The Manitoba Moose last played a home game at the MTS Centre 24 days ago, when they posted a 4-2 victory over the Lake Erie Monsters on February 19th. This past Sunday, they completed a ridiculous 11-game road trip that featured not one, not two, but THREE stretches of 3-games-in-3-days over each of the past 3 weekends. On top of that, twice they had a stretch of 4-games-in-5-days. No wonder professional hockey players have aspirations to play in the big leagues - this minor league stuff is nuts!
But wouldn't you know it, the baby-Canucks excelled. The Moose finished off their trip with a solid 7-4 record and have once again set up shop atop the Western Conference's North Division with 80 points. They may have even finished with a better record had they not fallen asleep and allowed 6 goals in the 3rd period of their final game of the trip this past Sunday. To be fair though, 2 of them were into the empty net. But what else could you expect? The poor boys were tired!
And it won't get any easier in the short-term. Though they are now home in Winnipeg, they have a quick turnaround as they face the league-leading Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins for a 2-game set tonight and tomorrow. However, these are the first games of an 8-game home stand that will see them spend the rest of March defending their turf so the Moose will soon have their chance to rest.
Among the many reasons for this surge has been the fact that the lineup has remained virtually unchanged since the NHL Trade Deadline on February 28th. The Canucks picked up Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre to strengthen their run for the Stanley Cup, and the end result was some moving and shaking down on the farm.
- Heading to Florida in the Chris Higgins deal was young defender Evan Oberg along with the Canucks 3rd round pick in 2013. Oberg was very impressive this year with the Moose, but with the quick development of both Chris Tanev and Lee Sweatt it appeared that the Canucks could deal from a position of strength.
- In exchange for Maxim Lapierre and Macgregor Sharp, the Canucks sent center Joel Perrault and a 3rd round pick in 2011 to the Anaheim Ducks. However, the Ducks have not only allowed Perrault to stay with the Moose, but have also loaned forward Jason Jaffray to Manitoba, which didn't sit very well with the Howard Dolgan, the owner of the Syracuse Crunch which is of course Anaheim's affiliate.
- The aforementioned Macgregor Sharp didn't quite make it to Manitoba, however, as he instead went to Abbotsford on loan to the Calgary Flames in exchange for d-man Keith Seabrook. Having the Flames and Canucks come to any sort of agreement just seems weird to me, but the Canucks obviously felt that they could use another defender after moving Oberg and still having Tanev up with the big club.
- To make room for Lapierre and Higgins, forwards Cody Hodgson and Victor Oreskovich were sent back down to Manitoba. And while Oreskovich was called up by Vancouver for one game to replace the injured Mason Raymond in Phoenix last week, he was returned the next day.