Happy Birthday, Alex Barre-Boulet. The Syracuse Crunch’s sophomore forward celebrates his 23rd birthday on Thursday with the knowledge that he was named to the AHL’s Second All-Star team. The second-year player is building up quite the trophy shelf despite being in the league such a short time. Last season he was named the league’s top rookie in addition to being on the All-Rookie team. He also finished the season tied for league lead in goals. This year he also represented the Crunch at the AHL All-Star Challenge.
Not bad for someone who wasn’t drafted.
After a bit of a slow start to the season he was quickly ascending the points leader board as he finished the season with 12 points in his last 9 games. When the season was halted Barre-Boulet had climbed to the fifth spot in the league with 56 points. It is kind of interesting that he was named to the team as a center since he usually lines up on the wing and doesn’t take very many face-offs. Then again, positions tend to be a bit fluid in Coach Groulx’s system.
In two seasons for the Crunch Barre-Boulet has put up 124 points (61 goals, 63 assists) in just 134 games. He’s been particularly lethal on the power play with 26 of those goals coming with the man advantage. A shifty skater, Barre-Boulet combines his excellent hockey vision with a surprisingly hard slap shot to keep offenses guessing.
He’s accomplishing just about everything he can do at the AHL level and could be knocking on the door of the NHL next season. While he’s never going to win a Selke his defense improved this season. One of his defensive strengths is his ability to steal the puck in the neutral zone. Several times this season he’s picked the pocket of an unsuspecting forward or defender heading up the ice and turned it into an offensive rush.
Should the NHL season resume at some point this summer it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him join the team on either an expanded roster or as part of the taxi squad. It would be a good learning experience for him and should help him make a better impression in training camp than he did in the 2019-20 season. Next season will also be the final season of his entry-level deal, another strong performance could earn him a nice bump in salary or make him an attractive prospect in the expansion draft.
Congratulations to you, Alex Barre-Boulet.
News and Notes
Speaking of the season resuming, it seems momentum is building for the 24-team playoff scenario. Elliotte Friedman reports that the league is leaning toward a conference-based bracket system that feature a play-in round and byes for the top seeds. The teams getting byes would be: Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington, and Philadelphia in the East with St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas, and Dallas getting the honors in the West.
The rest of the playoffs would be “bracketed.” That means, in both conferences 5 vs. 12 (winner plays four seed), 6 vs. 11 (winner plays three seed), 7 vs. 10 (winner plays two seed) and 8 vs. 9 (winner plays one seed).
So that would mean an opening round of: Pittsburgh/Montreal; Carolina/Rangers; Islanders/Florida and Toronto/Columbus in the East and Edmonton/Chicago; Nashville/Arizona; Vancouver/Minnesota; Calgary/Winnipeg in the West.
The play-in series would be a best-of-five. The rest of the playoffs would be best-of-seven.
Friedman was quick to point out that nothing is cast in stone and there are a host of other issues to be ironed out before anything becomes permanent (including where to actually play the games). However, if the league and the players can agree on the format then that’s one thing checked off the list and something to build on.
I’m sure some fans will hate this idea. It’s different and there are fans out there that immediately turn their rage on anything that’s different. We all have to accept that there are no perfect solutions to ending this season. It’s best if the league and the players decide on one plan and move forward together. Personally I’m still on board with a single-elimination tournament featuring all of the teams. Maximum Chaos!
Speaking of chaos, do you enjoy 3-on-3 overtime? Do you wonder why they just don’t play like that all the time? Well, I have some good news for you. Next summer keep an eye out for the debut of 3Ice, a new 3-on-3 hockey league that will feature eight teams traveling around the country competing in tournaments. The league announced it’s eight head coaches and it’s a pretty impressive list.
The list consists of Guy Carbonneau, Grant Fuhr, Ed Johnston, John LeClair, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy, Angela Ruggiero and Bryan Trottier.
The eight coaches collectively have 28 Stanley Cup titles, 29 All-Star Game appearances and five Olympic medals between them. Six of the eight — Carbonneau, Fuhr, Mullen, Murphy, Ruggiero and Trottier — are also members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
To help you enjoy your day, a Vincent Lecavalier overtime playoff goal: