Calder Cup Finals Preview

The Hershey Bears and Manitoba Moose will meet for the chance to win the Calder Cup. Both teams finished first and second in the league during the regular season, so it’s only fitting they play for the Calder Cup. Here’s a preview of the Calder Cup finals.

CALDER CUP FINALS

Manitoba Moose vs. Hershey Bears

Manitoba’s Playoff Record: 12-4
Hershey’s Playoff Record: 12-4

Series Preview: It just seems right to have the two best teams during the regular season and the postseason in the finals. Manitoba led the league during the regular season with 107 points, while Hershey finished the season with 106 points. Hershey had a chance to finish with 108 points, but lost their final regular season game, giving the Moose home ice advantage in this series, which could very well be critical. To get to the finals, the Moose needed six games to get past the Toronto Marlies in the division semifinals, then swept the Grand Rapids Griffins in the division finals, and ousted the Houston Aeros in six games in the conference finals. The Hershey Bears swept the Philadelphia Phantoms in the division semifinals, then needed seven games against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the division finals, and sent the Providence Bruins home in five games in the conference finals.

This series is going to feature relative newbie’s in net. Hershey’s Michal Neuvirth is a rookie, and Manitoba’s Cory Schneider is only in his second season. Regardless of the length of their experience, both goaltenders have shown this postseason that they can play with the best. Neuvirth ranks third in the league with a 2.03 goals against average, while Schneider ranks fourth with a 2.04 goals against average. Neuvirth has a .929 save%, while Schneider is at .924%. Neuvirth leads the league with three shutouts during the postseason, while Schneider has yet to record a shutout.

Both teams are virtually equal when it comes to offense and defense. The Bears and Moose have scored the same amount of goals, 52, in the same amount of games, 16. Alexandre Giroux ranks second in the league with 20 postseason points. Chris Bourque ranks fourth with 18 points. The Bears will need to get a few players involved in the offense to take the pressure off the top line. Kyle Wilson has under achieved thus far in the playoffs, and Oskar Osala and Francois Bouchard (when playing) need to pick up their game. Manitoba is being led by Jason Krog, who won the Calder Cup last season with Chicago, with 18 points. Jason Jaffray is having a great postseason with 17 points thus far. When it comes to defense, it’s hard to pick which team has the edge. The Bears have allowed 35 goals and the Moose have allowed 33.

The edge in special teams would have to go to the Moose. Manitoba has the third best penalty kill team at 87.3%. Through the first round, Hershey was the best penalty killing team, but has fallen from first to 12th in the league at 78.4 %. Hershey might have the edge on the power play, but not by much. Hershey has scored 19 power play goals for 20.9%, while the Moose have scored 15 power play goals for 19%.

The Eastern Conference might as well be renamed the Pennsylvania Conference. For the sixth straight year, the Eastern Conference champion has come from the state of Pennsylvania, with Hershey being the last team to win the Calder Cup in 2006.

Series Schedule

Game 1: Saturday, May 30 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 pm
Game 2: Tuesday, June 2 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 pm
Game 3: Saturday, June 6 – Manitoba at Hershey, 7:00 pm
Game 4: Sunday, June 7 – Manitoba at Hershey, 5:00 pm
*Game 5: Tuesday, June 9 – Manitoba at Hershey, 7:00 pm
*Game 6: Friday, June 12 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 pm
*Game 7: Sunday, June 14 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 pm
* – if necessary

Prediction: Hershey in six

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Calder Cup Finals Preview

The 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs are moving along quickly and the Calder Cup finals are all set. The Chicago Wolves and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will battle for the right to hoist the Calder Cup. Which team has the advantage or is an upset going to happen? Here’s a preview of the Calder Cup finals.

The Wolves are returning to the Calder Cup finals for the first time since 2005 when they were swept by the Philadelphia Phantoms. Chicago got by the first round with a 4-2 series win over the Milwaukee Admirals. They narrowly escaped the second round when the Rockford IceHogs took the Wolves to seven games. The Wolves quickly disposed of the Toronto Marlies in five games in the Western Conference finals.

The Penguins are returning to the Calder Cup finals for the first time since 2004 when they were swept by the Milwaukee Admirals. The Penguins have been pretty convincing in the playoffs defeating the Hershey Bears and Philadelphia Phantoms in five games. The Portland Pirates gave them a run for their money, but the Penguins rallied off two straight wins to win the Eastern Conference.

CALDER CUP FINALS

Chicago Wolves vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

Chicago’s Playoff Record: 12-6
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Playoff Record: 12-5

Series Preview: The Chicago Wolves moved on to the finals with a convincing series win in the conference finals over the Toronto Marlies. The Wolves have a high powered offense that can, and will, put up a lot of points. Jason Krog led the AHL in regular season scoring and he’s doing the same in the playoffs. Krog has nine goals, 19 assists, and 28 points in 18 playoff games. Chicago has gotten a lot of production from everyone in the lineup and Krog (28), Darren Haydar (20), Joel Kwiatkowski (17), and Joe Motzko (11) all have ten or more points.

Chicago’s defense has been excellent in the postseason. Of all the teams to advance past the semifinals, the Wolves are averaging the best goals-against average at 2.22. Chicago’s defense will score as well. Kwiatkowski has 17 points, Brian Fahey has nine points, and Nathan Oystrick has eight points. Ondrej Pavelec has the best GAA (2.17) of all goaltenders to advance past the semifinals; his two shutouts are tied for first. Pavelec has won all 12 of Chicago’s playoff’s games and in convincing fashion, most of the time.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were predicted to possibly not even make the playoffs before the season began, but now they are playing for the Calder Cup. For most of the playoffs, the Penguins had the two best offensive players until the conference finals. Tim Brent is tied for second in the league with 20 points. Rookie Alex Goligoski has impressed in the postseason with three goals, 17 assists, and 20 points; his 17 assists rank second behind Chicago’s Jason Krog. Brent (20), Goligoski (20), Ryan Stone (15), Kurtis McLean (15), Chris Minard (14), Nathan Smith (13), and Connor James (10) have all recorded ten or more points.

The Penguins have a more stay at home defense to protect their young goalie, but several key defensemen are producing points. Led by Goligoski, Mark Ardelan (9) and Ben Lovejoy (8) have found the score sheet. John Curry has played an amazing postseason, even though, his GAA (2.47) is on the high side for playoff hockey. Nonetheless, Curry has been able to lead the Penguins to the Calder Cup finals with 12 wins and a shutout.

Key Factor: The Penguins can’t get into penalty trouble. The Wolves have proven that they can, and will, score when give the extra man. Twenty-seven of their 57 goals have come on the power play. Likewise, the Wolves don’t want to find themselves giving up power play chances. The Penguins have a powerful power play themselves with 17 goals. Chicago has an amazing 22.7% power play rate. Chicago’s penalty kill is much better than the Penguins. The Wolves has a success rate of 89.1% compared to the Penguins’ 79.7%.

The Penguins are going to need to find a way to shutdown Chicago’s top four players. If they can’t, then Chicago just might be able to walk all over the defense and Curry. Tim Brent will need to regain his form from the semifinals and division finals when he nine goals and eight assists in ten games.

Series Schedule

Game 1: Penguins @ Wolves, May 29, 8:00 pm
Game 2: Penguins @ Wolves, June 1, 4:00 pm
Game 3: Wolves @ Penguins, June 4, 7:05 pm
Game 4: Wolves @ Penguins, June 6, 7:05 pm
*Game 5: Wolves @ Penguins, June 7, 7:05 pm
*Game 6: Penguins @ Wolves, June 10, 8:00 pm
*Game 7: Penguins @ Wolves, June 12, 8:00 pm
* – if necessary

Prediction: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in seven

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