Belleville 4, Binghamton 3; Belleville 2 Rochester 4

Another two-for-one post from me, with thoughts chronologically, so the Binghamton game first. It wasn’t a particularly emotional game for the teams involved, but for long time BSens fans it had a little extra zest, as Binghamton had been the stomping grounds for Ottawa’s prospects for so long. Before I get into my observations, here are the basics (the box score):
Shots: 28-28
PP: 0-4 (running their total to 0-19 over five games)
PK: 4-5
Goaltender: Andrew Hammond, who was solid if not quite spectacular (I had him making 5 key saves); Danny Taylor backed up while Chris Driedger sat in the pressbox (he’d be sent to Brampton the following day)

The Opposition
Bingo came in with a strong lineup (5-3-1), but their game was hampered by bad goaltending from Ken Appleby who gave up four goals in sixteen shots before being relieved.

The Goals
1. O’Brien scores shortside from a bad angle
2. Binghamton PP – just a great passing play
3. McCormick bangs in a rebound
4. White scores off a great bank-pass by Chlapik with the Devils goalie down and out
5. Dunn centers the puck and O’Brien cleans up the play
6. Binghamton – bounces the puck in off Chabot
7. Binghamton – bang in a rebound (Chabot a bit soft on the back check)

Scoring chances (8): O’Brien (x4), White (x2), McCormick, Dunn

The Roster
Lajoie, Jaros, Blunden, Vaive, and Flanagan still out with injury; Sexton was a surprise scratch (also injured); Paul, Hogberg, Rodewald, and DiDomenico remain in Ottawa (given his production I think the odds of the latter ever returning are virtually zero now); Donaghey remained the lone Senator in Brampton.

Lines
McCormick-O’Brien-Gagne
Chlapik-White-Werek
Perron-Reinhart-Randell
Dunn-Ciampini
Englund-Sieloff
Chabot-Burgdoerfer
Murray-Erkamps

The defense pairings are unchanged from the previous game, but the forward groups are scrambled with Gagne moving off the third line for the first time this year.

Special Teams
Powerplay
McCormick-Reinhart-White/Chabot-Werek
McCormick-Reinhart-White/Murray-Burgdoerfer
Gagne-Chlapik-Perron/Murray-Burgdoerfer
Penalty Kill
McCormick-White/Englund-Sieloff (scored on) – Murray had switched on for Sieloff
Perron-O’Brien/Englund-Burgdoerfer
McCormick-White/Englund-Burgdoerfer
Perron-O’Brien/Murray-Erkamps
McCormick-O’Brien/Englund-Sieloff
Perron-White/Englund-Sieloff
McCormick-O’Brien/Chabot-Burgdoerfer
Perron-White/Englund-Burgdoerfer

Keeping Chlapik off the top powerplay unit remains bizarre to me, but Kleinendorst has been trying to stick to his combinations more throughout games hoping for it to work. Despite all the seeming variety on the PK the defense units were quite stable and the forward personal remained steady as well, just the combos varied.

Notable Plays
Chabot made a nice rush in the first–getting the puck in front to Werek, but he missed the net. Later that period Perron had a great chance but couldn’t get the shot off (something that’s happened to him fairly frequently this season). Speaking of Perron, he went offside on a 2-on-1 vs an empty net.

The game against Rochester saw the exact same lineup–the BSens called up Ryan Walters (no relation to the former NHLer) from ECHL Utah, but he was unable to get there in time. Unlike previous call-up Justin Vaive, Walters is a very productive ECHLer (0.92 PPG) who briefly played in the Belarussian league to start the year. Before my observations, here are the basics (the box score):
Shots: 40-30
PP: 2-6 (one brief)
PK: 5-5 (including a two minute 5-on-3)
Goaltender: Taylor got the start and his struggles continued (he made 7 key saves); Hammond backed up while Driedger played (and won) his game with Brampton.

The Opposition
The Amerks are a veteran team and (on-paper) better than the BSens (arriving with a 6-4-1 record). The team has a couple of productive rookies to go along with solid goaltending.

The Goals
1. Rochester – White turns it over in the neutral zone leading to a breakaway
2. PP Reinhart bangs in a shot from the point
3. Rochester – screened shot from a bad angle is deflected in
4. Rochester – Sieloff gets undressed and Taylor is beat on a bad angle
5. Rochester SH – Perron turnover leads to a breakaway
6. PP Gagne bangs in Chlapik’s rebound

Scoring chances (11): Reinhart (x4, pp), Gagne (x2, pp), O’Brien (x2), Perron, Burgdoerfer (pp), Erkamps

The Roster
No changes from the previous game, although it was clearly intended that Walter would be the twelfth forward.

Lines
McCormick-O’Brien-Gagne
Chlapik-White-Werek
Perron-Reinhart-Randell
Dunn-Ciampini
Englund-Sieloff
Chabot-Burgdoerfer
Murray-Erkamps

These are the same lines as the previous game. Of note, besides taking an awful penalty in the third, Randell was basically invisible and part of that was him playing less, so that made me happy.

Special Teams
Powerplay
McCormick-Reinhart-O’Brien/Chabot-White (scored)
Gagne-Chlapik-Perron/Murray-Burgdoerfer (scored)
Penalty Kill
McCormick-O’Brien/Englund-Sieloff
Perron-White/Englund-Burgdoerfer
McCormick/Englund-Sieloff
White/Sieloff-Burgdoerfer

This is the least amount of variation this season (given a reasonable number of opportunities). The second unit is what used to be the third line although, again, I have to wonder why Chlapik is getting second unit time.

Notable Plays
Both Chabot and White hit the post (both in the second period, the latter on the powerplay). Chlapik had a couple of nice rushes (one in the first and one in the third), but neither resulted in shots (Gagne did the same thing in the second). He (Chlapik) did set-up Werek nicely in the second, but he shot the puck over the net from in close. McCormick missed the net on a 2-on-1 shorthanded in the second. Taylor almost repeated his mistake of mishandling the puck behind the net and getting scored on in the third (something he did in the 6-1 loss to Charlotte).

Player Notes
Erkamps: had what I believe is his first scoring chance of the season; seems largely removed from the PK but over the two games was adequate 5-on-5 (no notable snafus)
Murray: only negative notations from me (including a couple of turnovers and a bad penalty against Binghamton); did pick up an assist
Burgdoerfer: has had his PK time cut and on the whole made little impact in either game (without Lajoie or Chabot setting him up he’s virtually invisible on the PP)
Sieloff: played a ton, mostly within expectations (wasn’t as good against Rochester)
Englund: sometimes played entire PK shifts; mostly solid play, albeit late in the third against Binghamton he passed to the wrong team and Hammond had to bail him out
Chabot: clearly still recovering, but was starting to look like himself against Rochester–when he’s 100% he’ll go back to dominating; leads the team in PP points
Dunn: picked up a rare point against Binghamton, but returned to invisibility against Rochester (where he engaged in a pointless fight in the third)
Randell: removed from special teams and, with Kleinendorst rotating four lines, has seen his minutes cut; only notable moment was creating a 5-on-3 against by attempting to draw the Amerks into an off-setting penalty and failing
Ciampini: while he’s had some decent games this season he qualified for zero notations through both games (generous of me as he had a couple of turnovers that his teammates immediately bailed him out on)
Perron: I think there are some confidence issues going on for him as he made some uncharacteristic flubs in both games
Werek: had his opportunities, but struggled to get the puck on goal in both games
Reinhart: after 8-straight games without a point picked up his second goal of the season and also had a lot of quality chances–maybe this will be a lightbulb moment for him
White: has looked better and better with each game; definitely a shoot-first player at this level and his game has gone up a notch playing with Chlapik
Chlapik: taken off the top PP unit, but managed to get points in both games; fantastic hands and plays hard at both ends of the ice; took a nasty high hit late in the game against Rochester, but seemed alright afterwards
McCormick: after playing an absurd amount on the powerplay he picked up his first PP point against Rochester; the goal against Binghamton is nice, but he’s still playing way too much in an offensive role
O’Brien: had his first two-goal game since March of 2016 (that’s more than a full-season ago); as a first-line center he’s getting opportunities, but he’s not a puck-distributor nor possession driver, so ultimately I think it’s counter productive
Gagne: finally getting shifts on the PP unit, albeit the second, and picked up a goal in that capacity vs Rochester; he’s looked much more confident of late and his skating has definitely improved; I’ve come to like him a lot and the fact Kleinendorst has put him on the first line suggests he has his coaches confidence as well

While TOI is, in some respects, getting sorted out 5-on-5, I still think there are tweaks needed on special teams. The primary problem for the team in their loss was, however, goaltending. Maybe we’ll see Driedger get a start instead of Taylor (who has already lost the starting job to Hammond), but time will tell.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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