Belleville 0, Syracuse 6

The BSens had a week between games to practice and prepare and that was not in evidence on Saturday as they looked hopelessly outmatched by the Crunch (they finished the game with just four scoring chances, a season low, including just one via eight powerplays). Before I get into specific observations, here are the basics (the boxscore):
Shots: 18-26
PP: 0-8 (includes a lengthy 5-on-3 and 4 minutes of a double minor)
PK: 2-4
Goaltender: Danny Taylor (!) got the start and his abysmal season continued as he was pulled after two periods (14-18)–by my count he made 4 key saves; backup Chris Driedger wasn’t much better with the game out of reach (6-8, making 2 key saves), but didn’t get much support in the third. Andrew Hammond, the only consistent goaltender this season, watched from the pressbox while Marcus Hogberg remained in Brampton (winning 4-3 on Sunday in a shootout while making 33 saves). I know Taylor has a fat AHL contract which applies pressure to play him, but they should really sit him out for awhile until he gets his game back in order (or move him, even if you have to loan him back to Europe).

The Opposition
Unchanged from a week ago; the Crunch are 12-9-3 and on an eight game winning streak when they arrived (they once again played their backup against the hapless BSens).

The Goals
1. Syracuse – Sieloff is too deep to effectively react to a 2-on-1 down low and the Crunch score on a one-timer
2. Syracuse – bangs in the puck on a scramble (broadcasters said the play was offside–I’m not so sure, but it might explain why the officials were so generous to the BSens with powerplays)
3. Syracuse PP – goal from the point
4. Syracuse SH – Randell turnover at the blueline becomes a breakaway
5. Syracuse PP – Burgdoerfer makes the same mistake Sieloff did in the first and a wide open Crunch player scores from the slot
6. Syracuse – Driedger beat low (seemed surprised by the shot)

Scoring chances (4): Rodewald, Chlapik, White, Jaros (pp)

The Roster
After inexplicably scratching Gabriel Gagne and Maxime Lajoie last week, Kleinendorst upped the ante by scratching Ethan Werek (Macoy Erkamps was also scratched). On the plus side the team finally sent lumbering pylon Justin Vaive back to the ECHL, but also sent useful depth forward Daniel Ciampini to Brampton. I want to say there’s no reasoning behind the coaching decisions, but there is, it’s just faulty reasoning–like the coaches in Ottawa (and the org generally) Kleinendorst favours veterans who are supposedly defensively responsible and, if possible, gritty–as such, skilled players and prospects suffer.

The Lines

There were no radical changes made to the lineup from the week before–Gagne replaced Werek on the fourth line and Lajoie replaced Erkamps on the third defensive pairing. Neither Kelly nor Randell deserve to be in the lineup, but overall the lines could have been worse.

Special Teams
The week of practice changed nothing; Kleinendorst simply won’t reconstitute formations that have worked in the past and can’t resist inserting ineffective veterans into his special teams. The BSens have completely fallen off a cliff when it comes to performance (through the last nine games the PP is 4-43 (9.3%) and the PK 28-40 (70%)).
Paul-O’Brien-Rodewald/White-DiDomenico (used for the 5-on-3 as well)
McCormick-Chlapik-Randell/Murray-Jaros (one shift where Gagne replaced Randell because he was in the box) (scored on)
Perron-Reinhart-Gagne/Murray-Jaros (once)
McCormick-Chlapik-Randell/Lajoie-Jaros (once)
Perron-Paul-Rodewald/Lajoie-Burgdoerfer (once)
Penalty Kill
Kelly-Randell (scored on), Perron-Randell, McCormick-O’Brien, Perron-Rodewald, Perron-Kelly (scored on), McCormick-Paul
Englund-Jaros (scored on), Englund-Burgdoerfer (scored on), Englund-Murray, Murray-Burgdoerfer

While my frustrations with the powerplay continue (it looks like there was experimentation from the list above, but not nearly as much as you’d expect given the struggles). The only effective PP shift the entire game was early in the third when Kleinendorst reunited Lajoie with Jaros on the blueline (an effective pairing from October), but he put Murray back on that unit the next time out–it boggles the mind. Why Tyler Randell is being shoved down our throats is a mystery–you want to hope they’re trying to showcase him for a trade, but I genuinely believe that Kleinendorst thinks Randell is doing something useful (what, I have no idea). The irrationality that began with the PP has now infected the PK, as for about the last month Kleinendorst has refused to stick with groupings that worked earlier in the season. It’s almost like he wants to be fired, but then, in the constricted workings of the Melnykian economy, he’s likely safe for the season.

Notable Plays
Early in the first the BSens managed zero shots with four straight minutes of PP time; Sieloff threw a big hit in the first, but took the worst of it and didn’t play the rest of the game; Gagne made a great rush (first), but missed the net; Randell not only does nothing useful with the puck he also hasn’t won a fight this year (getting beaten late in the first); Kelly passed to the wrong team on the rush (second); Murray got crushed into the boards and hobbled off (second), but remained in the game; Rodewald missed the net on a shorthanded breakaway (second); Jaros was boarded, but seemed okay (third); the first faceoff for a Syracuse powerplay was in the neutral zone (third), which is something I’ve never seen before.

Player Notes
Murray: despite an enormity of PP time this season he has no points with the man-advantage this season–why the hell is he still playing on it?
Lajoie: would love to see him play more, especially on the PP
Jaros: solid game, but playing with Englund stifles his offense
: let’s walk through his game, shall we? Five shifts on the powerplay, where his only contribution is giving up a shorthanded breakaway (and goal); two shifts on the PK, where he was on-ice for one of the goals against; got into a pointless “we need to fight to justify our existence” situation and lost. Why is he playing? Blackmail? Does he know where the bodies are buried? It makes you want to rip your hair out.
Rodewald: has gone ice cold (one point in his last five); I’m not sure how well he fits with Chlapik as his center (going back to my player usage piece he’s functioned best with Nick Paul as his center)
Kelly: no points in six games–why isn’t he on the fourth line (if you’re going to play him at all)? He’s stifling the offensive potential of his talented linemates

I’ve talked a lot about player usage (link above, with what works and what hasn’t) and I thought I’d just point out some prolonged pointless streaks (we’ll again ignore Randell’s empty net goal because why count it?):
Randell: 23 games (all season)
Sieloff: 13 games
Burgdoerfer: 9 games
Murray: 7 games
Kelly: 6 games (all season for him)
Reinhart: 5 games

You might argue that a player like Sieloff isn’t on the ice to produce, but putting aside whether that’s a good argument or not, none of the others have that excuse (Kelly doesn’t at the AHL-level). This isn’t including Nick Paul’s 1 goal in 17 games, incidentally. While I think there’s a pretty steep dropoff in the BSens talent, a lot of these problems (and others) boil down to coaching–I hate to say it because Kleinendorst won a Calder Cup for the franchise and warmed my heart last season by benching Zack Stortini, but at this stage he just has to go. Unfortunately, the org (even if it did replace him) would simply give us someone similar, so I’m not sure where to look for hope. My expectations for the team were never high (I’m in it for the prospects):

This humdrum lineup will struggle to score and despite a modest improvement to the blueline and a better situation in net, I don’t see them being that much better than last season (albeit, possibly more entertaining).

You can see my review of last season here. The only thing I didn’t foresee was Kleinendorst’s coaching struggles, which have exasperated the problems.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)


Belleville 4, Syracuse 5 (SO)

For just the second time in the last eight games the BSens scored more than three goals, with the return of Chris DiDomenico playing a key part in that (albeit in terms of opportunities it was not an unusual night), but a rough night from Andrew Hammond and a poorly timed penalty by Jack Rodewald contributed to the team losing. Before I get into specific observations, here are the basics (box score):
Shots: 24-32
PP: 2-5 (including two 5-on-3’s)
PK: 4-5
Goaltender: Hammond got the start, but had what was his worst start of the year (he made seven key saves); Chris Driedger backed up, while Danny Taylor wasn’t dressed. Marcus Hogberg remained in Brampton where 48 saves weren’t enough in the Beasts 4-3 OT loss (he was subsequently recalled to Belleville, probably just to practice as the team has almost a week off).

The Opposition
The Crunch entered the fray at 9-9-3, but on a five-game winning streak; the team was missing their top-scoring forward and defenseman; goaltending had been atrocious until the acquisition of Louis Domingue, but he did not play.

The Goals
1. Syracuse – Hammond overreacts to a wide shot and can’t get back into position
2. Chlapik scores on a 2-on-1 with McCormick
3. Syracuse – terrible goal on Hammond (low shot through him from the side boards)
4. PP – White one-timer from Perron (final seconds with the 3rd line on the ice)
5. Syracuse – Sieloff flubs clearing the puck in front of the net and the Crunch bang it in off the miscue
6. PP DiDomenico one-timer on the 5-on-3
7. DiDomenico steals the puck and centers to a wide open Paul
8. Syracuse PP – with the goaltender pulled it’s deflected in
Hammond beat on a deke
Didomenico shoots and is stopped
Hammond stop (exact same move as the same shooter)
Chlapik shoots and is stopped
Hammond stops the deke
White scores five-hole
Hammond stop going five-hole
Perron tries to slip the goal in far side, but is stopped
Hammond stops low far side
Paul stopped going five-hole
Hammond doesn’t need to make a stop (shoots high and wide)
Rodewald stopped on a deke
Hammond beat five-hole
Werek stopped trying to out wait the goaltender

Scoring chances (8): Paul (x2), O’Brien (x2), Chlapik, White (pp), DiDomenico (pp), Murray (pp)

The Roster
DiDomenico’s return resulted in Dunn being loaned to Brampton (he was subsequently recalled); oddly both Gagne and Lajoie were scratched (the former had an assist the previous game), with Erkamps replacing the latter.

The Lines

Special Teams
Paul-O’Brien-Rodewald/White-DiDomenico (scored)
Perron-Kelly-White/Murray-Jaros (scored)
Penalty Kill*
Kelly-Randell, McCormick-O’Brien, Paul-White
Englund-Burgdoerfer, Englund-Jaros, Sieloff-Burgdoerfer, Murray-Sieloff; McCormick-Perron-O’Brien/Jaros (scored on)
* I changed up how I list this to keep the PK lists from reaching absurd proportions–I’ve listed D and F combinations since those are the focus for the coaches

Why Tyler Randell was on the powerplay is beyond me (clearly the idea was to have someone go to the front of the net, but maybe that shouldn’t be someone with no points on the year). Changing the previous combinations made sense (and, to a degree, were forced by DiDomenico’s return), but there were still some odd Kleinendorstisms within them. Putting Chlapik back on the PP (after being off it for two games) meant the second unit had good zone entries, but miscues from Murray and Randell made them pretty ineffective once they were in the zone. As for the PK, it was standard combos–the group scored on is a pretty unique configuration presumably made to help with the 6-on-4 scenario.

Notable Plays
Not many this game: in the second Perron was hit hard into the end-boards (side-on) and got up slowly, but seemed okay afterwards–he later missed the net on a golden opportunity in the slot (third).

Player Notes
Rather than noting every player as I have previously, I’ll just list those who I think were above or below their standard game play or were in some other way notable.
Jaros: while he played well overall (two assists, his first points since October), he did have some struggles on the powerplay, particularly in the third period
Paul: his first goal of the season after being goalless in fifteen games; benefited from playing with DiDomenico
DiDomenico: looked just as good as he did when he was with the team in early October; smart plays with the puck which took the pressure off his linemates
McCormick: mercifully pulled from the first line after 11 straight games; I’d mentioned not long ago that he and Chlapik had shown chemistry in their one previous game together (back on October 28th against Manitoba) and that was apparent again
Chlapik: freed from the fourth-line doghouse had a strong game which might have been more successful if the second-unit PP made more sense
Werek: still buried on the fourth-line with no PP-time
Reinhart: dumped from the second-line after five-games there and was completely invisible

The BSens only had seven shots through the first two periods so in many ways you could say the better team won, but Belleville certainly could have and probably should have won the game having the lead so late in the third. This is not the first game where such a lead has been blown (they did so against Providence on October 21st), albeit just twice in a season isn’t a trend. The lineup changes are a positive start for the team, but both Gagne and Lajoie should be playing and Kleinendorst needs to give up on Randell–I’m not expecting it, however.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)


Belleville Senators: Assessing the Team (November)

This is the second part of my look at how the BSens performed in November (you can see the same thoughts for October here). This isn’t so much how individual players performed, but rather about the team. The basics first: the BSens were 6-6-1 for the month, which is an exact continuation from October (4-4-1). They only scored 36 goals (2.77), while allowing 46 (3.53), which is a 0.23 drop on the former and a 0.09 increase on the latter. The team is giving up an average of 35.4 shots against (roughly the same as in October), while firing 28.3 themselves (again, roughly the same). So the same number of shots, but fewer goals–this tells you the wrong people are getting more shots. As for powerplay and shorthanded situations, they were 6-48, or 12.5%, and 41-54, or 75.9%. These are both atrocious numbers giving them the worst PP in the league and the 27th PK in the league–you ask what areas coaches impact most and this is it.

Scoring Chances
By my count the team had 130 chances throughout the month (or 10 per game), which is very similar to what they produced in October. Here’s the list of the players who had the most chances per game with goals scored in brackets (minus empty-netters; minimum of 0.5 per game):
O’Brien 1.45 (6)
Gagne 1.3 (5)
Rodewald 1.14 (2)
McCormick/White 1.0 (1/3)
Reinhart 0.84 (4)
Paul 0.83 (0)
Werek 0.69 (3)
Perron 0.53 (2)
Murray/Ciampini 0.5 (3/1)

The prevailing theory when it comes to scoring chances is that players will ultimately produce at their normal level so long as they keep getting chances–so despite how atrociously McCormick has been when it comes to goal-scoring, if he continues to get chances he should finish within his usual parameters (0.14 currently, very close to his rookie average, versus 0.31 last season). You worry when a player stops getting chances and the biggest drop comes from Filip Chlapik, who went from 1.5 per game in October to 0.46, much of which is related to ice time (playing less on scoring lines and getting dropped to the second PP unit).

Breaking Down Special Teams

Both have been absolute garbage this month, so let’s look first at the players given the most prominent roles and then look at combinations (only those who played a minimum of 5 games are considered); it’s organised by shifts-per-game with their on-ice for a goal noted as well as the number of points; I’ve divided it between forwards and defensemen.

White 3.84 (3/0)
Rodewald 3.14 (2/0)
Chlapik 3.07 (3/2)
Gagne 3.00 (2/2)
Paul 3.00 (1/0)
McCormick 2.84 (3/3)
O’Brien 2.54 (3/2)
Perron 2.46 (1/1)
Reinhart 2.38 (1/1)
Werek 0.92 (0/0)

Chabot 4.5 (2/2)
Jaros 3.16 (0/0)
Murray 2.5 (2/0)
Burgdoerfer 1.84 (2/0)

This doesn’t differentiate between first and second unit usage (each scored 3 goals), so what about units? What were the common combinations? Here are the most frequent by shifts (minimum of five shifts together) with goals scored in brackets and an indication if it was a first or second unit:
McCormick-Reinhart-O’Brien 15 (1) 1st
Gagne-Chlapik-Perron 13 (1) 2nd
Gagne-Chlapik-Rodewald 7 (1) 2nd
McCormick-O’Brien-Rodewald 7 (1) 1st
Chlapik-White-Sexton 6 (1) 2nd
Paul-White-Sexton 5 (0) 1st
Werek-Reinhart-Rodewald 5 (0) 2nd

Here are the defense pairings with the same organisational model:
Chabot-White 20 (1) 1st
Murray-Burgdoerfer 9 (1) 2nd
Murray-Perron 7 (0) 2nd
Murray-Jaros 6 (0) 2nd
Chabot-Perron 5 (1) 1st

The odd insistence on putting O’Brien, McCormick, and sometimes Reinhart on the first PP unit has resulted in a major throttling of offense.

Penalty Kill
Beginning with individual players, here’s who has played on the PK the most (again going by shifts with goals against noted–minimum of five games played):
McCormick 3.53 (5)
O’Brien 3.3 (2)
Paul 2.83 (1)
White 2.76 (4)
Rodewald 2.71 (4)
Perron 2.46 (6)
Randell 1.27 (1)

Sieloff 3.76 (4)
Englund 3.61 (5)
Burgdoerfer 3.07 (5)
Jaros 3.0 (5)
Murray 1.41 (3)

Both Perron and Murray standout as being victimized proportionally (albeit via a small sample size). There’s a lot more consistency in the pairings (as you’d expect), organised by shifts (goals against).

McCormick-O’Brien 23 (1)
Perron-White 15 (1)
McCormick-Sexton 11 (0)
Paul-O’Brien 9 (0)
McCormick-White 8 (1)
Perron-O’Brien 5 (1)
Paul-Sexton 5 (2)

On defense:

Sieloff-Burgdoerfer 24 (3)
Englund-Sieloff 20 (1)
Englund-Burgdoerfer 16 (1)
Englund-Jaros 9 (2)
Sieloff-Jaros 6 (1)
Englund-Murray 6 (2)
Sieloff-Harpur 5 (0)
Murray-Jaros 5 (1)

The top-four forward combinations listed have all been very good, as have the top-three defense combinations. The coaching staff’s experimentation seems like a mix of attempting to develop prospects (particularly Perron and Jaros) and rewarding favourites (Randell, whose combinations don’t make this list).

Since I posted an article on lines recently, I’ll simply say November was a frustrating month for ideal usage.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville 1, Toronto 3

The third game against the Marlies this season went just like the others, as the BSens struggled to stifle Toronto’s offense (don’t let the shot totals fool you). Before I get into specific observations, here are the basics (box score):
Shots: 25-23
Powerplay: 0-7 (includes a 4-on-3 that became a 5-on-3)
Penalty Kill: 1-7 (includes a 5-on-3)
Goaltender: Danny Taylor got the start and kept most of his key saves until after the result of the game was no longer in question (8 key saves); Chris Driedger backed up, Andrew Hammond was scratched, and Marcus Hogberg remains in Brampton (he was the back-up for the game played by the Beast).

The Opposition
The talented Marlies arrived first in the division (16-4-0), whose only flaw is their powerplay (the team being guilty of over-passing, something they did 5-on-5 against the BSens as well). With some of the best goaltending in the league the team feels free to take chances, which means they surrender them too.

The Goals
1. Toronto – terrible change (Murray and Lajoie came off for Sieloff and Burgdoerfer; the latter should/could have turned around) leaves a Marlie wide open who walks in and scores
2. Perron bangs in a loose puck in front
3. Toronto – Burgdoerfer doesn’t see the man behind him who beats Taylor up high
4. Toronto PP – low shot through the crowd

Scoring chances (14): White (x3), Werek (x3), Lajoie (pp), McCormick (pp), Randell, Rodewald, Gagne, Reinhart, Paul, Perron

This is a high volume of chances for the team and particularly remarkable for Werek who barely played.

The Roster
The BSens went with the identical lineup that beat Laval in overtime, meaning two of their best players (Werek and Chlapik) barely played all game despite being very effective when they were on the ice.

The Lines

As mentioned above these are completely unchanged from the last game.

Special Teams
Paul-White-Rodewald/Burgdoerfer-Jaros (Burgdoerfer was the man in the box, thus joined the 4-on-3 unit)
Penalty Kill
Perron-Kelly/Englund-Jaros (scored on)

The powerplay was unchanged and while the addition of Lajoie to the first unit helps a lot, much of the talent with him isn’t conducive to regular production. The second unit lacks a consistent presence to get the puck into the zone with control. Despite all the seeming combos on the PK it was fairly consistent, with the most notable changes being Randell’s return to it and O’Brien playing less. I’d read nothing into the 5-on-3 defense, as the Marlies spent the entire time trying to get their teammate a hat-trick.

Notable Plays
Perron misses the net from the slot on a nice steal (first); Rodewald, right after a great opportunity to score, got into a fight that he lost pretty badly (second); Reinhart and Chlapik had a 2-on-1 in the second, but the former couldn’t connect his pass to the latter for a tap-in; a wide open Randell missed the net from below the dot on a great feed from Chlapik (third).

Player Notes
Murray: invisible most of the night (which is both good and bad–other than the bad line change there was nothing particularly awful)
Lajoie: kept setting up McCormick with open lanes on the PP to shoot, but the latter just didn’t want to shoot; a good game for him outside a brutal turnover in the second
Jaros: unfortunately playing with Englund, while better for him defensively, stifles his offense (he does much better when paired with a puck-mover like Lajoie or Chabot); only snafu was taking a double minor trying to pound on Kapanen for no particular reason
Englund: solid game for him (nothing exciting, but nothing bad)
Burgdoerfer: the Turnover Meter was at zero tonight, which is a big plus for him, but he was guilty of lack of awareness on the game winning goal, so one can’t get too excited
Sieloff: outside of throwing a big hit in the second and having to fight because of it, was his simple, defense-first self
Chlapik: barely played, but when he was he created chances; he and Werek had a particularly dominant shift early in the third and were reward edwith…their regular rotation–coaching!
Werek: to get three scoring chances when you barely play is pretty remarkable; he has to be frustrated
Randell: speaking of frustration, it’s frustrating to see a player with no hands be given golden opportunities and do nothing with them; he’s been okay on the PK
Kelly: he is what he is–adds nothing offensively, but is solid defensively (he’s been pretty bad on faceoffs, incidentally)
Perron: I’m always happy when he scores; not sure he belongs on the PK (his on-ice numbers for goals against are very high)
White: most of his scoring chances are generated individually, as he still hasn’t been given regular linemates who gel with him
Reinhart: has been playing on the second line long after he cooled off; outside bungling the 2-on-1 with Chlapik he was invisible
Rodewald: does not work well with Reinhart as his center (I’d much rather see Paul lining up in the middle with him)
Paul: largely invisible; his goalless streak has reached 15-games
Gagne: his line doesn’t generate much offense–most of what he gets comes off individual rushes into the zone
McCormick: clearly has lost his confidence as he passed up numerous opportunities to shoot on the powerplay
O’Brien: while he’s probably the team’s best penalty killer he’s had his shifts reduced (I’m not sure why precisely)

At this stage the frustrations are less about the players than the coaching. Last season I was happy that Kleinendorst moved away from some of Luke Richardson’s stubbornness with the lineup (Stortini in particular), but we can see this year he has many of the same tendencies. Will this loss make him change things up? Certainly Chris DiDomenico’s return (re-claimed off waivers) will have an impact.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)