The sun may have set on the Montreal Canadiens this season, but the St. John’s IceCaps are very much still in the thick of their first round playoff series as the future of the organization competes for the Calder Cup.
The IceCaps and the Syracuse Crunch split the first two games of the series in St. John’s last weekend. The IceCaps kicked off the series with a 2-1 victory on Friday night before dropping a hard-fought game two the following evening.
The series now moves to Syracuse for game three at the War Memorial Arena where the IceCaps will be looking to avenge the injustice of having two goals waved off in extra frames, as well as a non-call on a high-sticking incident in their double-overtime loss in game two.
The IceCaps should have been going to Syracuse needing only a single win to finish the series, but as it stands, the series that began as a best-of-five now basically turns into a best-of-three that will take part entirely in Syracuse.
Charlie Lindgren has been playing exceptionally well for the IceCaps. He weathered 79 shots in two games and only allowed five goals, giving him a 1.99 goals against average and 0.937 save percentage. Mike McKenna was far less busy for the Crunch. Even though he only faced 62 shots, he’s showing worse numbers than Lindgren, with a 2.02 goals against average and 0.919 save percentage. The goaltending could be a difference maker in this series.
Scoring was evenly distributed by the IceCaps between five of the top six forwards on the team, as Charles Hudon, Chris Terry, Nikita Scherbak, Jacob de La Rose, and Stefan Matteau each scored a goal for the IceCaps in the two home games.
The IceCaps have not won in regulation in Syracuse since February 2016, however, they have won twice in overtime this season. The Crunch have the third best home record in the Eastern Conference but the IceCaps did have a strong road record, sitting at sixth best. Where the IceCaps may have a leg up on their opponent is their penalty kill. It’s been noticeably better on the road than at home, which is not to be discounted in a series that could slide off the rails as some of their regular season games did; two games had over 100 combined penalty minutes and several more with more than 40.
The IceCaps received some reinforcements for the games, with the Montreal Canadiens sending Michael McCarron back to the AHL. This could be a double-edged sword as McCarron showed signs of struggle previously when returning to the AHL. Given the playoff conditions, there is definite incentive to produce, especially given that Claude Julien and other members of the Canadiens brass will be on hand in Syracuse to observe the game tonight. This will be Julien’s first time seeing the farm team in action, and many players will hopefully be out to make a positive first impression.
McCarron should find his spot back on the top line since he works quite well with Hudon and Terry. This would mean that Scherbak will move down to the third line with Daniel Audette and Bobby Farnham, bumping Yannick Veilleux into Anthony Camara’s spot on the fourth line. The line of Matteau/De La Rose/Friberg is practically guaranteed to remain together given how crucial and successful they are in keeping opposing top lines in check.
There is no indication that Noah Juulsen or Victor Mete will make their professional debuts tonight, although you would have to assume that they will see some action sooner rather than later if injuries build.
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