When the Hamilton Bulldogs eliminated their first-round opponent, the Oklahoma City Barons (affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers) in 6 games, it was unknown at the time as to which team the Dogs would be facing next in Round 2 of the AHL Calder Cup playoffs. The other first-round series within the North Division between the Lake Erie Monsters (affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche) and the Manitoba Moose (affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks) was going to Game 7 to determine the winner. And as it turned out, Manitoba knocked off Lake Erie in that game by a final score of 4-1 to win their series and they will now battle the Bulldogs in the 2nd Round…the North Division Finals.
Joining me now once again to answer the mailbag questions about the Bulldogs vs Moose series is Brian La Rose, HabsWorld writer and Chief Editor.
Question 1: What is the key to the Bulldogs’ success?
Brian La Rose: For me, it’s the same as last round, secondary scoring is a must. The Dawes-Boyd-Palushaj line did virtually all of the damage but against a better opponent, the odds of that happening again drop. Getting this extra scoring should help offset any drop off Drew MacIntyre may have as well.
Ian Russell: That combination of Nigel Dawes, Dustin Boyd, and Aaron Palushaj is absolutely lethal. Obviously the Manitoba Moose are aware of this and they are going to do what they can to shut that trio down. If this happens then, as Brian says, other Dogs players are going to have to step up and attempt to help out in the scoring department. And as I commented in the first round, it also comes down to goaltending and I have complete confidence in Drew MacIntyre, who just seems to be getting better and better with each game played. It’s the old saying that the goaltender is the last line of defence and “Big Mac“ is proving that with the Bulldogs.
Question 2: Who is your darkhorse candidate to have a breakout in scoring?
Brian La Rose: For starters, here’s hoping I don’t jinx this pick like I did with Olivier Fortier, who scored in Game 1 and got hurt a period later. This round, I’m going with Ryan Russell. He had a really strong postseason last year and has a knack for stepping up when it matters most. He may not score a whole lot this series, but I suspect the goals he does get will be quite timely.
Ian Russell: I’m going to go out on a limb here and pick Dany Masse. Sure, he didn’t have a very good regular season with injury problems and he was held pointless during the first round series, but having watched him play, I can tell you that this kid hustles his butt every shift that he’s out there on the ice, and sooner or later the goals are going to start flowing for him.
Question 3: Who on the Moose should the Bulldogs be most worried about?
Brian La Rose: It’s easy to say Marco Rosa who is the Western Conference’s top playoff point getter after Round 1 but my biggest concern is Sergei Shirokov. He had a quiet final couple of months to end the regular season (4 goals in his final 32 games) but he trumped that total in the first round alone. When he’s on his game, he can be one of the most dangerous scorers in the AHL and right now, much to the chagrin of the now-eliminated Lake Erie Monsters, he’s on his game.
Ian Russell: The Moose are such a gritty team overall that it’s hard to single out one particular player. The Bulldogs need to focus on Manitoba as a team and not set their sights on paying attention to an individual. The Moose were down in their 1st round series 3-1 and they came back to win three straight games in a row to defeat Lake Erie. The Dogs need to be worried about everybody on the Moose roster.
Brian La Rose: Unlike last round, I think the Bulldogs have the advantage here, without even factoring in their success against the Moose in the regular season. In Round 1, Hamilton faced a Barons defence corps which consisted of above average veterans and high end prospects. However, the Moose boast a group of project prospects and veteran castaways (including former Hab prospect Mark Flood). That, coupled with a slight goalie advantage is what should put Hamilton over the top, even though Manitoba has a deeper set of forwards to draw from. Bulldogs in 6.
Ian Russell: I am going to make this short and sweet. Bulldogs in 5 games.
The Hamilton Bulldogs and the Manitoba Moose played each other eight times this past regular season with the Dogs winning the series with six wins and 2 shootout losses. During the course of the season and the tight points race which ensued, both teams found themselves swapping positions over and over again in the standings. The Bulldogs finished in first place in the North Division with a record of 44-27-2-7 and 97 points. The Moose finished in third place in the North Division with a record of 43-30-1-6 and 93 points.
The action gets underway at the Dog Pound at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton tonight. This will be the 4th time the Moose and Bulldogs have met in the playoffs. Hamilton has won all 3 series with a 12 and 7 record.
Here is the complete 2nd round schedule:
Game #1 – Thursday, April 28th – 7:30 PM – Manitoba at Hamilton (Copps Coliseum)
Game #2 – Sunday, May 1st – 4:00 PM – Manitoba at Hamilton (Copps Coliseum)
Game #3 – Tuesday, May 3rd – 8:30 PM – Hamilton at Manitoba (MTS Centre)
Game #4 – Wednesday, May 4th – 8:30 PM – Hamilton at Manitoba (MTS Centre)
*Game #5 – Friday, May 6th – 8:30 PM – Hamilton at Manitoba (MTS Centre)
*Game #6 – Sunday, May 8th – 7:30 PM – Manitoba at Hamilton (Copps Coliseum)
*Game #7 – Monday, May 9th – 7:30 PM – Manitoba at Hamilton (Copps Coliseum)
* If necessary