Commentary by Tony Uminski
In a classic four-point night, the Rampage closed to within two points of the Milwaukee Admirals with a tight 2-1 win in Milwaukee Monday night.
A four-point game in hockey parlance means the Rampage win and they crawl to within two points, while if they had lost, they would have fallen six points off the pace — a four point difference.
Jordan Kyrou notched a goal and an assist in the contest to lead the Rampage, now 3-0-3-0 in their last six games, to only their fifth road victory in 23 games (5-15-3-0) this season. Defenseman Mitch Reinke added a power play goal and goaltender Jared Coreau stopped 24 of 25 shots for his first road win in a Rampage uniform.
The victory also helps the Rampage overcome the disappointment of the weekend overtime losses in Des Moines, Iowa, where they dropped two games to the Iowa Wild in the extra session after having leads in regulation. The Rampage now move on to Grand Rapids for games Friday and Saturday in VanAndel Arena, and then Rockford Sunday in a busy weekend.
Perhaps lost in the shuffle of those setbacks is the Rampage record at home since Thanksgiving, where they are blistering at 13-0-1-0, and a decent 14-6-3-0 overall since Dec. 14.
It will be interesting to see if Coreau can continue his dominance of his former teams in the games in Grand Rapids, where he helped the Griffins to a Calder Cup three years ago. After a nifty 2-0 whitewash of the Western Conference leaders last Friday, it marked Coreau’s second straight shutout of a former team in a week–a really fun dastardly bit of transactional revenge, since he turned the trick on the San Diego Gulls, who sent him to San Antonio in early January.
So how does this team look with 27 games left in the season?
The optimistic fan with the wings and halo will whisper in Drew Bannister’s right ear that at least that’s three points they earned in overtime losses and not goose eggs…and they did shutout the best conference team for the second time in San Antonio this season…and they are crazy good at home and they even won in Milwaukee for Pete’s sake!
The guy with the horns and the pointed tail on Drew’s left shoulder with the uncanny resemblance to Peter Vandermeer responds by pointing out that at the same time, the team is 2-7-4-0 on the road during the same stretch, that’s two wins in the last 13 road games, they can’t seem to hold a lead on the road and they play the next two games in a building they haven’t won in since Barack Obama was president.
So, do the Rampage have a post season chance?
Sure? Do they also have a chance to miss the playoffs? Sure! It’s simply too early to tell.
Plus this season, there are too many teams bunched up like crazy, and depending on injuries and callups, anybody can go into a tailspin or go nuts. Right now, Hershey is on a 12-game tear (11-0-0-1) and Bakersfield of all teams (Edmonton) is ripping up the Western Conference with a 12-game winning streak of its own.
HOW THE RAMPAGE MAKE THE PLAYOFFS
First of all, it all comes down to St. Louis. If the Blues stay healthy. If the Blues stand pat at the trade deadline. If the Blues stay hot, the Rampage have a good chance at making a run. As they stand now, this roster is a pretty good hockey club. If Jordan Kyrou, Sammy Blais, Jordan Nolan can stay in San Antonio and continue to get help from Adam Musil, Austin Poganski, Klim Kostin, Nolan Stevens, Ryan Olsen, Bobby MacIntyre and Trevor Smith up front and the backline continues to contribute, good things can happen. It looks like the brass likes Mackenzie MacEachern (what’s not to like), but if some dinged up guys come back, having him here would bolster the lineup as well.
Second, getting Ville Husso healthy is vital and having him be the Ville of 2018. His lower body injury is close to being ok, and you have to think Coreau is ready for a vacation after starting 13 straight games. Binnington is Winnington in St. Louis at 9-1-1-0 with his second shutout of the high flying Lightning the other night and a 3-2 nail-biter over the Predators Saturday. He’s the go-to guy for the Blues right now. Husso has to be fresh and ready to improve on his 5-13-1 record.
Third, if they learn to win on the road, this could be a dangerous team. Discounting that horrible three-game trip to Manitoba and Milwaukee in January, this team is 15-3-3-0 in those 21 games other than those three. Hmm. Not bad. They have shown they can hang with the Griffins, losing in Van Andel Arena 4-3 and 4-2, and shutting them out here, 4-0 and 2-0. The AHL schedule-maker didn’t help the Rampage by giving them Rockford after a long bus ride from Grand Rapids and a 4 pm faceoff next Sunday, usually a decent chance for a San Antonio road win, but doable. Then, Ontario, which is really struggling this season with the worst record in the league, with seven home wins in 24 games. San Diego will be a tough one…very few visitors come out of there with a W, and then the first visit to Colorado to play the Eagles, and the Rampage have some payback in mind since the Eagles swept them in October. Best case scenario — 6-2-2-0 mark…more likely, 4-4-2 and since things are still stacked up, eighth place is up for grabs. However…
HOW THE RAMPAGE MISS THE PLAYOFFS
First, the Blues decide they need extra guys and call up the troops, or worse yet, showcase Blais, or Kyrou or Kostin to bolster their chances to make deals at the deadline. Not saying that will happen. But if it does, Mitch Cooper and Stephen Perfetto aren’t the answer.
Second, if the wheels come off and the team starts getting zero standing points instead of one per game, that will be a problem. Having teams get points for overtime and shootouts messes up your comeback chances when your behind in the standings, and really clogs up the gears when trying to figure out the standings when percentages are involved. But should the Rampage go 0-3 this weekend, their playoff chances won’t be dead, but let’s say the Calder Cup Doc will be just about ready to call the code on them.
Third, if they can only get through these last seven games of this trip 4-3, the schedule goes completely in their favor. Of their final 20 games, 14 are at the AT&T Center, and only three are outside of Texas, and two of those are in Iowa, where they play competitive hockey. But should they falter this weekend especially, it will really make things difficult for them.