With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Playoff Race Heating Up For Whale

There are only seven games left in the Connecticut Whale's first full season.  It's been a season where the team has struggled, like most AHL teams, with call ups, injuries and player signings that just didn't work out. After falling out of first place and dropping four straight games the Whale were once again in a free fall, not nearly as bad as their 13 game winless streak in January but still a slump is a slump.

Coach Gernander switched things up by riding a hot goaltender to shake things up.  It was not planned but it did happen.

Just last Friday the Whale played the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins who quickly got by Chad Johnson to take a commanding third period lead, 3-0.  You could hear the disappointment in the crowd with a three goal deficit not even halfway through the first period.  

Gernander made the call and Cam Talbot went in and Johnson came out.  

The Whale was not affected offensively but defensively Talbot stopped all 18 remaining shots.   The change in net would continue on Saturday night as Talbot once again was in net to take on the visiting Adirondack Phantoms.

It appears it was the right move again as Talbot shined in his third shut out of the season with a 3-0 victory.  Making all 26 saves against the Phantoms Talbot has held opponents scoreless through 5 1/2 periods of play.

The goals were scored by Kelsey Tessier, whom notched his 11th and 12th goals. Casey Wellman also assisted on one of Tessier's goals and he scored his 22nd of the season as well.

This was a bright game for the Whale after losing four games straight to Portland, Providence, Bridgeport and Wilkes Barre/Scranton.  The losses gave Bridgeport the division lead by two points with just seven games left to play.

It is very important for the Whale to win the Northeast Division.  As things are shaping up either Bridgeport or Hartford will be the third seed in the Eastern Conference and that at least guarantees first round home ice advantage.  The first round series will also be a short series as it is only five games.  Whoever wins the division will most likely be the third seed and the other team will be the sixth seed.  That means either way it looks like Bridgeport and Hartford will go toe to toe in April in a winner moves on and loser heads for the beach, or golf course.  

Today the Whale will take on the Providence Bruins at two P.M. a move in the schedule from the normal three P.M. start.  Who will Coach Gernander put in net?  

Will it be Johnson who has carried the team and is currently 19th in AHL goalies in goals against average rankings with a 2.48.  Or will it be the hot goaltender, Cam Talbot who is ranked 35th with a 2.78 G.A.A..  Talbot has stopped 44 shots in a row and kept the puck out of the net for almost two complete games.

We will find out in just a short while.  

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