From the Eagles Desk: The Stretch Begins

The beloved Eagles are on another roll with 4 straight wins and 7 in their last 9. By points they are tied for 2nd in the Pacific with Stockton but the Heat have a couple games in hand. Better yet they are far ahead of the bubble teams like San Diego and Ontario, Bakersfield is fading fast and San Jose never got started this season.

This week we’re going to look at some ways Colorado have been improving over the season along with the “Saturday” effect which was the catchphrase in interviews this weekend.

Injuries/Transactions

– Mark Barberio was sent to the Eagles on conditioning loan since he hadn’t dressed for the Avs in 7 weeks or so. Calle Rosen was called up to be the standby in his place.

– Mason McDonald was called up to be backup goalie while Adam Werner recovers from an undisclosed injury.

– Josh Anderson and Kevin Davis were sent back to Utah for some playing time. Anderson joins Travis Barron, Josh Dickinson and Ty Lewis as NHL contracted players on the Grizzlies roster.

Breaking Down

Pace is a good way to gauge a team’s personality and it doesn’t depend on skating fast, although that can help. In the NHL we use metrics like shot attempts and expected goals to determine whether a team is high-event or low-event. In the AHL there isn’t access to that kind of data but we can look at shots on goal per hour and 5v5 goals per game as proxies. We do the best we can with what we have.

Around game 20, the Eagles overall game pace (shots for & against) started to take off a bit. This was sort of a lull before their long winning streak in December but the coaching staff wanted to play with more pace from day 1 and this was the beginning. The blue line is an average so it’s going to calm more and more as the season goes on but it settles at a higher point than they were before. This is good in a few ways. Playing with pace shows that the roster as a whole can deal with the pace of the league. In general the Pacific teams are the highest-event of the 4 divisions for whatever reasons and the Eagles are there with the leaders.

Here we see something similar with goal pace or combined goals for & against per game at 5v5. The fun thing here is that since game 20 the Eagles 5v5 goals per game has gone up by a third while opponents have gone up by half that. Scoring goes down as the season progresses so they’re doing this against resistance. As you can see at the far right of the chart they’ve recently gone below the trendline so this means we’ll probably see a gradual downtrend in goals per game from here on in.

These metrics combine to show that Colorado deals with high pace well and actually thrives on it, not unlike the Avs. Imagine that. The teams play similarly and have the same major flaw, special teams. While I still have concerns and criticisms about the way the Avs management deals with the Eagles and their players, constructing a mirror image in the minors is a solid achievement.

We heard in Mark Alt’s interview after the game last night and others about trying to overcome their struggles in Saturday games. What that basically means is playing poor in the 2nd game of back-to-backs. It’s a major difference between playing or coaching in the AHL compared to the NHL. The loser gets a shot at revenge the next night. The Eagles have played 86% of their games inside weekend series like this, 19 sets in all so far. Here’s how they’ve played out:

win-win: 6 (24 points, 1.000)
win-loss: 9 (20 points, .556)
loss-win: 1 (3 points, .750)
loss-loss: 3 (0 points, .000)

Colorado has a fantastic record of 15-3-1 (.816) in the first games but struggle in the seconds at 7-10-2 (.421). [Side note: I’m not going to look at home/road splits here because first of all they’re bogus in general and second of all the Eagles have identical home/road records right now.] Here’s my take: It doesn’t matter. Sure, it would be nice to win more on Saturdays but they’re 12 games over .500 and you can’t win them all. If there were more of a sample size I might worry about the record when they lose the first game, going 1-3-0 isn’t great I guess, but it’s 4 games so who knows if that’s a problem. Colorado have the 8th best record in the league so there are 23 coaches that wouldn’t mind having these issues

A final note about the San Antonio Rampage. This week news came out that they would be sold to the Golden Knights and move to the Vegas suburbs next season. With the expansion team in Palm Springs in 2021 this could create some problems for the Eagles, like moving to the Central Division and having to play 76 games, but that’s a discussion for another day. The Rampage have had anything but success on the ice in their 17+ seasons but they had a solid fan base and good attendance. I hope San Antonio gets some sort of hockey to replace them. As a resident of a town that lost it’s hockey team 15 years ago I can say that anything is better than nothing. I’d take a NA3HL team and love it at this point.

Prospects

Shane Bowers had 3 points, including a goal and assist Friday, over the past two weekends. Better yet he’s put 9 shots on goal in those 4 games, good pace. He’s in the top 20 for rookie scoring with several fewer games played than the rest.

Martin Kaut, like Bowers, has 3 points over the past 4 games and is getting his shot on PP1 for all the good that does. 7 SOGs in that span is below his average but still decent.

Conor Timmins is back in full swing after returning from injury a few weeks ago. He had 2 assists last night vs San Jose and another against Tucson last week. 11 shots on goal in 4 games is very stout, well done.

Adam Werner has been out with some sort of injury unfortunately. If I hear anything I’ll let you know but don’t hold your breath.

Shvyrev and Henry continue to plug away on the 4th line. Igor had 6 SOG over the two weekends but failed to tickle the twine. Henry was a healthy scratch on Saturday and his lack of shot production continues to concern me with only 2 in his last 9 games.

Next up

The Eagles have a mid-week set yet again against Tucson then leave for a couple of weekends in California against Bako and Ontario.

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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