Tonight marks the end of the regular season for both the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Cyclones. Not the Milwaukee Admirals, though, as they will be facing the Charlotte Checkers tonight and tomorrow at the 11am hour our time. This will be followed by the Admirals returning home for games against the Chicago Wolves and Bakersfield Condors before ending their regular season one week from today on the road against the Rockford IceHogs.
As far as what the Admirals are hunting down in these final games there are a few possibilities:
(1) The thing that will need the most help, and probably winning out, would be bumping the Ontario Reign for the best record in the Western Conference. The Admirals have a 0.669 points percentage to the Reign’s 0.685 point percentage.
(2) The Admirals have five points of wiggle room between themselves and the second placed team in the Central Division the Grand Rapids Griffins. The most points the Griffins can secure by winning out the rest of their season is 100 points. That’s the number to keep an eye on as the Admirals already have 95 points this season. Wins this weekend would put them to 99 points meaning a win on the returning home game Tuesday could clinch the Admirals first divisional title since the 2010-11 season. Any losses for the Griffins only helps that number drop that much more and they will be facing the Wolves tonight after having beaten them last night in a tight 4-3 contest.
(3) As far as the Admirals record goes the last time they reached the 100 points plateau was that West Division Championship season of 2010-11. That season the Admirals secured 102 points but did it back when the AHL held an 80 game season. Other previous seasons in which the Admirals have eclipsed 100 points on a season also game during the 80 game schedule: 102 points (2003-04), 103 points (2004-05), 108 points (2005-06), and 107 points (2008-09).
(4) Another feat that is still a possibility would be if the Admirals could win out the rest of the season to reach 50 wins in a season for the first time in the franchise’s history in the AHL era of the team. The Admirals record right now is 45-21-3-2. The previous high for wins in an AHL season for the Admirals came during the 2005-06 season when they ended just one win shy of 50 wins by ending the 80 season campaign off with a record of 49-21-6-4.
~Checkers or Wreckers~
The Checkers come into this weekend’s games against the Admirals with a record of 36-28-3-5 (80 points). Their 0.556 points percentage has them in fifth place of the Central Division and in eighth place of the Western Conference.
In regards to the upcoming playoff picture the Checkers are putting themselves into a very amusing place. Allow me to explain and expand on why I get a laugh out of all of this because it is a bit choppy and I’m not sure how many realized that the actual playoff format changed this season.
Right now four teams in the Central Division have clinched playoff spots: Admirals, Griffins, Monsters, IceHogs. The Pacific Division, which features Californian teams that are playing eight less games than everyone else during the regular season, features a flex spot in their final season standings that states that if the fifth place team of the Central Division has a higher points percentage than the fourth placed team of the Pacific Division they will supersede the team from the Pacific Division’s place and enter the Calder Cup Playoffs as the fourth seed of the Pacific Division.
The Texas Stars are struggling here and there but it looks like they should be finishing in third place of the Pacific Division. They just haven’t clinched their playoff spot as of yet because the San Jose Barracuda have a near enough points percentage to keep things interesting. The points percentage right now all comes down to this: Checkers (0.556), Barracuda (0.546). If the season ended today the Checkers would supersede the Barracuda and become the Pacific Division’s fourth seed.
Where this all becomes funny, and at the same time maddening for myself, is that the playoff format isn’t about a match up of: #1 vs #8, #2 vs #7, #3 vs #6, #4 vs #5. It doesn’t work that way this season. Instead, the playoff format will see the top team in the division play the fourth team in their division with the second and third place teams pairing up. The winner of the first round faces the winner of their own divisional bracket in the second round before seeing the top two remaining teams from respective divisions clash in the Conference Finals.
Speculation on my part leads me to believe this was another way to cater to Californian teams and the possibility of wild traveling arrangements. Which is hilarious to then think that the Reign could now draw the Checkers as their opening round opponent. That’s a distance of 2,427 miles from Citizens Business Bank Arena to the Bojangles’ Coliseum, a 34-hour car trip, or a 6 hour and 35 minute flight. If points percentage hasn’t been stupid enough for most of this season, if playing less games isn’t a black eye enough for the AHL, then I take that as a small piece of karma. And wouldn’t it be spectacular if the Reign get roughed up in round one due to the games and travel right out the shoot and flame out fast?
~Who What Now?~
Before the Checkers possibly play wreckers to the Reign’s plans they’ll be looking to possibly spoil some of the momentum the Admirals have built up with this current ten-game point streak. They have the squad to do it as well. The Checkers are 5-3-0-2 from their last 10 games and are coming off of a 2-1 regulation loss to the IceHogs that was played Wednesday night in Charlotte.
The Checkers leading scorer this season is not with them at the moment. Derek Ryan has a team best 55 points (23 goals, 32 assists) but he is currently up with the Carolina Hurricanes. This means the second best scorer on the Checkers roster is one that actually did most of his damage for a different team, Andrew Miller. This season for Miller is split between the Condors and Checkers. He totals 44 points (18 goals, 26 assists) from 53 games but has 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists) from 9 games since joining the Checkers.
At the blueline the Checkers have a pair of great offensive minded defensemen, Trevor Carrick and Jake Chelios. Carrick is tied for eighth among AHL defenseman this season for scoring with 40 points (9 goals, 31 assists). Chelios has 30 points (7 goals, 23 assists). Of note, the two combine for a plus/minus rating of -28.
Between the pipes the Checkers have a goaltending duo of John Muse and Daniel Altshuller. Muse returned to his ol’ Checkers team after being part of the Texas Stars for the first half of the season. The splits for Muse returning the Checkers have been alarmingly better for him. With the Stars: 19 games, 3.02 goals against average, and 0.904 save percentage. With the Checkers: 15 games, 1.88 goals against average, and 0.925 save percentage. Needless to say he has been the backbone for the Checkers while the first-year pro Altshuller continues to have spotty performances after a high quality start to his AHL career.
Expectations for these games against the Checkers? Are you excited for the debut of Jack Dougherty? If Dougherty does debut which defenseman sits for the evening? Do you think the Admirals have a chance to win out the rest of the season to earn their first 50 win season?
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