AHL Playoffs Goalie Match-ups: Atlantic Division
There are some fantastic goaltending match-ups in the AHL playoffs, featuring plenty of up-and-comers worth keeping an eye on. Given how pivotal goaltending is to playoff success, it will be interesting to see how these pairings fare.
If you’re not familiar with it, the AHL runs its playoffs a little differently from the NHL. Playoffs start at the division level with the top 4 teams in each division narrowing down to 1 and then the division winners playing each other for the conference title. Because the league pays the travel expenses during playoffs, this helps contain travel costs during the first two rounds.
I’ll break the divisions into different posts to keep it readable.
Eastern Conference – Atlantic Division
Worcester Sharks (1) vs. Lowell Devils (4)
Rookie All-Star Alex Stalock (39-19-2/2.63/0.908) will lead the Sharks into battle with home ice and the division title in hand. Unfortunately for them, their parent club should have a decent run and will likely keep some of their better players up for the duration, which could be a chink in their armor. And Stalock has played 61 of 80 games this season, with Frank Doyle and Tyson Sexsmith splitting the rest, so you have to wonder about fatigue and back-up reliability if needed.
At the other end of the ice is In Goal Magazine contributor, Mike McKenna (24-17-6/2.47/0.921), who finished the season ranked 11th among AHL goalies in goals against average. Lowell has only made the playoffs once in the last 7 seasons, and that one time, they were called the Lowell Lock Monsters and affiliated with the Islanders. So, it’s been a while for Lowell fans and goaltending has been a big success factor, with solid rookie Jeff Frazee backing up.
Portland Pirates (2) vs. Manchester Monarchs (3)
Portland has been rolling a somewhat balanced attack in nets with Jhonas Enroth getting 48 starts and J.P. Lamoureux with 31. But at the moment, Enroth is out with a high ankle sprain and Beau Erickson was signed to back up rookie Lamoureux (14-12-2/2.98/0.894). Losing Enroth is a tough break for the team as, even having been out since mid-March, he still finished 7th in GAA among the AHL. If their playoff run goes long enough, he could be back for later rounds.
Without question, 2010 AHL Goaltender of the Year Jonathan Bernier (30-21-6/2.03/0.936) is the Monarch’s MVP. Given he boasts the second lowest GAA in the league but only a slightly better than .500 win record, it’s clear the Monarchs have trouble putting points on the board and need him to be nearly perfect to win games. And with the league-leading 9 shutouts, he has been often. Rookie Jeff Zatkoff is a reliable back-up with 22 games on the year and a 10-9-0 record.