San Diego defeated San Jose in four games and were the first team from the Western Conference to advance. They had a rough start to their Calder Cup run, dropping game two at home and failing to score first in every single game of the series. In the end, it was their resiliency and combined team effort that proved too much for the Barracuda, as the Gulls took games three and four in San Jose while finally showing some consistent team chemistry in the series clincher.
It was a week-long wait but the Gulls now know they will be facing the division-winning Bakersfield Condors in round two for the right to represent the Pacific Division in the Conference Finals.
The Condors wrapped up their series against the Eagles in four games also, winning one on the road in game one and closing it at home with ease in back to back 5-2 wins.
Know Thy Enemy
The Gulls won the regular season ten game series with the Condors six games to four.
- Half of those wins were at home and the other half in Bakersfield, two of which required overtime.
- The Condors split their wins also, two at home and two in San Diego.
- Of the six San Diego victories, only one was by more than a goal.
- Bakersfield blew out the Gulls twice by scores of 7-1 and 6-2, respectively.
- Bakersfield outscored San Diego 35 to 31 in the regular season series.
- San Diego scored more four goals than Bakersfield in the first round.
The Condors are lead by AHL veteran Brad Malone with 5 points in 4 games. Evan Bouchard, who joined the team part way through the first round, has jumped into a tie for second on the team in scoring. The 10th overall pick last year has 4 points in just 2 games so far. Third-year pro Patrick Russel also has four points followed by Evan Polei, Esposito (Quiero respirar tu cuello despacito), Lagesson and Lowe all with 3 points.
Both teams have a relatively even spread of scoring in the postseason thus far, though I would give the edge to San Diego given they have two six point scorers and four players with four points.
In net the Gulls allowed a total 334 shots and their goaltenders made 302 saves over the 10 game stretch. An average of 33.4 shots per game, Glass and Boyle participated in one of those blow out games each. Overall Glass has the slightly better save percentage over the season series with 887, while Boyle earned 970 SV% performances in two of this four wins against the Condors. Given Glass has been the hotter hand of late, however, I believe Eakins will still give him the nod to start. Knowing that Boyle has posted the better individual game numbers over the season series against Bakersfield is something to keep in mind though should Glass falter.
Who To Watch
As previously mentioned, 10th overall pick Evan Bouchard joined the Condors as his London Knights were eliminated in seven games by the Guelph Storm. He was highly touted heading into last years draft as an intelligent all-around defencemen with great poise and offensive awareness. In just two games he is already tied for the lead among blue liners with fellow rookie Rasmus Sundin of the Marlies. Given that after he joined the Condors they went from splitting their first two games by just one goal to comfortably stacking up 5-2 wins, it is safe to say he is providing a significant difference to their line-up. If San Diego wants to have a chance in this series they are going to need to play a tight man-to-man game on him.
Summer of Sam
Meanwhile for the Gulls, a first round pick of their own is quietly proving himself to be a big-game player. Sam Steel is tied for the lead in team scoring with Sam Carrick and leads all rookies in postseason points with six in four games. He is tied for 2nd overall in scoring with five other players including Carrick.
Max Jones left at the end of the 2nd period of the series clinching game on Wednesday and we have not received an update to his status since. As I mentioned in the game’s recap, it sounded like he went into a bench-side scrum but possibly tripped on his own or another players stick and fell awkwardly. He left the ice being unable to put any weight on his right leg, but a fan noted that they saw him drive on Friday, so that is a positive sign. Eric Stephens reported that he would be evaluated and would have an update forthcoming when the Gulls next practiced. Speaking of Stephens, he wrote a very good piece on Dallas Eakins. If you have time to read anything this week, I would recommend checking it out.
Dotchin was not in the line up for games three and four but I did not see what caused him to miss time and I cannot speculate much further than that.
Roy has now been out since March 23rd with presumably some form of leg injury. Given the lack of updates, we can only assume he will magically appear in the line-up this coming weekend with never a word spoken as to what it actually was that kept him out.
Terry was given a 6-9 week timeline from March 29th, next Friday the 10th of May would be the sixth week. Depending on how he is progressing, he could be back a lot sooner than expected.
Similarly to Roy, we have not really had any sort of update or word on Guhle since he left the game during the Ducks regular season finale on April 5th. The second year pro would be a key secret weapon if he surfaces before the second round starts.
The lines are looking like this with the assumption Jones is good to go for the second round.
Black Aces Update
Max Comtois, Antoine Morand, and Bo Groulx have been locked in a semi-final series that has now stretched to a sixth game with Comtois’ Voltiguers attempting a fightback from a 3-1 deficit.
UPDATE: Halifax won game 6 today, Max Comtois has been eliminated.
The timing of the Jones injury could not have been worse, but it’s not all bad news. Comtois could be joining the Gulls before the second round starts and his scoring touch would fit in nicely with the Gulls. He might not fill the void that Jones left, but he would go a long way toward helping. He has 15 points in 15 games including 2 game winners.
Morand has quietly had a very good postseason. He has 15 points albeit in one more game than Comtois, but he also matches his childhood friend for game winning tallies. It is only fitting that the two 2017 second round picks are tied in scoring but doing it in different ways. Comtois has 11 goals (tied for 2nd overall in the playoffs) whereas Morand has just the 5, but the smaller center also has ten assists.
Groulx has finally returned from his bout of mono and has done so with aplomb, contributing three assists in three games including helpers on both Halifax goals in the 6-2 loss in Game 5.
Round two starts in Bakersfield and will follow a 2-2-1-1-1 format, where the first two games are in Bakersfield, followed by two in San Diego, and then alternating back and forth from there.