By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department
The Blues have heard it, as the 5-1-0 road trip shows; the rest of the organization needs to hear it as well. Especially our Baby Blues 120 miles northeast of the Arch...
Gentlemen of the St. Louis Blues organization, from the NHL club down to the lowest level of junior, the playoff push for your clubs -- and for each of you as individuals -- commences now. March Forth!!!
BATTING .500 MAY BE WORLD-CLASS IN BASEBALL...
...but a .500 record the rest of the way will spell almost certain doom for the Rivermen.
With over 80% of the 2011-12 AHL season complete, your Peoria Rivermen remain in the thick of the race for a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs, and 21-year-old Jake "The Snake" Allen (pictured at left) is the man who will have to lead them if they are to get there.
After 60 games of a 76-game season, the Rivermen find themselves in seventh place in the Western Conference with 65 points (31-26-2-1), the same total as the Chicago Wolves (30-22-2-3), who hold the sixth seed by virtue of a better points percentage than Peoria. Chicago has 65 points in 57 games (0.570), while the Rivermen have their 65 points in 60 games (0.542).
If the Rivermen have any hopes of moving up in the standings, however (the fourth seed and home ice for the first round of the playoffs is just two points out of their reach right now), they will need to do much better than the 2-2-0 record they managed this past week... and they will absolutely have to avoid losing games to teams below them in the standings, as they did on Saturday night to the Rockford IceHogs (26-26-2-5, 59 pts).
With 60 games played, Peoria has played more games than anyone else in the Western Conference right now, and with the race as tight as it it is -- just three points separate fourth-place Abbotsford (31-21-2-3, 67 pts) from ninth-place Milwaukee (30-23-2-2, 64 pts) right now -- the Rivs will not only need to win as many of their remaining games as possible, but they also need some of the other Western Conference contenders to drop some of these games they have in hand on Peoria.
That last point, however, does not look so good for the Rivermen as of now. Houston, currently the eighth seed with 64 points (26-18-3-9) has four games in hand on the Rivermen, and while the Rivermen play just twice in the next seven days, the Aeros will play three games this week -- a pair of road games at Abbotsford, and a home contest vs. Grand Rapids.
The three teams directly ahead of the Rivermen, however -- Abbotsford, San Antonio and Chicago -- have three, two, and three games in hand on Peoria respectively. Abbotsford plays four games this week, all at home beginning with a tilt with the Texas Stars today before the two games with Houston, and closing out the week by hosting the Rivermen on Friday.
San Antonio (32-23-2-1, 67 pts) only plays twice this week -- Friday and Saturday at Texas -- so they will still have two games in hand on Peoria at this time next week. And Chicago has three games this week, hosting Oklahoma City and Milwaukee before traveling to Midwest Division leading Charlotte on Saturday.
RIVS FINALLY GET OFF THE SCHNEID WITH THE MAN ADVANTAGE:
After going eight games and more than two weeks without scoring a power play goal, the Rivermen managed to tally with the man advantage in back-to-back games to close out this week. Veterans Jonathan Cheechoo and Danny Syvret each scored on the power play in Peoria's 4-2 win over Oklahoma City on Friday, and Adam Cracknell scored the Rivs' only goal of the game with the man advantage in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Rockford.
The Rivs' penalty killing unit, however. remained solid. Peoria has killed off every penalty in nine of their last 12 games, but went through a three-game stretch from Feb. 25 through Feb. 29 where they allowed three goals on eight chances, losing 2-1 to San Antonio and 3-2 to Milwaukee and having to go to the shootout to beat Abbotsford 4-3.
The Peoria power play and penalty kill remain in the top ten of the AHL. The Rivs are eighth in the AHL on the power play with 48 scores in 244 chances (19.7%), and sixth on the penalty kill by virtue of having alllowed just 39 goals in 245 times shiorthanded, a kill rate of 84.1%.
THE WEEK IN REVIEW:
Peoria 4 vs. Abbotsford 3 (SO), Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012.
Peoria 2 at Milwaukee 3, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012.
Peoria 4 vs. Oklahoma City 2, Friday, Mar. 2, 2012.
Peoria 1 vs. Rockford 2, Saturday, Mar. 3, 2012.
THE WEEK AHEAD:
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 ... Game Time 7:00 PM CST at Carver Arena, Peoria, IL. NHL Affiliate: Edmonton Oilers.
Friday, March 9, 2012 ... Game Time 9:00 PM CST at Abbotsfiord Entertainment and Sports Centre, Abbotsford, BC. NHL Affiliate: Calgary Flames.
RIVERMEN NEWS LINKS:
02/26/12 -- Rivermen rally behind Allen to beat Heat, 4-3 in shootout (Peoria Journal Star).
02/29/12 -- Admirals sink Rivermen in Milwaukee (Peoria Journal-Star).
03/02/12 -- Rivermen impose their will on Oklahoma City (Peoria Journal Star).
03/03/12 -- Rivermen lose game, and opportunity, 2-1 (Peoria Journal Star).
03/03/12 -- Sniper exchange: Rivermen trade Sterling, get O'Sullivan (Peoria Journal Star).
03/03/12 -- Rivermen get ex-AHL All-Star goalie from San Jose Sharks (Peoria Journal Star).