Thursday, May 1, 2014

Who's Next? Previewing Possible Round Two Opponents

Cristopher Nilstorp in the traditional handshake line
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas is the first team to wrap up its advancement to the second round in the 2014 Calder Cup. They will get at least a week to rest up and will not even know their opponent until this weekend's games are completed.

With the top seed in the league, Texas is guaranteed to play the lowest seed team of the remaining clubs in each round. That means Texas cannot play Chicago or Toronto until the third round, leaving Abbotsford, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee and Rochester as possible round two foes. Texas could know as early as Friday but may also have to wait until Sunday to know for sure.

(#4) Grand Rapids Griffins
Season record: 46-23-2-5
Season series v. Texas: 3-1-0-0
Current series score: Leading 2-1 over ABB
Remaining games: 5/2 at GRG, 5/3 at GRG

Grand Rapids was this close to finishing off the Heat at home on Wednesday but gave it up in the third period. Abbotsford extended its season by another game with the win.

Texas did not matchup well with the Griffins in four games this season. They lost both in Grand Rapids and split the games in Cedar Park. Coach Desjardins even commented at the time of the home split that if it were a playoff series, Texas would be heading to their barn in a bad spot. The Griffins could have been more vulnerable if Detroit stayed in the playoffs. Boston's victory sent reinforcements to the AHL, bolstering an already impressive club.

(#5) Abbotsford Heat
Season record: 43-25-5-3
Season series v. Texas: 3-4-1-0
Current series score: Down 2-1 to GRG
Remaining games: 5/2 at GRG, 5/2 at GRG

The reverse of the above, Abbotsford kept their season alive with a win last night in Grand Rapids in what could have been the team's final period of play based in BC.

The divisional opponent had a losing record against the Stars this season. However, the Flames stole some talent after the deadline that hurt the team greatly. With players like All-Rookie goalie Joni Ortio and All-Star defenseman Chad Billins back in the fold, the Heat could be formidable if they make it through. Obviously a less than ideal travel situation for both teams here. Two time zones and a bus trip somewhere in there make it tough. Usually Texas flies to Seattle and then busses to Abbotsford.

(#6) Milwaukee Admirals
Season record: 39-24-6-7
Season series v. Texas: 2-2-0-0
Current series score: Down 2-0 to TOR
Remaining games: 5/1 at TOR, 5/3 at TOR, 5/4 at TOR

The Ads dropped both games in their own barn and now head to the Ricoh needing all three to advance. They were beaten by a combined score of 11-4 in two games at the Bradley Center, which doesn't bode well for their chances away from it.

This would, of course, be an intriguing series for Texas Stars fans. Francis Wathier and Mathieu Tousignant would return to the CPC to play postseason hockey in another team's uniform. Kevin Henderson would also play against his former club. The Stars have played Milwaukee twice in the postseason. They lost in 2011 to a team headlined by current Star Chris Mueller and now-Predator Gabriel Bourque. Last season, Texas beat the Ads 3-1 in the first round to advance. If you thought OKC was a grinding series, you won't believe what this would look like. I'd put the over under at total goals scored around 13 for the whole series.

(#7) Rochester Americans
Season record: 37-28-6-5
Season series v. Texas: 1-1-0-0
Current series score: Tied 1-1 with CHI
Remaining games: 5/1 at CHI, 5/2 at CHI, 5/4 at CHI

This matchup is the best by the raw numbers. Texas's loss to Rochester was on the road. It was a matinee game after an evening game the night before. Texas led but gave it up in the third period, making it seem more like a result of the back-to-back. Texas was 38-2-2-2 this year when leading after two periods.

There is also a lack of data in this matchup that makes it particularly scary. Just two games is not a lot to tell the tale of the tape. I do not think that Chicago is going to falter at home, but the split in Rochester gives the Amerks hope. If they can pull it out, they are more formidable than we gave them credit for.

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