Aeros.com Power Poll
asks American Hockey League pundits to vote for the best and worst of the AHL twice a month. Here's the latest edition:
1 Manchester (1)
Monarchs keep rolling along, although Hartford is on their heels. Manchesters Joe Rullier is fourth in the league in PIMs with 195, but hes also an amazing plus-26, fourth in the AHL. The Monarchs have shut out their opponents 10 times.
2 Hartford (2)
Hartford is within three points of first-place Manchester. Dont look now reigning AHL MVP Jason LaBarbera, but backup Steve Valiquette hasnt allowed a goal in more than 150 minutes. Hartford is still allowing less than two goals per game (1.95).
3 Manitoba (5)
For aeros.coms money, Manitoba is the best team to come into Houston this season, with Milwaukee and Rochester on near even terms. The Moose is made up of consummate pros, who take over in the third period. Manitoba has outscored its opponents by a whopping 56-31 margin in the third this season.
4 Rochester (3)
The Amerks have just nine regulation losses, only one more than Manchester. Rochester is 14-2-0-1 in its last 17, and has only three regulation losses in the last 25 games (19-3-0-3). Goalie Ryan Miller leads the AHL with 22 wins. Imagine if the Amerks were faster starters. They are minus-two (35-33 in the first period), but theyve allowed a league-low 24 in the third (Houston has yielded 25).
5 Milwaukee (7)
The Admirals reeled off five straight wins after getting blown out 7-0 in Houston earlier this month. Milwaukee, in first in the West Division, is happy to only play San Antonio two more times. The Ads have lost to the Rampage four times. Milwaukee is getting healthy and now has Timofei Shishkanov and Scottie Upshall back in the lineup.
6 Binghamton (16)
The Sens leap 10 spots in the power poll. They have overtaken the top spot in the East from Philadelphia, thanks to eight straight wins and a 13-2-0-0 mark in the last 15. Jason Spezza leads the AHL in points with 69 (22-47=69) in only 45 games, and he has more assists than any teammate has points. He has 20 points (8-12=20) and four power play goals in nine January games alone. Teammate Denis Hamel has a point in every game since New Years Eve (10).
7 Philadelphia (4)
Mama said thered be days like this during the Phantoms AHL record 17-game winning streak. Philly has lost four of five and is 4-6-1-4 in its last 15. The East race between the Sens and the Phantoms may come down to the final week of the season.
8 Lowell (11)
The Lock Monsters have games in hand on every AHL team but Houston, having played only 39. Lowell won seven straight before losing at Hartford on Friday. Eric Staal, Chuck Kobasew and Colin Forbes have combined for 128 points, and each one is at plus-23 or better.
9 Norfolk (17)
Admirals have won four straight to climb into the thick of things in the tough East Division. All four wins have come against Philadelphia and Hershey, and the Bears had won six straight until a four-game losing streak. Rene Bourque is in a dogfight with Binghamtons Brandon Bochenski and Albanys Zach Parise for possible Rookie of the Year laurels.
10 St. Johns (15)
The Baby Leafs have three more games left on a 12-game road trip that cant end soon enough. Theyve dropped four of six since winning five straight.
11 Chicago (8)
The Wolves could see their shot at first place slipping away after allowing six goals in three straight games, but they may have righted the ship Sunday by beating red-hot Cincinnati in a shootout. Chicago is 14-5-3-0 on home ice, but its road record is worse than all but San Antonio among the six West Division contenders for four playoff spots.
12 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (6)
Penguins are minus-eight in the first period, but plus-21 in the final two. They cant afford many more mini slumps (4-3-1-2 last 10) with Norfolk and Binghamton playing so well.
13 Worcester (12)
The IceCats would be in the thick of the division race in the other Eastern Conference division, the East, but instead theyre in a three-team dogfight for two playoff spots in the Atlantic. Worcester is consistent enough to make a run, having lost back-to-back games in regulation only once this season.
14 Houston (13)
It was brought up by defenseman Patrick Traverse this week that the Aeros dont have games in hand on San Antonio. They must have games in hands, because there are only five fingers on a hand, yet Houstons played eight less games than the Rampage (nine after Tuesday night). With Chicago coming back to the pack a bit, it may be a wild five-team race between the Wolves, Aeros, Griffins and Mighty Ducks for three playoff spots. Aeros.com thinks the West is a division to be reckoned with in the second half.
15 Edmonton (9)
The Road Runners followed up a winless Texas road trip and a five-game losing streak overall by splitting two home games with red-hot Manitoba. Goalie Mike Morrison, who played well in a 2-0 loss at Toyota Center last week, sports a nifty 1.21 gaa but is just 0-2-2. In each of its last 12 losses, Edmonton has scored two goals or fewer.
16 Grand Rapids (14)
The Griffins have seemingly righted the ship after a miserable 12-game stretch with only one win. They get scarier with Jiri Hudler back in the lineup. Instead of focusing on the lockout, national media should be looking at guys like Todd Robinson. Five years in the lower minor leagues, and at the age of 26 hes got 20 points in only 31 games with Grand Rapids, and hes perfect on four shootout attempts. The 5-foot-9 Robinson should be an inspiration to hockey players everywhere.
17 Providence (10)
Since a wild 8-7 shootout loss at Lowell, the P-Bruins have only 11 goals in five games. Providence is a good 12-4-2-1 at home, but must learn to win on the road in the second half (8-12-0-5).
18 Cincinnati (22)
The Ducks jump up four spots thanks to much improved play as of late. They are 11-4-1-0 in the last 16 games, and included in that stretch was a 6-1 thumping of Chicago at home on Saturday. Cincinnatis power play (12.9 percent) must improve in the final 35 games.
19 Hamilton (21)
Left for dead after a 7-11-4-1 start, the Bulldogs are within five points of fourth-place Edmonton in the North. Hamilton is unbeaten in regulation in five straight (3-0-1-1). Dallas other goalie prospect Dan Ellis is 6-5-0 since losing his first nine decisions.
20 Cleveland (19)
The Barons lost seven of eight before going 3-1-0-1 in their last five all on the road. The fact Cleveland is still in contention in the North is quite amazing when you realize they rank 21st on the power play and 24th on the penalty kill, and no better than 20th in team offense or defense.
21 Hershey (18)
Things looked great for the Bears two weeks ago after six straight wins, but how quickly things change. Four straight losses three at home have Hershey in trouble and 11 points out of the final playoff spot in the East. The Bears have six wins against No. 27 Albany, and more than one against only two other AHL teams.
22 Syracuse (24)
On-again, off-again Crunch has won six of nine and has games in hand on everyone in the North. If Syracuse can continue to hold its own until goalie Pascal Leclaire gets healthy, it could make a run as long as Edmontons struggles continue.
23 San Antonio (20)
Just when San Antonio looks listless and loses three straight, it knocks off first-place Milwaukee at home on Sunday. Four of the Rampages 18 wins have come versus the Ads. San Antonio hasnt scored more than three goals in a game since New Years Day.
24 Portland (23)
The Pirates have actually won four of six, but playing in the AHLs best conference means that still puts them 11 points behind Lowell and Worcester, tied for third. Goalie Maxime Oullet has played in 21 of the teams last 23 games.
25 Bridgeport (25)
The Sound Tigers are winless in their last 13 road games and are 1-9-0-1 in their last 11 overall. Bridgeport hasnt scored more than three goals in a game since December 15.
26 Springfield (26)
The Falcons are 3-7-0-1 since a four-game winning streak at Christmas. Springfield ranks in the bottom three of both scoring and defense.
27 Albany (26)
The Rats have only one win since December 11 (1-14-0-2). Things started out so brightly for Robbie Ftoreks crew. On the bright side, nine of Albanys losses have come after regulation, helping it keep a seven-point edge on Utah for the worst point total in the AHL.
28 Utah (28)
The Grizzlies have lost nine of 10 and went winless on a recent eight-game road trip. Home may be nicer to the Grizz, but 10 wins at the seasons midway point arent going to cut it.