Thursday, April 03, 2003
Bravo to the Oklahoma City fans who aren't (too) bitter, don't view their team through rose-colored glasses and haven't been complaining (much, or so far) about the refs. 'Cause the Blazers are. Anyway, I'm sure my CHL-U colleague who predicted a first-round loss at the All-Star break is taking no satisfaction in that. Sorry dude.
I don't know why this fan is so bent out of shape about Eric Schneider's status. Just because you can't find the transaction doesn't mean the faxes weren't sent. It's all right here. Schneider was loaned to Laredo after the Rampage game on the 28th, recalled back to the AHL after Game 4 on the 30th, returned to the Bucks for Game 5 and recalled again on Wednesday.
So will he be in Austin tonight? I doubt it. Unless Florida sends reinforcements by tomorrow, I'm thinking he's unavailable until Game 3. Schneider played in Houston Wednesday, and now San Antonio has three-in-three away, starting Friday in Chicago. The Rampage has clinched a playoff berth, but is fighting for a first-round bye. I guess he could catch a flight from Austin to O'Hare on Friday, especially if Laredo's owners pay, but at what point do the extra games and travel limit his AHL effectiveness? Anyway, we'll know soon enough, maybe even by the time you read this if it's in the Morning Times.
By the way, that's really cool that Stan Drulia has come to San Antone after leading Orlando to the ACHL title. He's a Rick Dudley guy all the way, having played for the '97 IHL champion Detroit Vipers as well as Tampa Bay.
Going back to Schneider, a lot depends on him for the Bats' game plan as well. If he's there, I expect the Smart line would go at him and Grenville, and Hughes will try to set the STP loose against Gilmore/Lundbohm/Petruic. If he isn't, Sharuga's checking line could see more even-strength ice time against both of Laredo's scoring units, freeing Smart and Lardner to think a bit more about offense while putting in their usual massive minutes on both sides of special teams.
I'll be watching out for Gilmore, who was a strong player against the Bats during Bossier's 2001 sweep. The Bucks may have never won in Austin, but he has (ditto Matt Van Horlick). And for a guy with 270 PiMs, Dave Myson has been mighty productive. He's the kind of player who invariably scores a big one in the playoffs (saw him do it Saturday). The Bats will need the same from Jeff Greenlaw or Mike Olynyk.
And they need to stay out of the box! Power-play goals were the difference in all four Austin-New Mexico games (counting the 10-seconds later Game Three OT winner), and as great as the Bats PK is, there's no need to give the Bucks' offense extra help.
Further reading: Austin's head-to-head stats vs. Laredo, and Laredo's vs. Austin. Two things that jump out at me: the Bats' second and third lines ended up as minus players in the season series, and Laredo's record in one-goal games (they were 1-4 in one-goal games against Austin).
Also, the Bats can feel good about dealing Laredo three of its four home losses, while LeClerc has to feel good about the last time the teams met.
So anyway, I'll say Bats in six. I was 87.5% right last round (having picked the Bucks in four, but Odessa if it got to five). Just don't bring up the Final Four.