Friday, May 6, 2011
The two biggest Aeros stars of the game, Carson McMillan and Colton Gillies, celebrate at the end of the game.
The Houston Aeros 3-2 (OT) victory was actually about two Aeros team. There was the team that played in the first period, the third period, and the overtime. That team played with confidence, attacked the net, and basically made plays. Then there was the team in the second period that played like it was still Tuesday night. Luckily Milwaukee wasn't able to grab the lead in the second period, and the good Aeros were able to return and get the win.
So, on to some random thoughts and notes.
1. Great game, once again, by the third line as Colton Gillies, Warren Peters, and Jed Ortmeyer have really stood out and excelled in this series. Ortmeyer attacked the net early in the first period with a shot from mid-range. Gillies was in the right spot for the rebound, and the Aeros were in front.
2. The goals tonight came about from the Aeros doing what they do best. Attacking and getting what they call secondary goals -- goals off of rebounds or passes down in traffic and taking advantage.
"The style of play, like tonight, where we got our goals, was right in front," Gillies said. "They were secondary opportunities. That’s where you’ve got to get your goals with a team like this."
The Aeros didn't get many of those secondary opportunities on Tuesday night -- except from the third line, so they worked at getting more tonight.
3. Mike Yeo, as promised, made some line changes, but no lineup changes. I'll try to address the Matt Kassian situation in a bit, but first...Yeo moved Chad Rau up to the first line with Jon DiSalvatore and Patrick O'Sullivan and placed Cody Almond with Robbie Earl and Casey Wellman. The third and fourth lines were not changed, which made sense, especially with the third line, since that's the one line that has been working at a top notch level this entire playoff series.
"I thought that they did very well," Yeo said. "The offensive zone time from O’Sullivan, Rau, and DiSalvatore, they could have had four goals tonight. I thought that they complimented each other well. And I really like the physical presence that Cody Almond brings to Robbie Earl and Casey Wellman’s line. It gives them a guy that’s going to be hard on the forecheck, physical down low and strong on pucks and get to the net. It’s a nice – a different element on that line."
4. That said, the play of the top two lines still isn't where it needs to be. Robbie Earl was agonizingly close in the second period, and O'Sullivan's goal was on the power play. While I love the play we're seeing from the third and fourth lines, it's got to be asking for trouble to keep depending on them to handle the brunt of the scoring load.
5. Our friends in Milwaukee were a bit pissed the other night because they didn't think Mike Yeo said enough nice things about Milwaukee's game. So we asked him about the play of Milwaukee goalie Jeremy Smith, who is about the only reason this game went into OT.
"He was very good," Yeo said. "He was very good tonight. I give him a lot of credit for that. But there were a lot of things in our game that I really liked. I loved how many times we gave him opportunities to be good.
"The way we were taking pucks to the net, and the way we were shooting and attacking the net, not only off the rush, but in the offensive zone, I think we made it a much more difficult game for him. And that’s what he have to continue to do. He’s obviously a very good goalie."
6. The Aeros teased the fans who were around for the pregame skate as the Aeros sent out 19 skaters. One of those 19 was Matt Kassian. However, come game time, Kassian was indeed scratched. And frankly, despite what some desire, it is very doubtful that Kassian will be playing this series as the team likes what it's seeing from Brett Bulmer.
This quote from Yeo, when asked about the current McMillan line and the game-winner probably says it all.
"We let the other lines go out there and do their thing," he said. "Those guys – I thought that line was very good for us tonight. Not just in the overtime period, as far as Carson’s line. I thought that Bulmer, to me took another step in his game. And I think the last two games Palmer’s been very, very good.
"But that’s set up because we’re playing our game. Those guys get on in a good change. And now [Milwaukee’s] tired and we’re able beat them on an icing call. And we’re able to keep tired guys in the defensive zone and force them to defend down there.
"As much as a credit as it to those guys, because they played a great game, it’s also a credit to the other guys who were on the ice before them."
7. Carson McMillan has two goals in the playoffs this season. Both goals have been game-winning goals, and both goals have been in overtime. We spoke to McMillan after the game, but because I have to give something to the Press, you're going to have read his thoughts about the goal there.
However, McMillan did offer up some thoughts on the line shifting, and about how the team just sticks together no matter what.
"We’re a close group," McMillan says. "Anytime we shift lines, it’s just – maybe it might click some more chemistry. I think the guys just went out tonight and wanted to work hard for each other. When you do that, good things happen."
8. Friday will be the last time for the Aeros to take advantage of the home ice against Milwaukee. The Aeros are hoping to take advantage of the so-called hot ice. That said, they know they just can't depend on the heat/conditions to get to Milwaukee.
"It is a hot rink," Gillies said. "Our fans are great to us, too. That helps us out, huge. We can hope for that, but we’ve got to be ready. They’re going to come out really hard. It’s going to be an intense game tomorrow for sure."
And that was echoed by McMillan: "I think sometimes it is [the hot rink being an advantage], but they came early, probably got a couple of practices in. I’m sure they’re used to it by now. We’ve just got to stay hydrated, because it is hot, and stick to our game and know that good things happen."
10. The series is tied 2-2. Milwaukee's owned the odd-numbered guys, and Houston's owned the even-numbered games. Does that change on Friday night? Well we'll know this evening.