by PuckStopsHere on 02/06/09 at 03:55 AM ET
Periodically I like to take a look at what is happening in the AHL. It is great hockey and since most NHL players spend some time in the AHL in their careers it can directly affect the NHL, yet a large number of NHL fans do not pay attention to it.
This season, there is a two team race that has developed for first place overall in the league. The race is between the Manitoba Moose (Vancouver Canuck affiliate) and the Hershey Bears (Washington Capital affiliate). Currently Manitoba leads the league with 71 points, but Hershey is only one point behind with two games in hand.
Manitoba has done things so far by being a defensive power. Their 117 goals against is the least allowed in the league. Hershey has done things so far by being an offensive power. Their 190 goals lead the league.
Manitoba’s strength has been goaltending. Cory Schneider has had a phenomenal year at the AHL level. He boasts a .935 saves percentage and a 1.66 GAA. Amazingly, he has recently been outdone by the goaltending newcomer Curtis Sanford. In only four games played, Sanford has a ridiculous .971 saves percentage and a 0.80 GAA. This team has been extremely hard to score upon. Defensively they have been led by Nolan Baumgartner who is a very good AHL level defenceman. Jason Krog is their top scorer. His 50 points places him sixth in the league.
In Hershey it is offence that leads the way. The two top scorers in the AHL both play for Hershey. Keith Aucoin leads the league with 60 points and Alexandre Giroux is second with 75 points (in only 40 games due to an NHL call up). Other NHL prospects on the roster include forward Chris Bourque (their third highest scorer) and defenceman Sami Lepisto. Their goaltending has been good, but not at Manitoba level. Justin Peters leads the way with a .919 saves percentage and a 2.59 GAA.
It looks like the AHL regular season winner will be either the offence-heavy Hershey Bears or the goaltending strong Manitoba Moose. It should shape up to a good race for first overall in the league.
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