The beloved Rampage traveled the familiar road to Cedar Park yesterday to begin their 14 game season series with the Stars. First place in the division was on the line and it looked like it would be a battle of wide open offense vs stifling shot suppression.
San Antonio were outshot 12-4 and 16-3 in the first two periods but somehow managed to enter 2nd intermission tied at 2. The Stars became fatigued from shooting so much they stopped and SA owned the 3rd with a 14-3 shot margin which continued into OT with another 5-2 edge. Joe Colborne scored on the 1st pass and Rocco Grimaldi won the shootout in the 3rd round and the Rampage had 2 points and the lead in the Pacific Division somehow.
I went on record yesterday as not being a fan of Eric Veilleux’s lineup and for good reason. The top 3 lines were made up of 3 sets of 3 similar players and all sensible analysis indicated they would get steamrolled by the quick & skilled Stars. And they did.
A trio of small wingers that don’t like to pass doesn’t sound like it would be effective at generating offense and they sure weren’t. Defensive deficiencies kept them trapped in the d-zone often and the few times they gained possession didn’t lead to anything I would consider dangerous in the offensive zone. Ranford & Rocco ended the game with 1 SOG apiece, Agozzino had 8 which is nice but he’s supposed to be the center on this line and not getting the other 2 involved is counter-productive.
Misplaced veteran Colborne started with the two STL prospects on a line that would have given Patty Roy a grin, all over 6’3 and 200 pounds. This was Thompson’s first game for the Rampage and first as a center in a while so I’ll cut him some slack. They got the Rampage on the board in the first with Kostin/Big Joe feeding Thompson for the first goal. This line also had major issues exiting the defensive zone and never got going until AJ Greer replaced Colborne somewhere in the 2nd period. Thompson passed to Greer who made a wonderful feed to Mason Geertsen sneaking in Nick Holden style for Mason’s first AHL goal to make it 2-2. From then on this line carried the mail for the rest of the forwards. Thompson ended up with a goal and assist, Greer/Kostin with 1A each.
San Antonio’s shutdown line struggled like the other two. You have 3 “defensive forwards” but that’s really a misnomer. They’re defensive because they always seem to be in the defensive zone and can’t get out. I think Bourque and Girard would benefit from someone with some puck skills to help them out but it’s probably better in the long run to split them up. I have no idea why Trent Vogelhuber is in the lineup at all. This line had a single shot on goal thanks to Felix Girard.
It’s early in the season but if this is the strategy Coach Veilleux is going to use setting the lineup every night I will have no choice but to pound on the guy relentlessly. There’s a bunch of talent here, maybe not a lot but enough, and it’s being put together in totally baffling ways. And that’s not to mention that no Avs contracted forward under age 23 had played more than a handful of minutes until Greer last night. I understand he’s under pressure to win and finds it easier to trust veterans but it’s time to cut bait with dead weight like Colborne, Ranford and Vogelhuber. Get Nantel in the lineup, call up J-C Beaudin, get St-Amant healthy and use their skill, speed and smarts to match with what St Louis has given the team. Yes, they’re in 1st place but they haven’t even scratched the surface of what they can do.
– Nic Meloche was asked to leave the game last night after a careless but hardly egregious push from behind. He received 20 minutes in penalties for a routine infraction. The refs had been letting control of the game slip away thanks to uneven penalty calls in the 1st then escalating tensions throughout the 2nd. All could have been avoided with some common sense and control calls. Both teams wanted to set them on fire after the game.
– Andrei Mironov made his AHL debut and after a quiet beginning played a decent game. Thanks to Meloche’s departure and Duncan spending 10 minutes of the 3rd in the box for suspect reasons, he was counted on for major ice time and showed well. Still not NHL quality but it’s a good start. Give him 8-10 games like that and he might be an asset to the Avs again.
– Spencer Martin played his best game in nearly a year, somehow keeping San Antonio in a game where they were being outshot 28-7 at one point. 31/33 saves and a shootout win and wasn’t named 1st star somehow.
– The Avs coaching staff and other management types watched this game and shall again tonight looking for a couple of forwards to call up. Right now I’d say Gabe Bourque is a lock for one spot and the other is AJ Greer’s to win or lose in game 2.
– Nic Meloche, Adam Musil and Trent Vogelhuber will sit tonight. Jesse Graham will make his Rampage debut on defense and Julien Nantel/Reid Petryk draw back in at forward. EV mentioned that Alex Belzile will play in Sunday’s game.
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The two clubs are back at it tonight at 8pm ET, again in Cedar Park. Tomorrow’s contest will be at the AT&T Center at 4pm ET.