by PuckStopsHere on 12/01/08 at 02:24 PM ET
Earlier this season, I picked the Buffalo Sabres affiliate the Portland Pirates as the best team in the AHL. Two teams currently have better winning percentages than Portland. They are the Washington Capitals affiliate the Hershey Bears and the Vancouver Canucks affiliate the Manitoba Moose. Hershey has an 18-6 record where one loss is a shutout loss. Manitoba has a 15-4 record.
Both of these teams have had significant players called up to the NHL recently which should change the make-up of their teams. The NHL’s Washington Capitals have run into injury problems. They currently have eight players on the TSN injury list (this leads the league. Out are Alexander Semin, Mike Green, Sergei Fedorov, Tom Poti, Chris Clark, Jeff Schultz, John Erskine and Brian Pothier. In order to try to replace them, Washington has called up Sami Lepisto, Karl Alzner and Bryan Helmer. This is a significant hit to their defence. Vancouver has also had a significant injury in goaltender Roberto Luongo. This has prompted them to call up Cory Schneider from Manitoba. Both teams may struggle to keep up their fast starts given the players called up to the NHL.
Hershey is led by AHL top point scorer Keith Aucoin and AHL top goal scorer Alexandre Giroux. Both have had very successful AHL careers. Among the other forwards in the Hershey system are prospects Oskar Osala and Chris Bourque. Hershey has been a successful team by being the highest scorer in the AHL. They have 107 goals scored so far (Montreal’s affiliate the Hamilton Bulldogs is second with 81 goals).
Manitoba conversely is a defensive power. They have only allowed 39 goals so far this season (second is the New York Islanders farm club in Bridgeport who has allowed 53). Cory Schneider has incredible goaltending stats from this team defence and good play of his own. He has a 1.37 GAA and a .945 saves percentage. Among the skaters used by Manitoba are Mark Cullen, Jason Jaffray, Jason Krog, Michel Ouellet and Nolan Baumgartner. This is largely a veteran group that is capable of solid defensive work at the AHL level.
Can Manitoba maintain their top goals against without their top goalie? Can Hershey maintain their top scoring ways with several call-ups in the NHL? The early leaders in the AHL this season will face hardship due to players that were recalled to the NHL to fill in for injuries.
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