Two weeks ago the beloved Eagles were 2nd in the Pacific Division with a 6-2-2 record. After 6 straight losses they’ve fallen to 5th by points, 6th by percentage and it’s difficult to see a way out of this anytime soon.
– Dominic Toninato returned from a 6 game absence vs Stockton
– Scott Kosmachuk and David Warsofsky were injured in the 1st Stockton game and did not travel with the team to California.
– Cole Ully was recalled from Utah on Thursday, replacing Caleb Herbert who was sent down earlier in the week. He was returned to the Grizzlies on Monday.
– Anton Lindholm was in the lineup vs Bako after missing 4 games with an undisclosed injury
COL 4 – STK 5 (OT)
Goals: Toninato (Greer), O’Connor (Kaut, Aggz), O’Connor, Kaut (Boikov, Dickinson)
PP 0-2, PK 3-5
This was a real ebb and flow game. Dom Toninato returned to the lineup and immediately got a shortie 5 minutes in. Logan O’Connor extended the lead a few minutes later then the Heats took over for a while. A power play goal got them within one then LOC blew a clearing attempt badly on the PK that led to a tie game with less than 20 seconds left in the 1st. A soft start to the 2nd meant another goal against. LOC made up for his earlier PK gaffe by tying it up with the Eagles 2nd shortie of the game then Martin Kaut took off from the penalty box and roofed one a minute later. The 3rd period was brutal. Sitting back on a one-goal lead they were outshot 7-4 and yet another soft clear from 3 feet away from the blueline led to the tying goal with less than two minutes left. Since no one in the organization has any idea what to do in OT they lost. Fun fact: Ryan Graves was on the ice for all 4 Stockton goals in regulation.
COL 2 – STK 4
Goals: O’Connor (Aggz), Joly (Meloche, Greer)
PP 0-4, PK 4-5
The Eagles played much better in game two but didn’t even get a loser point out of it. They had a 10-3 shot advantage in the first 10 minutes but nothing dropped, except one for the Heats. Mark Alt then took a careless double minor stick penalty and the momentum was broken. The second period opened with O’Connor getting his 2nd shortie in two nights but he then took a bad interference penalty and Stockton capitalized. A few minutes later they made it 3-1 and Martin was pulled. The 4th STK goal was a comedy of errors. Meloche made a suicide pass to Beaudin, who was hit about a millisecond after it arrived setting up a breakaway. For some reason Francouz skated way out to challenge, got deked and that was that. Joly scored to get them within 2 a few minutes after that but the damage was done. Martin returned for the 3rd and shut it down but 8 SOG for the Eagles weren’t enough to get back in the game.
COL 2 – BAK 5
Goals: Agozzino (Kaut, Meloche), Greer (Toninato)
PP 0-1, PK 5-5
This game was a little more even than it looks. Bakersfield is a high-volume possession team and they had a big power play advantage for whatever reason. After two periods the Eagles had a tenuous 1-0 lead and were down 28-20 in shots. They needed to push the play and forget being safe. They didn’t. Early flurries of shots by Bako plus a bunch of one-and-done possessions by the Eagles led to a quick 3-1 lead for the Condors. There was no resiliency whatsoever. A couple of ENGs sandwiched around what was actually a pretty nice goal by Greer in garbage time finished the game off. For the second time this week they blew a 3rd period lead and lost.
COL 0 – SJB 5
PP 0-5, PK 6-8
Purely from the boxscore this game was a total disaster. In reality it was bad but not as bad as it looks. The shot differential is horrifying, especially the +2/-17 in the 2nd period but I question the totals for both sides. The Eagles spent an inordinate amount of time in their own zone but not to that extent. Add to that another evening of questionable officiating and you get a 5-0 loss. It’s counter-intuitive but Spencer Martin was really good for the most part. The two goals that actually mattered were unstoppable and one was after 1:52 of 3v5 action. The 3 others were in garbage time and after he had already made 40 saves. Bottom line the “0” in this score was a lot more telling than the “5”.
Breaking Down: Week 7
Scoring 2 per game and giving up nearly 5 won’t get it done. They’ve fallen into the bottom third of the league in both. Offensively that’s not much of a change but the defense has fallen off a cliff.
Shots: +102/-150 (39.7%)
They’ve gone below 50% shot share for the season after being consistently in the 53-54% range. This was the fallback good stat and it’s folded on them. Again, this is defense-driven with the offense staying pretty much the same.
Shooting percentage: 7.8
Save percentage: 87.3
Shooting percentage isn’t great but save percentage hurts more. Both goalies need to be better but the overall theme of the defense killing the team is what’s going on here.
PK: 17-23 (74%)
Special Teams percentage: 74
When your PK outscores your PP it’s time to re-evaluate what you’re doing. The PK scored 3 this week and 5 over the 6 game losing streak. The PP has 2 goals in that time and none this week.
Your scoring stars of the week are Logan O’Connor (3G), Agozzino, Kaut and Greer with 1G/2A each, Toninato with a goal and assist and Meloche with 2 assists. Outside of those 6 only 3 others had points.
The difficulties the Eagles are going through are mainly driven by defensive inconsistency. They don’t have a true top pair right now and even when Warsofsky was healthy it was fairly weak. Over these 4 games Falk & Meloche were the most solid of the bunch, which isn’t saying much. Meloche is the only active D with above average puck skills and that’s what is killing the team in both ends. Don’t get me wrong, the forwards have been a nightmare defensively as well but the weakness on the blueline has been a chronic issue all year. Losing David Warsofsky highlights how much they depend on what little puck talent they have. Without him they lose one of two Ds that can break the puck out consistently and a top 3 D in the AHL at shot generation. Alt, Falk, Graves, Geertsen and Lindholm are pure defensive defensemen and you’re never going to win much with an overabundance like that. Two out of that group would be plenty on a night to night basis. I’m not sure what Sergei Boikov is, other than highly risky and inconsistent. I think we all hoped that he would come back from his year-long injury and take a step towards being somewhat skilled in both ends but it hasn’t happened. The hallmarks of the defensive corps right now are big and slow with little puck-moving ability. If that doesn’t change then the results probably won’t either.
Before the San Jose game Coach Cronin was questioning the consistency of the officiating on the trip to that point and the way that went must have driven him nuts. When you look slow and spend most of the time in your own zone you’ll end up with more PK than PP time but they did not get any slack from the refs and that, as he said, highly influenced the outcome of both games in California. No coach wants to see their team on the penalty parade but if you neuter your aggressiveness then the same outcome is just as likely. I’m sure he’s very frustrated, as fans watching we are too. Killing 6 penalties per game is too much to ask and only getting 3 PP opportunities per game hurts.
Even with just those 3 chances, the Eagles did nothing (0-for-12) with them. Like the rest of the lineup, the power play units were a revolving door and showed zero chemistry or danger. I’m not sure if it was punishment or a cruel joke but Anton Lindholm became the PP1 quarterback for the San Jose game, with unsurprising results. The penalty kill has gone from the best in the league to bottom third in a matter of weeks. The first month of the season is when there is a lot of practice time to work out who does what well. Now that mid-week games are the norm there’s very little and the staff desperately need to fix both special teams units (not to mention everything else).
Fixing everything else means finding some lines and pairs that can function adequately. The only line that was the same for all 4 games this week was Kaut/Aggz/LOC and none of the D-pairs were the same for all. Solid long-term lines are rare in the AHL thanks to injuries and player movement but there needs to some rhyme and reason to the roles at least. The Aggz line went from the 2-way line to the scoring line. When Greer was with Beaudin and Kosmachuk that was the scoring line, with Toninato it isn’t. Shvyrev with Bass and Nantel was the junior shutdown line then Barron was added and it’s too slow and chunky to be effective. The “other guy” line worked well as a junior 2-way line with Dickinson and Lewis but now it’s just the rotating scratch line and it looks like the staff don’t know what to do with it. Michael Joly floats around the lineup the same way he floats around the ice, ineffective and bad. The coaches need to take a deep breath, start with what they know works and build on that. The Aggz line is ok but I question using it as the scoring line as well as having Kaut on his off-wing there. Greer is the best forward right now, they need to make sure that he’s got some offensively minded players with him to keep him productive. It’s tough to rotate so many forwards into the bottom 6, so maybe ease off on that, but make sure you have one line that can score and one line that can defend every night. Stop pretending that Joly is helping in any measurable way.
That’s a lot of general negativity so let’s finish up with a positive. Logan O’Connor has been a bright spot over the past week. He had 3 goals to lead the team and his speed has made defenses back off a bit when he’s on the ice. Two of those goals came shorthanded, when you consider that Martin Kaut’s goal came directly from being released out of the penalty box the PK scored half the goals this week so it’s their top scoring area by rate. O’Connor is pretty risky. Along with those two goals he’s made a few questionable pinches, one of which directly led to a goal against Stockton., but overall having an aggressive mindset helps a generally low-risk team. I’d rather see the Avs wait a month or two before calling him up but he could take Matt Calvert’s spot in the lineup and I doubt there would be a noticeable difference.
Bakersfield again tonight then back home for a 6-game homestand starting with San Jose on Friday.
Thanks to the AHL for stats and standings and to QueenJK for the feature photo.