Down The Stretch: AHL Postseason Push 3/7

Friday, March 7, 2014
The Rochester Americans currently sit 7th in the Western Conference and will look for the four guys pictured above to carry them into the postseason. (from left to right: Chad Ruhwedel, Joel Armia, Rasmus Ristolainen and Johan Larsson)

Editors Note: Just like the "Highland Park Hockey Morning Skate" feature, which recaps the previous night's AHL action and provides a look ahead at the upcoming schedule of games, I'm going to have a new weekly/bi-weekly update on the AHL postseason races in both conference's heading down the stretch.

With about 20 games left for most teams in the American Hockey League (AHL), it's never too early to be looking at the standings to see where the teams are shaking out in early March. Both conferences have some pretty interesting playoff races going on right now and there could be several playoff spots on the line heading into the final weekend of the season in mid-April.

Eastern Conference Standings

*1. Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles) - 16 games remaining, 80 points
*2. Springfield Falcons (Columbus) - 19 games remaining, 74 points
*3. Binghamton Senators (Ottawa) - 20 games remaining, 70 points
4. St. John's IceCaps (Winnipeg) - 19 games remaining, 72 points
5. Norfolk Admirals (Anaheim) - 19 games remaining, 70 points
6. Providence Bruins (Boston) - 18 games remaining, 69 points
7. Albany Devils (New Jersey) - 20 games remaining, 67 points
8. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh) - 19 games remaining, 67 points
9. Hershey Bears (Washington) - 19 games remaining, 65 points
10. Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NY Islanders) - 19 games remaining, 57 points
11. Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay) - 21 games remaining, 53 points
12. Adirondack Phantoms (Philadelphia) - 21 games remaining, 52 points
13. Worcester Sharks (San Jose) - 21 games remaining, 52 points
14. Hartford Wolfpack (NY Rangers) - 20 games remaining, 52 points
15. Portland Pirates (Phoenix) - 20 games remaining, 51 points

Mathematically, every team still has a chance to qualify for the postseason, but in the Eastern Conference the main pack is appears for now to be a 10-team race with a few teams on the outside looking in.

The East Division, home to Binghamton, Norfolk, the Penguins, Hershey and Syracuse have four teams in the top nine, while last place Syracuse remains 14 points out of a playoff spot entering this weekend's games. This division has often represented the conference in the Calder Cup Finals in recent years, and you can see why with the competition amongst themselves during the regular season.

Manchester and Springfield continue to carry the lead in their respective divisions, the Atlantic and the Northeast, but a few teams outside the top eight right now (such as Adirondack, Syracuse and Hartford) can close the gap and make things very interesting if they get hot at the right time.

Western Conference Standings 

*1. Texas Stars (Dallas) - 17 games remaining, 78 points
*2. Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit) - 18 games remaining, 77 points
*3. Toronto Marlies (Toronto) - 21 games remaining, 70 points
4. Abbotsford Heat (Calgary) - 17 games remaining, 73 points
5. Chicago Wolves (St. Louis) - 19 games remaining, 72 points
6. Rockford IceHogs (Chicago) - 16 games remaining, 68 points
7. Rochester Americans (Buffalo) - 20 games remaining, 64 points
8. Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville) - 20 games remaining, 62 points
9. Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton) - 18 games remaining, 60 points
10. Charlotte Checkers (Carolina) - 20 games remaining, 57 points
11. San Antonio Rampage (Florida) - 20 games remaining, 56 points
12. Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal) - 21 games remaining, 55 points
13. Utica Comets (Vancouver) - 19 games remaining, 55 points
14. Iowa Wild (Minnesota) - 20 games remaining, 54 points
15. Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado) - 21 games remaining, 52 points

The Western Conference division leaders all have a nice cushion over their divisional counterparts, but even last place Lake Erie is just 10 points out of a playoff spot with one game in hand on eighth place Milwaukee. The battle for the 4-8 seeds in the West is wide open.

The offensive firepower in the Conference is led by the likes of the Texas Stars and Abbotsford Heat, but Grand Rapids, Toronto and Chicago all play a defense first, low scoring kind of game that will bode well for them in the postseason. 

Could the Utica Comets, who started the season win-less in their first nine games as an AHL franchise, make a late push to get into the postseason? San Antonio has closed the gap to six points with a record of 7-3-0-0 in their last ten games and is also another team looking to make the postseason potential field a little larger heading into the final six weeks of the season.


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