In the last gasp of hope for Kings fans worldwide this season, the Manchester Monarchs, our AHL affiliate, were eliminated in six games against the Hershey Bears in the Eastern Conference Finals. For those of you who were not following (or even reading this blog for crying out loud), the Monarchs had a good run through the playoffs this year, making it to the AHL Conference Finals for only the second time in franchise history. Last time they made the finals they were swept in four games against these very same (stacked) Hershey Bears.
So far this off-season they orchestrated their own sweep of the Portland Pirates in the First Round. In the Second Round they faced the much more dangerous Worcester Sharks, but on the back of some timely goals from Bud Holloway (SIX game winning goals these playoffs), and impressive goaltending from the future of Kings keepers, Jonathan Bernier they dispatched the Sharks in six games. On then, to the Conference Final.
In this unfortunate series, the Monarchs dropped the first two games in Hershey in what can only be described as a troubling start to the series. Though they appeared to be hanging in each of the games, there is no question that they were pushing hard for a split heading back to Manchester. In an interesting quirk of AHL scheduling, the first two games are played at the higher seed’s home ice, followed by three games at the visiting team, concluding with (if necessary) two more games at the higher seeded ice. What that ultimately means is that a split in the first two games makes it possible for the visiting team to sweep the series in five games and never have to leave your home ice.
Tragically that’s not what happened. The Monarchs fought valiently and took games 3 and 4 from the Bears, knotting the series up at 2 games apiece, but that was all she wrote. They were defeated in two straight games, one in Manchester and one back in Hershey to end the series. It was a disappointing end to the series, but still an impressive performance from the young team.
How will this playoff run help the Kings in the future? We’ll have to wait and see, but certainly playoff experience, even at the AHL level can only help. With any luck a few of these guys will be with the big team next season and be able to build on this experience. Hopefully we’ll also be creating an annual AHL powerhouse that can churn out winners to Los Angeles on a regular basis. This was step one.
Did anyone particularly impress you with their play this off-season? Who do you think will be with the Kings next year?