From the Eagles Desk: First Week of Sophomore Year

The beloved Eagles got smoked on opening night but backed it up with a more competitive Saturday night rematch. Stockton gave the Eagles fits last season and that continues in 2019-20. There was a noticeable lack of chemistry and discipline, par for the course on an opening weekend. 66 to go and plenty of time to improve.

Injuries/Transactions

The Eagles are down to 14 forwards and 8 defensemen on the roster so it’s likely we’re getting close to this year’s core group. As far as we know there are no injuries.

Transactions from right before the weekend include signing Yuri Terao, late of the Nikko Icebucks of the Asia League, to an SPC and assigning him to Utah. This fellow intrigues me, hope we get a look at him. Also Grizzlies forward Patrick McGrath was signed to a PTO and then released on Saturday.

Camp invite Colin Campbell was signed to a PTO. He would be a 6th veteran of 320+ pro games so the Eagles couldn’t dress him this weekend without one of the others (Alt, Connauton, Megna, Tynan & Condra) sitting out.

Goalie Hunter Miska wasn’t added to the roster, which could mean several things. I tend to think that with the horrendous Meloche/Bibeau trade he was the odd man out and could be looking for an opportunity somewhere else.

Connor Timmins was added to the roster on Monday after two games with the Avs.  Kevin Davis was loaned to Utah in a corresponding move.

Josh Dickinson and Brendan Saigeon were assigned to the Grizzlies on Tuesday.

Kevin Connauton was called up to the Avs to take Timmins roster spot.

COL 2 – STK 5

Goals: Joly (Alt, Bibeau), Dries (Shvyrev, Henry)
Shots: +30/-24
PP 0/8 (-1), PK 3/3

Lineup:
Kaut – Tynan – O’Connor
Greer – Bowers – Condra
Dries – Megna – Henry
Lewis – Shvyrev – Joly

Lindholm – Alt
Connauton – Rosen
Renouf – MacDonald

Bibeau
Werner

Scratch: forwards Nantel, Dickinson, Saigeon, McGrath, Campbell and defensemen Davis, Larocque, Anderson

The few positives to opening night were limited to the first period where the Eagles used their speed to put Stockton on the back foot and drew 3 penalties. Unfortunately, giving the Eagles power plays is doing them no favors whatsoever so despite a heavy shot advantage they left P1 down by a goal. The refs tried to even things up by calling some softies on Colorado in the P2 and that ate into the momentum along with the usual 2nd period malaise. Some weak defensive play and alarmingly bad goaltending made it 4-0 Stockton going into the final frame. The 3rd turned into a de facto practice scrimmage for the Eagles with the top 6 getting limited use and the defensive pairs totally random.

It’s just one game but Antoine Bibeau’s performance was very discouraging. He stopped just 10 of the first 14 shots he faced and only 19 of 24 on the night (.792). Three goals came from bad coverage on seam passes, that’s tough but his positioning made them easy chances into an open net. The other two came on a bizarre pokecheck attempt far out of the net and a faceoff where he lost tracking on the puck. Considering what the Avs gave up to acquire him and the fact that part of his role is to be the #3 NHL keeper, this is trouble.

The power play changed little over the summer from their league-worst status of last season. Eight chances, over a quarter of the game spent with the man advantage and only a shortie against to show for it. Other than early-season chemistry issues there’s little to criticise on the personnel side.

PP1: MacDonald, Tynan, Condra, Bowers, Kaut
PP2: Rosen, Joly, Greer, Megna, Henry

Other than the 3 youngsters these are all established AHL power play vets with track records of scoring. None of them looked comfortable and they definitely didn’t look aggressive. Like the Avs it’s a soporific waiting game with three guys passing around the perimeter until someone finally takes a low-percentage shot and the opponent clears. Every time the penalty killers dictated both the pace and direction of play so it’s no surprise they went 0 for 8.

COL 2 – STK 4

Goals: Rosen (Tynan, MacDonald), Joly (Tynan, Rosen)
Shots: +34/-28
PP 1/4, PK 6/7

Lineup:
Kaut – Tynan – O’Connor
Greer – Bowers – Condra
Dries – Megna – Henry
Lewis – Shvyrev – Joly

Lindholm – Alt
Connauton – Rosen
Renouf – MacDonald

Werner
Bibeau

Scratch: forwards Nantel, Dickinson, Saigeon, Campbell and defensemen Davis, Larocque, Anderson

Even though the score is similar to Friday it was a totally different game. This time the Eagles were the ones getting penalized on soft calls left and right. It was also a lot more competitive. The main factors here were that Adam Werner kept them in it until he was pulled at the end and the goals that the Eagles scored were meaningful rather than pure score effects.

Rosen’s goal on the PP was quite nice and there did seem to be some slight progress there. The first unit went with 2 defensemen although Rosen was more or less playing the role that Mikko does for the Avs.

PP1: MacDonald, Rosen, Tynan, Megna, Joly
PP2: Rosen then a rotating cast including Bowers, Kaut, Condra, Lewis, Henry, Greer, Dries

As with the Avs the system will continue to hold them back but the pieces are there to build a couple of decent PP groups. It’s a low bar, or the lowest bar, but they should be better than last year.

With time winding down and Werner on the bench the Heats dumped the puck in the Eagles zone. TJ Tynan chased after it and got horsecollared from behind as he got there. No call. A little after that STK put it in the empty net. Coach Cronin was pissed and rightly so. With 20-25 seconds and a 6v4 situation the tie was definitely within reach with some late BEC magic. That was par for course on Saturday night and robbed everyone of an exciting finish. Such is life.

Breaking Down: Week 1

Goals: +4/-9
Shots: +64/-52 (55.2%)
Shooting percentage: 6.3%
Save percentage: 82.7%
PDO: 890

I like the shot production. We don’t get the same stats as the NHL but I’m fairly confident that, like the Avalanche, the Eagles also struggled with quality generation while having decent quantity. It’s just part of having an unsophisticated offensive scheme. With league-average shooting they would have had another 2 goals, maybe even meaningful ones.

I also like the shot suppression which they struggled with massively last season. Granted the first game was over midway through but that’s a solid shots against rate overall. The goaltending is the weak point out of all of this. Werner ended up stopping 24 out of 27, which is ok for only his 4th AHL start and first in a yeah and a half, an 88.9% rate. Antoine Bibeau suffered from some defensive issues in front of him as well as a new team and system but didn’t have a good night and 79.2% won’t cut it. Again, using league averages as a guide they should have allowed less than 5 goals.

PP: 1/12 (1 SHG against) – 0% effective rate
PK: 9/10 (0 SHG for) – 90% effective rate
Special Teams percentage: 90

Like last season we have an effective PK and plenty of pain on the PP. Changing the personnel, both over the summer and so far some in-game moves, hasn’t had an effect on results. They do have potential to be somewhat better than last season’s bottom-of-the-league finish but not by much. Bottom 5 or 10 in the league is better than dead last but it’s still something that hurts the team in the long run.

Overview

This year’s Eagles team is older and more experienced than last year’s team, around the middle of the league in both age and pro experience. After about a month they’ll be what they’ll be all year. The upside comes from a few rookies – Werner, Bowers, Henry & Timmins – and 2nd year Martin Kaut. If a return to the playoffs is in the cards then those 5 have to be solid contributors. Adam Werner is perhaps the most important of the 5, without a quick adjustment to the North American game the Eagles could be out before Thanksgiving. He adjusted quickly at the end of 2018 with San Antonio and had a very good season in Sweden in 2019 so this isn’t a pipe dream.

I think Eagles fans will end up liking this team. There are plenty of interesting players and they’ll be competitive and watchable. Where they ultimately end up depends on a lot of things that aren’t predictable at this point. Can they overcome the Avalanche’s unsophisticated offensive system and produce meaningful scoring? Can they be disciplined enough to play and win some heavy 5v5 games? Will the experienced players nudge them towards more consistent play both in-game and during stretches of games? Last year was a good step up from the ECHL for the Eagles, both by themselves and as the Avs AHL affiliate. Now they have to back it up and improve all over again.

Next up

A one-game road trip to Ontario on Friday.

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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