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

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 each other for the first time since March 27th, 2013 as they meet in the first round of this year’s Calder Cup Playoffs. The IceCaps took three-of-four meeting last season.

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).

2011 12-pres St  John s IceCaps primary Logo Heat TransfersThe 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.

2010 11-Pres Albany Devils Primary Logo Heat TransferAlbany:

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 have provided 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 2-0 with a shutout in the AHL since being reassigned –  look for Hutchinson to start in the IceCaps crease. The Devils goaltending duo of Keith Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood has played well, and picked up pace after a slow start. 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. Kinkaid lost in a shootout vs. the IceCaps last season. Whether it’s Kinkaid or Wedgewood who gets the start for the series, either goaltender could steal the series.

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. Josh Morrissey, who has one assist in eight games with the IceCaps, will make his pro-playoff debut and should be a regular on the blue line. On the Devils side, watch for three strong twenty-one year old players 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 push this series to five games.

Schedule:

Game Date Away Home Time Result
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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