The Kansas City Mavericks are back in action tonight before a six-day holiday hiatus. The Mavs went toe-to-toe with two very tough teams in the South Division last week, splitting a two-game series against the Florida Everblades and then dropping a heartbreaker to the Orlando Solar Bears Wednesday night. Last night's loss to Utah was nothing to write home about.
That annual trip to the Southeast is always a tough one, especially considering how tough that division has been over the last few years. Teams like Florida, Orlando, and South Carolina have been perennial Kelly Cup Contenders over the last decade, so Kansas City knew they had their work cut out for them. While the performance of the Mavs was competitive and many great things can be taken from those bouts, especially erasing a late 5-2 deficit against Orlando before eventually falling, the time for moral victories is behind us.
Now at the end of December, there is only one language that should be spoken, and that is the language of wins. The Mavericks, once again, find themselves in the cellar of the Mountain Division. But, once again, they are still well withing striking distance for one of the four coveted playoff spots.
So, as the Mavericks wrap up their pre-St. Nick schedule before getting a much-needed six days off, the two games this weekend are a great opportunity to make up some ground within the division. With Utah in town Friday and then Tulsa on Saturday, the Mavs can take advantage of that home-ice advantage, an advantage that has played in their favor quite a bit this season, and pick up a handful of points against the two teams that are currently above them in standings, points that are very much at a premium.
Look, we all have seen plenty of Tulsa. We all know Tulsa. The Mavs know Tulsa. Rob Murray is a good coach, a championship winning coach, and always seems to get the best out of his players. Tulsa always seems to play well against the Mavericks and Saturday night should be no different. Tulsa blew out the Mavs in the season opener, then the Mavs returned the favor the following week. The 2-1 Tulsa win at the BOK Center a few nights later is more indicative of the play between these two teams over the last couple of seasons. Games are typically close, which is common between divisional foes in close proximity.
However, there is still a ton of talent on that roster. Goalie Devin Williams has stymied the Mavs many of times during his stint for the Oilers. Rookie center Robby Jackson is finally hitting his stride and is a threat every time he is on the ice. Danny Moynihan is on pace for a career year and leads Tulsa in scoring. Charlie Sampair is still lightning quick and can score from all over the ice. And, of course, there’s always the ageless wonder, Adam Pleskach, who has haunted this fanbase for year. Despite his goal numbers being well off the pace of the 38 he produced a year ago, he has a knack for scoring big goals against the Mavs in his career.
Tulsa’s vulnerability is on the defensive side of the puck, which is often hidden by the stellar play of Williams. The Oilers have allowed 95 goals so far this season, which is second-worst in the division. The Mavs will need to wear down that defensive unit and get a lot of pucks on net to keep Williams on the move. If they can win in the dirty areas, an element so crucial to their game plan, they can expose Tulsa defensively, but they need to take advantage of any plus opportunities that they can get against Williams, as they don’t come often.
The Mavericks have an opportunity in front of them that they can’t let slip through their hands. The calendar is about to flip and crunch time is upon us. There are no more moral victories. There are only wins. Wins are what we all want for Christmas.