By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department
Also like the parent club in St. Louis, the Rivermen went on a late-season surge -- including a 7-0-0-3 mark over their last ten games -- to finish solidly in a playoff spot.
And again like the parent club in St. Louis, the Rivermen lost in the first round of their playoffs because of a hot goaltender, and because their special teams went on vacation two weeks early.
Head coach Davis Payne and assistant Brent Thompson took a lineup heavy with legitimate Blues' prospects -- and bolstered by solid veterans under contract to the Blues -- into the Calder Cup playoffs. The chart below details the scoring, penalty, and goaltending statistics for all Blues-contracted players that appeared in the playoffs for the Rivermen.
Players in GOLD bars = not in "prospect" status due to age, but under contract to St. Louis.
|=== PEORIA PLAYOFF SCORING AND PENALTY STATISTICS THRU 27 APRIL 2009 -- CONTRACTED PROSPECTS ===|
|10 / DRAZENOVIC, Nicholas||C||5||1||0||1||- 3||2||1||0||0||0.20||0.40|
|33 / FILEWICH, Jonathan||RW||7||2||1||3||+ 4||6||0||0||1||0.43||0.86|
|44 / JUNLAND, Jonas||D||5||0||1||1||+ 1||6||0||0||0||0.20||1.20|
|7 / LEHTERA, Jori||C||7||1||1||2||- 2||10||0||0||1||0.29||1.43|
|18 / PADDOCK, Cam||C||7||2||2||4||+ 3||0||0||0||0||0.57||0.00|
|8 / PALUSHAJ, Aaron||RW||4||0||1||1||+ 1||2||0||0||0||0.25||0.50|
|34 / PIETRANGELO, Alex||D||7||0||3||3||+ 2||2||0||0||0||0.43||0.29|
|11 / PORTER, Chris||LW||7||1||1||2||+ 3||0||0||0||0||0.29||0.00|
|38 / REAVES, Ryan||RW||4||0||0||0||0||2||0||0||0||0.00||0.50|
|41 / REGIER, Steve||LW||7||2||2||4||0||4||1||0||0||0.57||0.57|
|2 / RICHMOND, Danny||D||7||0||4||4||+ 2||2||0||0||0||0.57||0.29|
|21 / STASTNY, Yan||C||6||2||2||4||- 1||2||0||0||0||0.67||0.33|
|25 / STRACHAN, Tyson||D||3||0||0||0||+ 1||11||0||0||0||0.00||3.67|
|12 / TALBOT, Julian||C||7||0||1||1||0||4||0||0||0||0.14||0.57|
|49 / WAGNER, Steve||D||7||1||3||4||0||4||1||0||0||0.57||0.57|
|23 / WHITFIELD, Trent||C||7||2||1||3||+ 1||0||0||0||1||0.43||0.00|
|=== PEORIA PLAYOFF GOALTENDING STATISTICS THRU 29 APRIL 2009 -- CONTRACTED PROSPECTS ===|
|31 / BISHOP, Ben||0||0||0||0||0.00||0-0||0||00.00||00.00||0||0||0||0|
|30 / HOLT, Chris||0||0||0||0||0.00||0-0||0||00.00||00.00||0||0||0||0|
|35 / LEGACE, Emmanuel||7||429||18||179||2.52||3-4||0||89.94||25.03||0||0||0||0|
Over the last ten games of the season, the Rivermen went on a tear and rose from fifth in the AHL West Division to second, finishing with 92 points (43-31-2-4). In those ten games, the Rivermen went 7-0-0-3, and the success streak included wins over long-time rivals Milwaukee and Chicago, as well as a pair of victories over Houston to propel the Rivermen past the Aeros in the standings.
During the streak, Legace was 7-0-0-1 with a 1.73 GAA, one shutout (vs. CHI), and a 94.0% save percentage. Pending RFA Chris Holt appeared in only two games, back-to-back 2-1 shootout losses to Milwaukee at Carver Arena on Apr. 8, and at "The Big Orange Box" in Rockford vs. the IceHogs on Apr 10. In those games, Holt put up an 0.92 GAA and stopped 49 of 51 shots against for a sparkling 96.1% save percentage
During the regular season, the Rivermen power play and penalty kill were both middle-of-the-pack in the 29-team AHL. Peoria scored 64 power-play goals in 390 chances during the regular season, led by third-year C Julian Talbot, who scored ten of his 20 goals with the man advantage. That 16.4% success rate was good for 16th place in the AHL.
On the penalty kill, the Rivermen erased 332 or 397 chances against them for an 83.6% kill ratio, good for 14th overall. Peoria also scored 16 times shorthanded in 2008-09, with veteran Trent Whitfield's four tallies leading the way.
Once the playoffs rolled around, however, the Rivermen special teams were anything but.
Houston's penalty kill, ranked sixth in the AHL during the regular season, shut the Rivermen down cold in the seven-game series. Steve Regier and Carl Corazzini struck gold with the man advantage in a 6-4 Peoria victory in Game One, while Steve Wagner and Nick Drazenovic scored power play tallies 44 seconds apart in a 4-3 Peoria win at Houston in Game Four.
And, as the Germans say, das ist alles. The Rivermen went 0-for-22 over the last ten periods of the series, and finished a dismal 4-for-40 (10.0%) in the playoffs.
As for the penalty kill... well, it killed the Rivermen in the playoffs. Houston scored a total of 20 goals in the seven-game series, and half of those came with the man advantage. The Rivermen managed to kill only 21 of 31 power play attempts by Houston for a miserable 67.7% kill ratio.
The 2009-10 Rivermen should feature a lineup even heavier with Blues' prospects, as rookies like Brett Sonne (100 points in the WHL in 2008-09), Aaron Palushaj (who appeared in four regular-season and four playoff games after leaving college early), and Anthony Peluso (14 points in 18 OHL playoff games so far) will join the squad.
The Blues have been highly regarded for their drafting, and for the strength of their prospect pool, in recent years; as the organization moves towards an ability to completely stock their AHL club with drafted and contracted prospects, the true measure of that regard will be taken.