5 storylines to watch in the Abbotsford Canucks’ second round matchup against the Calgary Wranglers
By Faber9 months ago
The Abbotsford Canucks have added eyes from the fanbase on them as they roll into the second round of the AHL playoffs.
It feels like their toughest test of the playoffs is just hours away as they will battle with the Calgary Wranglers in game one tonight at 6:00 pm Pacific Time.
We are going to highlight some storylines to follow through this series but first, let’s quickly talk about the format.
How we got here
The second round of the AHL playoffs is a best-of-five series. The Wranglers finished with the best record in the AHL this year, going 51-17-4 on the season. With the best record in the AHL, they got to decide how this series’ format shook down. The Wranglers were given the option of hosting the first two games of the series or hosting the final three games — they elected to host the first two games in hopes of heading back to Abbotsford only needing to pick up one win and close out the series.
Hosting three games is an advantage and will be a tremendous home-ice advantage for Abbotsford if they are able to sneak one away from the Wranglers in the first two games.
Abbotsford finished the year with a 40-25-7 record — good enough for fourth in the Pacific Division.
Because the Wranglers finished first in the Pacific Division, they were given a bye to the second round while Abbotsford had to beat the Bakersfield Condors in a best-of-three series. This means that the Wranglers are fresh but also likely have to shake off some rust as they haven’t played a game since April 15th, when they closed out the season with a 3-2 win over the Canucks.
That series of the regular season was electric. Both sides felt as if it was as close to playoffs as possible and there were some spirited bouts between the two teams as they played for the 12th time this year.
These two teams do not like each other and it’s likely to show early and often in this series.
Abbotsford defenceman Alex Kannok Leipert has been a physical force in the matchups between these two teams.
Calgary won the season series, winning eight games, while Abbotsford won four.
In Calgary, the Canucks had a 2-3-1 record on the year while at home in the Abbotsford Centre, they posted a 2-2-2 record against the Wranglers.
Now that we’ve handled the logistics, let’s talk about the players and storylines that should be fun to follow as this series goes on.
There’s one storyline that sticks out head and shoulders above the rest.
Wranglers goaltender Dustin Wolf was named MVP of the 2022-23 AHL regular season, posting a 42-10-2 record with a 0.932% save percentage and 2.09 goals against average.
Wolf is dominant and capable of winning any game, any night. He is arguably the best goaltender outside of the NHL and recorded seven shutouts on the season.
If the Canucks can crack Wolf, they will win this series. If Wolf gets into a groove, the Wranglers can roll through this series.
Marty and Arty
The Canucks’ goaltending duo split the starts in round one. Spencer Martin picked up a shutout in game one while Arturs Silovs allowed two goals on 28 shots during his outing.
We have guessed incorrectly twice on who the starter will be for the Canucks in these playoff runs. We project that Martin will start, so, lock it in — Silovs will probably start tonight.
No matter the case, there’s confidence in both of these two goaltenders from the players, coaching staff, and management. What we can expect is that as soon as one goalie slips, the other guy will be given the opportunity to run with the baton.
The Abbotsford Canucks didn’t use Alex Kannok Leipert in their opening series and Vincent Arseneau was unavailable due to injury. We may see a lineup change because the Canucks will not want to be pushed around.
A lot of the Wranglers’ strong record is on the back of Wolf’s play and the Wranglers play a physical style that grinds down opponents and just makes the front of their net very difficult to control. The Wranglers have been pushed back on from the Canucks this season and Abbotsford will need to toughen up if they want to compete.
Brady Keeper brings toughness for the Canucks and players like Noah Juulsen and Chase Wouters will help the team attempt to win the physicality battle. If the Canucks get pushed around in game one, expect Kannok Leipert or potentially Arseneau to get into the lineup.
Closing out the series at home
If Abbotsford can pick up a split on the road they will come home with three home games and a best-of-three series at the Abbotsford Centre.
A split should be the goal for the Canucks as they see two games in Calgary.
Need more than just Hög-Sass-Rau
The trio of Nils Höglander, Max Sasson and Kyle Rau was excellent for the Canucks in the opening round but other lines will need to step up if the Canucks will be able to solve Wolf.
We’re keying in on the top line of Tristen Nielsen, Justin Dowling and Linus Karlsson. This trio can score in bunches but was quiet throughout the first-round series.
It’s going to take more than one line to beat this Wranglers team and it presents a great opportunity for the kid line of Arshdeep Bains, Aatu Räty, and Danila Klimovich. The kid line will be receiving bottom-six matchups and when they get hot, they can score a whackload of goals.
Game one kicks off Wednesday night at 6:00 pm Pacific Time and is available on AHLtv.
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