So this is what it Feels Like to Win a Playoff Series…

The last time it happened was Game Seven, Atlantic Division Semifinals vs. Manchester, April 29, 2006.  Alex Giroux scored the third-period game-winner and had an assist, Chris Holt stopped 26 out of 27 shots, and Martin Sonnenberg (remember him?) was First Star with a goal and an assist, as the Wolf Pack downed the Monarchs, 2-1, to win what was a wild series.

That was the last playoff series win for the franchise, and it had been five straight postseason disappointments since, before last night’s thrilling 4-3 overtime win over Bridgeport that completed the Whale’s snuffing out of the regular-season division-champion Sound Tigers in three straight games.

Don’t know what the Vegas odds would have been for a Whale sweep going in, but I’d have to think they would have been rather long.

You have to be both good and lucky to win in postseason, and the Whale succeeded on both counts.  They made it awfully hard for Bridgeport to get quality scoring chances, holding the Sound Tigers to only the three goals they got in last night’s Game Three.  Those goals were all of the “greasy”, scrambly variety, rebounds and jam plays that Bridgeport had to work extremely hard to cash in on.  The Sound Tigers had a lot of shots on goal, 83 total in the first two games and 47 in last night’s overtime contest, but I would venture to say that the scoring chances were relatively even.

On the lucky side, raise your hand if you saw Marek Hrivik making a big impact for the Whale in a playoff series when he joined the club on an ATO.  Hrivik had his second straight two-goal game last night and is tied for the league lead in postseason goals.  And Ryan Bourque, with two

Marek Hrivik

goals in the three games against Bridgeport, has already struck for a third of his regular-season goal output.  Consider, too, that the Whale swept the division champions with a total of one point (a Jonathan Audy-Marchessault goal in Game Two) from their top two regular-season scorers, Audy-Marchessault and Kris Newbury.

Of course, the biggest ace in the hole was the play of Cam Talbot, who was less than 16 seconds short of a seventh straight shutout period when Justin DiBenedetto finally scored the Sound Tigers’ first goal of the series Sunday.  Talbot ended up with three goals-against in Game Three, but to my reckoning it might have been his best of the three games.  The Sound Tigers played a gritty and determined game, and forced Talbot to make more saves on point-blank opportunities than he had to in his two shutouts, including a beauty with the left skate on shorthanded breakaway by Casey Cizikas with five minutes left in the second.

It’s only fair to admit, too, that the Whale got a break on the penalty that led to the overtime series-winner by Casey Wellman.  Not that you could argue the call–it was an automatic, as Tony Romano slashed Wade Redden’s stick and it broke, but what a time for that to happen if you’re Bridgeport.  And they were five seconds from killing it off when Wellman scored, but this one just seemed meant to be for the Whale.

It was the tenth playoff OT goal in franchise history, and the fourth series-winner.  I’m sure every Whale/Wolf Pack fan who is old enough remembers the first one, Terry Virtue’s Game-Seven roof-raiser against Providence in the 2000 Conference Finals, and the others were both multiple-overtime situations.   There was Marty Wilford’s second-overtime strike against Manchester in a deciding Game Five of the 2002 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and current head coach Ken Gernander knocked the Worcester IceCats out of the 2004 Atlantic Division Finals by ending the longest game in franchise history at 7:49 of the third overtime, completing a four-game Wolf Pack sweep.

So now, the Whale watch and wait, resting some bumps and bruises and hoping for their potential opponents to have to slog through long, competitive, tiring series’.  Much is unclear at this point, but here are the possibilities for the next opponent:

  • If the both of the top seeds, Norfolk and St. John’s, win their series’ (over Manchester and Syracuse, respectively), then the Whale will play Norfolk in the second round.
  • If one of the top seeds wins and the other loses, then the Whale play the winner of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton-Hershey series.  That has been dominated by the Penguins thus far, by a combined scoring margin of 10-3, but if Hershey can manage to win Game Three at home Wednesday and Boston beats Washington in their Game Seven that night, the Bears could get Braden Holtby, Keith Aucoin and Dmitry Orlov back from the Capitals.
  • If both Norfolk and St. John’s lose, then the Whale play Syracuse.

Either way, none of those other Eastern Conference series’ resume until Wednesday, and both Norfolk/Manchester and St. John’s/Syracuse are tied at a game apiece, so it’s going to be a spell before things become more clear.

p.s., another interesting note from that last series-winning Wolf Pack game in 2006…the Pack’s top defensive pairing in that series was…#48 Dan Girardi and #6 Marc Staal.



One Response to “So this is what it Feels Like to Win a Playoff Series…”

  1. chris Says:

    i came up with the same possible playoffs sanarios as u did bob.

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