Brahmas 22 games away from the playoffs or Palookaville
'When I was a boy, I saw a bulldog take a bull by the nose and wrestle him to the ground. The dog bit too hard, and the bull stomped that dog to death. (Smiling) Well boys, we got a whole pack of dogs to deal with."
- Jason Robards in Comes a Horseman
With just 21 games remaining on the schedule, the Texas Brahmas (20-17-8, 48 points) are on the home stretch of the 2011/12 regular season and it's time to throw the excuses to the wind. It's time to put up or shut up for the purple and black.
First and second place in the Berry Conference are out of reach which leaves the Brahmas, the Tulsa Oilers (21-17-5, 47 points) and the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (20-19-6, 46 points) wrangling for the third and fourth place spots. Fifth place is not an option.
Just seven road games remain - five in Allen and two in Tulsa. The remaining 14 games will be played at the NYTEX Sports Centre.
Seven games will be played against the Americans (two at home, five at the AEC), four against Tulsa (two at the BOK Center and two at home), four against Rio Grande Valley (two at NYTEX and two at the Fort Worth Convention Center), two against Laredo (at home) and one each against Dayton, Evansville, Missouri and Wichita (all at home).
Where We're At
The Brahmas overall record as of today is 20-17-8 (.533). Their road record is 9-13-4 and their home record is 11-4-4.
They have the third lowest number of goals scored in the league at 116, averaging 2.58 per game. Only Laredo and Bloomington have less, at 114 each.
The Brahmas have the lowest number of penalty minutes in the league at 582 as well as the worst power play in the league at an atrocious 11.11%. Their penalty kill is middle of the road, which is about average for the Brahmas, ranked seventh at 82.49%.
Grading the Offense: C-
In a way, this season's Brahmas remind me of the Dallas Cowboys - a lot of talent but not a lot of output when it's needed most. Led by Woolly, the Foxes, Kary and Hogger, the talent is definitely there. The question is, what's holding them back?
Grading the Defense: B-
What started out as one of the best defensive corps we've seen during the Wildfong years has waned at times, but overall they're a solid group. Too many third period collapses have plagued the Brahmas and their have been lapses in coverage in front of the net. Time to tighten up.
Grading the Goaltending: B-
Overall, the Brahmas' goaltenders haven't been the main issue. Sure, Steve Silverthorn had an atrocious start by purple and black standards, but I think most agree that a number of his losses had other elements to blame as well. Unfortunately, just as it appeared he was on the way to truly leading this team, he jumped ship.
Avramenko - never should have been put in that situation, but who knew? He'll probably have nightmares for years, waking up screaming to Fonger's glare and thorough dressing down. May have an opportunity to stay in place for now.
Mark Guggenberger emerged early as a fan favorite, winning his first three professional starts and going 9-4-3 in 19 games played. With a 2.24 GAA, Guggenberger is ranked second in the league and seventh with a .918 Save Percentage. He's struggled early in games, but overall has been a solid goalie. He'll have a new second to back him up tonight - I'll let the Brahmas announce the name if you don't already know.
Grading Special Teams: Grade D-
During the Wildfong era, the Brahmas' power play has been a joke for all but the championship season. In 45 games, the purple and black have had 153 advantages and capitalized just 17 times - rock bottom in the league with a 11.11 percentage. Chad Woollard, Phil Fox and Adam Hogg lead the team with three power play goals apiece.
This has to improve. Whether it's coaching or the personnel, you have to be able to score with an advantage. If it's coaching, find someone who can come in and work with the boys during practice - even some different perspectives might help. The Brahmas have access to Al Secord, one of the best power forwards during the 1980's. Maybe Al can give some advice. Bring in Wes Mason for a talk - he was one of the leaders in power play goals in 2005-06. Something...anything!
I'd dedicate a full day of practice a week on improving this.
The penalty kill is where it's been historically - middle of the road. Currently, exactly there, ranked seventh at 82.49%. Could be better.
Grading the Coaching: B-
Overall, with what Fonger's had to work with/deal with this season, I think he's done a very good job. Still have to fault him for the power play situation - how has this not improved? With some restraints placed on hiring/firing players and with Ronnie's attention split between the kids and the pros, Dan's carried a heavy load but the man knows what it takes to win. The question is - is anybody listening?
Tonight's The Night
The boys face the Allen Americans tonight at NYTEX. The Americans are coming off a dreadful performance last night on their home ice, giving up a two-goal lead and allowing four unanswered strikes to lose to the first-place Wichita Thunder 4-2.
The Americans have won three of the first four meetings and they think the Brahmas are a joke on every level.
My advice to the boys (for what it's worth)? Bully Deitsch and Yellow Horn. Send someone into the opposing net early to rattle the 'tender. Don't stop the action for a heavyweight match - keep the fight on the ice. And for God's sake, keep the pressure on - don't give them time to set up behind the net...charge, charge, charge! If you need to be carried into the locker room after the game, so be it, but give it all you've got you need to win this game!
Fans - keep the noise level up. Do what you can to rattle Mullins (and Yellow Horn), but be smart. No need to be thrown out. No need to let them blame you for something they throw on the ice. Did I mention keep the noise level up? Who were the CHL's Most Annoying Fans in 2010-11? I gotta tell ya - from what I hear, Wichita's fans are pushing you back out of that category. As always, above all else - Be There...Be Loud...Believe!