AHL Weekly Review: A Deja-Vu Story, Falcons and Monarchs at the top
There are quite a few hot teams in the AHL right now, but none hotter than the Springfield Falcons who have now won 11 games in a row. And while Springfield has found the winning touch, their NHL affiliate the Columbus Blue Jackets have also followed suit, as they have a four game winning streak of their own going on right now. The Manchester Monarchs are still holding tight, however, keeping the Falcons in check, as they are sitting just three points back of the Falcons for the top spot in the east.
Across the way in the west, the cream has risen to the crop, as the Utica Comets and the Rockford IceHogs have firmly established themselves as the class of the west, and are both now in a dogfight for the top seat in the Conference. Not far behind, though, are the Oklahoma City Barons, who have won nine of ten, and are just three points back of the Comets and the IceHogs.
At least one part of the Oilers organization is heading in the right direction…
But before we go any further, I’m just going to get this out of the way. Yes, the Iowa Wild are still bad. Very, very, bad. In 23 games this season, they have just six wins, and 14 points. They have been outscored 83 to 58 by opponents, own a league worst 77.3 percent penalty killing percentage, and are four points behind the next worst team in the league. When push has come to shove, the coaching change in Iowa just hasn’t worked, but as bad as the product on the ice has been, the Wild are still ranked 10th in AHL attendance, which I suppose when you have the worst team in the league, that’s something to latch onto.
Now, back to the teams who need butter for their rolls…
Like was mentioned at the top, the Springfield Falcons have been soaring gracefully as of late. The Falcons offensive attack has been strikingly balanced through 25 games, as they have two skaters, Sean Collins and Ryan Craig, who are both leading the team with nine goals, while Austin Madaisky, who leads the team in points with 22 (8-14-22), is close behind with his eight goals. Madaisky has also recorded an impressive eight multi-point games this season, four of which have come during this current 11 game winning streak.
Between the pipes, Anton Forsberg has been lights out, as he has won his last 10 decisions, owns a 1.76 goals against average, and a .937 save percentage. Combine that with the balanced offense, and you’ve got a winning formula, one which is working to a tee down in Western Massachusetts. The Falcons now sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 17-7-1-0 record, good enough for 35 points.
Remaining close behind the Falcons are the LA Kings affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs. The Monarchs, who sit in second place in the conference with a 15-5-1-1 record, have lost just one time in regulation over the past 10 games. The Monarchs have been the beneficiaries of huge offensive contributions from the trio of Nick Shore, Brian O’Neill, and Jordan Weal, as the three forwards are tied for the team’s lead in points, with 22; Shore has netted 12 goals, while Weal has collected 10, and O’Neill seven. The three also have a combined plus-27 rating.
Jean-Francois Berube has also continued his strong play in the Manchester cage, with 11 wins, a .917 save percentage, and a 2.05 goals against average.
This may all seem like Deja-vu, but when two teams suddenly emerge as the elites of the conference, which is exactly what the Monarchs and the Falcons have done, it’s more than worthy of talking about.
And as well as those two squads have been playing, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers have struggled mightily in recent days. Winners of just two of their last eight games, the New York Islanders affiliate have fallen out of the playoff picture for the time being, and now have a 12-9-2-1 record with 27 points, which has landed them in ninth place in the east, just one point ahead of the hot St. John’s Ice Caps.
Moving right along now over to the Western Conference. The west is currently featuring a neck and neck race for the top spot. As of this writing, both the Utica Comets and the Rockford IceHogs are knotted up with 25 points, while Utica has one game in hand. Both teams have won six of their last ten, and have gotten solid goaltending in net, however, as well as the IceHogs and the Comets have been playing, quickly surging up the ranks behind them have been the Oklahoma City Barons.
Following a sub-.500 start to the season, the Barons have earned points in 10 straight games, having won nine of those contests, and are now sitting comfortably in third place in the Western Conference, with 32 points. Jason Williams has been dynamite for the Barons this season, as he has 25 points (9-16-25) in 20 games, good for a 1.25 point per game average so far. Richard Bachman has led the way in goal for the Barons, as his 7-1-3 record, 2.27 goals against average, and .921 save percentage has been integral to their success over the past 10 games.
If the Barons, Comets, and the IceHogs continue to assert themselves, we could be looking at an exciting race to the top of the conference as we approach the midway point of this season.
On the contrary, the defending Calder Cup champion Texas Stars have struggled to hit a stride at any point this season, as they have won just twice in their last 10, sit in 11th place in the Western Conference, and have a season high seven overtime losses. Talk about a Calder Cup hangover.
On the individual front, Hamilton Bulldogs rookie Charles Hudon is leading on the offensive front with 26 points (8-18-26) in 24 games, while Teemu Pulkkinen of Grand Rapids, and Jason Williams of Oklahoma City are keeping the race tight, as they each have 25 points, through 22 and 20 games respectively.
In goal, Magnus Hellberg is ahead statistically speaking, with his 1.42 goals against average, and .944 save percentage in 11 games, but as was mentioned earlier, Anton Forsberg of Springfield, has been arguably the most impressive, especially in recent days.
All in all, things are starting to take shape in the AHL, and it is getting exciting. Former AHL alumni are making their marks in the NHL, while every point up for grabs is becoming that much more critical with every passing day.
Soon we’ll be talking about the playoff race…
That will do it for this week’s Full Tilt AHL round up. As is the case every week, there are great performances, and there are those that wish to be forgotten. Here at FullTilt, we’ll keep tabs on all of them, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Be sure to check back next week to find out who’s hot and who’s not across the American Hockey League.