Pipeline to the playoffs
An invite to the AHL’s spring dance is nothing new for Hamilton; in 13 years since the club made its Steeltown debut, the Bulldogs have made 10 postseason appearances, including this year. They’ve also made it to the Calder Cup Finals three times, with a championship run just two short years ago.
Goaltenders are key in a playoff run and while the Bulldogs’ experience up front might be fairly green, the big-stage pedigrees and regular season success of their masked men likely rival any tandem in the AHL.
While Marc Denis handled most of the load, Cedrick Desjardins proved to be a more than capable second stopper when called upon. The duo ranked among the top 20 in goals-against average and was 10th and 11th, respectively, in save percentage. Hamilton is one of just two playoff-bound teams with two netminders in the top 20 in both categories; the Milwaukee Admirals, AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators, are the other.
A decade may have passed since Denis suited up for an extended campaign but the experience is there, nonetheless. The 31-year-old’s resume includes a pair of gold medals at the World Junior Hockey Championship in 1996 and 1997, as well as trips to the QMJHL Finals and Memorial Cup tournament. He also helped the Hershey Bears to a Calder Cup title in 1997. Four years after that, Denis learned from one of the best as backup to Patrick Roy during the Avalanche’s 2001 Stanley Cup run.
‘Dogs running on all cylinders
The Bulldogs head into their series on a high, winners of five straight to close out the regular season. The offense has found its rhythm during that stretch, potting at least three goals in four of those contests while allowing more than two just once in that same span. They’ve also held their competition to under 30 shots in every game during their winning streak.
While the playoffs are considered by most as a new season where anything can happen, Ron Wilson’s crew holds the upper hand against the Griffins. They’ve taken four of six meetings in 2008-09, with Cedrick Desjardins earning three of those victories and David Desharnais potting a pair of game-winners.
Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.com