Views From The Press Box, Volume One

So you’ve probably been muttering to yourself lately, “It’s four weeks into the season, when the heck is ‘Views from the Press Box’ coming back?” Ok, realistically, unless you’re a die-hard reader, you probably had no idea that it was missing in the first place. But whether or not you’ve been wondering if your friendly Rampage blogger was going to make a return to cyberspace, the good news (or maybe bad news) is that I finally have decided to crank out my first blog of the season, and I believe the timing is appropriate. Coaches like to break up the season in 10-game segments, and the Rampage have completed their first of the year. They also will finish a stretch Wednesday in which they started the year with nine out of their first 11 games at the AT&T Center. And finally, the month of November is now upon us, which has been symbolic for the Rampage for all the wrong reasons, but enough about that. Let’s get to the highlights from the first month of the season…

…Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that the Rampage are on a tear to start the season at 7-2-1. Since getting routed 6-2 by Peoria and dropping a 5-4 overtime heartbreaker to Texas, the Rampage have won six in a row for the first time in 18 months. Similar to their parent club Phoenix who averaged a Western Conference best 2.39 goals against per game last season en route to a 50-win year, San Antonio is doing it with defense having allowed just eight goals during the winning streak. That’s a 1.33 goals against average in case you don’t have a calculator handy. But unlike the Coyotes who often won more times than not last season in spite of their offense, the Rampage have had no problem finding the back of the net scoring 22 goals in their last six games, or 3.66 goals per game. Matt Beaudoin leads the Rampage with 13 points through 10 games, and not only is he riding an eight-game scoring streak, but he’s also figured into the scoring in every game that the Rampage have scored a goal. Beaudoin’s line-mates, Alexandre Picard and Viktor Tikhonov, are each riding their own seven-game scoring streaks, and together the line has combined for five goals and 10 assists since being put together on Oct. 22 in Oklahoma City. The AHL’s best power play from a year ago has also picked up right where it left off going 10-35 (28.5%) in the last seven games and overall sits sixth in the league at 22.6%. Between the pipes, Matt Climie has been everything as advertised coming over from rival Texas. The third-year pro from Leduc, Alberta has won four in a row and has allowed just six goals in that stretch sporting a paltry 1.46 goals against average. Climie saved his best for last stopping a season-high 41 shots Friday against Houston, including 16 in an 18-shot opening period for the Aeros. And even the penalty kill, which started the season in the mid-60% range, has climbed back to 81% after killing off 28 of the opposition’s last 30 chances on the power play. Overall, that’s pretty impressive stuff…

…A week ago prior to the Houston game, I asked Coach Edwards what he felt was the biggest difference between this season’s start and last season in which the Rampage also opened the year with a record of 6-2-1. His answer was simple: “We’re better defensively.” Last season through 10 games the Rampage had given up 29 goals and were a plus-six in goal differential. This season through 10 games the Rampage have allowed only 25 goals and are a plus-nine in goal differential. So make no mistake, the Coach knows what he’s talking about. The Rampage are roughly a half-goal per game better defensively, which is pretty significant, and that includes the fact that they gave up 17 goals in their first four games to start the year…

…Before the 2010-11 season started I pointed to this opening stretch at home as being absolutely critical to the Rampage’s playoff chances. While you can’t win championships in October, you certainly can lose them. I figured that if San Antonio won at least seven games, then they would be in good shape heading into a run where 12 out of their next 20 would be on the road leading into the holiday break. So far so good! Not only can the Rampage put the finishing touches on a wonderful home-stand with a win over Toronto Wednesday, but they’ve set themselves up to be in a good position going into 2011 assuming they can play .500 hockey on the road. It may sound long term, but these are the things that coaches talk about when they map out the season…

…The only AHL team hotter than the Rampage at this point is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Penguins are 8-0 to start the season, and like the Rampage are doing it with defense having allowed a league-low 1.88 goals against per game and with the AHL’s top penalty-kill unit at 93%. What’s unique about the Penguins is that no skater is in the top-50 in the league in scoring, which lends further credence to the belief that “offense wins you games and defense wins you championships”.

…Upset of the Week: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 6-2 win in Hershey on Saturday was the Penguins’ first win in 11 tries at Giant Center (including regular season and playoffs), and marked the Bears’ first home loss by more than one goal since Nov. 25, 2009 (also including regular season and playoffs)…

…Did you know that Mathieu Beaudoin’s eight-game scoring streak already matches the longest individual scoring streak for any Rampage player from last season? Beaudoin is four games shy of matching Yanick Lehoux’s franchise-high 12-game scoring streak from Jan. 12-Feb. 6, 2007…

…Bring on those questions! Send your questions and comments to dweiss@attcenter.com. Be sure to follow “Views from the Press Box” on Twitter all season at “SARampage_Voice”.


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