Last night was the perfect step in the right direction. Unfortunately, it was just one step. To be honest, that’s what playoff hockey is all about. The Aeros haven’t won anything yet – they haven’t advanced out of the first round – they haven’t accomplished the goal(s) they set out to achieve at the start of the season. But that’s the beauty of this grind that the Aeros and 16 other AHL teams found themselves in when this thing started (down to 12 now, and soon to be 8) just over a week ago. It’s a mental and physical roller coaster, the playoffs are. You win, you better make sure you re-focus for the next game. Suffer a loss, and your short term memory better work in overdrive. I guess my point is exactly the way John Torchetti eloquently stated it to me this morning:
“Tonight’s even about MORE. Whatever you gave last night, you think that’s enough? Tonight we’ve got to double it.” – John Torchetti
Here are some stats to chew on as you get set for tonight’s Game 5:
- With last night’s win, the Aeros all-time record when facing elimination improved to 12-8 in the Calder Cup playoffs. Twice before (2002 vs. Utah & 2009 vs. Manitoba) they were able to win two elimination games in the same series.
- There have been just eight (8) even-strength goals between the two teams through four games. That does not include empty-net tallies, or the Aeros “extra attacker” goal late in Game 2.
- The team that has scored first in the last two games has lost, whereas in Games 1 & 2, the first goal meant not only a win, but also meant no equalizing goals or lead changes.
- Aeros winger Justin Fontaine has multiple points in every game of the series, except for Game 3, when he registered one assist.
- Aeros center Chad Rau got the eventual game-winning goal last night. Out of his seven career Calder Cup playoff tallies, last night’s marker was his first GWG.
Here’s a potential recipe to “keep the ice cold at Toyota Center”:
- Even-Strength Play – I mentioned it above, but there hasn’t been a ton of even-strength scoring in this series. I really believe the Aeros must win that area tonight. Sure, special teams can be the difference this time of year, but when the Griffins have been at their best in this series, it’s because they’ve controlled the puck and five-on-five play. Furthermore, we’ve had four-on-four action in every game of the series and neither team has converted…in the regular season, the Aeros outscored their opponents 6-4 in four-on-four play.
- Get To The Net – The Aeros must make life difficult for Griffins goaltender Petr Mrazek tonight. Working hard to generate second chance opportunities and deflections in front will be huge.
- Mental Composure – In the last two days, I’ve had both coaches talk to me about playing “under control” (I’m paraphrasing a bit here), but it’s no secret emotions are high for both sides. Playing with passion, yet being smart / composed is crucial for success. Don’t get rattled if you fall behind, don’t retaliate and take a boneheaded penalty, and continue to execute the game plan regardless of how things are unfolding.
I hope a lot of you can swing by Nick’s Place tonight for the informal watch party…your support doesn’t go unnoticed, and I know the players and staff on this team would love nothing more than to give you guys some more hockey in Houston!
60 minutes…or more………..
– Aero Joe
P.S. Felt I should point out that Aeros defenseman Paul Mara is a great human being, even though he uses a hockey stick that would be better served for my two-year-old son (read: it’s short). You know what they say about guys with short hockey sticks, right? Me neither. Thanks for reading my blog again, Pauly. At least I know there’s someone out there…