The beloved Rampage hit the 19 game mark Saturday night with a clumsy performance and a 7-3 loss to Bakersfield. In the first quarter of the season, playing only 6 games at home, they managed an 11-7-1 record which was good for 3rd place in the Pacific Division. For the purpose of this article I’m going to ignore the 20th game, a 3-1 loss vs Ontario on Sunday.
After a hot October at 6-2 the Rampage went 5-5-1 in November. As we’ve seen often in the past, October is pretty meaningless as far as projecting season results so as they’ve settled into a .500 pace it’s looking like that’s who they are, at least on the road where they’ve played most of their games. Eleven of the next fourteen games are at home, finally, so it’s likely we find out who they are overall around New Years Day.
Despite not having anyone in the league’s top offensive categories the Rampage have the 6th rated offense at 3.42 goals per game, 65 goals overall. Some of this is explained by callups and a rotating lineup. Every skater that’s played more than 3 games has a goal and everyone that’s played more than half the games has at least 3 points. Ten regular players are averaging half a point per game or better and rookies have contributed 16 goals and 42 points overall. What they’ve lacked in night-in, night-out star talent they’ve made up for with solid depth and skilled young players.
San Antonio averages 28.16 shots on goal per game, 25th in the AHL, but that’s the midpoint of some disparate game totals. On any given night seeing 40 SOG or 16 SOG isn’t surprising. Coach Veilleux struggles to get the team consistent in this area, especially the forwards who have on occasion been outshot by the defensemen in certain games.
The Rampage defense has seen their goals per game balloon from stout numbers early to now over 3 goals per game and 18th in the league. The ineffectiveness of the penalty kill is a big culprit here but it’s still a concern at even strength. They’re allowing 29.79 shots against per game (15th) and like the shots for that’s wildly variable.
Special teams are another area that was superb early and now have regressed to mid-pack. The PK was at one time tops in the AHL but now sit 18th at 81.6%. The power play has gone through a couple alarming droughts and is 17th at 16.7%.
Dry Statistical Rundown
Goals for: 65
Shots for: 535
Shooting percentage: 12.1%
Goals against: 58
Shots against: 566
Team save percentage: .898
Even strength goals for: 48 (2.52/gm)
Even strength goals against: 37 (1.95/gm)
Goal share EvStr: 56.5%
Power play percentage: 16.7
Penalty kill percentage: 81.6
Special teams percentage: 98.4
Times with man advantage: 90 (4.74/gm)
Times shorthanded: 98 (5.16/gm)
Minors taken per game: 6.63
Shot share: 48.6%
Shots for per 60 min: 26.52
Shots against per 60 min: 28.06
The picture these numbers paint is of a team that controls scoring well at even strength using a high shooting percentage and below average shot generation. The amount of penalties taken is holding them back massively and I know it drives Coach Veilleux crazy. The PK numbers look bad but having to execute over 5 times per night is asking a ton. Considering they are one of the most penalized teams in the league they are actually performing above expectations there. Reducing bad penalties would instantly improve shot suppression and team save percentage.
In every regulation loss except for the first at Bakersfield the Rampage have given up 2 or more power play goals. Let’s break down the PK into stats in win/otls and in losses:
Win/OTL (12 games)
Times shorthanded: 51 (4.25/gm)
PPGs against: 4
Regulation losses (7 games)
Times shorthanded: 47 (6.71/gm)
PPGs against: 14
The old maxim is that your goalie has to be your best penalty killer but in this case it’s pretty obvious that the guy that doesn’t take a stupid penalty is the best penalty killer. In the games San Antonio has lost they are forced to kill nearly two and a half more penalties than in the games they score points. Solution: Stop taking stupid penalties. It’s selfish and it loses games.
The Rampage have been fairly lucky injury-wise so far. Vlad Kamenev and AJ Greer have missed chunks of time thanks to injuries suffered while in Colorado. Ville Husso has been out with LBI which perhaps has put more on Spencer Martin’s shoulders than is optimum. Sergei Boikov has been out all year with a shoulder injury and won’t be back anytime soon, which is sad but it’s tough to miss what you’ve never had.
Callups have taken the greater share of time away. Sam Blais has been called up to St Louis twice and only played in 11 games. Gabe Bourque was called up early and has stayed so he’s only had 5 games. Dominic Toninato has now missed 4 games while with the Avs and Rocco Grimaldi 6. On the other hand the team has benefited from the services of Andrei Mironov for 3 games and Tyson Jost for 5 while on conditioning assignments. Counting those two plus Anton Lindholm who was technically on the roster for like 5 minutes, the Avs have used 9 players who were with Rampage this season and Anrdrew Agozzino who was called up but never dressed. More than you thought, eh?
It’s impossible to look at the success that a couple of perennial doormats like Manitoba and Iowa have had with getting rid of unproductive veterans and going with young players without some envy. All but one of the seven players the Blues have contributed to the San Antonio roster are youngsters on ELCs that play mostly every night. The Avs development staff doesn’t seem to be interested in following suit unfortunately so we’ve had demotions of J-C Beaudin, Julien Nantel and Shawn St-Amant to the ECHL and Nicolas Meloche has been relegated to a platoon with a vet that’s below average at best.
As a fan it’s tough to reconcile this disconnect with the way the Avs are running the NHL corner of the organization. The average age of the Avs contracted part of the Rampage roster isn’t much younger than the average age of the Avs roster itself. Using the shared affiliation with St Louis as an excuse doesn’t fly, on any given night there are 9 forward spots and 4 defenseman spots that Coach Veilleux and the Dev Staff are free to fill with who they choose. The urgency simply isn’t there to prioritize prospect development in the AHL right now and there’s no good reason for it. It’s absolutely baffling and counter-productive in the long term and I can’t imagine how the folks that direct this part of the organization are justifying it to the rest of the club.
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The Rampage have had a good quarter season under difficult conditions and have a few things that can be fixed to continue on this pace. The next few weeks should determine where they fall among their competitors in the Pacific Division and whether we dare hope for Calder Cup playoff hockey involving an Avs affiliate for the first time in 7 years. Bonne chance, lads.