The beloved Rampage rolled through this week with a 1-1-1 record and while their penalty struggles continued, they dominated shots on goal. They’ve had some high-volume shot nights before this year but now there seems to be the beginnings of consistency there.
As we’ve seen over the course of the season so far, when the Rampage stay out of the box they tend to win and that continued this week.
Tuesday: 5-1 loss to Bakersfield, 7 minors and 6 times shorthanded
Saturday: 5-2 win over Bakersfield, 1 minor and 1 time shorthanded
Sunday: 3-2 OTL vs Ontario, 7 minors and 5 times shorthanded
San Antonio averages 5.76 minors and 5 penalty kills per game. They’ve given up 23 goals on the PK in 25 games and adding together all special teams goals for and against they’re a net -6. That hurts.
Shots On Goal
Despite spending lots of time killing needless penalties this was a good stretch of games as far as controlling play. Each game they outshot the opponent by a significant margin.
Bako game #1: 37-30 (55.2%)
Bako game #2: 49-23 (68.0%)
Ontario game: 39-28 (58.2%)
Total: 125-81 (60.7%)
Coming into this week the Rampage’s season shot share was 50.6% so this was a significant improvement above average. One reason for the recent shot explosion is a major shift from defensemen taking a large share of the team’s shots on goal to the forwards stepping up and shooting more. This week the D’s took 28 out of the 125 shots or less than a quarter, at times earlier in the year the D’s were taking as many as half the shots in certain games. The questions here are why, or better yet how?
It’s anecdotal at this point but it appears to me that there’s been a strategy change from Coach Veilleux as far as running the offense. What I’ve seen for most of the year is an offense that runs through the defensemen, which generically most people refer to as a high-low. It is predicated on defensemen controlling the puck in the zone and taking many of the shots while forwards concentrate on retrieval and rebounds. This is often what we see the Avalanche use in the NHL, especially on the power play. There are some big downsides like giving up odd-man chances against and the fact that point shots in general aren’t effective. This weekend the Rampage kept the puck lower in the zone and used the D’s more to keep it in the zone and feed it back down to the forwards. It’s not exactly a straight up cycle offense but it’s more that than the high-low. This is a good strategy for holding on to the puck and creating more chances. The drawbacks are that it allows the opponents to collapse more and make it difficult to find time and space for dangerous chances.
Taking out the 2 empty net goals on Saturday, San Antonio scored 6 goals on 123 shots this week, which is a 4.9% shooting percentage. Given that they also had 10 power plays this is a little concerning. Shooting less than 5% isn’t going to win you many games but I think the strategy has merit. What needs to happen now that they’ve made a transition from the high-low is to find a way to capitalize on their newfound puck possession skills. There are only so many times you can grind out goals from scrambles in front of the net, getting easy goals from royal road passes and overcommitting opponents is the next step.
The Rampage get a few days to rest and practice before facing old friends the Monsters on Thursday night. Rockford then arrives for a weekend series on Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention AJ Greer’s wonderful and wacky goal from yesterday’s game. This was a thing of beauty.
Greer lost his 4-game goal streak but picked right back up on Sunday so it’s 5 in 6 at this point. He’s ready to be called up at any time. He’s not just a net front guy and puck retriever in the AHL anymore. He’s carrying the puck through the neutral zone and distributing once inside. This is a pretty good step forward and undoubtedly something the Avs staff wanted to see him work on while in San Antonio. If he can display this type of play in the NHL then we’ve got something special and he won’t need to play Mr Sandpaper to get noticed anymore.
Thanks to the San Antonio Rampage for the feature photo.