NHL Prospects

Calder Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference second round previews

The AHL’s second round playoff series start tonight with Eastern Conference battles in Toronto and Hershey, as the four teams battle for the Calder Cup.

Here is a series-by-series breakdown of the remaining Eastern Conference series.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins vs. Hershey Bears

While the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are meeting in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the team’s AHL affiliates open a second-round Calder Cup Playoff Series this evening.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are well rested after a first-round sweep against the Providence Bruins. The Penguins waited 11 days for the second round to start after they played three overtime games in a span of four days.

The Penguins will certainly be well rested, but how much rust will they have to knock off after a long layoff?

On the other end the Hershey Bears just finished their first-round tilt with the Portland Pirates this past Sunday with a 2-1 victory in Game 5. While the Penguins will be trying to get back into a groove after an extended layoff, the Bears will try and build off momentum gained from back-to-back wins in the past week.

September 24, 2014: Washington Capitals’ Jakub Vrana (64). Photographer: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire

Rookie Jakub Vrana has been a playoff catalyst for the Bears after he had five points (two goals, three assists) in the first round against Portland. AHL MVP Chris Bourque only had three points (one goal, two assists) in the first round, but had strong showings this season against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Jake Guentzel was dominant for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the first round. The rookie center had seven points (three goals, four assists) in three games, including the series-clinching goal in double overtime.

Carter Rowney and Daniel Spring also had impressive first round performances with five and four points, respectively.

Casey DeSmith started all three games in goal for the Penguins and posted a 0.930 save percentage. Hershey is relying on veteran Justin Peters who started four games and posted a 0.966 save percentage.

Toronto Marlies vs. Albany Devils

Based on regular season results, you could make a case that this is a de facto Eastern Conference championship. The Toronto Marlies had the AHL’s best record in the regular season while the Albany Devils finished third in the league based on points percentage.

And both teams are rolling after first-round victories.

Toronto swept away the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and scored 13 goals in three games. Defenseman Connor Carrick was an offensive catalyst from the blue line and had seven points (three goals, four assists) in the sweep.

That was the top showing on a team that had 10 players register at least two points in the series.

The Marlies rotated goalies in the first round, while Garret Sparks picked up two of the three wins after relieving Antoine Bibeau in Game 3.

Albany needed four games to oust the Utica Comets in Round 1 and were led by Reid Boucher’s six points (three goals, three assists) in the series. Albany also picked up a boost from rookie Blake Pietila in Game 4 who returned from injury and had two goals and two assists.

The Devils turned to Scott Wedgewood in goal in the first round and he performed well with a 1.93 goals against average and 0.922 save percentage.

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