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)

 

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