Welcome to a special edition of the Eastern Conference Playoff Picture. For the past seven weeks, we have tracked the Hershey Bears’ position in the conference standings and where they stack against fellow Eastern foes. Now with only three games remaining in the 2012-13 regular season, the Bears have their backs against the wall as they look to snatch a playoff seed.
After disappointing losses Friday and Saturday in Providence and Manchester, Hershey rebounded with a needed 6-3 blow out over the Portland Pirates. Joey Crabb notched a hat trick en route to the power play goal infested game. Although the victory was satisfying to Hershey fans, playoff hopes and dreams wouldn’t be reborn without help out of town.
Sunday the Springfield Falcons topped the Connecticut Whale, 4-3 in regulation, as the red hot Norfolk Admirals suffered a 4-1 setback against the P-Bruins. As a result, the Bears are suddenly only two points behind the eighth seeded Connecticut with one game in hand. Hershey also remains just two points out from Norfolk, but both teams are even at 73 games played.
Regardless of whether the Bears qualify for the 2013 AHL Postseason, a playoff game this coming weekend could take place at Giant Center. For the regular season finale, the Hershey Bears will play host to the Manchester Monarchs. Hershey and Manchester are currently tied for the ninth seed and are both bidding for a last second eighth seed.
The Home Stretch:
The Norfolk Admirals have a tough road ahead to close out the regular season and possibly clinch playoff berth. The season will finish on a road trip beginning in Syracuse, moving to Albany and finishing in Providence. Two of their final three opponents have already earned both a playoff spot and home ice in the first round. The sandwich game of the three games in three nights stretch on Saturday will go against the Albany Devils. Although the Devils are eliminated from playoff contention, they look to play the role of spoiler and finish their season on a high note.
The Connecticut Whale will finish their regular season a day early after back-to-back matches against Albany and Portland. A loss for the Whale in any of these two games suddenly opens the door for Hershey’s playoff chances.
Finally the Hershey Bears’ last three-in-three of the season consists of two New York road games in Adirondack and Binghamton, followed by the season’s final game against the Manchester Monarchs. I would consider all three games for Hershey to be must win. Remember, even a weekend sweep does not guarantee a playoff spot. Connecticut or Norfolk must lose. Entering this coming weekend, the Bears’ magic number hovers at just 7.
Here’s a look at the Eastern Conference Top 10: