The American Hockey League has just one final weekend left in the regular season. Between Friday and Sunday, there are 40 games left on the AHL schedule. While 9 of the playoff spots have been claimed, the remaining 7 are still up for grabs. This weekend will also determine who wins the remaining three divisions that have not been clinched as well as who wins the conference titles. There are a lot of different possibilities but this is a breakdown of what could happen this final weekend.
In the Eastern Conference…
The Providence Bruins have locked up the Atlantic division and are currently sitting atop their conference. They have three games on their schedule this weekend, the first being against the Springfield Falcons. The Falcons are second in the conference. With a win, the Bruins will seal the conference championship. If the Bruins lose, they need to win one of their remaining games and at least send the other game to overtime to earn at least a point.
The Springfield Falcons are second in the conference with just two games left to go. Their hopes at winning the conference are not yet over, but they would need help from the Bruins. To win the conference, they would need to win their game against the Bruins on Friday. If they can do that, then they would just need to finish at least tied with the Bruins for overall points. If the two teams finish tied for points, the tiebreaker goes to Springfield. The first tiebreaker is the number of wins (excluding shootout wins).
In the East division, the Syracuse Crunch and the Binghamton Senators battle for the division title. Each team has three games remaining with the Crunch having a one-point advantage in the division. The magic number for the Crunch to clinch is six points. That can come from points that the Crunch earn along with points that the Senators do not earn. However, since the teams play each other for their last game of the season, that will likely be the deciding factor for the division winner.
The leading contenders in the Eastern Conference for the remaining three playoff spots are the Portland Pirates, the Norfolk Admirals, and the Connecticut Whale. The Pirates are the most likely to be the next team to clinch in the conference. On Friday, the Pirates can clinch the spot with a point in their game, or any kind of loss by Manchester or Connecticut, or a regulation loss by Norfolk. The spots will take a little bit more to claim for Norfolk and Connecticut. Each of them has a magic number of 5. They need to earn wins while the other teams not mathematically eliminated (Manchester, Hershey, and Bridgeport) need to lose games.
In the Western Conference…
The Texas Stars are leading their conference and can lock in the conference title Friday. If they get at least a point, regardless of what else happens, they win the conference. But, if the Stars do not earn at least a point in their game Friday, they just need to see the Toronto Marlies earn no more than a point in their game.
The Marlies are also looking to clinch their division during this final weekend. They currently sit five points ahead of the next team in their division. If the Marlies earn just a point in their game on Friday, they seal the division no matter what happens with the Rochester Americans who sit second in the North Division.
In the Midwest division, the Grand Rapids Griffins are five points ahead of the next team in the division, the Milwaukee Admirals. With a win on Friday, the Griffins will seal their division. The Griffins have three games over the final weekend to clinch their division title.
There are four spots left up for grabs in the Western Conference. The Houston Aeros and Rochester Americans look to both clinch spots on Friday. The Aeros are in their last season in Houston, as announced by the AHL today, and can clinch the playoff spot easiest with a win against the Texas Stars on Friday. However, if they lose, they could still clinch a spot with losses from Rockford and Chicago. The Americans can also clinch a spot most easily if they win their game against the Toronto Marlies. But, they can also clinch their spot with losses by Rockford and Chicago on Friday.
The other two spots in the Western Conference look like the Oklahoma City Barons and the Milwaukee Admirals could claim them. While the Milwaukee Admirals will not have a chance to seal their postseason on Friday, Oklahoma City has a chance with a lot of help. Once again, they would require losses by Rockford and Chicago on Friday night in addition to the Barons beating Abbotsford. But if all of that does not happen, the Barons have two more games to clinch their spot. The Milwaukee Admirals have a magic number of 5 in order to earn a playoff berth, but have three games over the weekend in which to do so.
It is an exciting time of the year for those teams who are fighting for a playoff spot. This might be the last weekend of the regular season, but the playoffs will start up the following weekend. The Pink Puck will be following the AHL playoffs and all the match ups all the way to the Calder Cup Finals.