-Dana Tyrell earned a season-high three points (1g; 2a) Sunday night

Syracuse Crunch media highlights:

-From Feb 20, 2014: The day after Crunch goalie Kristers Gudlevskis made 55 saves on 57 Canadian shots in a 2-1 loss for Latvia, Syracuse goaltending & video coach David Alexander examines the performance and what it could mean for Gudlevskis future.

Week 21 with David Alexander (Feb. 20, 2014) (via Syracuse Crunch)

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