With just two weekends left to determine which of the five teams earn playoff spots, the Atlantic Division is a jumbled mess. Frontrunner Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has clinched their spot, but Hershey’s overtime victory over Lehigh Valley has kept it a tight pack for the remaining three spots. Here’s a team-by-team look at the remaining schedules for all five teams.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – They are in, but the division title is still up for grabs. They have games against Lehigh Valley, Hartford, Providence, Lehigh Valley, Hershey, and Bridgeport in that order, so it’s going to be two three-in-threes for the Penguins.
In theory, the Penguins should come close to winning out, but Hershey definitely needs to beat them, so we’ll take 2 points off there. Additionally, they have a slim advantage in the season series over Lehigh Valley. For argument’s sake, we’ll put Wilkes-Barre at 106 points on the season, giving them wins over Hartford, Providence, Bridgeport, and one over Lehigh Valley.
Lehigh Valley – They are close to clinching, but depending on the rest of the division, it may take them until April 15th along with the other Atlantic Division clubs. They have two remaining games against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and one each against Springfield, Providence, and Binghamton.
They should top Springfield and Providence. Add in one victory over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and they are looking at an additional 6 points. The Binghamton game is tough since that is the last game before the Senators head to Ontario next season. Albany’s club is moving in, but still it will be an emotional game for many. For argument’s sake, we’ll give Lehigh Valley two points there for eight more, giving them a season total of 101.
Providence – They have the toughest remaining schedule in the division. They have two against Bridgeport, and one each against Lehigh Valley, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Springfield, and Hershey.
Since Hershey needs to win, we’ll give Providence four points (one victory over Bridgeport and a victory over Springfield) for a season total of 95.
Bridgeport – The Sound Tigers don’t have an easy road either. With a double-header with Providence, a game against the vastly improved Hartford Wolf Pack, one against Springfield, and the finale against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Bridgeport should secure six (providing they split with Providence and can find a way past Hartford). That would give them 96 points on the season and put them into the final playoff spot.
Hershey – Well, our Bears surely have shown they can go on runs. They went on a heck of one in March (that balanced out the terrible January that put them into this position in the first place). They have no choice now but to find a way to win their remaining four games. They have Rochester, Toronto, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and Providence (no pressure at all guys, but try to prove me right).
If they can find a way to beat the two teams in the middle North Division leader Toronto and Atlantic Division leader Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, it could come down to a major showdown next Saturday night in Giant Center against the Bruins. If Hershey wins out, they will have 97 points and will find themselves back in the third slot in the division. A loss to Providence would throw them to fifth. It’s just that close.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – 98 points currently + 8 out of 12 = 106 – Atlantic Division Champs
Lehigh Valley – 93 points currently + 8 out of 10 = 101
Hershey – 89 points currently + 8 out of 8 = 97
Bridgeport – 90 points currently +6 out of 10 = 96
Providence – 91 points currently +4 out of 12 = 95 – Out
Sadly, the 8th best team in the entire league will be left out of the playoffs no matter what scenarios play out. While the league is trying to ease travel costs, the system is leaving out a team that could potentially go on a run through the playoffs. Nobody outside of Hershey thought the Bears could dispatch of the Marlies last season after squeaking by Portland in round 1 and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in round 2. After all, it’s the playoffs – hockey’s version of March Madness.
By Julie Beidler
— Beids (@juliebeidler) April 2, 2017