A little change in format, hope you'll bear with me. Each week during the season I've put together some statistics, some individual numbers where possible to help chart the leaders and up-and-comers within the organization. This week, I'm being selfish. I'm not going to spend the time to match statistics to a player or even the team, because, at this point, none of it matters. Sami Vatanen and his 45 points being third among defensemen and ninth among rookies. Patrick Maroon and his 25 goals, 24 assists, and 49 points. Frederik Andersen with a 2.18 goals against average .930 save percentage, four shut outs and 24 wins. It all means nothing if the Admirals can't put together two wins Saturday and Sunday.
Going in to Friday's game against the Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning), the Admirals were sitting in seventh place in the AHL, tied with the Connecticut Whale (New York Rangers) and sitting two points ahead of the Manchester Monarchs (LA Kings) and the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals). If Norfolk could take five points out of the weekend, they'd be assured of a playoff spot regardless of how the other three teams did. The Admirals have been watching the standings now for weeks, so this weekend was nothing new. It was all in their hands.
Then, Friday night, the Admirals dropped a 6-1 stinker to Syracuse, with Andersen getting pulled after one period after letting in three goals (as I've said before, where Andersen goes, so go the Admirals). Connecticut lost, but Manchester and Hershey won. Saturday morning the AHL woke to a four-way tie for seventh place, with four teams each with 79 points. It's now a nightmare scenario for Norfolk. If they would have won on Friday, there could have been a "little" bit of wiggle room, but with the pressure more on the other three teams than the Admirals, forcing them to have to get the wins to keep up. As it stands now, it's win or go home.
Norfolk needs four points, or wins both nights against the Albany Devils (New Jersey Devils) and the Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins) who, as luck would have it, are the best team in the AHL. Manchester and Hersey, who also have two games left this weekend, play each other on Sunday, meaning only one of them can pick-up the four points while the other can grab three points if they can force OT in that game. Connecticut has just one more game to play on Saturday, and with a win would bring their point total to 81.
I mentioned the Bears and Monarchs, with the match-up they have on Sunday and only one team able to get a max of three points. Unfortunately, that doesn't do anything for Norfolk. If the Admirals are able to get three points out of the four games, they would tie Connecticut and either Hershey/Manchester. In that case, the tie breaker of regulation/overtime wins would then come in to effect, in which case Norfolk would lose to all three teams.
From the AHL's website (www.theahlcom):
"Norfolk clinches a playoff berth on Saturday with: (a) a win at Albany AND a Connecticut loss (reg/OT/SO) at Portland (Phoenix Coyotes) AND a Manchester regulation loss at W-B/Scranton AND a Hershey regulation loss at Binghamton (Ottawa Senators)"
While this is just one possible scenario of many, the only people it should matter to are numbers nerds, or those fans who insist on making "My team is still in it, they can still make it" type of arguments. It's true for Norfolk. They are still in it, they can still make the playoffs, and they do, for all intents and purposes, still hold their destiny in their own hands. Now it's up to the players to win with the hand destiny dealt them. Forget the scenarios, forget doing their best. There are no excuses, there are no statistics, there are no trends, there is no history. There is only two games, there is only four points. There is nothing else.
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