This Friday, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, will begin their first round playoff series against the St. John’s IceCaps. The IceCaps are affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens. Because of the travel involved in going out to Newfoundland, and perhaps because of a hope to win the series on home ice, the Crunch will start the series with two games on the road.
The Crunch have home-ice advantage and can finish with up to three games at home in the five-game series. The flight to St. John’s should take a little more than four hours from Syracuse. If the team were to drive, though, it would take about 36 hours, including a nine-hour ferry ride form Nova Scotia to Newfoundland.
The regular season series between these two teams has been full of bad blood, brawls, and penalties. The Crunch went 4-1-2-1 against the IceCaps in their regular season meetings. All four of the Crunchs’ wins came in regulation, but they never pulled out a win in their three contests that went to overtime. As for the bad blood, only two of the eight games did not have a fight. One of those two games did include a pair of 10-minute misconduct penalties with some roughing calls also being issued.
As another data point in the series, according to EliteProspects.com, the Syracuse Crunch roster has a total of 1,277 games of NHL experience and 7,664 games of AHL experience. By contrast, the IceCaps have 1,006 games of NHL experience and 5,999 games of AHL experience.
To get a look from the other side of the ice, Scott Matla of Habs Eyes on the Prize took the time to answer a few of my questions.
Raw Charge: What forward do you think needs to step up for St. Johns to have a good series?
Scott Matla: For the IceCaps to have a good series they need to stay disciplined, and avoid post whistle shenanigans. The IceCaps/Crunch games are always hotly contested and physical, so things are going to devolve quickly. Their penalty killing was not good during the regular season, in fact it cost them a lot of close games down the stretch. Also continuing contributions from people other than their top line would be great, Daniel Audette, Stefan Matteau and others have tons of skill, and if they can pot a few goals the team is in great shape.
RC: Who scares you the most offensively from the Crunch?
SM: It's gotta be Cory Conacher or Byron Froese without a doubt. Every time these teams clashed it seems like their names were all over the scoresheet. Of course Matt Taormina on the blue line is a big concern, in addition to former IceCaps Michael Bournival and Gabriel Dumont who are sure to try and make an impact against their old teammates.
RC: If your starting goaltender goes down with an injury, how much confidence do you have in your back-up goalie?
SM: It's hard to say, Yann Danis was as a good as a backup to Charlie Lindgren this year, but in a starters role he faltered at a crucial time. And while Zach Fucale has a championship pedigree it's hard to put a lot of faith in him after he struggled during his rookie year, and isn't dominating the ECHL like many fans hoped he would.
RC: Would you rather meet Bobby Farnham or David Broll in a dark alley?
SM: David Broll easily, once that switch goes off in Farnham's head it's like someone set a rabid wolverine loose.
RC: Are you jealous of the Crunch's lip syncing skills?
SM: Lip syncing absolutely, but can the Crunch match Mango's Moves?
RC: Thanks, Scott!