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

Friday, December 28, 2012

Aeros enter next 10 games with "unholy" defense

The Aeros have slipped recently. Head Coach John Torchetti was right when he said he felt like a slump was coming after the Aeros finished that winning streak earlier this month.

The team is hovering around .500 during the rough patch, which is good, but they have allowed three or more goals in seven of their last eight games. That folks is not going to get the Aeros into the playoffs. The is just too much parity in the league this year (which is a good thing) but the teams with the best defense and goaltending are going to end up in the top 8.

I think the next 10 games are going to be huge. There is still the possibility that the lockout will end, and many teams will change in the next 30 days. The Aeros need to take advantage while they still have the services of some prime offensive weapons.

I have not seen as many games in person this year, but I follow the team daily and I think a lot of their recent struggles has a little to do with the odd schedule and the uncertain labor situation. The former is going to settle down, and the Aeros are going to play their next nine games all in Texas. The labor will still be there, and until there is some more news on that front, I still think you are going to see guys like Granlund not playing at full speed. I may be way off, but I have talked to some of my colleagues around the AHL, and they see it too. (Not just Granlund; I just used him as an example because he is as good as gone when the lockout ends.)

In their next 10 games, the Aeros have Texas three more times, San Antonio twice and the tilt against OKC on New Year's Day. That is more than half of the games against teams they have fared fairly well against this season. There is also a healthy dose of teams they have quite frankly sucked against this year. Two more with Charlotte and another with Lake Erie. They are 0-for-6 against those two.

At the end of this stretch, they will start a Midwest trip against the Chicago Wolves. That will be the first meeting of the year, and the Aeros have not fared well in Rosemont this millennium.

My thought is the success of this stretch will depend largely on the next two games. Losing to Charlotte again would be a huge bummer that could carry over to the San Antonio road game. I would like to see the team shake off the Checkered Monkey and start a new winning streak against a team they are going to have to beat if they want to have success during the playoffs.

The Aeros gave away two points and turtled the last time they played Charlotte. I'd like to see them score first, second and third and dominate against a team that has had their number all year.

Do you think they have that in them?


Anonymous said...

Agreed on the issue with Granlund. Playing very safe, in a way reminiscent of Patrick O'Sullivan.

Unfortunate that they have not learned to put teams away.

Not too bad considering they have had 20 - 25% of the roster out with injuries

Ms. Conduct said...

Eh... I kinda waffle on how much Granlund is holding back. To watch him stand in front of (and get beamed by) a slap shot Wednesday, need help off the ice, unable to put weight on his left skate, and then come back and continue standing in front of slap shots... I dunno. Guy gets a pass in my book. That's the kind of stuff I'd expect a guy NOT to do if he's looking to avoid the hurt.

Andrew J. Ferraro said...

Some of it may be health, too. I just think the guy should be dominating if he's as good as advertised.

And it could be just a lack of finish for his line mates.

I am not saying he's tanking; I just think there is some mental hindrance because of the uncertain labor issues.

Andrew J. Ferraro said...

Not making excuses, but I don't think everyone realizes how much ones mental clarity affects overall performance.

ICEVET said...

Agree with your premise.....WEST teams with the best defense and goal-tending will likely end up in the Playoffs.

However, at this moment, only a super-computer could project the final 8-group, given the rising probability that resolution of the CBA will occur by mid-January to save the 48-game NHL season and drive the exodus of talented AHL players to follow.

That said, relative to the West competition, it would appear (from 30,000 feet) that the Aeros would be negatively impacted with the loss of the Granlund line (along with the PP weapons, passing, and skating talent) and Brodin.

The DEFENSE conundrum is highlighted by polar opposites: While, No. 1 in PIM (12.6.....50% of the league average) the Aeros are No. 25 in Penalty Killing and sport a middle-of-the-pack GA average of nearly 3. Simply put, the Aeros are in trouble if they do take a penalty and are likely to lose, if they cannot score 4+ goals.....not a good scenario.

At the center of this (as you say) "inconsistent" defense is inconsistent goal-tending, led by Matt Hackett, now ranked 27th among league goal-tenders with a .902 SV %.....notably, in contrast, Robin Lehner (who he faced in the Calder Cup, 2 seasons ago) currently ranks No. 2 with a .943 SV %. a rhetorical question is which netminder has improved since then?

With the prospect that the Aeros may be relocated, I would hope that Houston hockey fans take advantage of the last 120 days of the season to enjoy the experience of LIVE hockey and show their appreciation for the rich hockey tradition which the Aeros have brought to Houston over many years.

Go Aeros!

Forecheck said...

Andrew - I agree with much of what you said, just realize by the standards set in the last thread you are being negative about Granlund snd the Aeros.

Labor - The NHL season is shot, and this can be a big demotivator for the guys hoping to make NHL money this season, in fact, the lockout could continue into next season, if so why have an AHL - big demotivator for everyone unless you fancy being assigned to Europe. Add in the uncertainty if the Aeros will relocate or not and you have some huge distractions Torch will have to deal with.

I'm just glad I don't have to coach a group of early 20-somethings for a living. Those of us twice their age have enough trouble dealing with stuff similar to this we have already been through.

Forecheck said...

I have wondered too if Granlund has fully adapted ti the NA game.

Anonymous said...

Acording to the hockey news website the minny Depth Chart has MiG as second line center which is should be right and cullen moves over to play wing. But then you still have an over abundance of bodies up there in minny so my guess is minny will trade somebody and get us something

Anonymous said...

So the comparison of Lehner and Hackett is just plain ridiculous .... in 2011 Hackett had a 2.38 GAA and a 917 SAV% in 44 games, Which ranked him 16th in the league. Robin Lehner had a 3.26 GAA and a 907 SAV% in 40 games which ranked him 45 out of 47 in the league....

ICEVET said...

@ Anonymous.....

"Hackett v. Lehner...just plain ridiculous"

With all due respect, the comparision could have been made vis-a-vis any other of the 25 goalies ranked ahead of Mr. Hackett (other than the 2011 Calder Cup MVP. of course).

Darcy Kuemper's solid performance in the Charlotte OT win proves that the Aeros can do better in goal...hopefully, Matt Hackett will be able to raise his performance level.

To be sure, given this season's NHL-type competitive levels in the AHL, the Aeros chances of making the Playoff are diminished with a goalie ranked 27th in the League.

Go Aeros!