WINNIPEG, MB – From the highs of Saturday to the lows of Sunday, Manitoba Moose fans have a lot to be happy about, but there are still a few questions that need answering.
The first game was a bit of a barn burner. With a score of 5-3, Manitoba was able to secure a pretty convincing win over the Iowa Wild. They did, however, need a kick in the pants at the beginning. The Wild were able to open the scoring with a fluky goal from the corner, but then the Moose took over. Manitoba went on to score three straight goals jump-started by Thomas Caron scoring his first professional goal! The Wild then answered those three goals, but Manitoba scored again. The Wild answered a second time, but Manitoba scored again. Despite allowing the three goals, I was impressed with how the Moose played. They never allowed Iowa back in the game, and they never let them get hope, which is why it was a solid win.
However, as Moose fans know, the second game of the weekend wasn’t as fun. The Moose were largely held off the score sheet and lost the Sunday afternoon affair to the Wild, but the score of 4-1 is a little deceiving. Manitoba was the offensively dominant team throughout the game, outshooting Iowa in every period, but puck luck was not on their side. The lack of offensive output seemed to frustrate the Moose, which ultimately led to their demise. Hopefully, the lesson here will be readily understood; you can’t sacrifice defense for a chance at scoring. A defensive breakdown would follow almost every time Manitoba would hem Iowa in their zone and get a great scoring chance. Going forward, if the Moose can keep the level of offensive intensity from the weekend and not allow frustration to cause defensive lapses, they will be a hard team to beat.
The line of Evan Polei, Greg Meireles, and Thomas Caron has been top-shelf so far. Each game, they continue to bring grit and determination on top of putting up points. In some aspects, it seems like the true heart and soul of the Moose runs through this line. If Caron continues to score goals, Meireles continues to rack up assists, and Polei keeps being an imposing physical force while grabbing apples, Manitoba can run four lines every game.
The offense coming from the point is causing chaos for other teams. In just the Friday night game against the Wild, six points came from defensemen. The even better part, those six points were all gotten by different defensemen. This production rate won’t continue, but it is remarkable to get that many points from a blueline group that is missing its number one option. If the Moose and their pinching defensemen can find a happy medium between Saturday’s and Sunday’s games, they will be in a great spot.
The Not So Good
David Gustafsson’s defensive play. Again, I know the man has six points in seven games, but his level of defensive play hasn’t been as fearsome as his offensive play. That said, he is not alone on this front. His linemates, Jeff Malott and Kristian Reichel, haven’t looked fantastic in their zone either. With a combined plus/minus of -10, this is something you can’t have from your number one line if you want to have a successful season. Hopefully, the three of them can turn it around now that Gustafsson appears to be rounding into his usual form.
Manitoba needs to focus on the little things to reach their potential, and they have the talent to do it.
What’s Coming Up?
Manitoba fans will be without home games for the next two weeks as the team embarks on a six-game road trip. Next week’s recap will focus on the first three of those games, all of which happen to be against different opponents.
The first game of the road trip is Friday, November 5, at 7 pm CDT, against the struggling Milwaukee Admirals. With a frightening record of 1-4, the Moose still need to make sure they bring their A-game, as nothing hurts more later in the season than looking back on games you should have won.
The next night, Manitoba will travel to Chicago to take on the fearsome 5-1 Wolves. If the Moose can snatch a road win from the jaws of the Wolves, Manitoba fans will be ecstatic.
Lastly, they will finish the weekend with a Sunday afternoon matinee at 4 pm CDT against the Rockford Icehogs.
In a perfect world, the Moose come out of this week’s games 3-0; however, I’m leaning more towards a 2-1 record when it’s all said and done. What do you think, Moose fans? How will this weekend’s games shake out? Let me know over on Twitter @FPHMoose
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