Calder Cup Playoffs Preview: St. John’s IceCaps (4) vs. Albany Devils (5)

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St. John’s IceCaps (46-23-2-5) vs. Albany Devils (40-23-5-8)

The St. John’s IceCaps and Albany Devils will face off against each other for the first time in over a year as they meet in the first round of the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs. Side-by-side, here’s how things are shaping up for their first round matchup:

St. John’s:

Home: 23-10-2-3      Away: 23-13-0-2

The IceCaps are coming off their best season in franchise history, albeit a three-year history, with 99 points – a great season for any club. The IceCaps finished the regular season tied for fifth in the league with Grand Rapids, and were just behind Springfield (100), Chicago (100), Manchester (105), and Texas (106).

The IceCaps saw several new players donning their logo this season, most notably high scoring forwards Jerome Samson and Andrew Gordon, goaltender Michael Hutchinson, and rookie defenceman Brenden Kichton. The IceCaps are a high scoring team and finished third in the league with 258 goals-for. Entering the playoffs, the IceCaps are 4-3-1-2 in their last ten games – the worst record of the sixteen AHL teams entering the playoffs this season – but are currently on a three game win streak.

Albany:

Home: 24-9-3-2      Away: 16-14-2-6

Lead by Joe Whitney again this season, the Devils made a late push to get into the playoffs, recording a 6-2-1-1 record in their last ten games of the season. This is the first time the Devils franchise will make an appearance in the playoffs since 2009-2010, then known as the Lowell Devils, and just the third time since 2002-2003. Albany has just a +27 goal differential in the regular season and play a tight defensive game. They’re heading into the post-season on a five-game win streak, including a 5-2 victory over 2nd place Springfield in their season finale.

Head-to-head:

Special Teams: (Fairly) Even

Team Season PK % Season PP % Home PK % Away PK % Home PP % Away PP %
Albany 82.7%  (14th) 16.2% (21st) 84.2% (14th) 81.6% (14th) 16.1% (22nd) 16.1% (16th)
St. John’s 83.5%  (9th) 18.1% (13th) 83.8% (15th) 83.3% (8th) 16.2% (23rd) 19.8% (8th)

If the last five games of the season are an indication of the first round, we’re not in for a special teams show. The IceCaps PP% during that time was 15% and the Devils was just 11%. In the same time their penalty kills are 85% and 76%, respectively.

Goaltending: St. John’s
With a combined record of 24-7-3, .928 sv%. this season, Michael Hutchinson and Tyler Beskorowany are a solid goaltending tandem. Hutchinson was re-assigned to the IceCaps after going 2-1-0 with a .964 sv% and 1.64 GAA with the Jets in the final few games of the regular season. Hutchinson has been 3-0 with a shutout in the AHL since.  The Devils goaltending duo of Keith Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood has not been stellar. Kinkaid was 24-13-5-4 with a .912 sv% and 2.29 GAA. Wedgewood was 16-14-2-3 with a .899 sv% and 2.39 GAA. Whether it’s Kinkaid or Wedgewood who gets the start for the series, either goaltender will need to be better to steal the series from the IceCaps.

Defence: St. John’s
The Devils will need more production from the back-end if they want to beat the talented, young IceCaps. The IceCaps have both a strong offensive and defensive corps in Brenden Kichton, Zach Redmond, Ben Chiarot, and Jordan Hill. On the Devils side, watch for three strong twenty-one year old palyers in Adam Larsson, Reece Scarlett, and Raman Hrabarenka on the point, who are all producing around a point per two games in the AHL this year and have played well down the stretch.

Forwards: St. John’s
Up front the IceCaps have a great advantage. Captain Jason Jaffray paced the club with 59 points, a new franchise record. The IceCaps top three goal scorers, John Albert (28), Jerome Samson (27), and Andrew Gordon (23) scored 30% of the IceCaps goals this season with a combined 78 goals. Let’s chip in Kael Mouillierat who ended the season with 53 points in 60 games, and rookie JC lipon who had 42 points and 136 PIM.The IceCaps had five 20 goal-scorers and nine players with 40+ points. The Devils had just three players hit the 40-point mark and three 20+ goal scorers: Whitney (22), Sislo (23), and Boucher (22). Watch for Kelly Zajac, the younger brother of New Jersey Devils forward Travis, nineteen year-old Stefan Matteau, and Mattias Tedenby to produce for the Devils as well.

Prediction: St. John’s in 4

Given the IceCaps are a superior road team – the fourth best in the league – the IceCaps are seemingly too powerful for the Devils, both defensively and offensively. The IceCaps have four strong, deep lines that can produce and overpower the Devils. However, if the Devils receive strong goaltending play from Kinkaid/Wedgewood and their four lines skate with the IceCaps, the Devils could make this series go to five games.

Schedule

Game Date Away Home Time
1 Fri, April 25th St. John’s Albany 7:00 EST
2 Sat, April 26th St. John’s Albany 7:00 EST
3 Wed, April 30th Albany St. John’s 6:00 EST
4* Fri, May 2nd Albany St. John’s 6:00 EST
5* Sat, May 3rd Albany St. John’s 7:00 EST

* = if necessary

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Charles Dart is a regular contributor at winnipegwhiteout.com and passionate 19 year old St. John's IceCaps season ticket holder who lives in St. John's.