The beloved rampage are coming off of a tough weekend losing 2 in a row to Rockford in regulation. This is becoming a bit of a concern because the team is about as healthy as it could be yet the wins are getting harder to come by. Charlotte and Stockton stop by for a mid-week back-to-back, and let's just say these are the kind of teams San Antonio should be scoring 2 points against easily.
- This Week's Rampage Report with Dan Weiss features guest stars Mikko Rantanen and Cowboy Troy Bourke
- Nate from RWtH has a First-Quarter Report Card for our boys in Silver & Black. (Spoiler: Mikko gets an A)
- Topher from RWtH catches up with the last 4 games in his latest Rampage Corsi Report. I need more time to pore over it but one thing stands out, Siemens is putting up some impressive shot metrics. 1st or 2nd out of the defensemen every game and it's been like that all year.
- Former Avs defenseman Jan Hejda signed a Professional Try-Out contract with Lake Erie on Monday
Marc-Andre Cliche was viciously boarded by Jeremy Morin on Friday, didn't return to the game and didn't play Sunday. No update as of press time on his status. Morin was suspended for Sunday's game by the AHL
Dan Maggio has been out since a fight a few weeks ago with an unspecified injury.
Recap: Rockford Horror
The Rampage had a full 5 days off to recuperate and actually started Friday's game with a lot of pace but it didn’t last unfortunately. Aggz returned from Colorado with a PPG 7 minutes into the first but towards the end of the period the Hogs began to take over momentum. An early double minor in the 2nd led to a Joey Hishon goal but afterwards San Antonio checked out for a while and Rockford scored 3 goals before they could find a way back into the game. The 3rd was played sort of even due to score effects after yet another RFD score and the game ended 4-2.
With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and nothing personally on the line, I’ll offer a few criticisms of Friday’s lineup construction with the caveat that I agree with Dean that on paper these were some pretty good-looking trios/duos:
- 1st line: As I said above, Mikko’s just a bit off so he can’t be as dominant as before the wrist injury. Everberg is a great complementary player but he’s not going to drive the bus for a whole game. Combine that with Hishon’s propensity to disappear for stretches and these guys were fairly ineffective.
- 2nd line: Smitty’s a good player but he’s at his best with a couple of big wingers and struggles with similar guys like Agozzino and Hishon on the same line. He and Borna are also a little over their heads when given top minutes and matchups like we’ve seen them get off and on lately. Aggz tends to complement Hish but he tends to cancel out Smith and I think the same can be said for Evs and Mikko canceling each other out when put together. Swapping Aggz for Evs solves both issues.
- 3rd line: Probably the most consistent line all night but still ended up on the ice for 2 out of 3 of the even strength goals.
- 4th line: Didn’t play terrible but were ineffective at clearing the zone. Cheek was bad/MIA and Big Sam ended up being the puck mover, which is great to see but having Troy Bourke would have helped a lot in that area and made the line more viable in the 3rd period when they were stapled to the bench.
- Beegs/Clark: were fine, but Clark’s anchoryness kind of held Bigras back when SA could have used some drive up the ice
- Duncan/Max: Had the best chances generated of all 3 pairs but also the most fuckups. Duncan was really aggressive all night, which again is great to see, but some of the chances he took hurt the team overall. This is the point we’ve wanted to see with Siemens, where the coach has to reign him in instead of having to use the whip.
- Labrie/Z: Hubie continues to be serious liability on defense and I can’t imagine what else could make this clearer. I can see why Dean would be frightened to put Mason and Zadorov together, a raw rookie mixed with a highly talented hideous turnover looking for a place to happen, but at least Geertsen has upside while Labrie at best will be mediocre. Like I’ve said before, if the Rampage are going to be elite it’s not going to be because of conservative bullshit like playing plugs over talented youngsters.
On paper, Sunday’s game looked as ugly as Friday’s but it really wasn’t. The Rampage gave up 2 goals at even strength, one very early on the usual horrifying Zadorov turnover and another where Noreau attempted to clear off the glass, hit a partition and went right to the Hogs in the slot. The PK was the difference, giving up 2 goals in 3 chances to the fairly mediocre Rockford power play although one was on a questionable hi-stick.
Today’s assignation of blame starts with defensive usage. In my mind, these were the correct 6 guys to have in the lineup but the pairs were in blender mode all afternoon. Just a wild guess, but it looks like the staff were trying to match things up situationally for the first half of the game before retreating to the usual pairs and usage. Complicating things is wanting to play Zadorov a lot even tho’ he’s really struggling right now and not wanting to play Geertsen a lot for reasons that make no sense. The pairs we’ve seen all season have gotten a little stale and maybe last week with the 5 days between games would have been a good time to mix things up and shuffle some responsibilities around. Finding a viable partner for Z seems to be the key to the whole lineup right now. It’s definitely not Labrie and it’s probably not Mason either. I’d put him with Clark right now, have Bigras and Siemens together which leaves Mason and Max with Max getting some extra shifts.
Center depth is holding back the offense a bit right now. The Rampage have been in a shot deficit ever since Ben Street left but he’s not coming back anytime soon so we move on. There’s basically three 1st line wings and no top line center that can play effectively in all situations for 20+ minutes a night. Losing Cliche hurts because you’d like to bury whichever line Henley is on with defensive starts, having him center the 3rd makes the 4th pretty much useless. Add to that, no one is winning faceoffs consistently which is visibly hurting the team in the offensive zone.
I’m not sure why but the forecheck has been MIA for the past two games. Maybe the staff are trying to emulate the Avs 1-3-1 or something but the effect is that the opponents are getting out of their zone too easily and the trap isn’t working better when that happens. I’d like to see them get back to the 2-man forecheck and put pressure on before the puck exits the zone. There’s 2 days to work on all this plus Friday & Saturday off as well.
Charlotte has been hovering around the .500 mark for a while, in fact they were at .500 when they visited the AT&T Center back on November 22nd and beat the Rampage 4-3 in regulation. For whatever reason, the Monsters and now the Rampage haven't fared as well against the Checkers as they should. Good time to change that.
Stockton's goalie situation is a disaster, they've used 6 so far this year. Jon Gillies, who started against SA back on October 24th and gave up 5 goals before getting pulled for Kari Ramo, is out for the rest of the season with a hip injury. Kevin Poulin, who lost in a shootout to Roman Will on November 13th was injured a week later and is still unavailable. Right now Stockton is going with Joni Ortio (2-1-0) and Kent Simpson (1-4-0) in net. The Heat sit in last place in the Pacific with a 7-8-2 record.
Unless Cliche is declared fit to play or Dean decides to put Hubie back in the lineup for Mason, we should see something close to the lineup on Sunday. There was a lot of blendering on defense for the first part of the game so there's a slight chance we see some switches there.
Aggz - Hish - Mikko
Evs - Smitty - Borna
Schumi - Big Sam - Pete
Bourke - Cheek - Bordy
Bigras - Clark
Duncan - Max
Mase - Z
Scratched: Labrie (nacho), Cliche (injured), Maggio (injured)
Wednesday night vs Charlotte 8pm in the ET
Thursday night vs Stockton 8pm in the ET
All games on Ticket 760
Sunday afternoon vs the Stars
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Tonight's game starts a few hours before the Avs take on the Pens and Thursday's game doesn't conflict at all so stop by and support your prospects, enjoy!