Consistent Moose can get it done

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

As much as we've learned about the Manitoba Moose this season, we're about to discover a whole lot more.

You see, the Moose, with a 3-1 death-grip on their AHL playoff series with Rochester, are on the threshold of a few franchise firsts.

Their next victory will be their eighth of the post-season, tying a club record, which would also vault them into a conference final for the first time since 2001.

Of course, back then the team was in the old IHL, and only had to win one series to reach the conference final. So that was counterfeit. This is real money.

Never before has a team wearing the antlers won two full-length playoff series.

The point?

The Moose are standing at the edge of something kind of special, perched on a ledge overlooking a beautiful valley that holds undiscovered treasures.

Winnipeggers are already flocking to their games in unprecedented numbers -- a crowd of 14,000 or more is expected at the new rink tonight. What kind of reaction would a trip to the conference final, and possibly beyond, elicit, we wonder?

The mind boggles at the possibilities.

The question is, will the Moose look down from their lofty perch and suffer a sudden case of vertigo, or will they take it all in, grab a deep breath and forge ahead, blazing the trail for future Winnipeg teams to follow?

"We're happy where we are right now," forward Josh Green was saying after Wednesday's 2-1 victory in Game 4. "It was a huge, pivotal game for us. But we try not to get overly excited. Because we know the work begins now."

It's hard to imagine the Moose working much harder than they have, but they'll have to.

They're going to get Rochester's best tonight, you would think. And then some.

It might just come down to how badly they want it, and that's one area in which the locals have shown some mettle.

It's kind of like the way the pyramids were built: all the little things have added up to make something pretty impressive. Whether it's back-checking to break up a play or taking a hit to make one.

"We have it right now," Green said. "You can tell in the dressing room. We've got a quiet confidence about us. Nobody really cares who gets the credit. That's the thing about this team. You've seen guys take hits to get the puck out of the zone, and that's what wins championships."

Jimmy Roy's winning goal the other night, for instance, was a combination of a well-placed dump-in by Tomas Mojzis and a hard forecheck from Nathan Smith, followed by the play -- Alexandre Burrows to Roy for the finish.

"All the little things are paying off," Roy said. "Getting the pucks out, getting them by defencemen, getting them deep, getting some hits. We have a very competitive team this year."

It's a commitment and attention to detail that was sorely lacking last year.

Evidently, head coach Randy Carlyle hasn't been preaching like an evangelist all season for nothing.

"It comes from Randy," Green said. "He preaches little things to us, over and over again. And over again. And we listen to him. We know he's been there before ... and he knows what it takes. It would be foolish for us not to listen to him. And it comes from the guys in the room, too, just knowing you have to pay the price in order to win."

Any preacher will tell you there's a price to be paid for straying, too, even for just one night.

It's one thing to surprise the regular-season champions for a few games, another entirely to finish them off.

Tonight, the Moose have a chance to do it on home ice, in a city that's rediscovered its passion for hockey.

Our advice: finish the job.

Going back to Rochester would be a fool's game.


Videos

Photos