Houston Aeros 1994-2013: Thank you for all the great memories and two decades of great hockey and entertainment.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Notes And Observations From Game Four

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.


Forecheck said...


A couple of quick points this morning :

Great comeback by the guys, but still a few bumps in the road. Like the second period where they lost the momentum of the first,

They need to paint Macker’s name on that crease. It’s his.

Man is Smith a good goalie. Virtual lid on top of that net most of the night.

Maybe we need to change the definition of "first line". It was clearly the OPG line.

One thing I was wondering even Tuesday night (and I think was briefly mentioned by someone else) - Are the Aeros a tired team? I mean not four games in five nights and my legs barely move tired, but 88 games tired. There were so many times last night that , even though they were clearly playing with a lot of desire, they were just 0.01 seconds too slow to the puck or with a shot. Didn’t observe it that much with the Ads.

"…..the team likes what it's seeing from Brett Bulmer." Such as? No offense to Brett, but I’m not seeing this.

Good point at the end. You don’t advance winning just the even numbered games You have to win at least one odd one.

sam said...

i thought that there was some obvious breakdowns in the 2nd, but they weathered the storm,"bent but did not break".
I liked moving Rau to the first line and i thought those guys were one of the best lines tonight! Fantastic play, worked hard, a ton of chances around the net and got to the front of the net. If they play like that they will get scoring.
Third line is clicking. Those are the type of guys that often do it in the playoffs.
Nice read and pictures from third intermission as usual. Thanks!

B2Bomber said...

I'm looking forward to your HP column. It's easier to find if you put up a link. The web site over there is a bit hard to navigate....for me anyway but I flunked DOS for Dummies a several years back also.

Chris Jerina said...

For such an impressive line, why isn't there a nickname for the Gillies/Peters/Ortmeyer line? Maybe the POG line? Anyone remember those?

Loved seeing Rau on the first line, he seems to be able to handle the puck well, which should open up more opportunities for POS. (Who has better stickhandling skills, but seems rarely has someone to complete the job with)

Anonymous said...

G.O.P. line?

ICEVET said...

@ Chris Jerina: nickname for the "GPO" line...

try the VET line...considering that their collective number of (AHL and NHL) playoff games exceeds that of the rest of the Team (combined).

These guys know that the "small things count"...recall the "random hit" Ortmeyer (going to his bench) put on the Admiral winger (coming off his bench) to join a power play early in the game...this probably shaved 15-20 seconds off the Ads effective PP time in that series. The intelligence, effort and soul which Ortmeyer brings to the game just continues to impress.

Go Aeros!!!

Anonymous said...

Fab win! Go Aeros! Still ++ disappointed that Kassian didn't play. Many fans also think this sucks. He is entertaining to watch play! I agree with Forecheck: no disrespect to rookie Bulmer but he has brought zero value added.

Aerosmith said...

Playoffs is not the time to sit a vet in order to help a rookie take his next step in development. Bulmer doesn't bring anywhere near to the team what Kassian brings. Don't get me wrong, someday he may. But we're not going to win because Bulmer is in. As I said before, it's bad coaching to jerk your vets around like this. There's no better way to undermine your players. This is a HUGE insult to Kassian and to the fans who love him.

Anonymous said...

Aerosmith: The Kassian/Bulmer call is not coming from the coaching staff. That's coming from higher-up.