Sens Sign CHL FA Aaron Luchuk to an ELC

The always perceptive Ary has an excellent post on the signing today and I highly recommend reading through it. I don’t want to rehash what’s in his piece, but rather supplement it.

So for those who missed it, Aaron Luchuk is a 20-year old (21 in April), undersized (5’10) left-handed center who spent most of his career with Windsor (recently traded to Barrie). He sailed through the drafts largely undetected, but there is one scouting report I’ll quote below. Let’s just put his numbers up first:

Aaron Luchuk, CL, DOB 97, 5’10
2015-16 OHL (Windsor) 68-27-26-53 (0.78, 5th ppg)
2016-17 OHL (Windsor) 68-28-32-60 (0.89, 4th ppg)
2017-18 OHL (Windsor/Barrie) 33-31-25-56 (1.69, 1st ppg)

Luchuk joins FA signee Parker Kelly as the second undersized forward the Sens have signed this fall–has Randy Lee finally figured out that it isn’t 1997 anymore and that size isn’t a precursor to success? I really doubt it, but I can hope.

It’s worth noting prospects who put up big numbers only as overagers are less likely to replicate those as pros. Ary addresses those concerns:

a majority of Luchuk’s points are at even-strength and are primary points (a goal or the first assist). There’s been a ton of work at the NHL level to say that secondary assists are a bit noisy, and that primary points are better predictors of future point production, so they’re indicators we look for when projecting prospect performance. According to prospect-stats.com, 49 of Luchuk’s 60 points last year were primary points (P1/gm ranked 52nd in the league); 40 of those 60 points were scored at even-strength — a high percentage. This year, Luchuk is fourth in the league in even-strength points (29 points in 33 games) and he leads the league in primary points per game with 1.36

So all that being said, what do we have from scouts on him? Not much, as I said above, as he was never ranked for the draft. However, Hockey Prospects did write about him in the lead-up to the 2015 draft:

Luchuk who was a real offensive threat and a perennial scorer in Minor Midget has had to adapt to a lesser role in the OHL thus far in his career and has done a very good job of embracing the change. He was primarily utilized in a third or fourth line role for the Spitfires and used his strong skating ability to factor in both the offensive and defensive side of the game.
He has good speed and will challenge defenders one on one. He has good puck handling ability and was also able to create offense with a deceptive shot. He works hard on the backcheck, keeping up with  opposing forwards and was usually a key part of the Spitfires penalty kill. We believe Luchuk might receive a little late round consideration. His offensive upside is somewhat untapped playing behind several veterans, so as he moves up the depth chart he will be able to show more of the offense he displayed in minor midget.

There was nothing written about him either in 2016 or this year, so despite the numbers Ary mentions above NHL teams did not take a flyer on him (due either to his size or perhaps the perception that he benefits from those playing around him).

I agree wholeheartedly with Ary that he’s a worthwhile gamble–I always encourage gambles with skill–I’d rather fail on a player who might help my team than some lumbering tool who clogs up the arteries of a team.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Belleville 2, Toronto 1

BSens played kitty-bar-the-door against the Marlies and with strong play by Andrew Hammond stole a win out of Toronto (their first 60-minute win since November 22nd). The game itself was not particularly entertaining, although listening to Bill Berg drone on over the play-by-play caller was pretty amusing (only the Toronto feed was up on AHL Live this morning). Before I get into specific observations, here are the basics (the boxscore):
Shots: 15-33
PP: 1-2
PK: 0-1
Goaltenders: Hammond got the start and was excellent in the win (eight key saves); Driedger sat as the back-up while both Danny Taylor and Marcus Hogberg were scratches.

The Opposition
The Marlies came into the game at 22-8, albeit having just ended a 3-game losing streak. While they allowed the BSens to play a very passive, defense-first game, they had more than enough opportunities to win the game.

The Goals
1. Toronto PP – one-timer from the point
2. PP Werek tips White’s shot in from the point
3. Perron in the slot (off a nice pass from Randell)

Scoring chances (6): White (x2), Werek (pp), Perron, Blunden, Rodewald (pp)

The Roster
Ottawa returned a number of players to Binghamton and Patrick Sieloff returned from injury, meaning a significant shuffle. I’m not sure if Lajoie was scratched or injured, but he was taken out of the lineup for Sieloff, while Harpur’s arrival meant both ECHL PTO’s (Melancon and Doornbosch) sat with the team using just six defensemen. DiDomenico’s return didn’t result in a change since the team dropped from seven to six D.

The Lines
DiDomencio-O’Brien-Rodewald
McCormick-Reinhart-Blunden
Werek-White-Gagne
Perron-Ciampini-Randell
Sieloff-Harpur
Englund-Burgdoerfer
Murray-Erkamps

Other than the third line this is not a great set of forward lines and that was evident in how little they accomplished offensively.

Special Teams
Powerplay
Werek-DiDomenico-Rodewald/Harpur-White (scored)
McCormick-O’Brien-Blunden/Gagne-Murray
Penalty Kill
McCormick-O’Brien (scored on)
Sieloff-Harpur (scored on)

The officials let the BSens get away with a ton of interference, but they couldn’t handle even one odd-man situation. The first PP unit was solid, but the second…just ugly.

Notable Plays
Perron with a nice set of moves to get a shot on goal (first); Rodewald misses the net from the slot (first); McCormick can’t make the pass to Blunden on a 2-on-1 (first); DiDomenico hits the crossbar (first); Perron walks through three players which turns into a Murray shot over the net (second); Blunden with a terrible pass on a 2-on-0 results in no shot (second); McCormick hits the post on the empty-net.

Player Notes
Randell: a stopped watch is right twice a day and Tyler Randell apparently is productive once every 28 games–it was a great play and something to be celebrated–albeit he also bungled numerous other plays in the game and still belongs in the pressbox
White: a good game for him–solid linemates helped–he was strong both offensively and defensively
Perron: one of his best games of the season, albeit a lot of his good work was stymied by poor decisions from teammates

Not a lot to go through in a game like this where the BSens were fervently trying not to lose and the Marlies were pass-happy. The team benefited tremendously from officials ignoring interference and along with that, strong goaltending won them this game.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

 

A Look at Belleville’s Powerplay

STATS

The place to start here is the basic strategy employed by the BSens: the umbrella. The BSens’ strategy with that deployment involves moving the puck to the top of the umbrella, distributing left or right for a shot, and then trying to take advantage of the rebound or loose puck. The down low stuff play is almost never utilized and the tendency has been trying to get a shot from the left side by a right-handed shooter (although both Chabot and Harpur, as lefties, tend to shoot from the middle of the umbrella into the crowd).

How is the coaching staff deploying the team’s roster in this situation versus their production? I crunched numbers that I’ve tracked throughout the season and the easiest way to start with is with literal deployment: who is playing the most with the man advantage, keeping in mind that smaller sample sizes tend to skew results (positive or negative):

Powerplay Frequency/Shifts per game (min 5 shifts on the season)
Forwards
DiDomenico 5.0 (10/50) (21/0/29)
White 4.09 (21/86) (0/50/36)
Rodewald 4.0 (20/80) (26/22/32)
Paul 3.88 (17/66) (30/18/18)
Chlapik 3.66 (27/99) (36/40/23)
Sexton 3.5 (8/28) (15/13/0)
McCormick 3.35 (28/94) (25/37/32)
O’Brien 2.28 (28/64) (5/28/31)
Reinhart 2.28 (28/64) (17/31/16)
Gagne 2.27 (29/66) (6/39/21)
Perron 2.17 (28/61) (10/32/19)
Blunden 2.0 (9/18) (13/0/5)
Werek 1.63 (22/36) (19/12/5)
Randell 0.48 (27/13) (2/0/11)

Defense
Chabot 5.15 (13/67) (31/36/0)
Jaros 3.89 (19/74) (36/19/19)
Murray 3.47 (23/80) (12/30/38)
Lajoie 3.47 (19/66) (34/12/20)
Harpur 2.42 (7/17) (4/4/9)
Burgdoerfer 1.76 (30/53) (28/24/1)

The above does not differentiate between first and second unit play (see below), which can mean quite large variances in actual TOI with the advantage. From the above I think it’s worth noting that if you remove October from O’Brien and Gagne’s averages they remain in the same relative position, but far closer to the other top forwards (3.1 and 3.0 respectively). Also significantly impacted by varying usage are Lajoie (who drops to 3.2 after October–not a huge change, but some) and Burgdoerfer (2.36 prior to December).

If the above represents preference (debatable, but let’s follow the thread), based on frequency and a healthy roster we’d see DiDomenico-White-Rodewald with Chabot-Jaros on the first unit and Paul-Chlapik-Sexton with Lajoie-Murray on the second. While this is not ideal (see below), it does remove the anchors that are McCormick and Reinhart, albeit Rodewald’s and Murray’s mindnumbing inability to produce on the PP (see below) are cause for concern.

Unit Use (first/second unit/pairing)
Forwards
DiDomenico 100% (50/0)
Sexton 100% (28/0)
White 98.8% (85/1 – 49/1 36/0)
O’Brien 75% (48/16 – 0/5 25/3 23/8)
Paul 59.1% (39/27 – 15/15 12/6 12/6)
McCormick 58.5% (55/39 – 12/13 37/0 6/26)
Reinhart 53.1% (34/30 – 3/14 21/10 10/6)
Perron 50.8% (31/30 – 7/3 8/24 16/3)
Werek 50% (18/18 – 13/6 0/12 5/0)
Rodewald 48.7% (39/41 – 15/11 6/16 18/14)
Chlapik 42.4% (42/57 – 24/12 8/32 10/13)
Blunden 27.7% (5/13 – 0/13 5/0)
Gagne 10.6% (7/59 – 0/6 7/32 0/21)
Randell 0.00% (0/13 – 0/2 0/0 0/11)

Chabot 100% (67/0)
Harpur 58.8% (10/7 – 4/0 4/0 2/7)
Jaros 39.1% (29/45 – 26/12 6/13 0/19)
Murray 31.2% (25/55 – 9/3 0/30 16/22)
Burgdoerfer 28.3% (15/38 – 12/16 3/21 0/1)
Lajoie 16.6% (11/55 – 0/34 3/9 8/12)

Something that’s immediately apparent is that defensemen are not used 100% of the time as Colin White, Chris DiDomenico, Jim O’Brien, Filip Chlapik, Franics Perron, and Max McCormick have all spent varying time on the point (White the most). It’s amazing that Gagne has almost exclusively been stuck on the second unit and that Chlapik’s first line appearances have been (relative to production) so limited. Keep these numbers in mind as we get to production below. As for the lines these preferences suggest, it would yield DiDomencio-White-Sexton with Chabot-Harpur as the first unit, with McCormick-Paul-O’Brien with Murray-Jaros as the second.

Powerplay on-ice for Goals
Forwards
Sexton 0.14 4/28 (3/1/0)
O’Brien 0.093 6/64 (1/3/2)
Werek 0.083 3/36 (2/0/1)
White 0.081 7/86 (0/3/4)
DiDomenico 0.08 (4/50) (2/0/2)
Rodewald 0.075 6/80 (2/2/2)
Paul 0.075 5/66 (3/1/1)
Chlapik 0.07 7/99 (3/3/1)
Perron 0.065 4/61 (1/1/2)
Blunden 0.055 1/18 (0/0/1)
Reinhart 0.046 3/64 (1/1/1)
Gagne 0.045 3/66 (0/2/1)
McCormick 0.042 4/94 (0/3/1)
Randell 0.00 0/13 (0/0/0)

Defense
Burgdoerfer 0.094 5/53 (3/2/0)
Lajoie 0.075 5/66 (3/2/0)
Chabot 0.074 5/67 (3/2/0)
Murray 0.062 5/80 (0/2/3)
Harpur 0.058 1/17 (0/0/1)
Jaros 0.054 4/74 (3/0/1)

How much of an indicator is being on-ice for goals? Given how meaningless the plus/minus stat is you want to take it with a grain of salt. Sexton, Werek, Harpur, and Blunden are benefiting somewhat from their limited sample size.

If we create a lineup based on these numbers we’d wind up with slightly different lines compared to raw usage: Werek-O’Brien-Sexton with Lajoie-Burgdoerfer as the first, and DiDomenico-White-Rodewald with Chabot-Murray as the second. There are positive elements here as well, but as we’ll see below, they present problems as well.

Powerplay Points Per Shift
Forwards
DiDomenico 0.08 (4/50)
Chlapik 0.06 (6/99)
Werek 0.055 (2/36)
Blunden 0.055 (1/18)
Perron 0.049 (3/61)
O’Brien 0.046 (3/64)
Gagne 0.045 (3/66)
White 0.034 (3/86)
McCormick 0.032 (3/94)
Reinhart 0.031 (2/64)
Paul 0.03 (2/66)
Rodewald 0.00 (0/80)
Sexton 0.00 (0/28)
Randell 0.00 (0/13)

Defense
Chabot 0.074 (5/67)
Lajoie 0.06 (4/66)
Burgdoerfer 0.056 (3/53)
Jaros 0.04 (3/74)
Murray 0.012 (1/80)
Harpur 0.00 (0/17)

The most meaningful element of all, particularly for a team that struggles to score–actual production (and we can ignore Blunden’s position due to the small sample size). There are some extraordinary numbers here, with Rodewald and Murray standing out in ineptitude (and with far too many reps for this not to indicate some underlying problems). McCormick’s numbers overall are appalling on the powerplay–despite playing the second most shifts on the team (behind Chlapik) his on-ice and his production totals are absolute garbage (this also applies to Reinhart, who hasn’t played quite as much).

Our lines from this set of data change quite a bit: Werek-Chlapik-DiDomenico with Chabot-Lajoie, and Gagne-Perron-O’Brien with Burgdoerfer-Jaros. The only change I’d make to this is inserting White in the second unit (for O’Brien) and remove Burgdoerfer (for Harpur if he’s available, or O’Brien on the point), but this is far closer to what I would do with the man advantage.

Conclusions/Moving Forward
I think it’s worthwhile comparing usage to production directly before wrapping this up–rather than list the raw numbers I’ll stick to how they rank above and we’ll ignore players with less than 10 games (so excising Sexton, Blunden, Randell, and Harpur from consideration):
Forwards (usage/production)
DiDomenico 1st/1st
White 2nd/7th
Rodewald 3rd/no points
Paul 4th/11th
Chlapik 5th/2nd
McCormick 6th/9th
O’Brien 7th/6th
Reinhart 8th/10th
Gagne 9th/6th
Perron 10th/5th
Werek 11th/3rd

Defense
Chabot 1st/1st
Jaros 2nd/4th
Murray t-3rd/5th
Lajoie t-3rd/2nd
Burgdoerfer 5th/3rd

The two top prospects (White and Chabot) play a ton, as does the DiDomenico, but after that we get into coaching decisions that are at best a mixed bag. You look at the bottom-three set of forwards or where Lajoie sits and you can’t help but shake your head. As much as the org and coaching staff want to blame their problems on injuries or call-ups, clearly there are mistakes being made in how talent is being deployed.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

 

Belleville 2, Syracuse 8

What happens when an undermanned BSens roster runs into a talented team? A shellacking. This game wasn’t close and the score could have been much worse (entertaining to watch the Crunch play, admittedly). Before I get into specific observations, here are the basics (the boxscore):
Shots: 29-37
PP: 1-4 (one brief)
PK: 4-6 (including a 4-on-3)
Goaltender: Andrew Hammond got the start after a couple of games off and had no support in getting lit up for six goals before the reluctant Kleinendorst pull (he made two key saves); Driedger arrived in relief and was solid (one key save)–neither goaltender can be blamed for the blowout in my opinion. Danny Taylor was scratched amidst the triple-rotation clusterfuck (Marcus Hogberg made 44 saves in his win in Brampton and is nearing the top-ten in save percentage in the E–if you threw out his initial three starts he’s at .936–through nine games–which would put him second overall).

The Opposition
The Crunch were 14-11-3 coming into the game, but 8-2-0 in the their last ten and simply a much more talented team than the BSens. The primary issue they presented was speed and the ability of the roster to make quick passes (the BSens were terrible at filling up passing lanes with either sticks or bodies–something related to the difference in speed).

The Goals
1. White scores from the side boards on his off-side
2. Syracuse – Terrible line change and a poor defensive play by Rodewald leads to a 3-on-1 against whose pretty passing results in a pretty goal
3. Syracuse – Murray gives up on his check who tips in a backhand
4. Syracuse – Burgdoerfer gets puck watching and his man bangs in the rebound
5. Syracuse – Randell loses his check who bangs in a nice pass from behind the goal line
6. Syracuse – tip-in
7. Syracuse – Rodewald lazy on the back check and his man scores on a nice pass on a 3-on-1 down low
8. PP Murray floats one in from the point (Blunden with yet another phantom assist)
9. Syracuse PP – Peca allowed to walk in and scores low through the defender
10. Syracuse PP – three BSens get puck-watching leaving the Crunch player wide open to score on an empty net after Driedger makes the initial save

Scoring chances (5): White, Murray (pp), Werek, Dunn, O’Brien (sh)

The Roster
Innumerable call-ups have denuded the roster, as Andreas Englund and Chris DiDomenico were added to Ottawa’s roster. Werek’s return from injury prevented any need to sign a forward to a PTO, but Jamie Doornbosch (who played some games with Binghamton last year) was signed (either in lieu of Cody Donaghey, or else he’s injured in Brampton). The BSens played essentially four ECHL defensemen on the night (Murray, Erkamps, Melancon, and Doornbosch).

The Lines
McCormick-O’Brien-Gagne
Werek-White-Rodewald
Ciampini-Reinhart-Blunden
Dunn-Perron-Randell
Murray-Burgdoerfer
Lajoie-Erkamps
Doornbosch-Melancon

The second and third lines aren’t bad, although why poor Perron is buried with non-entities on the fourth is beyond me. Burgdoerfer, now exposed without an experienced lefty to save him, struggled throughout the night. The D-shortage meant there was a lot more Lajoie–pretty rough around the edges defensively, but is worth that for all the other things he does well.

Special Teams
Powerplay
Werek-Reinhart-Blunden/Murray-White (scored)
Gagne-O’Brien-Rodewald/Lajoie-McCormick
Perron-O’Brien-Gagne/Lajoie-McCormick (once)
4-on-4
O’Brien-Rodewald/Murray-Burgdoerfer
Gagne-McCormick/Lajoie-Erkamps
Gagne-Rodewald/Burgdoerfer-Erkamps
Penalty Kill
McCormick-O’Brien, Randell-Blunden (scored on), Perron-White, McCormick-Blunden, White-Randell, White-Rodewald, McCormick-White, Randell-Rodewald, Perron-Randell (scored on)
Lajoie-Burgdoerfer, Melancon-Erkamps, Murray-Erkamps, Murray-Burgdoerfer (scored on), Lajoie-Melancon, Lajoie-Erkamps, Lajoie-Murray (scored on), Burgdoerfer

The category of “goals against when Randell kills penalties” is ever-growing, otherwise the variation on the PK is simply a product of how quickly the game grew out of reach. The goals against is really three, as one of the goals the Crunch scored was just as the penalty expired. The PP shot the puck more and while that didn’t produce many scoring chances it did get them a goal (Murray’s first since his hat-trick over a month ago–also his first PP point of the season, which took seventy-nine PP shifts to accomplish).

Notable Plays
There weren’t many in a game like this, however: White got away with boarding a player in the second; Murray had his legs taken out from under him and had to be assisted off the ice (second), but stayed in the game; McCormick got into a fight in the third and that did not go well for him; Reinhart took a dumb penalty on the PP (third), which continues a recent trend of selfish penalties from him.

Player Notes
Burgdoerfer: I mentioned above that without the protection offered by his usual partners (Sieloff, Harpur, or Englund) he struggled defensively, particularly with coverage
Doornbosch: an offensive guy in the E, why not put him on the PP?
Dunn: I think a pylon with skates would accomplish the same thing–he can’t skate and as a supposed agitator he neither agitates nor hits, so why play him?
Randell: when he started being used on the PK I thought it made little sense, but he seemed at least reasonably competent–that’s gone out the window in December as poor decisions are resulting in goals against
Perron: there must be some edict from on-high that keeps pushing him onto the PK (the org probably thinks he’s another Pageau), where he’s had no success this year; why a talented player like him is buried on the fourth-line (again) is beyond me
Rodewald: the wheels have completely fallen off for him–he hasn’t had a point in December (eight games) and you again have to wonder if the org fell in love with him due to yet another hot-streak that belies limited production

I lost track of how many odd-man rushes the BSens gave up–and let’s keep in mind this was a home game so they should be getting the best possible match-ups. For a team that emphasizes defense they showed a lot of structural problems against a team with speed–both in closing lanes up high and failing to effectively collapse down low (you might want to blame the call-ups on D, but they weren’t involved in any of the goals against). The team also continues to bump into the problem of the staff overplaying players of limited talent–once they get behind it’s that much harder to catch up. Kleinendorst doesn’t seem to know how to load up an offensive line unless obvious players like DiDomenico are on the roster (part of this is due to his over estimation of how impactful guys like O’Brien and McCormick are).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

 

Belleville 1, Rochester 3

The BSens lost the most boring game of the season last night–a snoozefest where neither team seemed particularly interested. Before I delve into specific observations, here are the basics (the boxscore):
Shots: 32-24
PP: 0-5 (one very brief)
PK: 6-6 (one very brief; also a 5-on-3)
Goaltender: Danny Taylor got the start and had no trouble extending his personal losing streak to seven games (he made three key saves); Chris Driedger served as the backup, with Andrew Hammond scratched and Marcus Hogberg remaining in Brampton.

The Opposition
The Amerks were 16-6-6 coming into the game and never seemed in any danger of losing (don’t be fooled by the shots on goal–despite the difference it’s not a reflection of quality scoring chances).

The Goals
1. Rochester – tip-in
2. Rochester – Burgdoerfer gets caught puck-watching and his man bangs in a loose puck
3. Rochester – score from the side boards
4. Ciampini bangs in a nice pass from White who fakes the wrap-around (Blunden got a phantom assist on the play)

Scoring chances (7): Rodewald (x2), Ciampini, White (pp), McCormick, Blunden (sh), Reinhart (pp)

The Roster
Filip Chlapik and Ben Harpur were recalled before the game, which brought Vincent Dunn and PTO T. J. Melancon into the lineup. Chris Kelly was released from his PTO, which caused Ciampini to be recalled from Brampton. Jaros, Sieloff, Werek, Sexton, and Flanagan remain out with injuries.

The Lines
McCormick-O’Brien-Gagne
DiDomenico-Reinhart-Rodewald
Perron-White-Blunden
Dunn-Ciampini-Randell
Englund-Burgdoerfer
Murray-Erkamps
Lajoie-Melancon

I have no idea why Reinhart was given the #2 center position, because as in the past, it didn’t work. The fourth line, outside of Ciampini, is pretty embarrassing. There’s just so much that I’d change with the forward group here. On the blueline Melancon barely played, but from the second period on Kleinendorst rotated the other five regularly.

Special Teams
Powerplay
Perron-Reinhart-White/Murray-DiDomenico
McCormick-Gagne-Rodewald/Lajoie-O’Brien
4-on-4
White-Rodewald/Englund-Burgdoerfer
Gagne-DiDomenico/Murray-Erkamps
Penalty Kill
McCormick-O’Brien, Randell-Blunden, Perron-White, White-Blunden, McCormick-Randell
Englund-Burgdoerfer, Murray-Erkamps, Lajoie-Murray, Murray-Burgdoerfer, Lajoie-Erkamps
5-on-5
McCormick-O’Brien/Burgdoerfer
Randell-Blunden/Burgdoerfer

The the first game without Kelly and the BSens didn’t give up a PP goal for the first time since he joined the team (so they gave up a PP goal in every single game Kelly played). The struggles certainly weren’t only his fault, but it is an interesting fact. The powerplay continues to struggle, although the zone entries have improved.

Notable Plays
Reinhart missed the net on a breakaway (first); Taylor with a brutal giveaway that he’s very fortunate didn’t wind up in the back of his net (first); Burgdoerfer and Blunden collided and were slow to get up (first); Gagne made a couple of excellent passes in the first, but those receiving them did nothing with them; Blunden couldn’t get a shot away on a 2-on-1 (second); McCormick double-clutched in the slot on the PP and couldn’t get a shot away (second); Englund threw a huge hit (third).

Player Notes
Lajoie: I was happy to see him back on the regular powerplay rotation, although it would make a lot more sense to have him in Murray’s spot on the first unit
Reinhart
: took two selfish, dumb penalties in the game but this didn’t impact his ice time (accountability has never been the org’s strong suit with veterans)
Gagne: played well, although would have been better served on the first PP unit; nice to see him making passes, although given who he plays with he’s better off shooting
Rodewald: his best game since late November (threatening his now seven-game pointless streak)

This was not the kind of game for a lot of standout performances as the first two periods were largely event-free. For fans who like glass half-full interpretations, you can be happy the BSens kept the game scoreless for 43 minutes. Realistically, however, the team seemed to be playing for a 0-0 tie and once the goal-scoring started were incapable of doing anything about it. Another question the game raises is: when is the team going to face the fact that Danny Taylor just can’t perform? He hasn’t had a good game since October 28th and that’s one of just two good starts all season. The org would do themselves a favour by getting rid of him and clearing up the goaltending clog (but it’s not a move I’m expecting).

Today the BSens added another assistant coach (Tony Cimellaro), who was an assistant at Queen’s University. Unless Tony is going to lace up the skates I’m not sure what this is meant to accomplish (is it a precursor to removing Kleinendorst?). One of the many fears I have about what Randy Lee might do is making a former Sen like Shean Donovan the coach, and we’ll get another nightmare like Luke Richardson in the AHL.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville 2, Binghamton 5

Belleville’s re-match with the only team they’ve beaten in December did not go their way as the better team on the night won. Before I get into specific observations, here are the basics (the boxscore):
Shots: 22-27
PP: 1-5
PK: 3-4
Goaltender: Chris Driedger got his fifth start of the season and despite the goals against played pretty well (he made five key saves); this would have normally been a Danny Taylor start, but at least in the short-term he’s been pulled from the regular rotation (he served as the backup); Andrew Hammond was scratched while Marcus Hogberg made 29 saves for a 3-1 win in Brampton.

The Opposition
The Devils came in at 8-14-4 and are a very beatable team, but they controlled the play for much of the game and earned the win.

The Goals
1. Binghamton – Erkamps’ stick gets stuck in the boards and with no support a Devil is wide open in front and bangs it in
2. PP Gagne banks it in from behind the net
3. Binghamton PP – Blunden is late to his man who bangs in a rebound
4. Reinhart floats a puck through a crowd from the point which gets deflected in by Blunden
5. Binghamton – floats one it from the point (this was 20 seconds after the Reinhart goal)
6. Binghamton – Englund turnover, Chlapik collapses too low leaving his man open in front who scores on a deke (this was 18 seconds after the previous goal)
7. Binghamton SH – Harpur turnover leads to a breakaway and goal

Scoring chances (7): Gagne (x2, pp), Reinhart, Rodewald, DiDomenico, McCormick, Englund

The Roster
After getting crushed in their previous game the BSens made just one change, as Dunn was scratched and Reinhart returned from injury. Ciampini, who is a better alternative to either Randell or Kelly, remains in Brampton (both Randell and Kelly’s pointless streaks continued).

The Lines
McCormick-O’Brien-Gagne
DiDomenico-Chlapik-Rodewald
Kelly-White-Blunden
Perron-Reinhart-Randell
Harpur-Burgdoerfer
Englund-Erkamps
Lajoie-Murray

Kelly remains an anchor on the third line while I’m not sure what Perron is supposed to accomplish on the fourth. Kleinendorst’s insistence on returning to the first line he loves so much continues to stifle offensive potential (I mentioned on Twitter that the Sens are enormously behind on goal ratio and that despite coaching decisions intended to cut down on goals against). Kleinendorst’s insistence on playing it safe, on relying on grinding veterans, simply isn’t working. I also wish we’d see a lot more Lajoie than Murray on the blueline.

Special Teams
Powerplay
Perron-Chlapik-White/Murray-DiDomenico
Perron-Chlapik-White/Harpur-DiDomenico (gave up shorthanded goal)
McCormick-Gagne-Rodewald/Harpur-O’Brien (scored)
McCormick-Gagne-Rodewald/Lajoie-Murray
Penalty Kill
McCormick-O’Brien, Kelly-Randell, Kelly-Blunden, Perron-Randell, Randell-Blunden (scored on)
Harpur-Burgdoerfer, Englund-Erkamps (scored on), Murray-Erkamps

Murray’s foibles on the PP are bad enough that even the Belleville broadcaster is complaining about it–no one, including Murray himself, has any clue what he’s doing on breakouts and it’s killing whichever unit he’s on. Lajoie should have his spot and Murray needs to be removed–I think his hat-trick back in November is messing with the coaches head about offensive ability that just isn’t there. At least over the last couple of games the talented players are being put on the first-unit–they just need to be saved from having Murray on the back end. As for the hapless PK: why use a guy who can’t skate (Blunden) and a guy who can’t play (Randell) as a duo? Makes no sense. The team is also ramming Kelly down the throats of the PK and it has been much worse since his arrival (they’ve literally given up a goal every single game since he started playing: 28-39 (71.7%), vs 68-87 (78.1%) without him).

Notable Plays
A nice set-up by White to Blunden who misses the net (first); McCormick got crushed on a shorthanded opportunity (first); O’Brien misses the net from the slot (second); a couple of great passes by Chlapik for scoring opportunities (to DiDomenico in the second and Englund in the third); Rodewald bangs in what would be Belleville’s second goal, but it’s waived off for goaltender interference (third).

Player Notes
Lajoie: did not play a lot, with just one powerplay shift; he’s such a useful player in transition and also on the point that it’s driving me bananas to see him getting 6th-D time
Murray: the powerplay snafu’s were so blatant even the broadcaster was wondering what he was doing
Burgdoerfer: had been better playing with Harpur, but his turnover tendency was back in evidence on the night (leading the team)
Harpur: not his best game with a couple of key errors, but I will say one of the big differences in his play between now and when he was a rookie is how often he shoots the puck–it’s not a big slapper ala Jaros, but putting pucks to the net helps the offense
Rodewald: isn’t the best fit with Chlapik, but I think Kleinendorst wants him with a lefty and other than Reinhart that’s the only option (since Perron and Gagne are playing the wing)–he was at his best with Paul as his center; long pointless streaks weren’t uncommon for him last season, admittedly
Perron: I’m not sure what the guy is supposed to do with fourth-line minutes; while the powerplay time is nice the utilization is asphyxiating his production
KellyRandell: continue to add nothing useful (the former’s terrible faceoff performance got him shifted to leftwing); both should be in the pressbox
White: like everyone else who has been saddled with Kelly basically disappeared
DiDomenico: I like him playing with Chlapik, but the duo needs a different third player (I’d love to see Gagne with them)
Chlapik: a lot of great little plays on the night (along with one big defensive snafu), albeit with no results; as I mentioned with DiDomenico above I think their line would work more effectively with a different winger

I’ve been saying for quite some time that many of the problems the team has relates to player usage. The BSens aren’t the most talented team, but there are better ways to put the lineup together and the coaching staff (and the org) struggles to follow the evidence and make changes. On the plus side they’ve shut down Taylor for the last few games and even very briefly broke up the overdose of O’Brien-McCormick, but at the first hint of trouble Kleinendorst goes back to his veterans as if they are going to get the team wins–the evidence just doesn’t support it. The AHL is a development league and the BSens shouldn’t entertain any delusions of a Calder Cup run, so play the prospects and let grinders play where grinders should–the bottom six (or not at all).

A couple of notable trends over the last nine games: the BSens have given up the first goal in seven; they’ve been outshot in seven (not a new trend as the team only has a positive differential in five games this year); they’ve given up a powerplay goal in all nine; they’ve only scored 19 goals (or 2.11 per game), far too few to win very often.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

 

Belleville 4, Binghamton 3 (SO), Belleville 3, Manitoba 7

I’m a bit late with the Binghamton recap as I’ve been both busy and sick, but without further ado let’s delve into Wednesday’s game starting with the basics (the boxscore):
Shots: 35-35
PP: 0-1
PK: 2-3
Goaltender: Chris Driedger with just his fourth start of the season (he made four key saves); Danny Taylor sat as the backup as Andrew Hammond remained a bit under the weather; Marcus Hogberg remains in Brampton

The Opposition
One of the only teams with a worse record than the BSens (8-13-3 coming in), this was the kind of opponent to try and get things back on track with.

The Goals
1. Binghamton – Murray with a terrible play in front of the net giving up the puck right in front to have it banged in
2. Binghamton PP – Burgdoerfer own-goals with a puck bouncing behind Driedger (this off McCormick’s failure to clear the puck; this was also off a really dumb, selfish penalty from Blunden)
3. Binghamton – score on a wrap-around (it bounces in off O’Brien’s skate)
4. Chlapik deflects in Murray’s shot from the point (looked like Blunden tipped it too, but he wasn’t given an assist)
5. Gagne steals the puck and squeezes it between the arm and the chest of the goaltender
6. Harpur with a wrister through a crowd
Shootout
White scores five-hole
Gagne stopped going low far side
Two of Binghamton’s attempts missed the net and Driedger stopped the other going five-hole

Scoring chances (11): Chlapik (x4, pp), Gagne (x2), Harpur, Rodewald, Burgdoerfer, Lajoie, O’Brien

The Roster
Mike Blunden returned after missing 20 games with a broken hand; Paul was recalled to the NHL (I guess his one goal was attractive?); Tyler Randell was either scratched or ill (getting accurate injury reports out of Belleville has not been easy); Ethan Werek was reported as a scratch the previous game, but I learned on Friday that he’s actually injured (huzzah for reporting); Patrick Sieloff, who missed most of the prior game after throwing a big hit, remained out of the lineup; Daniel Ciampini and Cody Donaghey are in Brampton, with Thomas Chabot still in the NHL.

The Lines
McCormick-O’Brien-Gagne
Reinhart-Kelly-DiDomenico
Perron-White-Rodewald
Chlapik-Blunden
Harpur-Burgdoerfer
Englund-Jaros
Lajoie-Murray
Erkamps

The first line that was used through the bulk of November was reconstituted (if you’re wondering, the team was 5-4-1 when they played together up to this point); the weird second line is a first and didn’t work at all; this was the first time Perron and Rodewald have played together since a productive few games in October (that chemistry wasn’t particularly in evidence); the Chlapik-Blunden pairing wasn’t played like a fourth line (they had varying left wingers, but mostly Perron). These lines were scrambled to an extant in the second period. As for the D-pairings, this was the first game of the season without Sieloff, but none of the pairings were new. Jaros hurt his hand in a fight in the first period, so the team spent most of the game with six D.

Special Teams
Powerplay
Perron-Chlapik-White/Murray-DiDomenico
Gagne-Reinhart-O’Brien/Harpur-Lajoie
4-on-4
O’Brien-Rodewald/Englund-Burgdoerfer
Chlapik-Blunden/Lajoie-Erkamps
McCormick-Perron/Lajoie-Erkamps
Penalty Kill
Kelly-Blunden, O’Brien-White, Kelly-White, O’Brien-Rodewald, McCormick-O’Brien (scored on)
Harpur-Burgdoerfer, Englund-Harpur, Murray-Burgdoerfer, Englund-Burgdoerfer (scored on)

The only notable thing about the powerplay was a brutal turnover by Murray (I continue to believe he doesn’t belong on the PP); nothing very different about the PK (whose struggles continue).

Notable Plays
Reinhart was hauled down on a breakaway with no call (first); Chlapik with a brutal turnover, but Binghamton missed the net on the breakaway (first); Kelly missed the net on a breakaway (nice pass by DiDomenico) (first); Driedger gave the puck away and it nearly wound up in his net (first); a big hit resulted in Jaros getting into the fight where he hurt his hand (first); Murray’s brutal turnover on the PP results in a breakaway with a nice save by Driedger (second); Harpur throws a suicide pass to Chlapik who gets steamrolled–Harpur then fought the guy who hit him as a brawl broke out and afterwards Chlapik gave him a fist-bump in the box (second); Lajoie with a great rush that gets forced into a bad angled backhand (second); White misses the net from right in front (third); Harpur misses the net off a pass from Chlapik (OT)

As this is a double post, we’ll do player notes at the end.

Belleville 3, Manitoba 7

The BSens beat the very talented Moose both times they played in October, but last night’s game was much more what you’d expect given the disparity. Before I get into specific comments, here are the basics (the boxscore):
Shots: 27-33
PP: 1-4
PK: 2-4
Goaltender: Andrew Hammond returned to the fold and despite the score played pretty well (he made five key saves); the hapless Danny Taylor backed-up, while Driedger was scratched; Hogberg lost in Brampton in what was a humdrum game for him (giving up three goals on twenty shots).

The Opposition
The Moose were 18-5-3 coming into the game and, other than the second period, completely dominated the BSens (holding them to just five shots in the third).

The Goals
1. Gagne picks up a drop pass on a bad Moose change and scores short side
2. Manitoba – tip-in (Gagne late on the back check)
3. Manitoba – just after the PP expired a nice tip-in
4. Manitoba PP – bounce off the boards Harpur can’t take the man or the stick
5. PP Chlapik great shot upstairs on a feed from below the goal line from DiDomenico
6. McCormick deflection (right off the faceoff from the previous goal)
7. Manitoba – Dunn weak on the backcheck as the rebound is banged in
8. Manitoba PP – score five hole
9. Manitoba – tip in front
10. Manitoba – DiDomenico turns it over on a clear 2-on-1 with a pass and goal

Scoring chances (7): McCormick (x3), Gagne, Chlapik (pp), Dunn, Randell

The Roster
Reinhart was out with an injury, so Randell returned to the lineup (sigh); Dunn also played as the team dressed six defensemen (Jaros missing the game with the hand injury).

The Lines
McCormick-O’Brien-Gagne
Rodewald-Chlapik-White
DiDomenico-Kelly-Blunden
Dunn-Perron-Randell
Harpur-Burgdoerfer
Englund-Lajoie
Murray-Erkamps

I’m not sure when the Kelly experiment will end–he’s now pointless in eight games despite playing with talented linemates. I also don’t know why the team is playing Dunn rather than recalling Ciampini for fourth-line duty (and don’t get me started on Randell).

Special Teams
Powerplay
Perron-Chlapik-White/Lajoie-DiDomenico
Perron-Chlapik-White/Murray-DiDomenico (scored)
McCormick-Gagne-Rodewald/Harpur-O’Brien
Penalty Kill
Kelly-Blunden (scored on), McCormick-O’Brien, Kelly-White, Perron-Randell, McCormick-Randell, Kelly-Randell (scored on), Dunn-Randell
Harpur-Burgdoerfer (scored on), Englund-Erkamps, Englund-Harpur (scored on), Lajoie-Murray

Lajoie was pulled from the PP unit after a turnover early in the second (he wasn’t having the best game, but I would have preferred they let him play through it). Randell on the PK continues to be one of those head-scratchers (the combo with Kelly wasn’t a planned line, but rather due to a partial line change). Dunn and Lajoie’s appearance on the PK was due to it being the last 30 seconds of a 7-3 game.

Notable Plays
Perron turned it over and Manitoba hit the post (first); Gagne made a fantastic pass to McCormick for a scoring chance (first); Harpur got turned into a pylon (second); Erkamps gets boarded (second), but stayed in the game; Chlapik made set-up Randell for a glorious chance, but it’s Randell so no result (second); Gagne was hit away from the puck (looked like an elbow) and was hurt, but stayed in the game (second); Kelly misses an open net (second).

Player Notes
Jaros: a great example of how pointless fighting is for useful players–hurts his hand and has missed almost two full games
Burgdoerfer: broke a 10-game pointless streak and actually cut down on the turnovers
Murray: while he broke a 7-game pointless streak, he’s still a huge drag on the PP
Lajoie: struggled pretty badly against the Moose, but still does things that most of the other blueliners can’t when it comes to moving the puck
Blunden: I’m no the biggest fan of the veteran–he’s slow and takes dumb penalties–but was decent enough in both games
Chlapik: now as 3 goals in his last 4 games and is being played with complimentary players
DiDomenico: what sin did this guy commit to have Chris Kelly as his center? A complete waste of a dynamic offensive player
Gagne: has three points in his last two games which was when the awful first line was reconstituted–how involved have McCormick-O’Brien been in his production? Just once, his lone assist. His goals were either an individual effort (vs Binghamton) or off a line change (Manitoba)
Kelly: no points in all eight AHL games–time to say goodbye!
McCormick: had his first goal against a goalie since November 8th–he’s way off his usual production, so could this be a sign of a return to form?
Perron: after being stuck with Kelly as his center for 7 games gets rewarded with…Dunn and Randell? Yikes
Randell: was awful in his return to the lineup vs Manitoba
Reinhart: is ice cold (pointless in six) prior to missing last night’s game
Rodewald: I mentioned in my November review that he was due to regress and that’s the case as he has no points in December (0-5)
White: was finally freed from Kelly prison and responded with assists in both games

Both games were pretty entertaining to watch–the comeback against Binghamton was fun and watching talented Manitoba in particular (interesting to see how they use Buddy Robinson–while the BSens put him in a checking role, the Moose play him as an offensive player). While the lines are still a bit of a mess, I do like that Kleinendorst is finally playing talented players as the first unit PP–it hasn’t been pretty yet, but is far more coherent than the bumbling group of checkers that tanked results through most of November.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)