WINNIPEG, MB – Following a Sunday afternoon victory, it doesn’t take a hockey analyst to see the Manitoba Moose have had a decent week. Yet, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows at the beginning. The Moose kicked off their 2021-22 campaign with a 5-1 pounding at the hands of the lackluster Toronto Marlies. Yes, they did pick it up in the second period shots-wise and ended up outshooting the opposition, but it wasn’t a pretty game on the defensive end.
The next game was a beauty, however. Manitoba took the Marlies to town and gave them a 5-0 beating to even their record at 1-1. There were a lot of positive storylines coming out of this game: Mikey Eyssimont with two goals in two games, Johnathan Kovacevic picked up a goal and an assist while Mikhail Berdin redeemed himself with an 18 save shutout.
However, as Moose fans know, another bump in the road was on the horizon. Manitoba would go on to lose a close one to the Laval Rocket. The final score of 5-4 proved that neither coach would be happy with the defensive effort. The disappointing part about this game was that the Moose were winning 2-1 at the end of the first. They then went on to let Laval score two straight goals on two occasions. It’s always a bummer to waste a four-point night by David Gustafsson, but the Moose would bounce back the next game.
The home opener was hardly a tight defensive game. Although it was only 1-0, this was a night where the score didn’t tell the whole story. Manitoba may have won and Mikhail Berdin played a great game, but it was Calvin Pickard and his 37 saves that stole the show. If it hadn’t been for Pickard, this would have been an easy win for the Moose.
The winning ways at home carried over to Sunday and a second victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins was thankfully in the cards. It wasn’t a pretty one, the Moose were up 2-0 late in the second before the Griffins tied the game and forced overtime. In overtime, this game could have gone either way, but solid goaltending from both teams’ backups kept the score tied. It took the Moose’s third shooter for the deadlock to be broken. Gustafsson effortlessly slid the puck through the five-hole of the Griffins netminder to cap a solid week of Moose hockey.
Mikey Eyssimont has burst onto the scene with four goals in five games. This level of production is unexpected as he only had 31 goals in four seasons with the Ontario Reign, but you won’t hear Manitoba fans complaining. Hopefully, the Colorado native can continue this level of play for the season.
Cole Perfetti is back and he looks great. In his first game back against the Griffins, it looked like he was still trying to find his legs and get used to his new linemates. However, once Sunday’s game against the Griffins started, he looked fantastic. Not only did he score a goal on the powerplay, every time he touched the puck he looked dangerous. If Perfetti can keep this level of play, it won’t be long before he is leading the team in points.
Lastly, the line of Evan Polei, Greg Meireles, and Thomas Caron has been awesome. Their physical play and occasional offensive production have been a huge help to the team so far. It seems like every time the Moose need a spark these guys not only make a big hit, they hem the other team in the defensive zone and get the face-off. This is huge because it allows coach Mark Morrison to get the skill guys out in the offensive zone more often. If the fourth line can continue this streak of solid play Manitoba will be a difficult team to play against.
The Not So Good
Although the team is only 3-2, I wouldn’t say there are currently too many issues. Two games ago one would have said the lack of production from the top lines was an issue, but the return and performance of Perfetti has quieted that criticism. One could point to inconsistent goaltending, but there is a firm belief that bigger sample sizes are needed when it comes to the men between the pipes. Mikhail Berdin hasn’t been great in two games, but he got shutouts in the other two. On top of that, Arvid Holm looked solid on Sunday.
However, the one thing to worry about as a Moose fan is the departure of Ville Heinola from Sunday’s game. If he misses a significant amount of time, that would hurt the Moose defensive depth. Unfortunately, it’s not like number-one defensemen are easy to replace. Therefore, all we can do is hope that the injury isn’t long-term and that other defensemen step up.
What’s Coming Up
Manitoba will not have a game until next weekend it they will play Iowa twice at home. The Central Division-leading Iowa Wild will provide an early-season test for the Moose. The Wild are currently 3-1 and are riding a two-game winning streak, both of which came against the Rockford IceHogs. If the Moose hope to fare well against the Wild, they will need to find a way to slow down their top line which has a combined 11 points in four games. If that’s not enough, the Moose will also have to contain Nick Swaney who happens to have four goals in all four games he’s played.
If both these tasks are accomplished, it’d be safe to say that chances of picking up a pair of wins next weekend are good.
Do the boys have what it takes to beat the Wild? Are the Wild even good or is Rockford just bad? Let me know over on Twitter @FPHMoose
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