The Florida Everblades (Carolina Hurricanes affiliate) have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals of the Kelly Cup playoffs for the second consecutive year in a row.
The Everblades are getting ready to take on the ECHL’s newest member, the Newfoundland Growlers (Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate). Coming off of a wild 2-1 double overtime win against the Orlando Solar Bears (Tampa Bay Lightning affiliate) in the Division Finals, the Everblades seek to end the storybook inaugural season that the Newfoundland Growlers have put up.
The two teams met only twice in the entire 72 game regular season, with the Blades going 1-1-0 in the series and neither team outscoring the other in the overall series (both posted 5 goals across both games). So, unlike in the NHL, where you can get a rough idea of how the team’s match up from their regular season record, we go into this game with only their playoff performances to gauge them.
By the numbers…
Going into the finals, both teams are roughly evenly matched from a statistical standpoint. Florida is slightly behind on the power play percentage (23% to the Growler’s 25%), but ahead by a fair margin on the penalty kill (95% to the Growler’s 82%), and as the division semi-finals and finals showed, that high PK percentage is a crucial element in the 2019 playoffs this year. But just because you can kill a penalty, doesn’t mean you can win the game. Still have to score goals for that.
A Good Offense is the best defense
Speaking of scoring, Florida’s Blake Winiecki (#41) is no stranger to finding the back of the net, leading the Everblades with 8G in 11GP, with their captain, John McCarron (#25) tallying 5G, and defenseman Ben Masella with 4G. The team doesn’t lack depth and tends to rely strictly on superstar players however, with five other players registering multiple goals (#17 Auger, #21 Thompson, #44 Tonge, #5 Downing, and #5 Roe), and five more with single goals (#11 Arnold, #18 Perkovich, #19 Platzer, #4 Finn, #27 Weselowski). Four players in particular have stood out amid the Everblades roster, posting points in the double-digits. Those players are (John McCarron, 5G/7A – 12PTS), Blake Winiecki (8G/4A – 12PTS), Justin Auger (3G/7A – 10PTS), and defenseman Ben Masella (4G/6A – 10PTS).
The Line in the Sand
But, no team is complete without their top penalty killers and last line of defense. The goaltender.
Callum Booth has started 7 of the 11 playoff games and has an impressive 6-0-1 record with a 1.14GAA and 0.960 SV%. Jeremy Helvig, the Blades regular season goalie, started 4 games for the Blades and posted a 2-2-0 record with a 2.47GAA and 0.873 SV%, before being called up to their AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, for their Calder Cup playoff run on May 1st. Everblades backup goaltender Josh Robinson has yet to hit the ice this playoff series.
The Eastern Conference Finals begin this Friday. May 10th, at 7:30PM EST in Hertz Arena, located in Estero, Florida. Game 2 is May 11th at 7:00PM EST, also at Hertz Arena, before the series heads to Mile One Centre in Saint John’s, Canada, for Games 3, 4, and 5 (if necessary) before returning to Southwest Florida (if necessary). Let’s Go Blades!
Sources: ECHL.com, Floridaeverblades.com, Hockeydb.com, hockey-reference.com