While the Chicago Blackhawks have climbed their way into first place in the NHL’s Western Conference, the Rockford IceHogs have stumbled into last place in the AHL’s Western Conference. In Chicago, thoughts turn to the Stanley Cup. In Rockford, thoughts are turning to next season.
In the last week, the IceHogs have won one and lost two (one in overtime). Obviously, this isn’t the way to surge into the playoffs.
The return of goalie Jeff Glass, from his stint with the Blackhawks, had lifted the hopes in Rockford, but the early results have been mixed. Glass gave up only one goal in the win, but four in each of the two losses. He did stop 92 of 101 shots, for a 91% save percentage. Hockey isn’t a one man sport, but Glass will need to sharpen his game down the stretch.
The last week is just a small sample size, but it comes at the worst time. The gap is small, but the gap was big enough to make the IceHogs 1-2 instead of 2-1. It’s that small difference which could keep the IceHogs out of the playoffs, especially in such a tight race.
It doesn’t help that the IceHogs lost their top three point scorers for the 2016-17 season with trades of Spencer Abbott, Sam Carrick and Mark McNeill.
The IceHogs are in last place in the Western Conference with a record of 22-31-9-3 for 56 points and a .431 winning percentage. The eighth and final playoff spot belongs to the Bakersfield Condors who have 62 points and a .544 winning percentage. Unfortunately, there are also seven other teams between the IceHogs and Condors. This paints a bleak picture for the playoff chances of the IceHogs.
The IceHogs have three games remaining each with the Grand Rapids Griffins, who are in 3rd place with 85 points, the Iowa Wild, who are in 7th place with 68 points and the Milwaukee Admirals, who are in 5th place with 78 points. They also have one each with the Chicago Wolves (4th place, 84 points) and the Texas Stars (12th place, 61 points). That’s ten playoffs-bound opponents in the remaining eleven games.
Considering the IceHogs have only won two of their last ten games, one doesn’t have much hope for a surge into the playoffs. Still, Coach Ted Dent expects every player “to come to work” until the last game is played. Coach Dent stated that the focus starts to shift from the playoffs to individual player development or “skills and drills,” as he likes to say.
Nobody wants to miss the playoffs, but the team will make the most of the remaining games and practices. The time might not matter much in the playoffs picture, but in the overall picture, these next few weeks could pay dividends next season for the team and the players.