From the Eagles Desk: Magic Numbers

Coming into the weekend this was the easiest matchup the Eagles had remaining on their schedule. They took one of four possible points which could come back to haunt them. The situation in the standings is they are 4 points ahead of Tucson with 6 games remaining. Their magic number is 12, if they take both games against the Roadrunners this weekend that goes down to 4, a split would put it at 8. Lose both and they’re in big trouble.

Injuries/Transactions

– Michael Joly returned to the lineup Friday after missing 15 games with UBI.
– Nic Meloche also dressed for the first time in a while after dealing with an LBI.
– The Eagles signed former Wisconsin captain Peter Tischke to an Amateur Try-Out contract this week. He’s a 23 year old defenseman weighing in at 6’1/215 lbs and put up 34 points in 135 games for the Badgers over 4 years.
– Ty Lewis was assigned to Utah on Monday.
– AJ Greer was called up to the Avs on Saturday night and returned on Monday.

COL 0 – MB 2

Goals: none
Shots: +33/-24
PP 0-6, PK 2-3

Lineup:

A second straight letdown for the Eagles, pushing their scoreless streak to 142:32. They had a fair number of opportunities but couldn’t capitalize and lost the game on two small mistakes. That’s not the kind of margin for error that’s going to get a team into the playoffs.

COL 2 – MB 3 (OT)

Goals: O’Connor (Dries, Boikov), Greer (Wars, Dries)
Shots: +37/-31
PP 1-6, PK 5-6

Lineup:

A defensive breakdown led to the Mooses taking an early lead but the Eagles ground out an answer when LOC tipped a Dries shot in late in the 1st period. That broke a 157+ minute scoreless streak and seemed to take a load off everyone’s back. The power play came through for once early in the 2nd giving the Eagles a 2-1 lead but soon after everything went in the toilet. Dom Toninato took a 4-minute high-sticking call and on the kill Sergei Boikov viciously boarded a Manitoba player which handed them over 2 minutes of 5v3. The PKers gave a valiant effort but the Mooses tied it up towards the end. Julien Nantel drew a hooking call soon after than killed off the rest of Boikov’s major. That was it for the scoring until overtime when MB scored on the 2nd shift. One point is better than none.

Breaking Down: Week 25

Summary

Goals: +2/-5

Scoring continues to wane with only 18 goals in 10 games this month. They’ve only given up 22 and 9 of those came in one game so it’s working in the win column at least.

Shots: +70/-55 (56%)

The Eagles had a lead for less than 8 minutes this weekend so it’s no surprise they took the shot share crown. Manitoba is 25th in the AHL in shots for and just ahead of the Eagles in shots against so this was a pretty average weekend for both clubs.

Shooting percentage: 5.7%
Save percentage: 90.9%
PDO: 96.6

Francouz was league average instead of Frank average. Despite 12 power plays the offense was well below their season average of 8.9%. Average won’t cut it down the stretch.

PP: 1-12
PK: 7-9
The power play has slipped below 15% again. Until Agozzino returns they have what they have, which is ineffective. The PK was ok, one defensive breakdown Friday and a 3v5 goal against Saturday is well within tolerance.

Individual

Your scoring star of the week is Sheldon Dries with assists on both goals. Weak week.

Overview

The scoring drying up this month is a combination of many factors. First of all, it’s just something that happens as the playoffs draw near. The power play hasn’t been effective all year from a combination of using the Avs terrible system as a base and questionable personnel choices. Here’s what we saw this weekend:

Other than the additions of Joly & Meloche, the game 1 units have been pretty standard for a while. Joly was fairly productive before his injury but returning after 7 weeks meant that he was rusty. The first PP he was out the whole time but later in the game some others were swapped in. It might take a few weeks for him to get up to speed. Meloche was also new after missing several games. I liked some of what the 2nd unit did, sometimes they would go with a 2-high setup with Nic and Kaut. Didn’t produce anything of course but it was something new for the opponent to deal with at least. The main thing I’m seeing with Meloche not able to anchor his own unit are some puck decision and zone entry skills that are very raw. He’s the youngest D on the roster and these situations expose that.

The rest of the first unit was the usual crew in game 1. Max McCormick moved from the half-wall into the center with the Joly addition. Mark Alt was still the featured shooter on the left half-wall. Alt had a hot streak a while ago but looking at the season as a whole he’s been what he is, a defensive defenseman not a scorer. McCormick has one power play goal on the season which was in his first AHL game with Belleville in December. He is not a scorer either. Neither of these guys should be regulars on the PP.

A couple of rookies who are finding it hard to earn TOI have had some success on the PP. Ty Lewis, who was just demoted to the ECHL, played intermittently with the man advantage and has 4 PPG’s (tied for 3rd) on the season. Kevin Davis has 2 PPGs and 6 points on the power play in total in 25 games but can’t crack the lineup without an injury to another D.

Sergei Boikov committed the unforgivable sin of taking a major penalty while on the PK on Saturday night. Nominally he’s the 6th defenseman and plays a defensive role, most often with Mason Geertsen. As a point producer he’s ahead of only Anton Lindholm out of the regulars. He plays while rookie Kevin Davis and his 0.6 points per game are in the press box. If the staff are looking for reasons why the Eagles are having major difficulties scoring then here’s a big one. Bench skill for grit and this is what happens.

Coach Cronin often laments the lack of scoring skill in his pre-game chats with Kevin McGlue. I agree that especially with Andrew Agozzino on the Avs roster that there isn’t a plethora of point producers available. Beyond Greer and Warsofsky it gets a little grindy. The lineup is skewed towards defensive play and experience. That’s paid off recently but it has hurt them at times. Rookies like Martin Kaut and Ty Lewis and Kevin Davis have been inconsistent but all three have also been bounced around or out of the lineup often. It’s too late to work on improving their consistency now but the skill and scoring ability is something they are missing badly. Whether they could have gotten better results from those three by handling the situation differently earlier in the year is up for debate but the facts are that they have valued age and experience over skill all season and that set the ceiling. Many teams do just fine going the opposite way so it’s something to look at over the summer.

Next up

A week of practice then the showdown in the desert with Tucson next weekend. This is big.

Thanks to the AHL for stats and standings and to the Colorado Eagles for the feature photo.

earl06

Scoring LW, punchy climber for the Ardennes classics, spirit guide

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