The Syracuse Crunch have added a 33rd game to their regular season schedule for this season, organizing a date with the Wilkes-barre/Scranton Penguins on the road tonight, March 19th. The Crunch have a 2-1-0 record over the WBS Penguins through three games this season, their best against anyone else in the North Division. The Crunch were only supposed to play the Penguins six times this year, so tonight’s game will make it seven on the season.
This announcement comes on the back of further postponements of games between the Crunch and the Rochester Americans, who are still in COVID protocol with multiple players now confirmed to have tested positive. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are also in COVID protocol and were Wilkes/Barre’s initial date for Friday night.
After that game got moved to April, and tickets were already sold to the socially distant fans allowed at Penguins games this season, it ended up being cheaper and more fruitful for the Penguins to call Syracuse and ask them to drive over. The Crunch obliged and now we have an extra game on the sched.
In terms of points this season, the standings will be sorted by Points Percentage rather than just points — points accumulated divided by the total number of points available over those games. This was officially announced by the AHL recently.
The Crunch are currently sixth out of seven teams in the North Division with a .450 points percentage. They’re a long shout from the Penguins who have a points percentage of .591. Since games played are relatively close at the moment, this basically means the Crunch are four points back on their nearest competitor with a game in hand.
Although the season feels lost in some ways, moving up the leaderboard is very doable — there is a real possibility the Crunch will find themselves in the fight for third by the end of this weekend if they can beat the Penguins and Utica Comets. It’s a lot to ask, but with such an unorthodox season, randomness is more likely than the status quo.
Games this Week
Game #11: Syracuse Crunch at WBS Penguins (Fri, Mar 19, 7pm)
This is now the fourth of seven games between the Crunch and Penguins this season. As I said before, the Crunch have their best record against the Penguins, out-scoring them 8-6 (nine if you include shootout goals, which I don’t).
What will be important from last weekend is to keep up the offensive pressure while finding a way to step up defensively and give up fewer shots. Chances against have been an issue for the Crunch all season when leading, tied, and behind. Liming chances gives the goalies less to do and gives the forwards more time to have fun. Fewer penalties taken is also key.
I can't recall a player getting a three-year AHL contract before (although this is more like a 2.5-year contract, in effect). Sometimes you see a two-year deal, but that the upper limit.— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsAHL) March 19, 2021
Then again, Ron Hextall is now running the show in Pittsburgh, so nothing will surprise me. https://t.co/GjTzOJhIdm
Game #12: Utica Comets at Syracuse Crunch (Sat, Mar 20, 7pm)
The Crunch have a win against the Crunch this season — the first game of the season — but beating them will be difficult. The Comets have had the luxury of a very stable roster this season, losing only a few people to St. Louis or Vancouver one at a time. As a result, their roster is firing on all cylinders and they’re nearly first in the North with six wins in nine games.
Beating them will be a tough mountain to climb, but if they do the Crunch will be right in the fight for a “playoff spot.” I say that in quotes because we don’t know if there will be a playoffs, what they’ll look like, or even if the standings will be taken into account for the bracket.
Hey guess what! The Crunch have no transactions or injuries to report this week! Alex Barre-Boulet showed up before last weekend’s game, he should be making his return to the lineup tonight. Aleksi Heponiemi is still on the shelf, but everyone who played last weekend should be available this weekend.