The Stanley Cup Playoffs are here once again and the AFHL championship is up for grabs. Lord Stanley’s mug has been owned by the city of Hamilton for the past year, but new contenders have stepped to the fore.
Headlining this year’s first round playoff coverage are some of the AFHL’s biggest stars including Steven Stamkos (Toronto), Claude Giroux (Hamilton), Alex Ovechkin (Victoria), Patrick Kane (North Bay), Alex Semin (Twin City), Pavel Datsyuk (Manhattan), Zach Parise (Oshawa City), and Eric Staal (Lakehead).
Games are available live nationally on TSN and the NHL Network.
On Monday morning, AFHL Commissioner Tony Furino sat down with hockey analyst Barry Melrose to preview and discuss the most magnificent tournament in fantasy sports.
Tony Furino: Hi Barry, thanks for joining us.
Barry Melrose: Thanks for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.
Tony: My first question today is for those who don’t know… What is the AFHL Stanley Cup?
Barry: The AFHL Stanley Cup is the most coveted trophy in fantasy hockey. It’s also one of the hardest to win. Teams must endure three week-long matchups. The winner of the Cup shows true drive and determination.
Tony: The Lakehead IceHoles have been awarded with the first seed in the playoff bracket this year because they finished the regular season with the best overall record in the league. Do they have what it takes to win it all?
Barry: I think so. Your odds are very good when you have a high seed, but anything can happen in the playoffs. Last year, the eighth-seeded London Mustangs defeated the first-seeded North Bay Warriors in Round One.
Tony: So you think there’s a chance the eighth-seeded Oshawa City Leafs can upset the IceHoles in the first round?
Barry: Absolutely. The parity is so close in this game. But keep in mind, there are no flip-a-coin shootouts to pad win totals. There are no loser points to keep things close. The playoffs are a marathon and each round is a seven-day war of attrition to separate the best from the rest. Though David can take down Goliath, make no mistake: David better aim his rock just right.
Tony: Let’s talk about the Twin City Vikings making the playoffs for the first time in their franchise history. They’re the seventh-seed going up against the second-seeded Manhattan Supermen. Ironically, these are the only two teams in the American Conference to make the playoffs. Thoughts?
Barry: The Twin City Vikings did an immediate 180 under GM Phil Svoboda. I predicted the Vikings to be a contender going into this season, so I’m not surprised to see them in the playoffs for the first time in their franchise history.
Tony: Who do you see winning that series?
Barry: The Supermen have been a pleasant surprise, over-performing in what was thought to be a rebuilding year, but that won’t carry over into the playoffs. Twin City is the better team any way you cut it.
Tony: The sixth-seeded North Bay Warriors have been a powerhouse in the AFHL for the past three years, but they keep falling short of going all the way. Is this the year when they finally break free of the chains in not being able to get to the AFHL Stanley Cup Finals?
Barry: I think they can. This year could be considered a down year for the club — they failed to win the Presidents’ Trophy for a third straight year and they have a low seed in the playoff bracket — yet they’re still a huge postseason threat that could make it to the Finals. They are always very, very good. The definition of consistency.
Tony: Do you think it’s going to be hard for the Warriors to beat the Vipers in the first round?
Barry: Very hard. No team in the league makes better use of time and space than the Vipers. Give guys like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Eberle extra space to dangle and a bit of time, say two minutes at a time, and the result is a potent power play and one of the best offenses in the league.
Tony: It’s not easy to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions, but that’s exactly what the Hamilton Firestorm will look to do this 2013 AFHL postseason. They kick off their title defense against the Toronto Red Devils in the first round. Talk about the Firestorm and their chances.
Barry: As we know, the Hamilton Firestorm are tailor made for this time of year. If it’s not Claude Giroux, it’s Brad Richards. If it’s not Brad Richards, it’s Chris Kunitz. If it’s not Chris Kunitz, it’s Ryan Suter. If it’s not Ryan Suter, it’s Zdeno Chara. There is no doubt that the Firestorm have the depth, skill, and experience to become the first team in AFHL history to win back-to-back titles.
Tony: How much of a fight will the Red Devils put up?
Barry: What the Red Devils lack in depth, they make up in elite-level talent. If Jordan Carbone, a master line matcher, spreads Steven Stamkos, James Neal, Joffrey Lupul and Jeff Carter across three lines, it will create matchup problems for the Firestorm.
Tony: Last question. Who wins the 2013 AFHL Stanley Cup?
Barry: The eighth-seeded Oshawa City Leafs will win the 2013 AFHL Stanley Cup. That’s right, I’m rooting for the underdog. Led by John Tavares and Zach Parise on offense, the Leafs have the chemistry this year to go on a miraculous run. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Corey Crawford win Playoff MVP. He’s been the best goaltender in the league this year.
The Amazing Fantasy Hockey League (AFHL) is a lifetime keeper fantasy hockey league that consists of 20 franchised teams, of which 10 are located in Canada, and 10 are located in the United States. The AFHL is in no way shape or form affiliated with the NHL or the NHLPA and all teams logos and players names are their property.