ECHL Playoff Preview: Florida Everblades vs. South Carolina Stringrays
The first round of the 2020-21 ECHL playoffs get underway starting on Monday when the Florida Everblades take on the South Carolina Stingrays in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
These teams have met six times in the Kelly Cup playoffs with each team coming away with three cities victories. South Carolina has won the last three series in the playoffs. This will be the 13th straight season that the Stingrays have reached the postseason. Florida has been in the playoffs in all but one season since joining the ECHL.
The Tale of the Tape:
(overall ranking in the ECHL is listed in paranthesis)
Record: 42-9-8 (1st Overall)
Home Record: 26-6-5
Away Record: 17-13-3
Last 10 Games: 5-1-4
Goals Per Game: 3.28 (third)
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.72 (third)
Power-play: 20.5% (second)
Penalty-killing: 81.7% (ninth)
Team Leader Goals: John McCarron (31)
Team Leader Assists: John McCarron (37)
Team Leader Points: John McCarron (68)
Team Leader Penalty Minutes: John McCarron (96)
Team Leader Goals Against Average: Jake Hildebrand (2.40)
Team Leader Wins: Jake Hildebrand (23)
Team Leader Save Percentage: Jake Hildebrand (.923)
South Carolina Stingrays:
Record: 34-23-13 (7th overall)
Home Record: 19-12-5
Away Record: 15-11-8
Last 10 Games: 8-2-0
Goals Per Game: 3.09 (fourth)
Goals Allowed Per Game: 3.03 (ninth)
Power-play: 17.1% (sixth)
Penalty-killing: 83.9% (sixth)
Team Leader Goals: Cole Ully (24)
Team Leader Assists: Dan DeSalvo (38)
Team Leader Points: Cole Ully (60)
Team Leader Penalty Minutes: Zach Malatesta (63)
Team Leader Goals Against Average: Hunter Shepard (2.55)
Team Leader Wins: Alex Dubeau (16)
Team Leader Save Percentage: Hunter Shepard (.922)
South Carolina: 3-4-3
January 29 – South Carolina 5, Florida 1
January 30 – South Carolina 1, Florida 4
February 10 – Florida 4, South Carolina 2
February 12 – Florida 5, South Carolina 2
February 13 – Florida 5, South Carolina 1
February 24 – South Carolina 3, Florida 4 (SO)
February 26 – South Carolina 5, Florida 6 (SO)
February 27 – South Carolina 4, Florida 3 (SO)
March 10 – South Carolina 2, Florida 4
March 12 – South Carolina 0, Florida 4
May 5 – South Carolina 3, Florida 2 (OT)
May 7 – South Carolina 5, Florida 6 (OT)
May 8 – South Carolina 2, Florida 3
Florida finished with the best record in the ECHL, winning the Brabham Cup, and they have to be viewed as the favorite to win the Kelly Cup this season. They have the third leading scorer in the league in John McCarron, who finished third in points with 68 but led the league in goals with 31.
The Everblades star was quite formidable during the regular season, leading Florida against South Carolina with 13 assists and 18 points. He should be a major factor in this series, and South Carolina will have to ensure that McCarron does not beat them. His success, or lack thereof, will be the key to this series.
Hildebrand was outstanding during the regular season and had a great deal of success against the Stingrays, going 6-0-2 with a 2.13 GAA. Goaltending is always a key in a hockey playoff series, but Florida’s is not have to lean on Hildebrand. They are an outstanding team and just need their goaltender to be solid.
The power-play has struggled against South Carolina, connecting on just 8.5% of their opportunities, but this was the second-best power-play unit during the regular season. Penalty killing was solid (84.4% against South Carolina), but they will need this power-play to get at least three goals in the series.
South Carolina had minimal success against Florida during the regular season, and that was primarily because of their goaltending. Dubeau will be the guy in net for South Carolina, but he was just 2-0-2 with a 3.49 GAA during the regular season. He is the absolute key for the Stingrays. If South Carolina is going to win the series, Dubeau must put together four of his best performances of the year.
There is no denying that the Stingrays enter as the hottest team in the ECHL They won their last six games to earn the final playoff spot in the East, the best time of the year to get hot. However, none of those victories were against Florida, and they will have to prove they can beat the Everblades on a consistent basis, something they have been unable to do this year.
Brett Supinski was the leading scorer for the Stingrays against Florida this season, tied for the team lead in goals with five and was the leader in points with 12. South Carolina does not need him to have a dominant series, but he will need at least seven points for South Carolina to have any chance.
The one area where the Stingrays have a decided advantage is in special teams. They connected on 15.6% of their power-play opportunities and killed off 91.5% of short-handed situations against the Everblades this season. Special teams are always critical at playoff time, and this is one area where South Carolina could steal a victory or two using their special teams.
The trendy pick would be to go with South Carolina, especially because they have been so hot over the last two weeks. However, Florida is not giving anything away and they have far superior goaltending. Playoff time is truly about who is best between the pipes, and the Everblades have the clear edge here.
Take Florida to win in four.
By Robert Pannier