ECHL Playoff Preview: Greenville Swamp Rabbits vs. Indy Fuel
The first round of the 2020-21 ECHL playoffs get underway starting on Tuesday when the Greenville Swamp Rabbits take on the Indy Fuel in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
This will be the first time that Greenville has been in the playoffs since 2017. This is the second time that the Fuel have entered the Kelly Cup playoffs.
The Tale of the Tape:
(overall ranking in the ECHL is listed in paranthesis)
Greenville Swamp Rabbits:
Record: 38-19-15 (fourth)
Home Record: 19-10-7
Away Record: 19-9-8
Last 10 Games: 7-2-1
Goals Per Game: 2.92 (eighth)
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.83 (sixth)
Power-play: 16.0% (10th)
Penalty-killing: 81.6% (10th)
Team Leader Goals: Matt Bradley (21)
Team Leader Assists: Samuel Jardine (41)
Team Leader Points: Matt Bradley (47)
Team Leader Penalty Minutes: Matt Bradley (85)
Team Leader Goals Against Average: Ryan Bednard (2.43)
Team Leader Wins: Ryan Bednard (20)
Team Leader Save Percentage: Ryan Bednard, Hayden Lavigne (.917)
Record: 37-24-8 (sixth)
Home Record: 19-12-4
Away Record: 18-12-4
Last 10 Games: 6-3-1
Goals Per Game: 2.96 (seventh)
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.88 (seventh)
Power-play: 18.3% (third)
Penalty-killing: 81.0% (12th)
Team Leader Goals: Nic Pierog (24)
Team Leader Assists: Matt Marcinew, Willie Raskob (25)
Team Leader Points: Matt Marcinew (48)
Team Leader Penalty Minutes: Antoine Waked (67)
Team Leader Goals Against Average: Billy Christopolous (2.29)
Team Leader Wins: Dan Bakala (18)
Team Leader Save Percentage: Billy Christopolous (.914)
January 8 – Greenville 5, Indy 6 (OT)
January 9 – Greenville 2, Indy 3 (OT)
February 19 – Greenville 4, Indy 3
February 20 – Greenville 0, Indy 4
February 21 – Greenville 0, Indy 4
Some will look at the head-to-head record and believe that this looks like a cinch for Indy to pull out the victory in the series, but one must consider that all five games these teams played were in Indy. Greenville should perform much better when they are back on their own home ice, a spot where they were nine games above .500 during the regular season.
Greenville has a well-balanced attack, and that is going to be something that Indy is going to have to figure out how to control. Bradley led the team, but it was Garrett Thompson and Karch Bachman who provided the primary offense for Greenville against Indy. If they can get a balanced attack and still get five or six points out of Bradley, the Swamp Rabbits have to feel pretty good about their chances.
For the Swamp Rabbits to advance they are going to need spectacular goaltending out of Benard. He has been solid and will need to steal at least one game in this series.
Dan Bakala is going to be the key for the Fuel in the series. He appeared in 36 games, posting a 2.88 GAA during the regular season, but was dominant against Greenville, earning victories in both of his starts while posting a 0.99 GAA against the Swamp Rabbits. Should he post that kind of performance, there is nothing Greenville can do in this series.
Matt Marcinew was an absolute beast against Greenville this season, leading the Fuel with four goals, five assists, and nine points. Much will be expected out of him for the team to be able to advance.
They will also have to depend on their power-play, which connected on seven of 25 opportunities against Greenville during the regular season, a 28% efficiency. They also killed off 19 of 23 shorthanded situations, so special teams is going to be a key for both teams. Clearly, the Fuel have the edge here.
Greenville looked great down the stretch, and they have to be considered as the favorite in the series. However, to win and advance they are going to need to earn victories in all three contests at home. That is a tall order based upon how this series is designed.
Indy will open at home, then the teams will travel to Greenville for the next three games before returning to Indy. This set up is going to benefit the Fuel immensely, who will take a 1-0 lead, then win one of the next three games in Greenville before returning home to win and advance. So, take Indy in five area
By Robert Pannier