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Playoff storylines

Manchester goalie Jonathan Bernier has been impressive this season, posting a 2.03 GAA and .936 SP. (Photo by Steve Babineau)

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Manchester goalie Jonathan Bernier has been impressive this season, posting a 2.03 GAA and .936 SP. (Photo by Steve Babineau)

The 2010 Calder Cup playoffs have started amid a batch of intriguing storylines.

As it is, this spring’s post-season will be missing some familiar entries. Hartford became the first New York Rangers American League affiliate to miss the playoffs since 1994. The Wolf Pack’s New England archrival, Providence, is sitting out for the first time since 1998. In fact, two of the four AHL teams to reach the conference finals last season – the Bruins and Houston Aeros – failed to qualify for post-season play this year.

Of the 16 clubs that did reach the playoffs, Hershey is the lead story. The defending Calder Cup champions are solid favorites to capture their 11th Cup after registering a phenomenal regular season in which they set new records for wins (60) and home wins (34). The Bears’ 123 points fell just shy of the all-time league mark of 124 points set by the 1992-93 Binghamton Rangers.

As for the Wolf Pack, they wrapped up a subpar season on a bright note. Hartford rang up seven second-period goals on the visiting Springfield Falcons to close out their home schedule. The last AHL team to do that was Hamilton in February of 2007.

LEADERBOARD
Hershey led the AHL with an average of 4.28 goals-per-game, nearly an entire goal more than second-place Worcester’s 3.44 average. Alexandre Giroux hit the 50-goal mark for the second straight season to lead the league. Giroux’s Hershey teammate, Keith Aucoin, topped all AHLers with 71 assists and 106 points. The Bears led the AHL on both the power play and penalty kill, the first AHL team to do so in 22 years.

Manchester’s Jonathan Bernier led the AHL in save percentage (.936), saves (1,707) and shutouts (nine). Cedrick Desjardins bested all AHL goalies with a 2.00 goals-against average in the Hamilton net. Manitoba workhorse Cory Schneider logged 3,557 minutes, the most in the AHL.

Chicago defenseman Arturs Kulda led the league with a plus-47 rating; Hamilton’s P.K. Subban was a close second, with plus-46. First-year netminder Alex Stalock of Worcester finished with an AHL-best 39 wins to set rookie record.

Albany defender Zack FitzGerald registered a league-leading 311 penalty minutes.

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Nick Dodge (Albany), Danny Groulx (Worcester) and Chris Porter (Peoria) played all 80 games for their teams this season.

THIS AND THAT
Columbus Blue Jackets management continued its makeover at the AHL level after a 34-39-4-3 season for their former affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. Departing Syracuse for Springfield after a 10-year relationship, the Blue Jackets did not renew the contracts of coach Ross Yates, assistant coach Trent Cull and goaltending coach Karl Goehring. After serving as an assistant to Gary Agnew for six seasons with the Crunch, Yates spent four seasons as the Crunch head coach, going 154-131-35. Yates was the only player or coach to last the entire duration of the Blue Jackets-Crunch affiliation…

A 34-34-7-5 season also cost Houston coach Kevin Constantine his job. Constantine guided the Aeros to the Western Conference final last season and went 117-94-11-18 over three seasons in Houston…

A number of AHL veterans closed out the regular season by hitting milestones. Hershey captain Bryan Helmer set a new league mark for regular season games played by a defenseman, playing in his 982nd contest Saturday at Norfolk. Lake Erie sniper Darren Haydar hit the 600-point plateau, making him the 43rd AHLer to do so. Bridgeport’s Mark Wotton logged his 1,000th pro game during the last weekend of the regular season as well. Of those games, 825 have been registered in the AHL…

The Edmonton Oilers had few bright spots at the AHL level this season, but Chris Minard ranks as a positive for the team. Minard missed nearly three months of playing time due to injury, but the 28-year-old marksman scored 22 goals and registered 38 points in just 40 games with last-place Springfield.

From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world's second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiling prospects destined for the next level. It appears every weekend only on TheHockeyNews.com.

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