Albany Devils: Calder Cup Contenders?

Yes, yes they are. The Albany Devils (the New Jersey Devils’ AHL affiliate) officially clinched a spot in the playoffs last night with a 6-3 win over the Hartford (and a 7-2 Utica loss to Syracuse). They have made the playoffs three of the last four years, and will either play Toronto or Syracuse depending on where they finish in the division; if they remain the way they are, Albany will play Syracuse. They currently have a 38-31-2-3 record (81 points, .547 win percentage) with two games left. They will play Rochester tomorrow night and Saturday to close out the regular season.

Surprisingly enough, the team has 11 active rookies, including both goaltenders, who made their debuts this season and a good number of them spent time in New Jersey. John Quenneville, Blake Coleman, Nick Lappin, Kevin Rooney, Miles Wood, and Steven Santini all had time with the Devils (Wood and Santini more significantly so) but other rookies include Jan Mandat, Josh Jacobs, Austin Cangelosi, and goalies Mackenzie Blackwood and Ken Appleby.

Quenneville leads the team with 46 points (14 goals, 32 assists) in 58 games played; he got off to a slow start, as did buddy Joe Blandisi, but both found their grooves and were named AHL All-Stars (no one attended the game because of a stomach bug). Blandisi had seven goals and 16 assists (23) in just 29 games played; he spent a good portion of his season up in New Jersey.

Ben Sexton leads the team in goals with 19 but could reach 20 before the end of the season, as can Coleman (18) and possibly Blake Pietila (17). Quenneville has a team-leading 32 assists; Carter Camper has 27. Andrew MacWilliam has 100 PIM (!) while late NJ call-up has 88. Quenneville and Vojtech Mozik have nine power play goals apiece and Kevin Rooney has 4 (!) shorthanded goals to lead the team.

With goaltender Scott Wedgewood injured and out for the whole year, Blackwood and Appleby have really stepped up and led the team. Appleby even got a call up to the NHL to backup Cory Schneider for a game. Blackwood holds a 16-14-4 record with a 2.63 GAA, a .905 save %, and a pair of shutouts; Appleby has a 17-13-1 record with a 2.55 GAA and also a .905 save %. Both have split time in Albany, with Blackwood playing just four more games.

The Devils have been pretty good overall, even with their roster being decimated by New Jersey throughout the season. As of today, they have the 14th-ranked power play at 18.3% and the 6th-ranked penalty kill at 84%. They have scored 56 power play goals but have allowed 11 shorthanded and they have scored 10 of their own. The Devils have the 8th best power play at home (22.9%) but just the 16th best penalty kill (83%); in contrast, they have one of the worst (25th) power plays on the road (just 13.4%) but the 3rd best penalty kill at 85%.

A lot of new faces will get to play in the postseason for the first time; hopefully this year goes a lot better than last year’s. They defeated Utica in three games in the North Division semifinals but fell in seven games to divisional rival Toronto. It was a great series but the Marlies ultimately came out on top. A rematch this season would not be unlikely.

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