Know Your Opponent: Syracuse Crunch

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Regular Season Notes

43-22-6-5 = 97 points
1st Place East Division
3rd Place Eastern Conference

Leading Scorers: Tyler Johnson (37G, 28A), Brett Connelly (31G, 32A), Ondrej Palat (13G, 39A), Mark Barbiero (8G, 34A), Richard Panik (22G, 19A)

The Syracuse Crunch won the East Division title this season and entered the playoffs as the number three seed in the East. After first and second round sweeps, the Crunch are cruising into the Conference Finals with some serious confidence. Did I mention they are most of the Norfolk Admirals team from last year that won the Calder Cup?

They are led in goal by Cedric Desjardins who, during the regular season, posted a record of 15-18-3 with both the Hamilton Bulldogs and Syracuse Crunch. Since being acquired by the Crunch, he's gone 8-5-1 with three shutouts, 2.12 GAA and a .918 SV%. In the playoffs, Desjardins has been just as impressive, going 7-0 with one shutout, 2.02 GAA and .916 SV%.

On defense, the Crunch have been playing seven defenseman. Radko Gudas and former Penguin J.P. Cote are physical stay-at-home type defenseman while Matt Taormina and Mark Barbiero are offensively gifted. They have Andrej Sustr, the big 6-8 defenseman who was at Penguins development camp last July. 

Up front, the Crunch have a stellar top line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik. They follow it up with another scoring line that has talented rookie Brett Connolly on it. The shutdown line has the exprienced Mike Angelidis and J.T. Wyman. Not as deep as the Bruins forward core they faced last round, but the top line is just as scary.

The Crunch haven't lost a playoff game this post season. They are, in essence, the defending champions, after Norfolk and Syracuse switched NHL affiliations this past summer. None of the four teams who make the conference finals made it there by mistake. As coach Hynes said after practice Friday, when you're climbing to the top of a mountain, the air gets thinner.

A breakdown of the matchups, a look at the Eastern Conference finals and I'll embarrass myself with another prediction after the jump.


The Crunch have a potent top line, some grind it out type forwards and the playoff experience from last year's playoff run. They can score goals in a hurry. The Penguins counter with some goal scorers of their own in Chad Kolarik and Trevor Smith. The Pens have more depth, more balance and the better secondary scoring. Edge: Penguins


The Crunch have been using seven defenseman. They have some younger guys on the third pair, but their top four is balanced with a stay at home defenseman paired with a more offensive defenseman. The Penguins seemingly have lost Dylan Reese for at least the start of the series, but they shut down Providence in the final five games without him. Edge: Even


Cedric Desjardins comes in unbeaten in the playoffs with decent numbers. I don't think he's been tested much in the playoffs and I'll be interested to see how he holds u against a more balanced scoring attack from the Penguins. Hard not to go with Brad Thiessen after what he's done the last week. Especially in Game Six last round, Thiessen stood on his head to keep the Penguins hopes for a championship still alive. Edge: Penguins 


The Crunch's power play isn't as dangerous as you probably think it should be with the guys they have out there. Just average numbers in the middle of the pack on the man advantage. The Penguins power play has improved and their penalty kill has been as solid as ever. Edge: Even


The Crunch are the majority of the team that won it all last year. They've cruised past Portland and Springfield to get to the final four and they're eying a return to the Calder Cup. The Penguins stand in the way. The Penguins never say die mentality allowed them to make history, coming back from a 3-0 series deficit last round and winning Games Six and Seven on the road. Anything can happen. The Crunch come in undefeated in the postseason and the Penguins have won four straight in an emotional 2nd round series.

Prediction: Penguins in Seven, but not if they go down 3-0 in the series for a second straight round.


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