The beloved Rampage’s opening weekend fizzled against a strong Milwaukee team, often times looking like a team full of players that hadn’t played a game together before. Which is what they are. Buoyed by the young side of the roster and system that is a work in progress, there were some positives that indicate a bright future for the team.
Week 1 Fast Facts
Saturday: MKE 2 - SAR 1
Shots: On goal - Rampage 23-22 (51.1%) and 15-10 (60%) at even strength, 5v5 Corsi 30-22 (57.7%), Joe Whitney led the team with 5 SOG and Mikko had 4
Special Teams: PP - 1/9, PK 8/9
Jeremy Smith saved 20/22 (.909)
Goal: AJ Greer (1) from Mikko & Stanton
Sunday: MKE 2 - SAR 1
Shots: On goal - Rampage 30-21 (58.8%), Joe Whitney again led the team with 4, Bigras & Grimaldi had 3 each, Duncan had 2 for the 2nd straight game
Special Teams: PP 1/7, PK 6/6
Spencer Martin saved 19/21 (.905)
Goal: Grimaldi (1) from Greer and Compher
AJ Greer - Had a goal and an assist along with 4 SOG in his pro debut weekend. Played with JT Compher on the 3rd line both games and that was often the most effective Rampage line.
The 4th line - Big Sam Henley, Julien Nantel & Troy Bourke had few shifts on Saturday due to massive amounts of special teams time but Coach Veilleux noted after the game that they were effective and needed more TOI. They got that in Game 2 and looked just as good. No points of course (none of the lines did) but extremely effective moving the puck forward and keeping Milwaukee at bay with a strong forecheck.
The Goalies - Both Jeremy Smith and Spencer Martin had good openers and kept the team in the games. Really couldn’t have asked for more.
Duncan Siemens - The Rampage’s best overall D over both games, killed penalties as usual and ends up leading the D in SOG with 4
The Vets - Safe to say these two games don’t represent the hopes of fans and management from July 1st but it’s no reason to fret either. Joe Whitney had problems holding on to the puck but quietly led the team in SOG both nights. Mike Sislo was MIA. Jim O’Brien was really MIA since he was injured. Trent Vogelhuber isn’t a top-6 center, and that really hurt the line’s performance. Chalk all of this up to early season lack of time together and time needed to figure out who plays well with who.
Bigras on Saturday night - No way to sugarcoat it, he looked pretty awful in game 1. I’m going to throw Anton Lindholm under the bus for some of that, like the Admirals winning goal and probably the frustration double roughing minor Bigras took. I don’t like these two paired up at this point. There’s not enough experience between them to fall back on when the forwards get careless with the puck and they play very similar rather than complementary styles. For that matter, you can say the same about Siemens and Stanton. Since Avs training camp it has seemed like a slam dunk to have one of the defensive guys with one of the youngsters, creating two similar pairs that can play a lot of minutes. We’ll see if that’s what ends up happening.
The Power Play - It wasn’t all bad, both goals came with the man advantage and seeing Greer/Compher/Mikko as one of the units was fantastic to see. 2 out of 16 is a little light however, especially in a pair of 1-goal losses. The frustrating part was the inability to enter the zone and especially the total incompetence of the forwards on the point. Multiple times they were unable to keep the puck in the zone or made poor shot attempts right at a defender that resulted in easy clears or even breakaways. I don’t see obvious replacements other than maybe Sam Henley or one of the defensemen. Quite a few of the 16 PPs resulted in no shots on goal and that isn’t going to work.
Even strength offense - Since both games were sloppy and littered with penalties there was little chance to develop any flow and roll 4 lines, but zero goals is a concern. Some of that goes back to the vet issue and the fine play of MKE goalie Jussi Saros didn’t help. Whatever the case, they were in the neighborhood of 0-for-35 shooting over the weekend 5v5. Ouch.
Mikko - Dropped by unexpectedly just before the weekend and looked a little rusty at times but generally righteous. My wildly unscientific evaluation had him at maybe 80%. Word on the street is that he’s back with the Avs next week, probably Sunday night but possibly after the Texas game on Tuesday.
Boikov - Didn’t play much in game 1 but got more time on Sunday. Played decently in his pro debut. My one criticism is a horrible boarding penalty right as the Rampage were making the final push with the goalie pulled at the end of game 2 but I’m sure he knew he screwed up as soon as it happened.
The New Avs System - I’m glad I got to see the Avs play Washington because it gave good perspective on what they are trying to do organizationally and also what it looks like when it’s not working. The Admirals, like the Caps, were excellent at clogging the middle and not giving the Rampage breakout any room whatsoever. Luckily most teams can’t do this and as the season moves forward it will become more and more difficult for anyone to contain them consistently. It’s just going to take a little time. That said, San Antonio still managed to have the shot advantage in both games so even at this stage the system’s effects are noticeable.
Opening the season with 2 losses at home is a downer and the lack of scoring is a concern but there’s no reason to be pessimistic yet. The talent is there, it just needs some time to develop into production. The 1st year pros exceeded expectations for the most part, especially the forwards as you would think, and they are only going to get better with some games in the bank. By Thanksgiving, Coach Veilleux’s system should be ingrained and the chemistry will be there. I’m looking forward to it.
Preview: Chicago & Texas
Chicago also managed to lose to Milwaukee 2-1 this week so I guess we’re evenly matched. Both teams enter the weekend looking for their first win. The Wolves feature former Avs forwards Andrew Agozzino, Jordan Caron and Conner Bleackley. All 3 are pointless so far (CHI has only scored 4 goals in 3 games), Aggz has played all 3 games while Caron and Bleackley have played in 2. Dan will love toungue-twisting over the fact that Kenny Agostino is on this team along with Agozzino.
The Stars are 2-1 after beating up on Charlotte twice then getting smoked 5-1 by Stockton. They are out in California now playing Ontario and San Diego this weekend before returning to Cedar Park for the Rampage game Tuesday.
Lines/Pairs from Sunday:
Whitney - Mikko - Sislo
Elson - Vogelhuber - Nunn
Greer - Compher - Grimaldi
Henley - Nantel - Bourke
Siemens - Stanton
Bigras - Lindholm
Jardine - Boikov
Scratched: Belzile, Corbett,
Injured: Geertsen, O’Brien
O’Brien and Geertsen are close if not ready now, game day decisions. St Amant has been assigned to the Eagles. Mikko will be gone soon, probably Sunday night. I would imagine the lines have been moved around a little this week and I do hope they swapped Stanton and Lindholm on the pairs. I’ll take a wild guess and say Smith starts today and Marty tomorrow.
Saturday vs Chicago, 8pm ET
Sunday vs Chicago, 4pm ET
Tuesday at Texas, 8:30pm ET
All games on Ticket760
RWtH Live - Nate, JP & Topher run down last weekend’s action on the weekly podcast (they were actually there, you should listen to this).
Topher’s Analytics - Shot charts from game 1 and I’ll give thanks - anything beyond the bland AHL stats in this article comes from Topher’s hard work.
News & Notes
Had a chance to catch the Colorado Eagles game last night, they won 2-0 behind a shutout from Kent Simpson. Shawn St Amant made his professional debut and looked very good after getting the first game jitters out. Really looking forward to seeing him in San Antonio later in the year. Cole Sanford and Justin Hamonic had solid performances as well. Sanford played on a line with St Amant and final cut from Rampage camp Matt Garbowski. Good options for callups in Colorado if needed.
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Other than the Avs/Panthers game overlapping with the 1st & 2nd periods tonight, no conflicts this week so stop by and support your prospects.