Surprisingly, only eight skaters (Nick Holden, Nick Drazenovic, Ryan Craig, Michael Chaput, Sean Collins, JAM, Cody Goloubef and Dalton Smith) from the opening night lineup also took part in Game 76.
Possibly even more surprising, was the way the Falcons were passed over for AHL individual awards this week. Coach of the year went to Willie Desjardins of the Texas Stars. Niklas Svedberg of the Providence Bruins won the league's outstanding goaltender award. Tyler Johnson from the Syracuse Crunch skated away with the AHL MVP award.
The players would all say that individual awards don't matter. To an extent, that's true. But to those of us who watch a significant amount of AHL hockey, the contibutions of Brad Larsen behind the bench and Curtis McElhinney between the pipes were crucial in getting the Falcons to this point in the season - Northeast Division Champions and preparing for the Falcons first playoff dance in a decade.
Boone has picked right up where he left off in Oshawa. In his fifth game since rejoining the Falcons, his tally was his third, giving him four points in those five games. He finished off a nice feed from Collins to give Springfield the lead just 1:29 into the game. Seeing him in person this season compared to last, he looks like he's more of a physical presence and his continued development bodes very well for the Blue Jackets.
Machacek's goal came on a fast moving odd man rush. He and Drazenovic went in on a two-on-one with Draz leading the way. The goal was his fifth as a Falcon. He's been a key addition for the Birds, going 5-9-14 in 18 games in a Springfield sweater.
Hansen's fourth marker of the season closed out the scoring for the Birds. Once again, picking up the helper was Nick Drazenovic. Nick's leadership and playmaking ability have been vital to the Falcons success all season. In 62 games for Springfield this season, Draz went 17-36-53.
Lost in the McElhinney-mania that was the backbone of Springfield's goaltending was Allen York's performance this season. York won 13 and lost only 6, with a goals against mark of 2.39 and a save percentage of .907.
Once again this season, the AHL playoff races have come down to the final day of the regular season. At the moment, the Birds have three possible first round opponents: Manchester, Portland or Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. However, the big picture for today's finale has five clubs vying for two spots in the playoff bubble. In the East, Hershey, Norfolk or Connecticut could qualify for the eight seed. While in the West, either Milwaukee or Rockford will claim the eighth and final spot.
Saturday's Three Stars:
1 - Nick Drazenovic
2 - Mark Alt (Adirondack, first pro goal)
3 - Jake Hansen
By virtue of the Falcons second place finish in the Eastern Conference, they'll have home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Playoff hockey comes back to Springfield next Saturday night at 7PM, with a Game 2 Sunday matinee one week from today at 4PM.