AHL Update #6

Back again with the weekly recap of the week that was in the AHL, plus an added bonus! I had the opportunity to catch live AHL action in person this past weekend, so I’ll chime in with some additional commentary on the game in question at the end of this blog. But before we get to that, here are the other highlights from last week…

  • Taylor Hall decided he had had enough with being only “good” in the AHL and became “great” by racking up 9 points in 3 games last week to win Player of the Week honors. That gives him 15 points total in 10 games, so a nice bump and if he keeps it up he could join the rest of the Oklahoma City Barons kids at the top of the scoring leaders soon enough.
  • Speaking of the Barons, they’ve now won 5 in a row and easily dominated the South Division leading Charlotte Checkers over the weekend, winning both games by a combined score of 11-4, pulling them to within 2 points for the division lead with a game in hand.
  • The Abbotsford Heat took over top spot in the league, thanks in part to Charlotte’s misfortune, but also by securing points in all 3 games they played last week, winning twice and falling in OT once. However, they haven’t been getting much scoring lately, recording only 6 goals total in their last 4 games, so there is room for improvement.
  • The Norfolk Admirals have hit a definite funk, losing 5 in a row by a combined score of 20-9. Fans can’t be too pleased with going from a championship team to the East Division basement, though I guess that’s what happens when your team changes affiliates.
  • Brayden Schenn continues to climb the leader boards, notching another 5 points last week to bring his total to 22 on the season. This helped the Adirondack Phantoms win all 3 games last week as well, so they’re finally above .500 and looking to make a move in the highly competitive Northeast Division.
  • The Connecticut Whale are also back to making a push in the Northeast, extending their win streak to 4. Chad Kolarik led the way last week, recording 7 points and a hat-trick. He missed the entire season last year after tearing his ACL in training camp.
  • As if the South Division wasn’t tight enough at the top, the Houston Aeros won 3 in a row last week thanks in part to strong goaltending from Matt Hackett, who has otherwise been having a mediocre season to date. He’ll need to keep getting better as the Aeros are still missing Mikael Granlund and Jonas Brodin, both injured in the same game back on November 2nd.
  • Robin Lehner continues to steal the show in Binghamton. The Senators have now won 6 in a row, with Lehner in goal for 4 of those wins. Among goalies with 10+ starts he now leads them in Save % by a wide margin and is only 0.01 behind the leader in GAA.
  • That leader in GAA is none other than Jeff Zatkoff of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. After a sub-par October, he’s been nothing but lights out in November, recording 3 shutouts and allowing only 8 goals over 8 games in the month.
  • Finally, we’ll end this recap with Barry Brust and his record breaking performance. His shutout streak ended during the second period on Saturday, but not before establishing a new AHL record of 268 minutes and 17 seconds. But even with that accomplishment now in the record books he’s still stuck in a goalie timeshare in Abbotsford.

Now we arrive at this week’s bonus content! On Sunday I was in attendance for the second game of a back-to-back between the Providence Bruins and the St. John’s IceCaps. The Bruins won the night before 3-2 via shootout in largely a goaltending battle between Niklas Svedberg and Eddie Pasquale. Svedberg came out on top, stopping all five shooters in the shootout, though it was Pasquale who was busier on the night. On Sunday it was a rematch between the same two teams and goalies, with the IceCaps clearly wanting to finish off their homestead strong before heading back on the road.

While Saturday’s game went pretty much as expected between two teams near the bottom of the league in goal scoring, Sunday’s game was entirely different, well, for the home team at least. The IceCaps came out strong and capitalized on an early power play opportunity to take a 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the game. That would prove to be all they needed as they went on to win the game 6-0.

But despite the blowout score, the game was actually quite close until the third period. The first period was largely won by the IceCaps, but the Bruins managed to limit the damage. The second saw the Bruins control much of the play, but they just couldn’t get the puck past Pasquale. The third was much of the same, at least at even-strength. Despite the fact that St. John’s scored four additional goals, the Bruins had countless opportunities, sometimes due to costly defensive mistakes by the IceCaps, but again and again they were foiled by Pasquale.

In the end, it was a very entertaining game, especially for the hometown crowd, with tons of back and forth action, scoring chances, and highlight reel saves. Now for a few notes on some players I noticed…

  • Alexander Burmistrov was a beast on the penalty kill. He’s great at holding on to the puck and simply outmaneuvering opponents to kill time. I don’t know if he’ll ever live up to his lofty draft status though, at least not offensively. He has the tools, but needs to shoot more and put himself in a better position for rebounds. Nonetheless, he does have an excellent two-way game already and at the very least should be a capable third liner in the NHL for a long time.
  • Carl Klingberg plays much better and more aggressively after getting on the score sheet and seems to thrive when he has confidence in himself. He was invisible to start the game, but immediately after scoring a goal (which would later be awarded to Derek Meech) his next few shifts saw him being aggressive in pursuit of the puck. Then he kinda disappeared again during the second period, only to return with a goal early in the third followed by more inspired play. He’s another Jets prospect with lofty expectations, but if his confidence issues can be permanently fixed he may be a capable second line winger in the NHL someday.
  • Chris Bourque was the best player on the ice for Providence. He had tons of opportunities and if not for Pasquale he would have easily had a few goals. I’m still unsure as to why he hasn’t been given a better opportunity in the NHL. I know he’s undersized and his work ethic was questionable in the past, but he seems to have matured over the last year and deserves another shot in the NHL in my opinion.
  • Ryan Spooner also looked great for the Bruins. He led all players with 7 shots on goal and clearly isn’t afraid to shoot the puck. He also has that rare combination of speed plus dangling ability that makes fans drool, so don’t be surprised to see him in the NHL sooner rather than later.
  • I’ve been particularly hard on Eddie Pasquale in the past, as I’ve never been sold on him being a good goaltender or even one that could someday be a backup in the NHL, but he’s slowly winning me over this year. He’s been amazing for an IceCaps team that’s just not playing with the same level of poise and determination they displayed last year, keeping them in games they have no right being in. He’s easily outplayed Mark Dekanich, another goalie trying to prove he has what it takes for the next level. Considering the lack of depth the Jets have in goal, Pasquale has a decent shot at backup duty when NHL play resumes.

Well, that’s it for this week. Back to my attempts at blogging more often and preparing countless propaganda entries.