Aero Joe Blog: Reflections & Re-Focus

It’s officially “Day 2” of the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs even though the Aeros and Griffins won’t resume their best-of-five series until Sunday (Toyota Center, 5 pm).  In case you missed it, Texas and Charlotte both won in overtime, while Hershey upended Providence, 5-2.  All of those results were from Game One of their respective series.  Then, earlier today, Toronto ripped Rochester, 6-3, to take a 1-0 series lead.  Greg Scott racked up four goals for the Marlies.  Yes, you read that right, four goals by one guy, which was just one shy of the Calder Cup playoff record set by Cape Breton’s Bill McDougall back in 1993.

Anyway, let’s spend a few moments reflecting back on the Aeros 3-0 win last night, which staked them to a 1-0 series lead.

  • Darcy Kuemper was OUTSTANDING. Period.  I almost don’t even want to elaborate on this, because I don’t even feel it’s necessary.  Out of his 36 stops on the night, there was at least one momentum-shifter in each period.  I’m talking the types of saves that ignited the Aeros bench, and deflated the Griffins all at the same time.  I expect him to busy again in Game Two simply because the Griffins employ such a shooting mentality.
  • Marco Scandella was a beast (#beastmode).  Yesterday I found myself sort of thinking out loud about the impact he could have on this series and in this postseason, just because of his sheer potential and upside.  When he’s playing with confidence and shutting down the opposition’s cycle game almost single-handily, he’s an absolute force to be reckoned with.  He was all that and more last night, and I’m not even factoring in his power play goal to my assessment of his play.  That tally was basically icing on the cake.
  • After the game last night, Darcy Kuemper joined the American Business Machines post-game show and talked about how the veteran guys led by example.  He mentioned Stephane Veilleux by name, but he wasn’t the only cook in the kitchen (boy, I’m just dropping analogies / cliches all over this blog).  Anyway, my point is that when those guys are doing the little things well – sacrificing their bodies for the betterment of the team, it rubs off on everyone else.
  • The crowd was awesome last night…numbers-wise and in terms of passion.  Keep it up, Houston!

With all that said, the Aeros must re-focus for Game Two.  That’s what makes playoff hockey so great – both teams are talking about putting the last game behind them and moving forward, and the team that does that the best will most likely move on.  The Aeros must clean up their defensive zone coverage (as stated by Coach LaPlante last night after the game), and they must find a way to keep getting traffic in front of Griffins goaltender Petr Mrazek. 

Another thing I’ll be looking for is whether or not today’s roster moves affects the Aeros either way (more roster moves, SHOCKING, I know).  I mean, at this point, the players and coaches can’t possibly be fazed by the revolving door, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t honestly assess the swap in personnel:

  • IN: Carson McMillan and Jake Dowell
  • OUT: Stephane Veilleux and Jason Zucker

You know what you’re getting with McMillan and Dowell…I’d assume McMillan will slide back on the line with David McIntyre and Justin Fontaine, while Dowell gives you another solid centerman and penalty kill specialist.  Both guys were born to play this time of year.  On the flip side, the losses of Veilleux and Zucker can’t be understated.  Veilleux is the only Aeros player with a Calder Cup title on his resume (2003, Houston), and Zucker is a “home run hitter” who can score on any shift.

Of course the Aeros lineup could change significantly in the next 24-48 hours, and a lot of it depends on how the Minnesota Wild fare in their final regular season game tonight in Colorado.

The bottom line is that Game Two is just as crucial as Game One was, and it won’t be an easy night for either team.  Just another reason why this time of year is so much fun.

Before I bounce out of here, I made an error in yesterday’s blog, stating that David McIntyre played between Nick Palmieri and Brett Bulmer in last year’s postseason.  The first person that tweets me @aero_joe with the correct center from that line wins a pair of tickets to tomorrow’s game. 

– Aero Joe

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