The boys in the bomber sweaters survived (barely) another rough patch in the schedule and head home for a few days of recovery before getting hit with 2 weeks in a row of weekend 3-in-3s. Luckily the first one is at home. The next one, however, is another swing through the midwest.
Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of the midwestern teams. Can we get Abbotsford back? :)
After Wednesday's game, many of the guys were pretty well beat up. A few were missing, such as Colton Gillies, who got a 2 game suspension from the league for his hit on Peoria's Lampman Wednesday, and Max Noreau, who's home resting up that banged up arm.
Against a tough Milwaukee team Friday, it was just too heavy a burden. Sliced and Diced Brusty was on the bench in favor of Ryan Nie, the call-up from ECHL Kalamazoo, who was out of his league, allowing 5 goals on 19 shots. I'd say more about the game but honestly, I didn't watch most of it. But the ASS guys were there, obviously, so you can read their report.
And of course, being in Milwaukee, Chris "Tell It Like It Is" Jerina has some fantastic photos for us. If you pretend real hard, you can't tell how bad the game was.
Let's just get the ugly out of the way: Here's Nie getting scored on. Also, honestly, it's time to get the red paint out, Milwaukee. Save the dinged up nets for rec leaguers and practices. Have some nice ones for game time. Ya look like a slob.
Petr Kalus scheming on some mischief
Mmmmm, garlic bread sticks! And Ryan "Son of a" Gunderson!
Kassian puts a hurting on Guite
Now, on to last night's game in Grand Rapids... GR is, quite simply, beatable. Sometimes you can have a less than stellar goalie, but make up for it to some degree with great defensive play. But really, GR has neither and the even-more-tired Aeros were able to take advantage of that and come back from a 2 goal deficit for the win.
Brusty was back in net and still looking a little gingerly with that sliced leg in the first. He seemed to settle in as the game went on, and the guys in front of him battled despite the fatigue and kept the load fairly light at 22 shots.
It was just a good solid team win last night, and a great chance to get a feel for GR, as they are in Houston Friday and Saturday for the rematch.
I'd love to go into the whole "what does the outcome of this latest batch of games mean for the playoffs" but to be honest, that's just not my bailiwick. I'll give it a shot, but don't expect it to be Ferraro or Royal quality.
I can tell you the Aeros are a measly 6 points out of first place and a sweep of Grand Rapids could be a real boon, but more important are the 2 games against Chicago, and then one each with Peoria and Milwaukee coming right after that.
I don't see Texas falling much from the top of the division, especially when they get Brent Krahn back later this month (he was out with a sports hernia, had surgery, and is back skating now).
Rockford is good and sitting at #2, but they've played 55 games meaning Texas has 4 games in hand on them at the moment. But below them is where the battle for the last two playoff spots will happen. Milwaukee, Chicago, Houston, Peoria.
San Antonio could surge, and they do have only 50 games played so far, which means games in hand with which to surge.
But clearly we're down the the final 25-30 games where all that first half of the season spent building chemistry, finding an identity, learning The Constantine Way, etc. have to start coming together consistently. They've won 7 of their last 10, so that bodes pretty well.
Hey, you know who's an amazing "crunch time/back against the wall" goalie? Some guy named Barry Brust. How about it, Jim? What else does he have to do?
Okay, just saying my peace there...
Oh and before I close this out, Khudobin had his first NHL start last night and was spectacular, stopping 38 of 39 shots in the win over the Philly Flyers. He was #1 star of the game and landed in some pretty elite company in the 3 stars of the night for the whole NHL. The spunky little Russian is hot hot hot!