Sorry about the blog being so late today for all of you regular readers. It wasn’t a good morning time wise. I had a bike problem this morning and couldn’t drop it off at Trek until 10:00. Has a doctor appointment (blood labs) at 9:00. Had a few extra minutes before the bike shop opened so stopped by the rink for pregame skate, which I usually don’t do and stayed way too long. Two reasons I stayed late at the rink. First, I had a chance to meet Justin Young’s grandfather, Mac McIntyre, who is in Allen for the first time to watch his grandson play. He is from Edmonton and played a big role in Justin’s early hockey development. It is always great when family and friends from near and far can come to Allen for the playoffs. Secondly, I had the chance to observe the coaches getting ready for the game tonight. Gary Steffes is in town for the two home games and to see the collaborative between the coaches is inspiring. So it was noon by the time I got back home to finish the blog and to top[ it off my lovely proofreader (aka wife Nancy) is in Minnesota visiting friend and family so I apologize upfront for all the errors today.
The second round of the Kelly Cup playoffs get underway tonight, and the eight division finalist teams will be trimmed to the final four in the next 13 days. Two of the series start tonight with Idaho at Allen and Toledo at Cincinnati. The winners of these series will meet for the Western Conference championship which will take place between May 19-31.
– It is well documented how far Allen has come this season from last place at the end of December to what I call the elite eight in the Kelly Cup playoffs. It is also well documented Allen’s opponent in the division finals, Idaho, had the best regular season in the history of the ECHL including an 0-8-0-0 record against Allen. However, there is nobody in the Allen locker room doesn’t think the Americans can win this series against Idaho.
– Here is my stats case why Allen is a better team in the playoffs and Idaho is not as strong as it was in the regular season.
- Idaho did not lose back-to-back games at home the entire regular season, Utah beat them twice at home to start the first round of the playoffs.
- In the regular season Utah’s record against Idaho was 4-13-1-0. In the just completed playoffs Utah’s record was 2-0-4-0.
- In the regular season Idaho scored the most goals (290) and allowed the fewest (153) for a goal differential of +137. In the first round of the playoffs Idaho scored 17 goals and allowed 17 goals.
- In the regular season Allen was ranked #23 is average goals allowed (3.65). In the playoffs Allen is ranked #3 in goals allowed (1.83).
- In the regular season Allen’s team GAA was 3.61 and Idaho’s was 2.08. In the playoffs Allen’s is 1.81 and Idaho’s is 2.08.
- In the regular season Allen’s team save percentage was .900 and Idaho’s was .927. In the playoffs Allen’s team save percentage is .944 and Idaho’s is .901.
– There is no doubt Idaho is the favorite in this series despite the numbers above. However, if Idaho thinks it will be getting the team the Steelheads beat eight straight times in the regular season they will be in for a rude awakening.– Here is an Allen vs Idaho stats comparison based on the first round of the playoffs. The first number is the rank (among 16 playoff teams).
- Goals per game: Allen #12 (2.00), Idaho #8 (2.83)
- Goals allowed: Allen #3 (1.83), Idaho #9 (2.83)
- Shots for: Allen #10 (31.2), Idaho #1 (38.3)
- Shots against: Allen #11 (32.7), Idaho #4 (28.5)
- PIMS per game: Allen #16 (7.83), Idaho #12 (12.33)
- Power play percentage: Allen #14 (9.1%), Idaho #10 (16.0%)
- Penalty kill percentage: Allen #1 (94.1%), Idaho #13 (79.2%)
– This series will feature two outstanding goaltenders who have been workhorses in the first round. Idaho’s Adam Scheel was runner up for the ECHL Goalie of the Year and led the league (regular season) in save percentage (.932) and GAA (1.97). Allen’s Keven Mandolese had wins in the ECHL, AHL and NHL during the regular season. In three NHL games he had a .916 save percentage. Mandolese played seven regular season games for the Americans, had a record of 5-1-0-0. a GAA of 2.64 and a .927 save percentage. Mandolese and Scheel played every minute of the first round for their teams and that could very likely be the case in this series. Here are their first-round stats.
- Mandolese, 363 minutes played, 1.82 GAA, .944 save percentage.
- Sheel, 366 minutes played, 2.46 GAA, .911 save percentage.
– Scoring first is always a key and you can expect that to continue in this series. In the first round Allen was 3-1 when scoring first and Idaho was 4-0. It is likely overtime will be a factor in this series. Neither team lost in overtime in the first round. Allen was 1-0 and Idaho won four straight overtime games after going down 0-2 in the series.– Maybe the biggest key to this series will be on special teams. Both teams had great power plays in the regular season but struggled in the first round of the playoffs. Allen’s power play improved as the regular season progressed and by the end of the season was ranked #4 at 23.9%. The Americans scored more power play goals than any team in the league (73). The Allen power play went south in the first round of the playoffs scoring just two goals on 22 opportunities for a 9.1% power play percentage. I would expect coach Costello to go back to what worked in the regular season to get the power play going. If the Americans can get the power play back on track, they will have a great chance of winning the series.– As for the Allen lineup tonight, the good news is Colby McAuley will return after missing the last two games. He looked really good at the pregame skate and always is ready when Allen plays Idaho. Ty Farmer will not play tonight because of an injury he suffered in the last game against Kansas City. Also missing tonight is forward Jakov Novak. When Jakov was signed in March, out of Northeastern University, it was with the understanding he would have to return to school at this time so he could take a test that will complete his master’s degree in management. Coach Costello was in full agreement and is 100% supportive of Novak completing his education.– I had the chance to ask coach Costello this morning what this series means to him (rather than the team) as he always focuses on the team rather than himself. Here is what he had to say:“I feel the same way now as when I took this job, it is championship or fail. That is the culture in Allen and that is how I feel going into this series. That is the expectation.”“It doesn’t mean if we don’t win the championship the season is a failure. But it means we will die trying to win the championship and in no way are we satisfied with what we have accomplished thus far.”“I told the guys I am thankful, grateful and feel so lucky because this season has allowed me to coach in these pressure situations and grow as a coach. As a coach I do recognize this is very good for me either way.”“There are so many reasons I want to win. First is the satisfaction of winning. Second, because it is more money for the players (salary and playoff bonus) the longer we play. They players came from all over the place to Allen, Texas and it would be nice to send them home with some money.”“In the end it is an opportunity not to just win but for all of us to grow. Every player is going to find out who they are as a man, who they are as a teammate and who they are as a player. I get to do that as a coach. How do you get game ready in the playoffs without coaching in the playoffs. I am super grateful for the opportunity.”OTHER COMMENTS– Here is a preview of all division finals series issues by the ECHL: https://www.echl.com/en/news/2023/5/preview-of-2023-kelly-cup-playoffs-division-finals– The best offensive and defensive teams in the first round of the playoffs by average goals scored and allowed per game:
- 5.20 – Newfoundland
- 4.25 – Toledo
- 3.83 – Reading
- 1.71 – Fort Wayne
- 1.75 – Toledo
- 1.83 – Allen
DID YOU KNOW: Here are the players with the highest career goals per game average in the postseason in the last 15 ECHL seasons (since 2007-08). Minimum 35 playoff games played, and 20 playoff goals scored. The team listed is the current and/or last ECHL team. A couple of familiar names on this list for Allen fans. Notice Chad Costello is conspicuously absent from this list as his playoff average was .34. That is because Costello was busy setting up Hanson and Steffes. In 65 playoff games for Allen, Chad averaged .91 assists per game and 1.23 points per game..63 – Brandon Hawkins, Toledo.59 – Zach O’Brien, Newfoundland.51 – Greger Hanson, Allen.49 – Kyle Bonis, Toledo.48 – Ryan Hayes, Utah.43 – Gary Steffes, Allen