If you missed the chance to root for the underdog in the Blue Jackets-Lightning series because you understandably believed the more talented team would win, then the AHL has a Great Value alternative for you going on right now. The Cleveland Monsters, a Columbus affiliate, are taking on the Syracuse Crunch, a Tampa Bay affiliate, in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoff. Even better is that the Monsters got off to the same start on Friday as the Blue Jackets did in their series and took Game 1 from the higher-seeded Crunch, 5-3.
While the narrative of an upset here isn’t quite as intense as it was in the Stanley Cup series, the affiliate match up does share a couple of similarities. Syracuse ended the season with the second-best record in the AHL, but was at the top of the league when it came to scoring goals. Cleveland, on the other hand, had to win its last game of the season and needed the Belleville Senators to lose their final game, which they did, to sneak in to the postseason.
The talent discrepancy between the two teams was on full display on Friday, not because of all the scoring the Crunch did, but because of how increasingly mad they seemed to get after every goal the Monsters scored. Just look at the dejection in the body language of Syracuse’s players when Cleveland broke the 2-2 deadlock in the third period.
Less than a minute later, one player’s feeling of dejection apparently escalated into mild rage based on how he reacted when a Monster had the audacity to skate near him after a goal was scored.
That’s the pent-up frustration of someone who’s not just upset that a team with a worse record is beating them, but also that his opponents are beating his squad pretty handily.
A true mark of a successful farm system is when the minor league teams are able to follow the examples that the top-flight team sets. With that in mind, it seems that the Crunch might have be following the Lightning’s example a little too closely.