With a big win against the Albany Devils on Saturday night and a little bit of help from North Division rival St. John’s on Sunday, the Syracuse Crunch have clinched a berth in the 2016-2017 AHL playoffs.
Clinching scenarios don’t get much more crazy than what Syracuse was looking at over the past 24 hours, but the Crunch is in with three games to go in their regular season.
Syracuse making the playoffs with some room to spare is certainly something to celebrate. Needless to say, it hasn't always been pretty in ‘Cuse this season. Injuries within the organization have plagued both the Crunch and Lightning, making it difficult for the Crunch to consistently put a quality lineup on the ice. Just recently, the Crunch has been dressing nine defensemen, playing some “stay at home” guys as forwards just to try to fill out their roster.
Syracuse making the playoffs is exactly like if TB had made it. Missing most of their top guys for bulk of season.— Bolts Jolts (@BoltsJolts) April 9, 2017
Unlike two years ago, when a depleted Syracuse limped into the postseason - and fell almost immediately back out of it after a first-round sweep - the Crunch’s current dash is setting a strong foundation for what’s to come. Despite losing Yanni Gourde, Joel Vermin, Adam Erne and others at the most important time of the season, heroes have emerged in the most unlikely of faces. The addition of players like John Kurtz and Kevin Lynch have truly kept Syracuse’s playoff hopes alive late in the season.
Although they all deserve applause for making it this far, there is still work to be done for head coach Benoit Groulx and his team. The Crunch can still catch the first place Toronto Marlies and add another banner to the War Memorial rafters. Syracuse has 84 points and holds a game-in-hand over Toronto. The Marlies have 87 points. The race there certainly isn’t over yet, and the Crunch is expected to get a big boost this week with players returning from Tampa.
Syracuse is back in action on Wednesday when they travel to Utica before returning home Friday and Saturday to close out the regular season.