Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/4/2010 (4173 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
HAMILTON -- Way back in September, it was the question hovering over the Manitoba Moose as they headed into training camp -- who will score the goals for the Moose in the 2009-10 season?
Eight months later, still smarting from a 2-0 loss Thursday night to the Hamilton Bulldogs here in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series, it was still the same question.
And it's still the same question heading into today's Game 2. And we'll get to that. But first a wee bit of background.
Having jettisoned -- or been jettisoned by -- the offensive heart of the Moose club that made it to the 2009 Calder Cup final, the biggest single question mark heading into this season was who would replace the offensive production that had been generated the previous season by prolific snipers Jason Krog, Jason Jaffray and Mark Cullen.
The answer in September was, more or less, a hope and a prayer. "Does (Alexandre) Bolduc become a 20-goal scorer? Does (Michael) Grabner become a 40-goal scorer?," Moose head coach Scott Arniel asked of reporters as his club opened camp Sept. 20. "That's what you're hoping -- that the increased ice time, because the Jaffrays and Krogs and Cullens ate up a lot of ice time from those guys, do they step in and fill those roles? And we don't know that answer until you put the puck in front of them."
The answer, of course, turned out to be a resounding no. Grabner was lost to injury for a big chunk of the season, lost to the Canucks for another big part and maddeningly inconsistent the rest of the time. Ditto Bolduc.
Marty Murray? An offensive bust, traded and replaced by another offensive bust in Peter Olvecky. Matt Pope? Three goals. The list goes on.
And so cast into that gaping offensive chasm was a player like Marco Rosa, a career grinder who suddenly found himself thrust into the role of the club's leading scorer, as much by default as design.
Rosa's 22 goals and 55 points this season are a career season for him -- he had seasons of 27 and 40 points the last two years with Houston -- but those kinds of numbers would not normally lead an AHL team in scoring.
But on a club where, with the notable exceptions of Guillaume Desbiens, Sergei Shirokov, Mike Keane and Mario Bliznak, all the forwards notably underperformed offensively this year, Rosa has suddenly found himself in the unaccustomed role of Big Man in Clubhouse.
Which is great. Good things happen to good people and Rosa's one of them, friendly and remarkably easygoing -- almost to a fault in that latter category with Rosa's penchant for being painfully slow getting out of the dressing room after practices and games.
("There are two things for sure in this life," a fully showered and dressed Moose captain Mike Keane explained Friday as he pondered Rosa still standing in his underwear, dripping sweat, following afternoon practice. "One? There's no way to get out of paying taxes. And two? Rosie is never going to die of a heart attack.")
But the problem with building an offence around a guy who was an eighth-rounder for Dallas way back in 2001 and has never been more than a second-line centre before is if he falters, you've got nowhere else to go.
Which is precisely what happened here in Game 1 as Manitoba's top line -- Rosa, centring a line with Shirokov on one wing and freshly reacquired Dan Sexton (the former Anaheim Duck) on the other -- mustered just two shots all game, both of them Shirokov's, and not a single legitimate scoring chance.
The result was predictable -- just 21 shots, most of them from the perimeter, and the easiest shutout Bulldogs netminder Cédrick Desjardins will earn all season.
So now what, you ask? Make it simpler, says the Moose's leading scorer. "Sometimes you try to do a little too much," said Rosa, "and you make an extra move. And sometimes all it takes is just getting the puck to the front of the net and there's a guy there or there's a screen and the goalie doesn't see it. We really need to simplify things."
His linemate agrees.
"We need to shoot more," Shirokov said following a Moose practice at a local arena here that focused heavily on just that. "Shoot from everywhere, just shoot."
And the coach? Scott Arniel says that on a team full of role players, only some of them did their job in Game 1. "I liked our grit, I liked our compete and I liked our penalty kill," said Arniel.
"And I really didn't like the offensive side of the game... I didn't like the way our power play executed (0-6) and I didn't like the way our so-called skill guys made plays and their puck decisions. I thought that was really uncharacteristic of us."
Actually, from a wider perspective, it was entirely characteristic of a team that finished 26th in the AHL in goal-scoring this season and for whom, as we've discussed, that's been precisely the lingering question all season long.
The question heading into Game 2 here this afternoon (1 p.m., CJOB, Shaw) is no longer whether they can find an answer to that question -- it's whether they can find an answer very, very quickly.
Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.