Team From Toronto vs. Amerks, A Season Series Recap/Playoff Preview
With a 5-1 victory over the 30th place Hamilton Bulldogs on Saturday, the Rochester Americans clinched a playoff spot for the 44th time in franchise history. All that remained to be determined was who they would play in the best-of-five first round series. If everything went well the Amerks would finish in 6th place in the Western Conference and meet the Grand Rapids Griffins. For this to happen, the
Iowa Wild Houston Aeros needed to defeat the Oklahoma City Barons in regulation on Sunday and the Amerks had to win against Hamilton. The Amerks were able to continue their domination of Hamilton and won their game by a score of 4-1. Unfortunately for the Amerks, however, the Barons were able to defeat the Aeros by a score of 3-0. While the Amerks finished with the same amount of points as the Aeros, they lost the first tiebreaker by having fewer regulation wins than the Aeros. As such, the Amerks fell to 7th place and will meet that team from Toronto. The same team that swept them out of the playoffs in the first round last season.
My thoughts one the Amerks’ performance against that team from Toronto are well established. If you need a refresher, check out my Twitter timeline (on the right under @AaronTRW) from the weekend. Also, you can read my recap from Friday’s pitiful loss here. In reality, my thoughts about their performance have been the same for the past two seasons. I thought I would spend a few minutes showing you some of the statistics from their season series.
I’ll start with their overall numbers against that team from Toronto. (If you haven’t figured it out by now, I refuse to refer to that team by their proper name.) The Amerks finished the season 1-7-1-1 against that team from Toronto. Below are the overall statistics. It should be noted that neither team ever changed their goalie during a game. The only reason that team from Toronto used 3 goalies against the Amerks was due to the end of the NHL lockout. Until the Amerks’ only victory of the season against them, they had faced Ben Scrivens in the first five games. In the Amerks single win they faced Jussi Rynnas, while in the last four games they faced Drew MacIntyre. Only one time out of those five did the Amerks use a goalie other than David Leggio, that exception was Connor Knapp.
If you assigned a point to a team for winning a category, then that team from Toronto would win by a landslide. Against teams not from Toronto, the Amerks finished the the season at 89.1% in 267 penalty killing attempts.* Their power play operated at 21.1% in 280 attempts. The above is pretty awful in comparison. Against teams not named the Amerks, that Toronto team killed penalties at a rate of 82.9% in 279 attempts. Their power play operated at 15.0% in 333 attempts. The Amerks scored about 1.9 goals per game, which is more than a full goal less than their average of 3.1 when you take the shootouts away. Meanwhile, that team from Toronto scored an average of 3.5 goals per game, which is a half goal more per game than their average of 3.0. On average, the Amerks allowed 2.6 goals per game, while that team from Toronto allowed 2.6 goals per game.
Now I will take a look at the statistics for the Amerks playing in Toronto. The Amerks were 0-3-1-0 in games at Toronto. It should be noted that Connor Knapp made his only start against that team from Toronto during an Amerks’ away game.
The Amerks finished the season with a 86.2 % road penalty kill in 138 attempts. Again, their performance against that team from Toronto is considerably less than their average. Their road power play? It operated at 20.6% in 141 attempts. As for that team from Toronto, their home penalty kill operated at 85.8% in 141 attempts. Their home power play operated at 16.9% in 172 attempts. If you do the math, you’ll find that the Amerks scored 1.6 goals per game in Toronto (road average was 3.3) while that team from Toronto scored 3.6 goals per game (home average was 3.8). The Amerks allowed 2.8 goals per game on the road, while that team from Toronto allowed an average of 2.5 goals per game at home. So the Amerks scoring less often in Toronto isn’t exactly much of a surprise. I would say that the team from Toronto enjoyed a significant home ice advantage.
Finally, I will look at the statistics for the Amerks playing that team from Toronto in Rochester. This is where the Amerks earned their singular win against Jussi Rynnas on February 2. At home, the Amerks finished 1-3-0-1 against that team from Toronto. Note: Before that win, the last time the Amerks had defeated that team from Toronto was March 4, 2012 in a shootout against Jussi Rynnas. Of their 4 wins against this team over the past two seasons, two were shootout wins against Jussi Rynnas while the other two were regulation victories against Ben Scrivens. David Leggio, of course, owns all four of those wins.
The Amerks finished the season with the best home penalty kill in the league at 90.3% in 144 attempts. (Note: Earlier in the season the Amerks had one of the worst home penalty kills in the league at approximately 25th place.) Against that Toronto team, however, such was not the case. Against other teams, their home penalty kill operated at 92.2% in 129 attempts. Their home power play operated at 21.6% in 139 attempts. Meanwhile, Toronto’s road penalty kill operated at 79.7% in 138 attempts against teams that were not the Amerks. Their road power play? It operated at 13.0% in 161 attempts. Noticing a trend here? At home, the Amerks averaged 2.2 goals per game against that team from Toronto, while their home average was 2.9. That team from Toronto averaged 3.2 goals per game in Rochester, while their road average was 2.7. On average the Amerks allowed 2.5 goals per game at home, while that team from Toronto allowed 3.0 goals per game on the road. Home ice disadvantage.
The general trend we see above is that Toronto performed significantly better against the Amerks than they did against other teams. I know one could argue for small sample sizes, but a 10 game series in a 76 game season accounts for about 13% of the total games played; I would say that is significant enough. I didn’t include last season’s statistics, but I can estimate that including those will produce similar results. I can’t speak as to why it is that Toronto has dominated the Amerks for the past two seasons, but I’m sure that the Amerks defense has something to do with it. I would actually guess that the Amerks defense is the most significant part of it, especially when you compare their shots against numbers.
I expect that David Leggio will start for the Amerks with Matt Hackett backing him up for the Amerks. Hackett has been superb in limited duty for the Amerks since coming to the team in the Jason Pominville trade with the Minnesota Wild. I expect Drew MacIntyre to start in net for the that Toronto team, with 2013 World Junior Champion Garret Sparks backing him up.
Goalie Statistics (Overall):
-David Leggio: 64 GP, 38-22-2-1, 2.56 GAA, 0.924 SV%, 162 GA on 2119 shots, 4 SO
-Matt Hackett: 46 GP, 22-15-5-3, 2.59 GAA, 0.911 SV%, 119 GA on 1332 shots, 0 SO. (With Amerks) 3 GP, 3-0-0-0, 1.62 GAA, 0.952 SV%, 5 GA on 110 shots, 0 SO.
-Drew MacIntyre: 21 GP, 13-5-0-3, 1.83 GAA, 0.931 SV%, 38 GA on 548 shots, 0 SO
-Garret Sparks: 3 GP, 2-0-0-1, 2.53 GAA, 0.895 SV%, 8 GA on 76 shots, 0 SO
Based on what I’ve seen this season, and last, I’m predicting that the Amerks will be out after 3 games. I know they play the series for a reason, but as the teams currently stand I do not see the Amerks winning more than perhaps one game. If they do win one, Leggio will likely have to steal it for them. Hopefully the Sabres will return Mark Pysyk and Brian Flynn before Game 1 on Saturday, as the Amerks could really use the help on defense (and forward). Getting Mikhail Grigorenko would also be a tremendous help for the Amerks.
The first two games will be at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto at 3 PM on Saturday (4/27) and Sunday (4/28). Games 3 and (if needed) 4 will be at the Blue Cross Arena at 7 PM on Wednesday (5/1) and Thursday (5/2). If needed, Game 5 will again be in Toronto at 3 PM on Saturday, May 4. I will be hoping for the Amerks to least least force a 4 game series, but I haven’t seen enough evidence this season to believe that they can do that. Especially when you consider how Drew MacIntyre has performed against his former team (allowed 1 goal in each of the 4 games he’s played against them). Here’s to hoping we see something better than the season series has predicted.
My choice of music for this series is “Stand Up And Fight” by Turisas. (Note: No actual fights, please, just a decent effort.)
*Note: All of the statistics I use for comparison are for when the Amerks or that Toronto team did not play each other. So when I say the Amerks scored an average of 3.1 goals per game, they scored that amount against the teams they played that weren’t Toronto.