Let’s be honest: One little “x” never looked so good to Syracuse Crunch fans.
The Crunch clinched a playoff spot last night. Their win against the Binghamton Devils combined with Laval’s loss against Toronto brought their magic number to 0, officially cementing their place in the playoffs this spring. The Crunch are just the second team in the league to pull far away from the others in their division to clinch.
The Crunch have come a long way for a team that had such a rough start to their season. As of November 7th, Syracuse was 3-6-1-2 and hovering towards the bottom of the both the North Division and the Eastern Conference. It was a long way to fall for last season’s Eastern Conference champions, but with fairly extreme roster turnover and a large group of youngsters - the Crunch has been the youngest team in the AHL all season - it was honestly expected to be a much different season than last.
What wasn’t expected was the team’s sudden surge throughout the last half of November and much of December, a surge that put the Crunch and its season back on track. Syracuse hasn’t really deviated from their new look since, and they reaped the rewards of their labors last night when they clinched a spot in the 2018 Calder Cup playoffs.
On Nov. 19, Syracuse had won four of its first 16 games. The Crunch then won 19 of their next 22 in a run that included a 10- and a nine-game winning streak.— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) March 15, 2018
In all, they have won 33 of 47 games since that start to their season. https://t.co/ZOxOVfwCI6
When the team first arrived in Syracuse in 1994-95, it was generally fairly present in the playoffs each year. It made the post season in back-to-back seasons 1995-96/96-97/97-98 and in 1999-00/00-01/01-02. The Crunch then started an every-other-year-in-and-out pattern that took them 2008-09. The Crunch didn’t make the playoffs that season, and wouldn’t for the two seasons after that.
Syracuse would make the playoffs by the skin of their teeth in 2011-12 - the last season of the Anaheim affiliation - but was bounced rather harshly in the first round via a sweep. They made the playoffs next season under their new affiliation with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and achieved new organizational heights by making the final round for the first time in Crunch history.
That high was followed by a pretty steep drop. 2013-14 saw a young Crunch team struggle to find an identity and any kind of traction in the standings all season. They did not make the playoffs. They did make it in 2014-2015, but were swept in the first round. Syracuse did not make the playoffs in 2015-16.
That brings things up to last season’s fairly incredible and rather unpredictable run to the Calder Cup finals for just the second time in organizational history. It was an incredible ride, but with so much roster turnover and new faces on board for this season, fans were pretty certain that the playoffs probably weren’t in the cards for 2018.
Well, Coach Ben Groulx, his staff, and his players have surprised again, and Syracuse is officially going dancing.