Hey, Barracuda fans. The blog is back! The AHL All-Star Classic has passed which means just 28 games remain for the Barracuda in the 2017-18 regular season. The playoff race in the West is a logjam with all eight Pacific Division teams sitting at or above .500. If San Jose is going to make the playoffs for the third straight year, I believe February has to be the clubs best month of the season.
Four of the Barracuda’s 10 games in February are against the Stockton Heat who currently sit two spots ahead of the ‘Cuda in the Pacific Division standings. In three years, San Jose is 19-8-1-1 against their Northern California Rival and 12-4-0-0 at SAP Center. San Jose is certainly hoping Andrew Mangiapane continues his extended stay with the Calgary Flames. Mangiapane has 12 points (six goals, six assists) in five games against the Barracuda this year and 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 17 career games against Team Teal. So far, in eight games with the Flames, Mangiapane has yet to record a point, so it’s not a guarantee that he’ll be up in the NHL for the remainder of the year. When Mangiapane is not in Stockton’s lineup, the Heat are just 3-5-1.
In addition to playing Stockton four times, San Jose will also host the top-seeded Tucson Roadrunners twice at SAP Center in February. Meaning the Barracuda will most likely get its first look at potential AHL Rookie of the Year and league MVP, Dylan Strome, who was up with the Coyotes during the three games earlier this season.
Several factors will play a roll in the complexion of the Barracuda roster for the remainder of the season, including the health of Joe Thornton. As long as Thornton is out, my hunch says O’Regan will be up. Aside from O’Regan and Marcus Sorensen who were both recalled over the last week, captain John McCarthy will depart for the Olympics following Monday’s game against the Roadrunners and most likely won’t return until early March.
The Barracuda can undoubtedly survive and stay in contention until McCarthy's return, but they'll have to do what's allowed them to stay in the mix to this point and that is by playing smothering defense and using opportunistic offense. I think the Barracuda must win 2/3 of their remaining games to make the postseason. Two years ago, the ‘Cuda got into the dance with a .537 winning percentage, that's not going to be enough this season. As of today, San Jose has a .538 winning percentage, yet they sit three spots out of the playoffs.
Should be one heck of a race. That's it from me, we'll talk to you all next week. GO 'CUDA!