Syracuse Crunch eliminated by Laval Rocket in first round of AHL Playoffs

The Syracuse Crunch’s season has come to an end after a 2-3 overtime loss against the Laval Rocket on Tuesday night

The Syracuse Crunch’s best-of-5 first-round series of the Calder Cup Playoffs against the Laval Rocket – Montreal’s AHL affiliate – went the distance and some with the Crunch ultimately losing in overtime of Game 5.

After winning Game 1 on home ice, the Crunch lost the following two games before forcing a winner-take-all showdown on home ice by shutting out the Rocket in Game 4 on the road in front of a packed house at Place Bell in Laval, Québec.

LAVAL, QC – MAY 12: Goaltender Cayden Primeau #31 of the Laval Rocket tends net against the Syracuse Crunch during the second period in Game Three of the North Division Semifinals at Place Bell on May 12, 2022 in Laval, Canada. The Laval Rocket defeated the Syracuse Crunch 4-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

It was a hard-fought series between the second and third place North Division finishers as four out of the five games were settled by just one goal, not including empty net scores.

Sean Day, the Crunch’s top scoring defensemen during the regular season, did not play during the series after suffering what turned out to be a season-ending injury in April. Had Day been healthy for the series, an extra goal assisted on or scored by Day could have made all the difference.

For Laval, a pair a former Crunch and Lightning players were a thorn in the Crunch’s side all series. Cedric Paquette and Danielk Martel each recorded three points for the Rocket in the series. Paquette in particular was often the center of attention on the ice as his hard-nosed play style around the front of the Crunch’s net and usual lack of restraint led to several confrontations with Crunch players.

Anthony Richard led the way offensively for the Crunch in the series scoring four goals and two assists. Richard had been a valuable addition to the Crunch all season since being part of a change-of-scenery trade with the Nashville Predators that saw Jimmy Huntington sent the other way. His speed with the puck on his stick was always a strong asset for the Crunch, and now could become one for the Lightning too.

Max Lagace started all five games in net for Syracuse after ending the regular season as one of the AHL’s hottest goaltenders entering the Calder Cup Playoffs. His performance, .911 sv% and 2.57 goals against average was strong enough to give the Crunch a chance to win the series. Lagace did experience an injury scare early in Game 4 that required Hugo Alnefelt to relieve him for the rest of the game, but he showed no signs of any lingering ailment during Game 5.

In the end, the deciding factor in the series was the Rocket’s goaltender Cayden Primeau. After winning all four regular season games that he started against the Crunch, Primeau posted a save percentage of .940 and 1.96 goals allowed average in Games two through five – he did not play in the Rocket’s Game one loss.

Crunch Series Scoring Leaders

  1. Anthony Richard – 4G, 2A, 6Pts
  2. Remi Elie – 3G, 0A, 3Pts
  3. Cole Koepke – 2G, 1A, 3Pts
  4. Ryan Jones – 1G, 2A, 3Pts
  5. Alex Barre Boulet – 0G, 3A, 3Pts

Off-season considerations

With the Syracuse Crunch’s season now over, there will be several questions that need to be answered over the offseason including: Will head coach Ben Groulx finally get a chance behind a bench in the NHL? How many of the veterans from this team will be brought back for next season, including defenseman Fredrik Claesson who was rumored to be entertaining leaving for Sweden’s SHL during the season? And who, if any, of the Lightning’s unsigned prospects will be signed before their signing rights expire this offseason and join the Crunch next season?

Before all of that and more is decided, all players under NHL contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning will be eligible to join the Lightning’s threepeat effort as black aces for the rest of the NHL playoffs. With Brayden Point having missed game 1 against the Florida Panthers, and Erik Cernak leaving Game 1 after blocking a shot, it’s likely that we will see a few names recalled by the Lightning in short order.

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