Eastern Conference Final Preview

icecaps-penguins-east-preview

Back to the Conference Finals for the second time in three years, the St. John’s IceCaps will face the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

The Story

St. John’s took care of the Albany Devils in four games in the first round and downed the Norfolk Admirals in six games whilst the Penguins finished off the Binghamton Senators in four games then edged the Providence Bruins 5-4 in Game 7 on Wednesday night.

This will be the second time these two teams have met in AHL playoff action – the IceCaps defeated the Penguins 3-2 in Game 7 in the 2012 Conference Semi-Finals. This will also be the  second time the IceCaps play in the Conference Finals in their three year history.

The IceCaps are well rested – they have had a full week off since defeating Norfolk – and will need to get their legs going early if they want to stay on top of a fast and high scoring Penguins squad.

IceCaps captain Jason Jaffray is listed as day-to-day, which is of concern as he lead the IceCaps in scoring in the regular season and has had six points in nine games this post season. He was a late scratch in the series-clinching Game 6 versus Norfolk.

The importance of the pace of practice that we’ve set all week long here, balanced out with trying to get our team as close to healthy as possible, that’s been a main focus of ours all week long here.

- IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge.

Season Stats

Each team recorded 2-2-0 record against each other this season, including back-to-back shutouts on December 6th (5-0 STJ) and 7th (3-0 WBS).

The IceCaps starting goaltender for all four games was Eddie Pasquale, who was lost in early February due to season-ending hip surgery. Carl Klingberg and Eric O’Dell lead the way with three points apiece versus the Penguins this season.

Bobby Farnham and Brenden Mikkelson lead the Penguins with four points apiece in four contests whilst Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers posted a 1-1-0 record and 1.01 GAA.

Note: Just 7 of the 20 players who dressed for the Penguins in December vs. the IceCaps played in Game 7 on Wednesday against the Bruins. (Chuck Kobasew, Brenden Mikelsson, Philip Samuelsson, Scott Harrington, Brain Dumoulin, Brian Gibbons, and Anton Zlobin)

Familiar Foes

Former IceCaps players Peter Mannino and Spencer Machacek are returning to St. John’s, this time as the opposition. Mannino played ten games with the IceCaps in their inaugural season of 2011-2012, posting a record of 4-5 with a .909 sv% and 2.77 GAA. Since playing with the IceCaps, Mannino has been a journeyman, spending time with five different clubs between the AHL and ECHL.

Machacek spent two seasons in St. John’s and lead the team in scoring during their inaugural season with 50 points. He had 19 goals and 33 points in 56 AHL games this season between the Springfield Falcons and the Penguins. He has two assists in seven playoff appearances this post season.

Breakdown

Defence:

IceCaps Head Coach Keith McCambridge does the talking:

Play

The Penguins are lead on the blueline by Brian Dumoulin, Brenden Mikkelson and Simon Despres. Dumoulin has 4 powerplay points, Depres has 2 and Mikkelson has 1. These three defencemen have been on the ice for the majority of the Penguins goals-for and goals against – they log heavy minutes.

Note: Despres is one of five WBS players who played in 20 or more games in Pittsburgh with the parent club Penguins this year. (Chuck Kobasew, Brian Gibbons, Jayson Megna and Zach Sill are the other four.)

Offense

Three of the IceCaps top six point producers in these playoffs have been defencemen – Will O’Neill (7A), Zach Redmond (7A), and rookie Josh Morrissey (2G, 4A). Andrew Gordon paces the IceCaps with 10 points (6G, 2A), followed by Eric O’Dell with 7 goals and no assists.

Here’s what Morrisey had to say about his recent success in the playoffs after the IceCaps practice yesterday:

Play

The Penguins are lead by NHL veteran Chuck Kobasew, rookie Conor Sheary, and defenceman Brian Dumoulin in these playoffs.

Kobasew, 32, has 11 points in 9 postseason games this year (5G, 6A), placing him 5th overall and 2nd among remaining teams. Sheary played in just one AHL game this season before tantalizing opponents on the Penguins playoff run. The 21 year-old currently sits 11th in scoring with 9 points (4G,5A) and first among remaining rookies. Dumoulin has a point-per-game average in 11 playoff contests thus far (2G, 9A) and is the leading scorer among all defencemen this postseason.

The Penguins have three other players with eight or more points apiece: Harry Zolnierczyk (3G, 6A), Anton Zlobin (5G, 3A), and Tom Kostopoulos (3G, 5A)

Special Teams

Team Playoff PK Playoff PP Home PK Away PK Home PP Away PP
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton  32/42 = 76.2%  10/54 = 18.5%  22/27 =81.5%  10/15 = 66.7%  8/35 = 22.9%  2/19 = 10.5%
St. John’s 39/46 = 84.8% 7/50 = 14.0% 19/21 = 90.5% 20/25 = 80.0% 4/26 = 15.4% 3/24 = 12.5%

The IceCaps powerplay is currently sitting in last in remaining teams, and 12th out of 16 teams. It has been an issue since the latter part of the season and it has continued into these playoffs, however, it has improved as they have scored 5 times on their last 26 powerplays (19.2%). Their penalty kill is ranked third out of remaining teams, and have the best home penalty kill.

The Penguins are ranked last of the remaining teams on the penalty kill at 76.2% and third in powerplay at 18.5%.

Goaltending

Both Michael Hutchinson and Peter Mannino have provided solid goaltending for their respective teams, in the regular season and the Calder Cup playoffs.

Hutchinson has been on fire this season, his first with the IceCaps. Coming into this series he has a record of 7-3 with one shutout, a .941 sv% and a 1.77 GAA in ten games this post-season.

Peter Mannino replaced Penguins regular-season starting goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, who is likely done for the season due to injury. The 30 year-old Mannino posted an astounding 11-4-1 record, a .932 sv%, and a 1.56 GAA , pushing the Penguins into the  sixth seed of the Eastern Conference for the playoffs. His back-up is nineteen year-old Matt Murray, who joined the Penguins after having been with Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL this season.

Play

Prediction: 

St. John’s in 7

Schedule:

Game Date Away Home Time
1 Saturday, May 24th Wilkes-Barre/Scranton St. John’s 6:00 EST
2 Sunday, May 25th Wilkes-Barre/Scranton St. John’s 6:00 EST
3 Wednesday, May 28th St. John’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 7:05 EST
4 Thursday, May 29th St. John’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 7:05 EST
*5 Saturday, May 31st St. John’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 7:05 EST
*6 Tuesday, June 3rd Wilkes-Barre/Scranton St. John’s 6:00 EST
*7 Wednesday, June 4th Wilkes-Barre/Scranton St. John’s 6:00 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.

2 Comments

  1. wingsfan42o

    May 23, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Wow! Great article. Looking forward to more coverage by Charles. This guy is going places

    • DragonsDen-BostonPizza

      May 23, 2014 at 11:53 am

      I agree! Love the coverage

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