Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is the East Division the best in the AHL?

First lets cover last nights game.  Hershey responded to their lacking performance from Sunday with a significant 2-1 victory over the hosting Norfolk Admirals.

It was Hershey's 3rd victory (in 3 tries) over the division rivals this season.

And they did it with only 5 defensemen dressed.  Patrick McNeill received his first NHL call up earlier in the day and left Norfolk for Anaheim prior to the game.  He will be with Washington as long as Mike Green is listed as questionable or day to day. 

Josh Godfrey was recalled from South Carolina to take his place but he did not arrive in time to play in the game. 

So the Bears went with 13 forwards and 5 defensemen.  And it worked.

Sean Collins picked up his 4th of the season late in the first period and Keith Aucoin added the game winner, his 15th of the year, with only 18 seconds to play in the 2nd period.

Todd Ford stopped 29 shots.  The penalty kill killed off 4 power plays.  And the team limited one of the AHL's top scoring teams (and top shooting teams) to only 1 goal and 30 shots.

Hershey is now 15-3-1-2 overall when being out shot by the opponent.  That is a pretty impressive stat if you think about it.  It says a lot about how well the defense and goaltending has been this season.

Next up is yet another 3 in 3 this weekend.  A trip up to Rochester on Friday followed by home games against Bridgeport and Charlotte on Saturday/Sunday.

More on that later this week.


Last night while watching and listening to the game I heard John Walton talk about how strong the East Division is.  I have been meaning to look into this for a while just to see how good the division is for a while. 

Looking at the standings and the stats you would think the East Division must be pretty good.

Wilkes-Barre is #1 in the league overall while Hershey is #2.  After that you have respectable teams in Charlotte (66 points, 9th overall), Norfolk (65 points, 10th), and Binghamton (62 points, 14th). 

Those 5 teams are also in the top 8 in goals per game.  And 4 of them are in the top 12 in goals allowed per game (Charlotte is 23rd). 

Everything looks good.  Then you consider the bottom three teams in the division.  Albany, Syracuse, and Adirondack.  They are the 3 worst teams in the league by points and winning percentage.

That really brings down the division a bit, don't you think.

Also consider the other divisions and their competitive balance.

The North Division sees Manitoba in 1st with 64 points and Toronto in 5th with 59 points.  Sure 4 of the East division teams would lead that division but they have played a better overall schedule.

Now the West Division.  Houston leads with 68 points.  Chicago sits in 7th with 60 points.  8 points separates the top 7 (of 8) in the division. 

Hershey trails Wilkes-Barre by 10 and they are in 2nd.

Okay but maybe the top part of the East Division is just that good.  Maybe they are beating up on everyone else including their lowly East Division brethren.

Partially.  Overall the top 5 in the East Division are 35-16-4-3 against the Atlantic division and 16-7-1-3 against the North Division.  (None of the top 5 have played a West Division opponent this season).

But that is only part of the story.  Consider that neither Charlotte nor Norfolk have (or will) play anyone outside of the Eastern Conference this season.  **By the ridiculous is that?  Honestly, look at their schedules.  Charlotte will have played 28 against the Atlantic Division and Norfolk 24 against the Atlantic...and NONE against the North or West Division.  Balanced?  I think not.**

And consider that 9 of those 16 wins against the North have come against last place Rochester.  And 19 of the Atlantic wins have come against Springfield, Providence, and Bridgeport...the current bottom dwellers of the division. 

That means that only 7 of the wins against the North division have come against the top 6 teams in that division.  And only about half the big 5's wins over the Atlantic have come against the top 5 in that division.

So is the East the best division in the AHL?

I would argue no.  Sure they are probably better than the Atlantic but I would say that both the North and West divisions are better overall than the East.

But at the end of the season only one thing matters.

The best of the East vs the best of the West.

And the East has won the past 2!! 

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