Wednesday, 14 March 2007

That's What The Spanish Call "En El Fuego"

It appears that the Manitoba Moose are following the Vancouver Canucks' lead. Since Christmas, Alain Vigneault and the Orca-boys have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL. This trend appears to be having a trickle-down effect to the farm. Since December 8, when Manitoba snapped a four-game losing streak with a victory over Peoria, the Moose show a record of 26-5-4-2, a winning percentage of .784 over that period. This has vaulted the Moose into first place in the AHL's Western Conference, and now own the best record in the conference under rookie head coach Scott Arniel.

The goaltending tandem of Drew MacIntyre and Wade Flaherty has been stellar in the last 37 games as well, a large reason for Manitoba's recent jump up the standings. MacIntyre, who guided the Grand Rapids Griffins to the 2006 AHL Western Conference Finals, has posted a 15-3-0 record with a sparkling 1.78 goals-against average and a remarkable .940 save percentage. Wade Flaherty, Manitoba's senior statesman in net, has gone 11-2-0 over the same stretch, posting a 1.97 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. Flaherty was also the AHL Calder Cup MVP in 2004 when he guided the Milwaukee Admirals to the championship.

In terms of goal-scoring, Jason Jaffray has been hot. The 2007 Rbk AHL All-Star has recorded seven goals, 15 assists, and a +17 rating over the 15 games since the All-Star break, vaulting him into seventh place in the AHL scoring race with 68 points. After a stint with the Canucks, Brad Moran has returned to his Moose form, ranking fifth in the AHL with 42 assists, and tenth in scoring with 63 points. His current six-game scoring streak has netted him nine points and a +10 mark over that period. Winnipeg native Lee Goren has also been hot, having scored 21 goals so far this season, the fifth-straight time he has lit the lamp 20 or more times. He also has 36 assists, one off his career-best total in that category. Colby Genoway still leads the team with a +25 rating, showing that the Moose are playing some effective two-way hockey as well.

The Moose have the best penalty-killing efficiency in the AHL, clicking at a 89.4% rate. They have been led by former-NHL veteran Mike Keane, and a solid defensive unit anchored by another NHL veteran, Yannick Tremblay. 20-year old rookie Alex Edler has been solid all year, posting 23 points in 39 games with the Moose while also appearing in 18 NHL games with the Canucks. Nathan McIver and Prestin Ryan have also spent some time with the big club, and have been solid defensively with the Moose as well, posting two points and 14 points, respectively. McIver has also shown some tenacity by dropping the gloves several times this season. Fourth-year pro Maxime Fortunas has continued to make strides forward in remaining as a Moose mainstay, setting career highs with 16 assists and 17 points so far this season.

Most recently, Nathan Smith was called up to Vancouver. Smith has 16 goals and 18 assists for 34 points in 58 games for the Moose this season. He also has racked up 70 PIM while posting a somewhat surprising -9 rating. He should play a checking/energy role for Vancouver while he's there, and has both the speed and heart to show some true grit on the checking line.

With 16 games remaining on the schedule, the Moose will have to continue to be hot. If it has been any indication, it doesn't appear this long hot streak is about to end any time soon. Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: