Worcester Watch: Screw Stanley, It's all about the Calder
[Note]: Make sure to visit the Worcester Sharks' webpage for all your Worcester needs. You can watch the game through AHL Live for $8.00 per game or $40.00 per round, but I think I'll stick to the radio for this one.
So, instead of blogging incessantly about what Doug Wilson should do during the offseason when we don't even know what he's thinking, we've decided to focus on some of the good things happening in the Sharks organization.
That's right boys and girls... Worcester. It's kind of sad that we have to focus on our minor league affiliate when the big Sharks should be playing in the second round, but hell, it's better than nothing. And because of injuries at the NHL level, you've come to know many of these baby Sharks already.
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Brad Staubitz, Tom Cavanagh, Ryan Vesce, Riley Armstrong, Lukas Kaspar, Mike Moore, Derek Joslin and Thomas Greiss all spent time with the big club this year. In addition, former Sharks fan favorite Kyle McLaren still patrols the blue line for Worcester; McLaren has notched an assist in playing every postseason game for the Sharks. These players are all now in the AHL, helping Worcester to places that the NHL Sharks couldn't reach.
Playing Hartford in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, Worcester (like San Jose) fell into a two game hole. However, the Sharks were able to come back and win four straight to knock the Wolf Pack out of the playoffs.
Worcester has once again fallen into a hole, dropping their first game to Providence, Boston's minor league affiliate. Providence is loaded with prospects (drool), including budding goal tending superstar Tuukka Rask. In 57 AHL games this season, Rask posted a 2.50 GAA and a .915 save percentage. In a brief call up to the Bruins, Rask played a brilliant 60 minutes stopping 35 shots for his first NHL shutout. So far in the playoffs, Rask has a stellar 1.61 GAA and a Hiller-esque save percentage of .957.
If Worcester is going to have a chance, they are going to need big showings from their top players. McGinn (30 points in 47 RS AHL games, 2 goals in 1 Playoff Game), Armstrong (42 points in 71 games, 8 assists in the playoffs), Kaspar (44 points in 65 games, 3 points in the playoffs) and Vesce (71 points in 67 playoff games, 6 points in 7 playoff games) are going to have to tickle the twine early and often. They're also going to need goaltender Thomas Greiss to step up huge.
Greiss has already turned up his game during the playoffs, dropping his GAA from 2.47 to 2.02 while improving his save percentage from .907 to .922. He's going to have to match Rask, but I'm confident that he can get it done.
The wildcard? 20 year old Logan Couture. After having a huge season in the OHL (87 points in 62 games), San Jose's top prospect (and my man-crush) was called up to Worcester to start the playoffs. He's scored two goals in seven playoff games so far and is finally starting to mesh with the team. If he can further sync up with his team mates, it could be a short series for Rask and the Bruins.
Because of the crazy 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 series schedule, Worcester will be at home to play game two (eight days after they lost game one... huh?). So, get crazy for a home game and take in a little Sharks hockey... try to forget our troubles for a while. It will be worth it, I promise. This is almost like a pre-preseason for many of these players... a good Calder Cup run would go a long way to an NHL roster spot.
Prediction: Worcester wins 3-1 on goals by Couture, McGinn, and Joslin. This thread blows up with Worcester love.