Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 04/20/10 at 05:32 PM ET
On Monday night, the Albany River Rats completed their clean sweep of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Baby Penguins with a 5-3 win on the road. The four game sweep puts them through to the Eastern Division final where they will meet the winner of the Bridgeport (Islanders) v Hershey (Capitals) series. The Hershey Bears lead that series 3-1, and game five will be Wednesday night.
The hero of game four was defenseman Jamie McBain, who scored two goals including an empty netter. He’s got four goals in four playoff games, which is best among AHL defensemen. Zach Boychuk scored his first, which turned out to be the game-winner. Oscar Osala and Jerome Samson also added tallies for the Rats.
The Rats will have several days off before the next round begins, and they’ll need to work on their power play. They’ve had 20 power play opportunities and have yet to cash in. This is definitely going to have to change.
This series win is the first for the River Rats since 1998, when they were the Devils’ top affiliate. It’s the first time since 2005 that Carolina’s affiliate has won a playoff series. That season, the Lowell Lock Monsters, led by Eric Staal, advanced out of the first round but no further.
There’s always a bit of discussion about whether the extended time off is good or bad for a team in the playoffs, but my view on that is that it’s going to give the team time to work on things that need improvement. The two things the Rats need to do better are the power play, and Jerome Samson. The Pens did an excellent job of containing Samson. It’s nice that other guys stepped up to the plate, but the bottom line is the old cliche that you need your best player to be your best player.
It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Hershey Bears will finish off that series against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and that should make a great matchup in the next round. The Bears will be without one of their best players in defenseman John Carlson. Carlson is with the big team in the Stanley Cup playoffs. That series will probably end tomorrow night, and it looks like the earliest possible start of round two would be next Tuesday.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.