by PuckStopsHere on 02/18/09 at 02:55 AM ET
When I last looked at the AHL slightly under two weeks ago, I described a two team race for the AHL lead between the Manitoba Moose (Vancouver Canucks affiliate) and the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals affiliate). Commenter Pharazon wrote that the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings affiliate) and the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators affiliate) looked like they might be in the mix as well. Since then, Manitoba has clearly run away with the race.
The Manitoba Moose have not lost in regulation in their last eight games. Manitoba now has 81 points. They have a five point lead over Hershey (though Hershey does have a game in hand).
Manitoba allows the fewest goals against in the AHL. This is done with superior goaltending. Few teams in the AHL can offer a tandem of goalies with NHL experience. Manitoba can. They play Cory Schneider as their number one goalie. He has a .938 saves percentage and a 1.62 GAA. Curtis Sanford has been used as his backup, despite posting some incredible numbers. Sanford has a .957 saves percentage and a 1.20 GAA in only six games of work.
The Manitoba defense is led by Nolan Baumgartner and Maxime Fortunus. Though they are not an offensive power, they have Jason Krog, who is the fourth highest scorer in the AHL. Manitoba is a very strong team.
A recent streak and strong goaltending have propelled the Manitoba Moose to first place in the AHL. They are building up a significant lead over the field. They would need a bit of a collapse to give up that lead, so likely they will finish in first place in the AHL regular season.
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