The Hamilton Bulldogs have begun their final week of play in the 2010-2011 AHL regular season. With three games remaining on the schedule (at the time of this writing) they only need one more point to clinch a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Currently, the Dogs sit in 2nd place within the North Division with a record of 41-27-2-7 and 91 points in 77 games played.
Having spent most of the season sitting at the top of the standings and locked in a tight race for the playoffs, Hamilton just recently fell down in the standings, out of a playoff position, in 5th place due to the effects of injuries, call-ups to the Habs, and player suspensions. But through the efforts of certain players (who have made my list as the 3-Stars) the team has clawed their way back up in the form of a five-game winning streak and are only in need now of that one magical point.
Here now are my picks for the Hamilton Bulldogs 3-Stars who have made the push for the playoffs happen:
1st Star: – Drew MacIntyre
Acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline in exchange for Brett Festerling, MacIntyre has settled in nicely in his role as Hamilton’s new number one goaltender, replacing the injured Curtis Sanford. During his first month with the Bulldogs, MacIntyre has given the Dogs very strong goaltending and he just appears to keep getting better with each game he plays including a couple in which he was literally the only reason why the Bulldogs won or at least had the opportunity to stay in the game at all. Just as Sanford did earlier in the season, MacIntyre is giving the team the chance to win every single night. He finished up the Month of March with a record of 7 wins, 5 losses, and 2 shootout losses. His GAA was 2.05 with a save percentage of .934. In the three games he has played so far this month in April, he has lowered his GAA to 1.30 and has a SV% of .949.
2nd Star: – Nigel Dawes
Dawes joined the Bulldogs in a trade which also included Brent Sopel, (who went to the Montreal Canadiens), in exchange for Ben Maxwell and a 4th round pick in the 2011 Draft. Since then, he has become the leading goal-scorer with both Hamilton and overall in the AHL with 40 goals. However, it needs to be mentioned that 27 of those goals were scored earlier this season while he was a player with the Chicago Wolves (affiliate of the Atlanta Thrashers). In his short time wearing a Bulldogs jersey, Nigel has scored 13 goals and 8 assists, for 21 points, including a hat-trick during the game back on March 30th vs the Abbotsford Heat (affiliate of the Calgary Flames).
3rd Star: – Aaron Palushaj
In light of the injuries / call-ups / suspensions which I mentioned above, Aaron Palushaj has stepped up his playing performance during this time and is one of the reasons why the Bulldogs are within that one point of clinching. His scoring record for the season is 19 goals, 33 assists, and 52 points. During last month and into this one, Palushaj has netted 6 goals and 10 assists.
Another contributing factor in the Hamilton Bulldogs recent success is the coaching of Randy Cunneyworth and Randy Ladouceur. The coaches tend to shuffle the lines as needed, but the recent line combination of Nigel Dawes, Aaron Palushaj, and Dustin Boyd has proven to be a recent spectacular winning combination.
With only that one point at stake to make the postseason, I’m sure that all these players mentioned will make it happen so that the Hamilton Bulldogs can challenge for their next Calder Cup Victory.
The season wraps up this week with another game in Abbotsford vs the Heat and then a double-header in Winnipeg vs the Manitoba Moose.