ECHL Playoff Preview: Allen Americans vs. Utah Grizzlies
The first round of the 2020-21 ECHL playoffs get underway starting on Tuesday when the Allen Americans take on the Utah Grizzlies in the Western Conference semifinals.
Allen is a frequent visitor to the Kelly Cup playoffs, winning the title in 2015 and 2016. However, this will be their first appearance since 2018. This is the 13th time that Utah has advanced to the playoffs since joining the ECHO back in 2005.
The Tale of the Tape:
(overall ranking in the ECHL is listed in paranthesis)
Record: 45-23-4 (second)
Home Record: 26-7-3
Away Record: 19-6-1
Last 10 Games: 7-2-1
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: Corey Mackin (30)
Team Leader Assists: Matt Register (47)
Team Leader Points: Les Lancaster (64)
Team Leader Penalty Minutes: Zane Franklin (125)
Team Leader Goals Against Average: Jake Paterson (2.31)
Team Leader Wins: Jake Paterson (18)
Team Leader Save Percentage: Jake Paterson (.927)
Record: 35-26-11 (eighth)
Home Record: 21-9-6
Away Record: 14-17-5
Last 10 Games: 5-5-0
Goals Per Game: 2.88 (11th)
Goals Allowed Per Game: 3.04 (10th)
Power-play: 16.8% (seventh)
Penalty-killing: 84.2% (fifth)
Team Leader Goals: Matthew Boucher (25)
Team Leader Assists: Matthew Boucher (27)
Team Leader Points: Matthew Boucher (52)
Team Leader Penalty Minutes: Hayden Hodgson (127)
Team Leader Goals Against Average: Parker Gahagen (2.04)
Team Leader Wins: Parker Gahagen (10)
Team Leader Save Percentage: Parker Gahagen (.929)
January 29 – Allen 5, Utah 2
January 30 – Allen 3, Utah 2 (SO)
January 31 – Allen 3, Utah 4
February 9 – Utah 1, Allen 2 (SO)
March 3 – Utah 3, Allen 5
March 12 – Allen 6, Utah 2
March 13 – Allen 5, Utah 4 (OT)
March 14 – Allen 1, Utah 5
April 1 – Utah 2, Allen 3 (SO)
April 2 – Utah 0, Allen 3
April 3 – Utah 3, Allen 2 (SO)
April 23 Utah 4, Allen 2
April 24 – Utah 2, Allen 4
April 25 – Utah 2, Allen 1
May 19 – Allen 5, Utah 3
May 21 – Allen 1, Utah 4
May 22 – Allen 1, Utah 2 (OT)
May 23 – Allen 0, Utah 4
Utah earned the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but were not particularly impressive down the stretch, going 5-5-0 in their last 10. Where this team excels is on home ice, where they are 12 games about 500 and they have one of the best players in rookie Matthew Boucher. Boucher was named as the Rookie of the Year on Monday, and his presence is going to be a key for the Grizzlies. He must have a huge series for the team to beat Allen.
The same is true of Garrett Metcalf and Peyton Jones who will be between the pipes for Utah. Metcalf appeared in just nine games, going 4-4-0 with a 2.33 GAA while Jones was 8-6-2 with a 3.12 GAA. It will likely be Metcalf, who performed very well against Allen this season, going 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA.
One area where the Americans are going to have to be cognizant is how deep this Utah team is. Cedric Pare led the team with eight goals-against Allen during the regular season and Trey Bradley had nine assists. Boucher and Bradley were tied for the team lead with 11 points.
While it is Macklin and Register who are getting most of the attention, Les Lancaster has put together one of the most impressive seasons by a defenseman in ECHL history. Lancaster had 26 goals and 38 assists, including scoring 10 goals on the power-play. He is extremely intelligent on the ice, and he teams with Register to make this one of the most difficult defenses for any team to play against.
Then you have the performance of Spencer Asuchuk and Corey Mackin, who are both outstanding scorers. Six forwards scored at least 12 goals for the Americans, making them one of the more difficult teams for opponents to match up against. They can roll three lines and expect goals.
Jake Paterson is having an outstanding season. He went 6-1-1 with a 2.46 GAA during the regular season against Utah. He will be the guy throughout the playoffs, so the Americans can feel pretty confident about their final line of defense.
Both teams had success on the power-play during the regular season. Allen connected on 12 of 75 opportunities while the Grizzlies connected on 12 of 78 chances.
Normally I would be expecting Allen to sweep this series, but Utah is not the least bit intimidated by Allen at all. They won the last three contests between these teams and for the last five overall, so they can beat the Americans.
However, while Utah will likely have some success offensively against, they do not match up well defensively. They are going to have a lot of trouble trying to stop the Americans and this is going to be the difference in this series.
Take Allen to win in four.
By Robert Pannier