Welcome To The Calder Cup Finals…

Sorry for the late posting, but things have been rowdy around here since the Aeros thrilling win on Tuesday night over the Bulldogs to advance them to the Calder Cup Finals for the second time in team history.

On to the Calder Cup Finals…

It’s certainly a quick turnaround for the Aeros to get set for the Binghamton Senators – who by all accounts are a highly skilled, speedy  group that like to roll four lines.  Now, will rust play a factor for the Senators in Game One tonight?  That’s a valid question, as we all remember how the Aeros looked in Milwaukee for Game One of the West Division Finals after a 9-day layoff.  However, the Senators had the luxury of “watching” the Aeros last few games against the Bulldogs, which should have them pretty well prepared for tonight.

I spoke with both head coaches this morning and both teams appear to be focused in-house and they don’t appear to be overly concerned with what the opposition will attempt to do.   Senators’ head coach Kurt Kleinendorst told me that he sees a lot of similarities between the two sides, which backs up the reason why both these teams will focus mostly on their own game plan and execution.

Here are some numbers to chew on:

  • The Aeros are 11-7 in Game 1’s and the Senators are 5-3
  • These two teams are just the fourth pair of teams to reach the finals after both clubs missed the postseason one year prior
  • The Aeros posted 95 combined shots in their last two games against the Bulldogs and the Senators have allowed 35.9 shots against per game in the playoffs
  • The combined age of the two starting goaltenders tonight is 40 (Matt Hackett: 21 and Robin Lehner: 19)
  • These two teams have never met in the Calder Cup Playoffs – and they split their only two regular season meetings, both of which came back in 2009
  • Teams with home ice in the Calder Cup Finals have won 50 of the 74 prior series (67.6%)

Here’s what my colleague from Binghamton, Grady Whittenburg had to say when I posed a few questions to him:

1. What’s the biggest strength of the Senators? I think one of the club’s biggest strengths is that they have take on the personality of their head coach Kurt Kleinendorst. The team has really embodied his even keel, never panic approach throughout the season and even more so in the playoffs.  Whether down by a couple of goals or having given up a lead and trying to get back into a game, they never let the moment get to them.  And Kleinendorst really excels at teaching younger players what it takes to be a successful pro on and off the ice.  Backed by a solid core of veteran players, it’s been a great mix for success this season.

2. How much has the return of Corey Locke (from injury) helped the Senators in the last two playoff rounds? Not as much as outsiders might think.  Locke has been a consistent point-a-game player in the post-season, but really hasn’t been that game changer that he was in the regular season.  That said, it’s a bit scary that the league MVP hasn’t shifted gears yet and his club leads the playoffs in offense (3.94 goals per game) and has made it to the finals.

3. How would you describe the Senators style of play? I think it’s an adaptive style.  They have the skill to play an up-tempo game and can try to run and gun the opposition or can lock it down and go a defensive route.  They’ve not been a physical team by any stretch, but can do so in spurts.  Definitely not one of their strong suits though and wouldn’t look for that too much in this series.

4. What has led to such a great playoff road record (8-1) for the Senators? The old K-I-S-S princicple: Keep it simple stupid…nobody to impress on the road and the wins away from home have been, for the most part, very workman-like.  Easier to focus on hockey with no distractions and the time spent together on the road has really knitted them very tightly  Really began with three-game exhibition trip to Newfoundland with three games up there against Hamilton and the foundation was laid at that time for what we’re seeing now.

Again, my apologies for the all-over-the-place, last minute blog.  As always, Game Day Audio is up including some thoughts from former Aeros’ center Corey Locke, the Senators leading scorer from the regular season.

Enjoy the Calder Cup Finals!

– Aero Joe


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