First let's dive into the multiple playoff scenarios and figure out what we, as Bears fans, should want for our team.
As it stands right now Hershey and Wilkes-Barre have clinched playoff spots. But for the sake of argument we are going to assume that Norfolk, Charlotte, and Binghamton have also clinched. While that isn't entirely true right now it is almost a certainty that all 3 will be playoff bound by the time next weekend rolls around.
Technically Charlotte needs 1 point to clinch, Norfolk needs 5, and Bingo needs 6. But who's counting.
So who would Hershey rather see in the first round?
Obviously the answer is not Wilkes-Barre. If Hershey were to fall to the 4th spot in the East I think we can all agree...that would not be good.
That still leaves 3 teams Hershey could theoretically face in the 1st round. **Technically there are still 5 teams as if Hershey were to fall to 5th they would face the Atlantic winner but we are going to assume that Hershey is not going to begin a standings free fall with only 10 days to go in the season.**
How has Hershey fared against the choices to date?
Based on that you would say either Norfolk or Binghamton. But Hershey hasn't seen Binghamton lately and Norfolk has beaten Hershey in 2 of the last 3 meetings.
Hershey hasn't seen Bingo since February 12, 2011 when they lost at home 4-3. And I can promise you that this is a different Senators team then Hershey saw then. Since that game they are 13-7-0-1 which includes a current 5 game winning streak during which they have scored 21 goals and allowed only 8.
It is a tough choice to be honest. All of the teams are solid at home and on the road. All are in the top 5 in goals scored per game (Hershey is 7th). And all are average (13th, 15th, 17th) in goals allowed per game.
None of the teams truly stand out as easier than another.
Which is a scary thought when you think about it. You have 5 teams in the East Division that are probably legitimate challengers for the Calder Cup. 5.
And then you also have 3 teams that are as bad as any other in the league.
But back to the task at hand...who would Hershey rather face.
Honestly I would have to say Norfolk but I would love to see the next 2 games before committing to that pick. My reasons are this...
1. Hershey has had more success against the Admirals this year then the others AND there is a decent possibility that Norfolk could lose a player to the Lightning come playoff time.
2. Binghamton is hot right now and they will be getting 66 goals and 84 assists back come playoff time as 6 players will be returning from Ottawa once the NHL season ends...including Bobby Butler and Zack Smith.
3. Charlotte has given Hershey the most trouble this year. Although without Jerome Samson, who does not appear on their clear day list, they are likely more beatable.
In the end I would say (at this point) Hershey would be better off facing Norfolk with Charlotte my next choice IF the Ads should win the 2 games this weekend (which they won't) and then Binghamton as a last resort.
Personally I would like to see Hershey face Norfolk, Charlotte fall to 5th and face the Atlantic champ with Binghamton facing off against Wilkes-Barre. Because nothing would make me happier than a Bears first round victory and the Baby Pens being upset in their series.
But there are still 5 games to play and Hershey gets to decide their own destination. Win and you get home ice...lose and all bets are off.