Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Hardly Any AHL

It seems like it's been forever since I blogged anything about the AHL, but here's something to talk about. Tonight's win over the Lake Erie Monsters vaulted the Manitoba Moose into first place overall in the AHL. It's a watermark for the Moose who have never been this high in the standings at any time during their AHL days. The Moose are playing some very good hockey led by AHL All-Star goaltender Cory Schneider, and are getting key contributions from some savvy veterans. While the Moose have played two more games than the Hershey Bears, only one point separate the two teams as the Moose head into the toughest stretch of the season as they head out on the road for 10 straight games. Clearly, this roadtrip that the Moose are about to embark on, starting Friday in Providence, could legitimately decide the Moose's season.

The Moose will need to go 7-3 on this roadtrip in order to remain at or near the top of the North Division, ahead of the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Moose have played extremely well away from the MTS Centre, going 15-4-1 thus far this season away from home. Let's take a look at this roadtrip in detail.

Friday, February 6: Moose vs. Providence Bruins (27-19-2-1, first in Atlantic Division). Providence has been playing well, and has won their last two games against the Worcester Sharks and Lowell Devils. This will be a good litmus test for the Moose to start this roadtrip. It will also be the first meeting between the two teams this season.

Sunday, February 8: Moose vs. Manchester Monarchs (19-23-0-5, sixth in Atlantic Division). Manchester has struggled, going 3-7-0 in their last ten games. Manitoba won the first two meetings at the MTS Centre by scores of 4-2 and 3-2, and both games were tightly contested affairs. I expect the tilt in New Hampshire to be no different.

Wednesday, February 11: Moose vs. Hartford Wolfpack (25-18-2-3, second in Atlantic Division). These two teams tangled at the MTS Centre in January. Hartford won the first game by a 6-3 score, while the Moose responded with an overtime victory the next night on a 3-2 score. This is a game that Manitoba will have to get up for as the Wolfpack have been playing solid hockey all season.

Friday, February 13: Moose vs. Manchester Monarchs. The Moose and Monarchs meet up for the second time in six nights. I expect both teams to play hard having felt each other out on the previous Sunday. Friday the 13th games always have an ominous feel.

Saturday, February 14: Moose vs. Hartford Wolfpack. There will be no hugs and kisses on Valentine's Day between these two teams as they meet for the second time in four days. Again, I expect some carry-over between these two teams from their Wednesday game.

Sunday, February 15: Moose vs. Providence Bruins. This is a big game for the Moose. Three games in three nights, and playing one of the top teams in the AHL should make for an entertaining game if the Moose have the legs. The one benefit that the Moose have right now is that they are carrying three goaltenders in Schneider, Karl Goehring, and Curtis Sanford. Expect to see all three men in this back-to-back-to-back set of games.

Friday, February 20: Moose vs. Grand Rapids Griffins (29-9-6-4, second in North Division). A divisional rivalry that always brings out the best in both teams, this game could be the one that establishes either team as the divisional leader. The Moose currently lead the season series at 2-1-0, but the Griffins should benefit from a home game in the Van Andel Arena.

Saturday, February 21: Moose vs. Milwaukee Admirals (31-12-2-2, first in West Division). This will be another tough test for the road-weary Moose at this point. The two teams split the two-game series at the MTS Centre last month with Milwaukee winning the first game 2-0, and the Moose responding on the following night with a 4-0 shutout. The Admirals are 7-3 in their last 10 games, so this looks like another battle for the Moose.

Sunday, February 22: Moose vs. Chicago Wolves (24-22-2-1, fifth in West Division). For the second week in a row, the Moose go back-to-back-to-back. And it doesn't get any easier. Despite Chicago's standing in the West Division, the two former IHL franchises battle one another like it's the old days with neither team giving the other an inch. The two games at the MTS Centre in January were split between the two teams - Chicago took the first game by a 6-2 score, while Manitoba rallied for a 2-1 overtime win in the second game.

Tuesday, February 24: Moose vs. Milwaukee Admirals. Again, I expect carry-over in this game simply due to both teams trying to scratch out points as the schedule nears March. The second meeting in four nights should see both teams battle hard. The Moose will head home after this game, and they'll certainly want to end the roadtrip on a high.

A grueling schedule is life in the AHL, and the Moose need to have their road legs ready. Captain Mike Keane has been stressing playing good dump-and-chase hockey lately, and the Moose responded with a pair of wins over the Lake Erie Monsters. They'll need to continue that strong play if they hope to come out of the roadtrip with a positive result.

Good luck to the Moose, and to all the other AHL teams! Only a few months until the Calder Cup Playoffs start!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Tony said...

I know I'm behind, but the logo you wanted to use with all the league logos would be a nicer touch, IMO, Teebz.

Or is it Teebz'. Huh. Apostrophe looks odd. ;-)