Belleville 0, Laval 3

It was interesting watching Belleville’s inaugural game (the grainy AHL Live feed reminded me of my parents 12′ colour TV from the 70s; the streaming service failed to attach the Belleville radio feed so it was en francais or silence–allez les Bleus! for me last night). In many ways the game was exactly what I expected: an early reliance on veterans (in terms of playing time), difficulty in scoring, and some exceptional play from particular rookies. Before my observations, the basics (you can see the box score here):
Shots: 26/25 (Chabot and McCormick lead the way with 5 shots each; Jaros had 4)
PP: 0-8 (two of these lasted about 30 seconds)
PK: 2-3
Goaltender: Danny Taylor (22-24), who made four great saves; Hammond backed up

The Opposition
Laval has an excellent AHL-lineup, including a top defenseman (Taormina) and former NHLer Peter Holland; they were very fast and outside of special teams activity the BSens struggled to keep up, leading to a lot of odd-man situations

The Goals
1. Burgdoerfer loses his check who is wide open to score
2. Chabot gets beat, so Englund comes over to cover for him and Blunden doesn’t pick up the late man
3. Sexton tries to pass through the player with an empty net behind him

The Roster
Ben Harpur was recalled to Ottawa prior to the start of the game (I’m not sure if Englund or Sieloff would have been scratched if he stayed). The only actual scratches for the game were Marcus Hogberg, Vincent Dunn and Jordan Murray–Jack Rodewald, Chris Driedger, and PTO Brendan Woods are all injured.

Lines*
Chlapik-DiDomenico-Sexton
McCormick-Reinhart-Blunden
Paul-Gagne-Perron
Randell, O’Brien, Flanagan
*the most frequent combinations; with the latter three mixed in haphazardly due to all the special team play (Flanagan and Randell played the least)
Chabot-Jaros
Lajoie-Burgdoerfer
Sieloff/Englund
Defense combos also varied throughout the game; Chabot was sometimes saddled with Englund, while Sieloff would rotate in with Burgdoerfer (he played the least, followed by Englund)

Special Teams
Powerplay*
Chlapik-DiDomenico-Sexton/Jaros-Chabot
McCormick-Reinhart-Blunden/Lajoie-Burgdoerfer
Perron-Gagne-Paul/Lajoie-Burgdoerfer
*the third option was used only once; there was also a slight variation of the second unit to start, with Gagne playing instead of McCormick;, Perron joined the the second unit late in the seventh powerplay (the beginning of a line change that presumably would have been the third group when completed)
Penalty Kill
McCormick-Sexton/Burgdoerfer-Englund (on-ice for the goal against)
McCormick-Sexton/Sieloff-Englund
Paul-Flanagan/Jaros-Englund
Blunden-Reinhart/Jaros-Englund

Scoring chances (13)
Chlapik 2 (both pp), Sexton 2. McCormick 2 (one sh), Reinhart (post), Burgdoerfer (pp), Perron (pp), Jaros, Blunden, Reinhart, DiDomenico

Notable Plays
Five of the team’s thirteen scoring chances were due to great passes by Chabot or (in one case) a deliberate rebound
Lajoie stops Holland 1-on-1 in the second; he also made a great pass for Blunden’s scoring chance
Jaros made a great block in the third to prevent a scoring chance
Sieloff threw a huge hit in the second which immediately resulted in a fight; he was then run in the third period because of it (whether you see this activity as useful or not is up to you)

Notable Blundens*/Errors (excluding goals)
Blunden – gave up a 2-on-1 in the first; later gave the puck away in his own zone resulting in a scoring chance
Englund – gave up a 2-on-1 looking for a big hit
Jaros – gave up a 3-on-2 via an errant pass
DiDomenico – two turnovers in his own zone on the same play which lead to a scoring chance
*trademarked

 

Player Notes
Thomas Chabot: far and away the best player on the team; showed no nerves at all in carving up the opposition; great speed, great hands, and great instincts
Maxime Lajoie: I think he should have played him more; good hands and instincts
Christian Jaros: was more active offensively than I was expecting and didn’t get carried away trying to hit guys
Erik Burgdoerfer: adequate, but not impressive; I wouldn’t have him on either special team
Patrick Sieloff: the only notable thing he did was hit and get hit
Andreas Englund: struggled; needs to keep things simple
Nick Paul: clearly not 100% coming off his injury and he didn’t play as much as you’d expect
Tyler Randell/Kyle Flanagan: barely played and largely invisible (the latter isn’t necessarily bad–they did nothing to hurt the team)
Gabriel Gagne: didn’t play much, but no defensive mistakes and was involved a couple of times offensively
Francis Perron: I noticed him twice in the game–I’m not sure if it’s a case that he should have played more or that’s where he’s at right now
Jim O’Brien: if you’ve seen Jimothy play then he did exactly that–good speed with no instincts and no delivery; I thought the fact that Kleinendorst kept him off special teams is a sign that he’ll be released sooner than later
Mike Blunden: was awful; putting aside his scoring chance, he was lazy on the back check and just generally terrible defensively (something apparent last year); I’d prefer him to get third-line ice time and be kept off the powerplay
Max McCormick: adequate, but he doesn’t belong on the powerplay
Max Reinhart: I feel like I didn’t get a full sense of what he can do last night, as he was anchored offensively with Blunden and McCormick
Chris DiDomenico: pretty vanilla performance for someone who is supposed to help the offense–could have been worse, however
Filip Chlapik: had a lot of jump offensively, with no hesitation in getting his nose dirty
Ben Sexton: great speed and tenacity, but there wasn’t enough to gauge his ability to carry and move the puck

Kurt Kleinendorst: last year he gave the vets and management about a month–a month to show what they could do–and then he changed things around for the better. It will be interesting to see what he does this season. He played Chabot a ton–something surely management wanted, but it also made a lot of sense; he also relied heavily on four defensemen after the first period (which again, made sense). I wasn’t a fan of the second powerplay unit (keep Reinhart and dump the other two), and I think he had alternatives, but he’s clearly trying to see if the combination works. How things will be changed for game number two I’m not sure (other than Hammond will start). I’d guess Murray will slide into the lineup (for Englund or Sieloff), but I’m not sure if he’ll actually dress Dunn.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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