TALE OF THE TAPE: AMERKS VS. CHICAGHO WOLVES

 

The Rochester Americans are at the very least live long shots entering the Calder Cup playoffs.

 

The Amerks are a No. 7 seed and the Chicago Wolves are a No. 2 seed, but Rochester enters the playoffs playing as well as it has all season and benefits from reinforcements from Buffalo and a hot goalie in Andrey Makarov.

 

Here’s how the teams compared for the regular season:

 

Records – Chicago 45-22-5-5, 100 points…Rochester 37-28-6-6, 85 points

 

Home – Chicago 25-8-3-2…Rochester 22-10-3-3

 

Road – Chicago 20-13-2-3…Rochester 15-18-3-2

 

Last --  Chicago 6-2-0-2…Rochester 7-2-0-1

 

Goals for/against – 216-217 (-1)…Chicago 239-191 (+48)

 

Goals for/against home – Chicago 127-93 (+34)…Rochester 122-103 (+21)

 

Goals for/against road – Chicago 112-98 (+14)…Rochester 94-114 (-20)

 

Power play – Chicago 15.3 percent, 27x176 (25th in AHL)…Rochester 20.6, 37x180 (10th)

 

Penalty killing – Chicago 85.6 percent, 292x341 (4th)…Rochester 83.1, 2390x349 (13th).

 

The teams met twice in the regular season. The Amerks won 4-1 at home Jan. 29 and the Wolves won 6-2 at home Feb. 28 (Rochester had won 13 of 17 entering the game).

 

Chicago goalie Jake Allen had a terrific regular season: 33-16-3 record; 2.03 goals-against average; .928 save percentage but Rochester’s Andrey Makarov played extremely after being promoted from the lower minors: 7-3-0; 2.20 GAA; .927 save percentage.

 

Rochester has four players who scored 40-plus points in the regular season, including Phil Verone (612 points lead players on both teams) and Luke Adam (29 goals in 59 games). Ty Rattie led Chicago’s balanced attack with 48 points, including 31 goals.

 

Former Amerk Mark Mancari no longer is with the Wolves. He was traded March 1 to San Antonio for rugged Eric Selleck, another former Amerk and a tough guy (163 penalty minutes in 60 games this season). Chicago also added former Amerk defenseman Doug Janik in a late-season deal.

 

The first round is a best-of-five series. Chicago chose to play the first two games in Rochester (Friday and Saturday) and the balance of the series at home,

 

Based on the season-long numbers, Chicago is the favorite. But the Amerks are a confident team and playing well.

 

The Amerks certainly are due for some playoff success. They last won a playoff series in 2005 (4-0 over Hamilton). They’ve participated in only five series since, winning only 6 of 24 games.

 

Chicago last won the Calder Cup in 2008. Rochester last won the Cup in 1996.

 

UPDATING THE STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

 

Here’s the breakdown on the always competitive first round of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs through Sunday:

 

Home teams 12-5 (better than usual)

 

11 o the 17 games decided by one goal…2 decided by 2 goals…3 decided by 3 goals…1 decided by 5 goals

 

5 overtime games

 

109 goals in 17 games (6.35 goals per game)

 

1 shutout.

 

THOUGHTS ON BASEBALL’S INJSTANT REPLAY

 

For the most part, I don’t like it.

 

I wouldn’t mind limited instant replay – for example, on home runs over the fence and balls hit down the lines. I also don’t mind using it on tag plays on the bases, including home plate.

 

But I don’t like instant replay used on close plays at first base.

 

I was surprised when such plays were among the plays subject to review.

 

Before instant replay, my theory always has been that when an infielder makes a clean play and throws accurately to first base, the umpires always called the runner out on a very close play. But when an infielder had the slightest bobble or hesitation in throwing to first, the runner almost always was called safe That was pretty much SOP.

 

With instant replay, many of the close out plays at first base have been overturned to safe. Those are the ones close enough to determine. Several of the plays have been too close to call.

 

I don’t mind the human element in baseball. I didn’t mind when the umpires made mistakes. I figured close calls evened out over the course of a season. I enjoyed managers in heated arguments with umpires regarding close calls. I miss that. I don’t get a kick out of watching managers waiting helplessly while umpires with headsets communicate with decision-making peers in street clothes in an office in New York City.

 

I also don’t like the new definition on possession of the baseball on double-play attempts. Sunday night, a Baltimore infielder clearly had complete control of the ball while touching second base but bobbled it while attempting to transfer it to his throwing hand in an attempt to complete a double play. The umpire ruled no out at second base. ESPN analyst John Kruk had no idea we the runner at second base was ruled safe. Did you?

 

Finally, instant replay is making a slow game even slower. Seemingly obvious calls are taking three or four minutes to review.

 

The bottom line: I guess I’m old fashioned. I’ve always thought that umpires missing calls was part of the game. I don’t think the benefits of widespread instant replay in baseball outweigh the negatives.

 

I know I’m in the minority. Sort of like hating no DH rule in the National League and wondering why anyone thinks Bud Selig isn’t going to make baseball’s Hall of Fame.

 

ARE KNIGHTHAWKS BETTER THAN PAST TWO SEASONS?

 

The Rochester Knighthawks are the two-time defending National Lacrosse League champions. No franchise has won three straight NLL titles.

 

Rochester haws a chance to make NLL history because this year’s team could be better than the 2012 and 2013 champs.

 

Matt Vinc still arguably is the NLL’s best goaltender (11-3 record; 9.26 goals-against average; .802 save percentage).

 

The defense in front of him is tough and experienced.

 

Stephen Keogh (30 goals, 36 assists, 66 points), Joe Walters (14 goals, 25 assists, 39 points) and Joel McCready (14 goals, 15 assists, 29 points in 10 games) are enjoying their finest seasons.

 

Young Johnny Powless (28 goals, 21 assists, 49 points) continues to improve.

 

Craig Point is back (15 goals, 11 assists, 26 points ion only 6 games).

 

Special teams have been solid:

 

Power play-- 48 percent (24x50)

 

Penalty killing – 552 percent (37x67).

 

The team obviously is in good condition and the coaching staff makes good adjustments during games. Scores by quarter:

 

First – Rochester 39, opponents 35 (+4)

 

Second – Rochester 48, opponents 38 (+10)

 

Third – Rochester 50, opponents 42 (+8)

 

Fourth – Rochester 56, opponents 37 (+19)

 

Overtime – Rochester 1, opponents 1.

 

Cody Jamieson is in contention for his first NLL scoring title. With one game left in the regular season, Jamieson and Shawn Evans (Calgary) each has 98 points. Garrett Billings (Toronto) is out for the season (knee injury) with 101 points.

 

The Knighthawks are 13-4 and finish regular season Saturday night in Buffalo. Rochester’s playoff opener will be Saturday, May 17 against as opponent to be determined.

 

Only four of the NLL’s nine teams have positive goal differentials: Edmonton +58, Rochester +41, Calgary +16 and Toronto +4. Only three teams have winning records: Edmonton 15-2 (the Rush lost 14-13 at home to Calgary last week), Rochester 13-4 and Calgary 11-6.

 

One thing worries me: penalty minutes. Rochester is -71, by far the worst in the NLL. Edmonton is a league-best +97. In a potential championship matchup, that could be significant.

 

SHORT SHOTS

 

 The early story of the NBA playoffs has been the success of the lower-seeded teams. Through eight games, the home teams are 3-5 outright and 2 -6 against the Las Vegas point spread.

 

Rochester finished 15th in the 30-team American Hockey league in home attendance: 5,412 per game; 205,669 total. The AHL’s average crowd was 5,402…Hershey was No. 1 (9,664 average; 367,238 total). The AHL office can’t be happy that the Bears missed the playoffs.

 

The Red Wings, 8-8 entering Monday, were leading the 14-team International League with a .301 batting average, ranked 5th with a 3.67 ERA and were outscoring opponents 72-65.

 

Milwaukee center fielder Carlos Gomez’s showboating and hot-dog antics sparked a mini-brawl in Pittsburgh Sunday. That shouldn’t have surprised anyone. That’s his style. He’s always been cocky and flashy. That’s a big reason why the Mets and Twins gave up on him. But he has developed into a dynamite talent. The Brewers are baseball’s early-season surprise (14-5 record) and Gomez (.312 batting average, 13 runs, 4 doubles, 2 triples, 5 HRs, 12 RBI, excellent defense) has been getting some very early push for MVP.

 

Chris Colabello (Minnesota) update: .353 batting average (24x68), 8 runs, 9 doubles, 1 HR, 20 RBI (leads the American League; second in the majors behind only Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton’s 28), 4 walks, 18 strikeouts, .529 slugging percentage, .927 OPS. Skeptics continue to predict he’ll return to earth with a thud but he keeps hitting.

 

Why is Tim Duncan so infrequently mentioned in discussions about the top 10 players in NBA history.