Well, the Devils get the rematch they (we) wanted. The Albany Devils (39-32-2-3) will take on the Toronto Marlies (42-29-4-1) in the first round of the AHL playoffs, a rematch of last year’s North Division Round 2 matchup. The Devils would have played the Syracuse Crunch but because the Crunch won on Saturday, they clinch the North Division title and will play the #4 seed (St. John’s Ice Caps) while the Devils (#3 seed) play the Marlies (#2 seed). Just six points separate the two teams in the standings.
John Quenneville is the Devils’ leading scorer, tallying 14 goals and 32 assists in 58 games played. Blake Coleman and Ben Sexton lead the team with 19 goals apiece. Quenneville and Vojtech Mozik have nine power play goals each this season; Kevin Rooney has four shorthanded.
The Devils got so much-needed roster help with the additions of Joseph Blandisi, Miles Wood, Steven Santini, and other AHL-ers who spent a significant amount of time playing in New Jersey. The Devils also reassigned forward Blake Speers and defenseman Colton White from Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) to Albany (AHL); the Greyhounds were officially eliminated from the OHL playoffs in a Game 6 loss to the Owen Sound Attack on Sunday. Devils prospects Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian are still in, however, as the Mississauga Steelheads will take on the Peterborough Petes in the Eastern Conference Final. The Steelheads finished second in the conference (Peterborough finished first) so this should be an exciting matchup as well.
Kerby Rychel leads the Marlies with 52 points (19 G, 33 A) and 11 power play goals; Toronto’s active leading goal-scorer is Andreas Johnsson with 20 (Byron Froese had 24 but is out with an injury). Cal O’Reilly has 41 assists on the year, but only 8 of those are with the Marlies (he was with the Amerks earlier this season).
The two teams have met eight times this year but have not played each other since February 12th, a 6-2 loss for the Devils in Toronto. Albany does have a slight edge in the season series; they went 5-3-0 against the Marlies this season, with overtime and shootout wins. The Devils were shutout just once, in their initial meeting of the season back in October on home ice, 3-0. They won three of four games at home, and split the season series in Toronto (2-2-0).
Toronto has one of the league’s best power plays, sitting 4th at 22.3%; the Devils are 15th at 17.9%. However, the Devils have a much better penalty kill (6th) at 84% while the Marlies are just 81.8% successful (17th). The Marlies have the 6th best power play at home (23.5%) while the Devils sit just two spots below at 22.5%; the Marlies also have a much better penalty kill at home. The Devils’ penalty kill on the road is much better at 84.5% (good for 4th in the league) while the Marlies sit at 23rd (just 78.7%).
Those home numbers are very important; the Devils play the first two games of the series at the Times Union Center but the remaining three will be played in Toronto. The playoff series is as follows:
Thursday, April 20 vs Toronto, 7PM
Saturday, April 22 vs Toronto, 5PM
Wednesday April 26 @ Toronto, 7PM
Friday April 28 @ Toronto, 7PM
Saturday April 29 @ Toronto, 7PM
If last year’s playoff series between the two is any indication, this series will go to a Game 5; they went a full seven games last season. The Devils advanced to the second round after defeating the Utica Comets in four games; their series with the Marlies was a hard, well-fought one but they fell 4-3 in Game 7. Both teams played incredibly well and three games were decided by a single goal (one was an overtime win for Albany in Game 3). The Marlies would eventually go on to lose to the Hershey Bears, four games to one.
It will be another display of some great hockey between two teams who look young and poised to make a deep run; hopefully the Devils can come out on top.