Syracuse Crunch fans have been dreading this moment all season. For those who have been refusing to listen and have only been looking at the standings, they're probably confused about what's going on. For everyone else, this was an expected, but horribly frustrating, reality to finally come to pass.
The wheels have come off the Crunch's season. And unless a miracle happens very quickly, "one and done" will forever be associated with the once-promising 2014-2015 Crunch.
Syracuse has lost six of their last seven games. That run, a downward slide riddled with call ups to the Lightning and injuries that severely tested the much-touted depth of Tampa Bay's farm system, has slapped Syracuse out of first place in the Northeast Division.
Worst yet, the Crunch not only lost their hold on the division--a hold that was 8-points deep not that long ago--but they also lost their hold on one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference. In one week, Syracuse fell from 3rd place to 5th with three games remaining in the season, losing, at least for the moment, their grip on home ice advantage for the first round.
The good news is that the Crunch is out of first in the Northeast only because of a tie-breaker that the Hartford Wolf Pack currently owns. It is still possible that Syracuse could win the division, but it isn't going to be easy. Both teams have three games left. Syracuse plays Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Hartford technically has the tougher schedule of a three-in-three for the final weekend of the AHL season.
Syracuse plays Albany (10th in the Eastern Conference), Adirondack (11th in the Western Conference), and Bridgeport (14th in the Eastern Conference) to end their regular season. The points are there for Syracuse to grab. But, the Crunch has had the nasty tendency of playing to the level of their opponent this season, and could very well find themselves losing all three games if they're not careful.
Hartford plays Bridgeport twice with Albany in-between, so the same stands true for the Wolf Pack. The points are there to grab, and if their play recently is any indication of how well they will succeed, grab them they will. Hartford is 7-2-0-1 in their last 10 games. Syracuse is 4-5-1-0.
The Crunch has defied a lot of odds this season. But, this is clearly a team that has yet to fully embrace an identity. With one week left of regular season play, it's now or never for Syracuse to decide what they want their legacy to be.