By Chris Block
Tonight, Rockford plays its first playoff contest since 2010 when they begin their best-of-5 opening round series with the Texas Stars in suburban Austin.
Rockford has lost the past 10 consecutive playoff games they have played. The American Hockey League record of most consecutive losses in postseason is 12, set by the Buffalo Bisons in the 1950s. The IceHogs last playoff win came in Game 5 of their second round series with the Chicago Wolves in 2008, the IceHogs first season in the AHL. Rockford was up 3-2 in that series then lost games 6 & 7. The Wolves would go on to with the Calder Cup that year.
While the IceHogs dominated the season series with Texas, this was about the worst draw Rockford could have asked for. The key to Rockford’s success against Texas during the regular season was catching the Stars at the right times, and a power play that ran at a 37.5% clip against the Stars this season.
Rockford can skate with any team in the West at 5-on-5. Where they have separated themselves for success is in getting elite goaltending from Michael Leighton, Scott Darling and Antti Raanta. Mac Carruth, who was in net for three games this season and went 2-1 with a shutout (at Chicago) is now the backup.
But aside from the goaltending, which, no mistake, is why the IceHogs are in the postseason, Rockford’s special teams were consistently the difference between a win and a loss in 2014-15.
Noting that, no team boasts better special teams than Texas.
Their combined special teams mark is 106.9 (86.9 PP + 20.0 PK). Texas ranks 3rd overall in the AHL, and tops in the Western Conference on the power play. Their penalty kill is 4th in the AHL and 2nd in the West.