The match-ups in the East have been set and it’s fair to say there was more than one surprise to the teams moving on to the second round. In fact, the first three seeds in the East all fell to their lower seeded opponents, making the St. John’s IceCaps the highest seeded team left standing in the second round.
The second round match-ups are as follows:
St. John’s IceCaps vs. Norfolk Admirals
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins vs. Providence Bruins
IceCaps vs. Admirals
The IceCaps are coming off an impressive series and seem to be doing all of the right things. Goaltender Michael Hutchinson has returned from his time in the NHL with amazing confidence. He got his first taste of NHL action and really impressed. In the 4 games against the Albany Devils, Hutchinson posted a 1.51 GAA (third in the postseason) and a .952 save percentage (second behind Marlies’ Drew MacIntyre who has a .955). They have also had some great veteran leadership from players like Andrew Gordon, who had a hat trick in Game 4 to lift the IceCaps past the Devils and into the Second Round.
The 8th seeded Admirals pulled off an impressive upset over the top seeded Manchester Monarchs to advance to the next round. Like St. John’s, Norfolk had outstanding goaltending. A rookie, John Gibson has numbers close to that of Hutchinson and completely stumped the Monarchs at times during the opening round. Norfolk has also had a lot of help from forward Max Sauve. Sauve, a former Bruins draft pick, only dressed 47 games during the regular season and did not put up impressive numbers. He missed the first game of the series against the Monarchs but was definitely visible in games 3 and 4. He had the only goal in the third game, winning it for the Admirals in OT, and then had the game winner in the fourth game in the third period to send his team to the next round.
Like the first series for the Admirals, this has the potential to be a series highlighted by incredible goaltending. Both goalies have similar statistics and it will be interesting to see how the opposite team responds. Additionally, both of these teams have a good core of veteran players with a wealth of playoff experience. This will be the first time the two teams meet this season. However, Sauve and Norfolk’s captain, Garnet Exelby, played with Hutchinson last season on the Providence Bruins.
The full schedule for this series has not yet been released.
Penguins vs. Bruins
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins topped their division rivals, the Binghamton Senators, in the first round to move on. The two teams matched up in the first round last season as well, with Binghamton being the higher seeded team in that case as well. This year, Binghamton managed to take one game, but that would not be enough. The first three games were close and in the last game, the Penguins came out swinging. The Penguins scoring is being led by veterans Chuck Kobasew and Andrew Ebbett. Between the pair of them, they have skated in 801 regular season games and 63 playoff games in the NHL. They certainly knew when to come up big for the Penguins so far and neither seems to be letting playing in the AHL slow them down.
The Providence Bruins upset the second seeded Springfield Falcons in the only series in the East to go a full five games. The series featured two overtimes games to start it off before the Bruins outscored the Falcons 12-6 in the final two games. The Bruins have definitely shown one thing: they can score. Their 18 goals so far are the most by any of the teams that made the postseason. Those 18 goals have come from 8 different skaters. Matt Fraser, a new addition to the black and gold this season, leads the way with 3 goals. From the end of the season through the first series, Fraser has come up big when he’s needed to.
This is the second straight year that these two teams will meet in the second round. Last season, the Bruins came into it with the best record in the league while the Penguins were the fifth seed. This season, the Penguins actually have home-ice advantage even though they came in as the sixth seed because the Bruins came in at seventh. The two teams are likely to remember what happened last season. For Providence, they aren’t fond memories. The Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 series lead before the Penguins came back to win the next four and take the series. The two teams met four times during the regular season this year and Providence came out on top 3 of those times.
The schedule for this series can be found here.