The Aeros have won four in a row and they are on a five-game point streak after winning both halves of a home-and-home with San Antonio this weekend. That gives them a Western Conference-best 88 points, and for the first time this season, they actually sit somewhat comfortably in a playoff spot. With eight games to go in the regular season, the Aeros lead the Milwaukee Admirals by one point for first place (the Ads have three games in hand) in the West Division. The third-place Texas Stars six points back of the Aeros with two games in hand (the teams play Tuesday in Austin). And Peoria, Oklahoma City and Chicago are all one point back of the Stars with 81 points. So needless to say, nothing is locked up – but the Aeros are in a good spot and so the question begs…is anyone better RIGHT NOW in the Western Conference?
Well, that’s tough to say – honestly – since the Aeros haven’t played the Peoria Rivermen in a month, or the red-hot Lake Erie Monsters since late January, etc. etc. (you get my point). However, we do know this much – regardless of who has been in the Aeros lineup since the calendar flipped to 2011, they have been extremely consistent and at times, dominating as they’ve slowly but surely put themselves into the role of a Calder Cup contender.
Here is some fodder to consider:
- The Minnesota Wild will need a miracle at this point to make the NHL’s postseason, which means if the Aeros lock up a playoff spot they will get Jared Spurgeon, Warren Peters and Marco Scandella (out with an injury for the next 3 weeks or so) infused back into their lineup. (Don’t forget that Nate Prosser will be with the Wild for now while Scandella recovers, but will return to the Aeros at some point).
- Since Patrick O’Sullivan joined the Aeros in mid January, he and Jon DiSalvatore have combined for 70 points in 28 games. That my friends is filthy…and that means the Aeros have one of the most formidable scoring lines in the West Division.
- Rookie goaltender Matt Hackett is now 5-1-1 since taking over the number one job following the trade of Anton Khudobin.
- After their win today, the Aeros are one of just three teams to have at least 20 wins at home and on the road. Hershey and Wilkes-Barre Scranton are the others.
- Defensively, the Aeros were ranked 5th out of 30 teams with a team GAA of 2.58 entering today, March 20th.
- And on an opponents’ front, the Admirals suffered a huge blow to their season on Wednesday night, when their number one goaltender Mark Dekanich suffered an injury (I’ve heard high ankle sprain, but haven’t confirmed that). Either way, he’s out for now and that certainly hurts the Admirals if he isn’t back for the start of the playoffs.
Look, there’s still a lot of time in the regular season and injuries / roster moves will affect every team differently over the next few weeks and into the playoffs. For example, San Antonio may make the postseason and get several big stars back from their parent club in Phoenix once they’re eliminated. With the Edmonton Oilers missing the playoffs, the Oklahoma City Barons WILL get some help, making them a tougher exit should they qualify for the postseason. The Stars could rekindle their magic from last spring’s run to the Calder Cup Finals and become the team to beat, etc. etc. (again, you get my point).
Furthermore, I’m just really just glossing over the West Division. The North Division (should the Aeros reach the Conference Finals) will have it’s say in this as well. If nothing else, teams like Manitoba and Hamilton are experienced from previous playoff seasons and boast solid home records.
I’m not trying to get too carried away here – really – as we all know in sports, you can’t get too high or too low whether “your team’s” enduring a hot streak or a losing skid. I’m just simply laying out some talking points for you and your crew while you enjoy a couple of “shrimp on the barby” with Lloyd Christmas in this beautiful Houston weather.
– Aero Joe