When I sit down to write about the Aeros, I'm not sure whether to write about the Minnesota Aeros of the NHL or the Houston Aeros of the AHL, but I guess you can read everything else in this space for all the Minnesota Aeros action.
Meanwhile, down south, the Aeros had a Jekyll and Hyde kinda weekend. Friday night was a resounding win over the Texas Stars that made me feel like everything was going to be okay.
But then, while the Aeros were up in OKC getting a point while losing (yet another) shootout, the Wild were busy breaking even more of their/our players resulting in call-ups that threw a wrench in the works. And it showed on the ice Sunday. Boy, did it show.
My buddy, and Aeros Ice Crew Rock Star, Ian (you can follow him on the Twitter at @INFisher) keeps track of lines during games and since that's a) something I don't generally care about but b) something I get asked about by you guys fairly often, I recruited him to provide me with his lines as a little treat for those of you who are interested in line combinations.
And honestly, after looking at Sunday's lines, I kinda nodded my head and thought, "Yeah, they totally SHOULD have lost that game." Not to say that the guys we have aren't any good, but I look at the lines and it doesn't even look like "The Aeros" to me. Any wonder it was kind of a mess.
Coach Torchetti is still harping on effort level, but I get the feeling the team is limping along to the Christmas holiday, rest up, get some guys back, and then go nuts.
Anyway, without further ado, here's Friday's lines:
14 DiSalvatore, 20 Rau, 37 Fontaine
56 Broda, 22 Taffe, 41 Ortmeyer
13 Foucault, 27 McMillan, 42 Kassian
8 Medvec, 23 Reed, 21 McKenzie
61 Cuma, 15 Prosser
39 Genoway, 7 Fredheim
4 Bagnall, 5 Penner
So, the top 3 lines feel like the Aeros and the defense is pretty whole.
And here's Sunday's lines:
14 DiSalvatore, 12 Almond, 27 Fontaine
56 Broda, 22 Taffe, 13 Foucault
42 Kassian, 27 McMillan, 21 McKenzie
8 Medvec, 23 Reed, 10 Lee
(Same defense as above.)
Wellman, Peters, Ortmeyer, Palmer, Rau, Ortmeyer, Ortmeyer, Ortmeyer... these are gaping holes. Kyle Medvec, as much as the team appreciates him stepping up as a forward, is not very effective. In fact, Reed and Lee might be better on higher lines. They're pretty scrappy and created some havoc out there, and would have benefited from playing with someone who can finish at this level.
On the goaltending front, both goalies were excellent Friday (Matt Hackett with the 4-1 win) and Saturday (Darcy Kuemper with the 3-2 shootout loss). But in Sunday's 6-3 loss, Hackett was in net again, and people who don't have a critical eye for goaltending came down on him pretty hard in the comments of our blog.
The reality was, the Aeros were giving up great chances to Rochester. I look at every goal scored from a goalie's perspective and the first 4 he let in were not bad goals. The last one? Well, yeah, it was. They'd finally gotten to him at that point, and Kuemper took over in the third to shut them down (apart from the empty net goal).
So, the reality is, the Aeros are still getting very good goaltending and the entire organization is extremely fortunate to have 4 healthy, excellent goalies.
Overall, though, I'm not holding my breath tonight when the Aeros face the Stars... again. It's good to have Rau back but they're still missing too many heavy hitters to be as strong as they were while climbing to the top of the mountain.
The hope right now is that the slide back down the mountain (which has already begun -- the Aeros are second in the division, 3 points behind OKC and only 1 point ahead of Abbotsford) isn't too severe.
If all else fails, at least the Miss Aeros bikini contest is tonight. Ahh, the things you miss out on when you only get to go to NHL games. Sorry, folks. If you want pictures, check out T3I tomorrow.
Lastly, I hope you crazy kids all have a merry Christmas or whatever it is you do for the holidays. And if you haven't seen it yet, here's a few of the Aeros talking about Christmas presents, in case you were looking for ideas for gifting the farm team.