Here’s the deal. I’ve got a bad cold. Bad. Heather and Andrew will attest to the large amount of medication that I had sitting in front of me tonight -- as will one of my lucky readers who saw me at the Walgreens buying said medication. So let’s just say I was rather doped up for this game. And that doping up probably, more than anything, explains what I saw tonight.
Not only did the Aeros, at times, resemble a competent offensive team during tonight’s 5-2 Aeros win over the Toronto Marlies, but there were major offensive contributions from Matt Kassian and J.P. Testwuide. I had to imagine Kassian faking out a goalie and getting a goal on a good shot after a pass from Testwuide, right? That was all just part of my drug-induced imagination, right?
I guess not.
Talking to the players after the game, it was clear that they were not happy with what happened in Rockford. They thought the effort was there, but not the result. And tonight they were out to make sure the result matched their effort.
The first period was rather normal for the Aeros. They scratched a goal when Jean-Michel Daoust does what he does best. Be in the right place. This time in front of the goalie as he was able to get his stick on the puck and direct past Toronto’s starting goalie Joey MacDonald at 17:21 with assists from Nathan Smith and Max Noreau.
Then came the second period when the cold medication took hold of me. Matt Kassian got out on a breakaway, and with a pass from Testwuide he faked out MacDonald and got off a nice shot to put Houston up 2-0 at 2:12. Then Nathan Smith stuffed it in at 5:01 to make it 3-0, which brought about MacDonald’s removal in favor of Andrew Engelage. But just over two minutes later, Smith scored off of a rebound to make it 4-0.
At 17:19 of the third, with the Aeros on the penalty kill, Danny Irmen went flying down the ice with the puck. Testwuide followed, Irmen made a nice pass, and Testwuide got the goal to make the score 5-2.
The Aeros are now off for the All-Star break, and they will return to play on Friday when they play the first of two games in Abbotsford against the Heat.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:
Thanks to the losses in Rockford, the Aeros had a bit of a free-fall in the standings. Milwaukee, at 24-13-1-4 (54 points) is in first. Texas, 23-13-2-4 (52 points) is in second. Rockford, thanks to Houston, is in third at 23-18-2-3 (51 points). Chicago at 23-16-0-2 and Peoria at 22-15-1-3 are tied for fourth with 48 points. Then comes Houston with a record of 20-17-6-1 (47 points).
The Aeros aren’t out of the playoff chase. But they know that the Rockford games hurt them, and they knew the importance of getting a win tonight.
“Obviously a big win for us,” Nathan Smith said. “We thought our effort deserved better than what it got on the road trip…take a look at our division and we need the points. Obviously a big win for us heading into the All-Star break.”
J.P. Testwuide agreed: “We went into Rockford, and we were doing a lot of things right. We realized that, but it was frustrating. We couldn’t get the goals. Their goalie stood on his head. There were all of these excuses that we had to kind of battle through. Tonight, it kind of paid off. It was a good win.”
But the win tonight is useless if the team doesn’t find a way to carry it over after the break.
“You always talk about points in November are important,” Kevin Constantine said. “But the reality is, as the season wears on you have less and less games to play, you’ve got less and less of a chance to catch up. We have to play catch up. That’s just the way it’s going to be here.”
One thing this team needs, what with all of the injuries and call-ups, is for every player on the team to be making a contribution. Nathan Smith had two goals and an assist tonight, Jean-Michel Daoust had a power play goal, and Max Noreau threw in two assists. But it’s guys like Matt Kassian, with a goal, and J.P. Testwuide, with a goal and two assists, that the Aeros are going to need continuing contributions from if the team is to succeed.
“[Matt Kassian] has had his best month by far of his pro career in the last month,” Constantine said. “Two goals [this season]…he’s played the best hockey I’ve seen him play over the last month of his entire pro career….We’ve got so many banged up bodies and bodies gone to the Wild, that everybody has to contribute. Because we’re a not a team that’s going to depend on one or two guys to carry us.”
Constantine is hopeful of having Peter Zingoni, Andy Hilbert, and Jaime Sifers back from injuries when the team returns to play in Abbotsford on Friday, though it sounds as if Zingoni is the closest to returning. It will be big for the Aeros if they can start getting some of these guys back from injury. I can't remember when Zingoni last played, but I do remember that at the start of the season he was really meshing with rookies Cody Almond and Carson McMillan. He wasn't, however, sure of the extent of Jon DiSalvatore's injury.
The Aeros just missed out on several hat tricks tonight. Nathan Smith was a goal short of the regular hat trick. And with his assist, he was a fight short of the Gordie Howe hat trick. Matt Kassian had a fight early in the first to go with his goal in the second, leaving him an assist short of the Gordie Howe. And Testwuide, with a goal and two assists was just a fight short of the Gordie Howe.
And it was the near Smith hat trick that got a joke out of Constantine which came about after Smith got 10 minutes on a misconduct call in the third.
“I don’t know what Smitty was doing, removing himself from that game for ten minutes at the end,” Constantine said. “I thought he was going to go for the hat trick, but I think he wanted the Gordie Howe hat trick instead.”
Chad Rau got hit with a five minute major for boarding when he delivered a hit on Toronto’s Joe Ryan in the second period. Ryan was down on the ice for a long time, but the hit didn’t look to be intentional on Rau’s part.
“Take a look at Chad Rau’s stats,” Nathan Smith said. “And he’s not a guy who’s going to try and injure anybody.”
But after Carson McMillan’s four-game suspension earlier this month, it’s probably wise to wonder about what might become of Rau.
And this hit leads to my Douche Of The Game, which is the Toyota Center sound crew.
Seriously, when there’s a player down on the ice, and the medical staff is out on the ice working on said player, and his teammates are surrounding him and everybody is wondering about just how serious the injury is, you really SHOULDN’T be playing “The Chicken Dance.” You shouldn’t be playing any music, but especially not “The Chicken Dance.”
Try having some class for once.
And now that think about it, I'm kind of shocked that some of the people who roam the Toyota Center shouting into microphones during games didn't decide to start making some of their own contributions during that time.
Since the Aeros were talking about everyone having to pitch in and help out, I thought it was only appropriate that I play The Beatles "With A Little Help From My Friends."