The beloved Eagles got the ship righted this week with a trio of 4-3 wins at the friendly confines of the BEC. The staff made some good adjustments to tighten up the defense and scoring picked back up after only 13 goals in the previous 6 games.
– Josh Dickinson was the latest victim of the numbers game and was sent to the Grizzlies on Friday. He had a goal and an assist over the weekend for Utah.
– David Warsofsky returned from injury in the first San Jose game but perhaps had a setback. He was not dressed in the second.
– Cody Bass was a victim of friendly fire in the Bakersfield game and did not return. He was out of the lineup for both weekend games.
– Grayson Downing has only appeared in 3 games this year, the last being more than 3 weeks ago vs Tucson. With no injury reports we are left to wonder what the situation is there.
COL 4 – BAK 3
Goals: Graves (Geertsen, Kaut), Greer (Kaut, Aggz), Greer (Joly, Beaudin), Toninato (Alt)
PP 1-3, PK 2-3
The coaching staff had to deal with a quick turnaround after getting home from California on Monday and another game on Wednesday. Right away the adjustments became apparent compared to the previous week. The breakout was 50x better with close puck support and the defensemen getting the puck out to the forwards much quicker. The forecheck was more aggressive instead of the stock 1-2-2 shown most of the time during the 6 game losing streak.
The first period was very strong with the Eagles outshooting Bako 15-9 despite having an extra penalty to kill. Graves got the goals going late then AJ Greer bookended the 1st intermission with a pair. The 2nd was a bit of a letdown with a blown 3-0 lead but Dom Toninato saved the day late to put them up 4-3 going to 2nd inters. The 3rd period was gruesome, outshot 10-2 they managed scoring chances well and hung on for a badly needed win.
COL 4 – SJB 3 (OT)
Goals: Lewis (Toninato, Graves), Agozzino (Greer), Beaudin (Joly, Greer), Kosmachuk (O’Connor, Lindholm)
PP 1-3, PK 4-4
Another strong first period began with Ty Lewis’ 3rd goal of the season but San Jose got it back a few minutes later. Agozzino and Beaudin pushed the score to 3-1 after 20 minutes where the good guys had an 18-11 shot advantage. San Jose controlled the rest of a very chippy regulation with a shortie in the 2nd and another goal in the 3rd. Travis Barron fought former Avs draft pick Kyle Wood and Mase beat up former Avs camp invitee Jeffrey Viel, funny stuff. Scott Kosmachuk was the hero in OT getting the Eagles their first non-regulation win of the season.
COL 4 – SJB 3 (SO)
Goals: Lewis (Joly, Beaudin), Falk (Aggz), Kaut (Boikov)
PP 0-3, PK 2-3
Three times the Barracudas took the lead early in a period and 3 times Colorado came back late to tie it. Lewis in P1, Falk in P2 and a fantastic goal by Martin Kaut with less than 5 minutes remaining in P3. No glory in overtime so we headed to the skills comp. Joly and Kaut again scored while Pavel Francouz allowed nothing. 3rd win in a row, nice.
Breaking Down: Week 8
It’s pretty neat that you can get three wins out of a week where you outscore your opponents by just 2 goals. A lot of this week was situational and the Eagles did what they had to. When compared to last week it’s a great body of work.
On the season they now have 58 goals total, 40 at even strength, 12 on the power play and 5 shorthanded (one is a fake goal from the shootout). The 3.05 per game average is 23rd in the AHL. Even strength scoring is good, the power play is unproductive but the 5 shorties sort of make up for that.
On the downside Colorado has given up 65 goals, 48 at even strength, 14 on the PK and 3 shorties against. Average of 3.42 against per game is 21st in the league. As you might have noticed the special teams scoring balances out and the deficit is all from even strength play. Breaking it down further, they are -8 in the 2nd period and even elsewhere. We’ve seen the 2nd period malaise often enough in the Eagles/Rampage/Monsters history to know it’s something that needs to be fixed. Adjustments at 1st intermission are crucial and they aren’t keeping up a lot of the time.
Shots: +114/-106 (51.8%)
Good to be back on the plus side for the week and the season (barely). Overall they are +626/-622 (50.2%). Shots for are 4th in the AHL and that’s been a consistent strength so far. Shots against are 26th in the league and that used to be much better. Part of that is playing against high-event Pacific teams rather than the grindier Central.
Shooting percentage: 9.7 (9.3% season)
Save percentage: .915 (.895 season)
PDO: 101.2 (98.8 season)
Shooting percentage has been steady in this range for most of the past month so it seems sustainable. The save percentage has a lot to unpack. Francouz has started 14 games and has a .913, so he’s underperforming a little but more of that has to do with the guys in front of him. Martin has been bad statistically at .865 but his usage is weird. He’s started 5 games and all against high-scoring teams like Chicago (2X), Iowa and Stockton. The Eagles are going to need him to carry the load at some point this year and need to get him some confidence somehow.
PP: 2-9, season 12-83 (14.5%, 24th)
PK: 8-10, season 72-86 (83.7%, 8th)
Special Teams percentage: 102.2, season 98.2
The power play was ok this week, much better than last week’s 0-for-12 anyway. I just don’t get the feeling that it’s going to catch fire and get up to average levels. They’re about 3 or 4 goals below average there and that adds up over a season. As I noted above, special teams are net even for the year so they neither hurt nor help at this point which is not an indicator of a playoff-bound club.
Your scoring hero of the week is AJ Greer with 2 goals and 2 assists. Kaut, Agozzino and Beaudin all had 1G/2A, Joly had 3 assists. Toninato and Graves both had 1G/1A.
Andrew Agozzino has crept into the top scorers’ race with 20 points, putting him in 12th place in the AHL. AJ Greer has 17 points in 3 fewer games and could edge into the top 20 soon. Logan O’Connor is 2nd among AHL rookies (and the Eagles) with 54 SOG and his 13 points is tied for 15th in rookie scoring.
Great comeback week for the Eagles, there’s definitely some magic about playing at the BEC that they don’t have on the road. Five thousand fans packing an arena to capacity has a much different dynamic to the same amount spread out in a cavernous barn like we’ve seen in Cleveland and San Antonio. As time goes by opponents will despise playing there and that’s awesome.
I had little faith that the staff could pull the defense out of it’s funk in one or two practices but they did a fantastic job. They’re still fundamentally flawed on the back end, not enough speed or puck skills to be competitive long-term, but dialing in the breakout and forecheck made a difference this week. The forwards are going to have to cover for this all year but that’s the team strength and they can use it to their advantage.
Besides the improved breakout and forecheck I’ve noticed the beginnings of a good cycle game happening in the offensive zone. The Avs are doing the same in parallel so it’s fun to watch a new aspect get integrated into the organization. I think this is a solid strategy to increase shot suppression and another way to keep the puck out of the defensive zone. If they have any notions of making the playoffs it’s probably going to come from being a positive possession team that creates a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone.
A full week to practice then Iowa and Tim’s Army comes to town for the weekend.
Thanks to the AHL for stats and standings and to the Colorado Eagles for the feature photo.