Belleville 2, Rochester 0; Belleville 4, Toronto 7

Another twosome of games to comment on. The up and down season of Marcus Hogberg continues, as in an unexpected start (Taylor was ill) he earned Belleville’s first shutout of the season, and in the following game got shelled before getting pulled (not all the goals were his fault, but he needs to be better). This struggle with consistency took him over a month to sort out in the ECHL while being a regular starter–how long it takes in the AHL remains to be seen, but no one should fear he’s another bust like Matt O’Connor (whose AHL struggles are now ECHL struggles–the NCAA FA hasn’t had a shutout at either level, incidentally)–it’s far too early to judge. McCormick missed this game because he was in Ottawa and the team missed him not at all.

Belleville 2, Rochester 0
Shots: 26-33
PP: 0-3 (5-on-3)
PK: 0-1
Scoring chances: 8
Key saves: 9
The Goals
1. Flanagan scores short side as the Amerks goaltender goes down early and is slightly off the post
2. Reinhart empty-netter as Blunden flips the puck ahead and he wins the foot race

Notable plays: Gagne misses the net on a great chance from just above the hashmarks (first); great feed by Chlapik, but Paul shoots it wide (first); Sexton misses the net on a 3-on-2 (first); O’Brien shoots the puck over the net on a 3-on-1 (second); Chlapik hits the post (second); a weird penalty shot call for Rochester, but they hit the post (second); 2-on-1 but Paul can’t complete the pass (third); two of the scoring chances were off great feeds from Chlapik.

Belleville 4, Toronto 7

Unfortunately both McCormick and Blunden were returned to the team for this game (Jordan Murray also returned from injury–inexplicably he replaced the highly productive Ben Harpur on the first powerplay unit and helped it not at all).

I missed the first 10:34 of the game because it was not broadcast due to technical difficulties (I missed the first three goals of the game and 10 total shots on goal–3 by Belleville–but no penalties). This problem seems to have been in the arena because as of this writing I haven’t seen highlights posted. The BSens had a season high in scoring chances (one more than their 3-2 win over Rochester a month ago), but were sloppy defensively, didn’t get a great night from Hogberg, and were guilty (again!) of taking selfish and pointless penalties in the third period (more about that below). Tyler Randell, incidentally, scored his first goal against a goalie this season (39 games in)–another quality FA signing from Randy Lee.

Shots: 25-30
PP: 0-3
PK: 3-4 (5 min major)
Scoring chances: 16
Key saves: 6/3 (keeping in mind I missed seven shots on Hogberg in the first)
The Goals
1. Toronto – point shot (I only have the BSens Twitter feed to describe it)
2. Toronto – tap-in or one-timer via a centering pass (as above)
3. Reinhart (no description provided)
4. Sexton bangs in Chlapik’s pass
5. Toronto – both Englund and Gagne are guilty of puck-watching as a rebound is banged in by an uncontested Marlie in the slot
6. Paul bangs in a rebound
7. Toronto – one-timer from the top of the circle
8. Toronto – one-timer from the slot
9. Toronto – Hogberg beat five-hole as he slides from post-to-post
10. Toronto PP – Taylor beat by a clean shot from the top of the circle
11. Randell scores on a nice feed from Reinhart

Notable plays: two great scoring chances were via passes from Chlapik (first); Burgdoerfer falls awkwardly and struggles to get off the ice, but returned (first);
Blunden shoots it over an empty net (second); Paul misses the net with an open side (second); Chlapik accidentally runs over a referee (second; he was fine); Sieloff misses an empty net (second); Blunden targets a Marlies’ head and is rightfully kicked out of the game (third; the org should have no tolerance for that, but we’ll just hear excuses from them); Gagne gets drilled (third; clean hit and he seemed fine); Flanagan hits the post (third).

I mentioned the dumb penalties and this is a season-long trend by the BSens–the players guilty of taking them are all “leaders”–Blunden, McCormick, O’Brien, etc. These are undisciplined, selfish plays and there have been no consequences from the coaching staff whatsoever. This approach is something we saw from Luke Richardson as well (vets could do whatever they wanted). There’s no excuse for this–there ought to be even less tolerance for veterans. It’s worth pointing out that in games where the BSens have given up two or few powerplays they are 5-1 on the season (giving up only 13 goals, which is far below their norm)–the arithmetic is pretty simple.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

A Look at Belleville’s Penalty Kill


Back in late December I took a look at the BSens powerplay and with less than thirty games left in the season it’s time to take a look at the team’s PK. The raw percentage for the team is terrible (77.2%, tied for 28th in the league, but giving up the second most goals with 49–only Laval is worse). There’s nothing unique about the BSens strategy on the PK (a fairly passive box), although as the season has gone on they’ve often chosen to use just two or three defensemen on the rotation when trusted players are injured.

In the absence of useful stats from the AHL what we can do is look at deployment (in this case a shift count)–who is being used and to what level of success? Given injuries and call-ups there’s been significant variety so there’s a lot to break down. First, let’s look at usage broken down by shifts-per-game (minimum 20 shifts and averaging 1 per game):
Sexton 4.4
McCormick 3.97
Kelly 3.93
Blunden 3.77
O’Brien 3.71
Flanagan 3.0
White 2.84
Perron 2.02
Paul 1.93
Randell 1.86
Rodewald 1.18

Sieloff 4.7
Harpur 4.66
Englund 4.51
Burgdoerfer 4.23
Jaros 2.58
Erkamps 1.00

Small sample size is something to keep in mind, as Sexton has only played in 10 games, Flanagan 14, Harpur 15, etc. There’s a clear preference on defense (four primaries with a regular sprinkling of Jaros) and at forward (four–five with the departed Kelly–getting the heaviest usage).

So that’s frequency, but what about effectiveness? Here’s how they stack up based on goals against per shift:
O’Brien, White, Paul, Sexton 0.06
Blunden, Flanagan 0.07
Randell 0.08
Rodewald 0.11
McCormick, Kelly, Perron 0.12

Erkamps 0.06
Sieloff 0.07
Harpur 0.10
Burgdoerfer 0.11
Englund 0.13
Jaros 0.16

The small sample size (in this case infrequency of use) means we can’t trust Erkamps’ numbers, but in general this is a fair if broad representation of relative success. Clearly this doesn’t quite match up with usage, so here they are together:
Sexton 4.4/0.06
McCormick 3.97/0.12
Kelly 3.93/0.12
Blunden 3.77/0.07
O’Brien 3.71/0.06
Flanagan 3.0/0.07
White 2.84/0.06
Perron 2.02/0.12
Paul 1.93/0.06
Randell 1.86/0.08
Rodewald 1.18/0.11

Sieloff 4.7/0.07
Harpur 4.66/0.10
Englund 4.51/0.13
Burgdoerfer 4.23/0.11
Jaros 2.58/0.16
Erkamps 1.00/0.06

For the most part with the blueliners’ success follows usage, but at forward Kleinendorst’s favouritism impacts what he does, as Kelly and McCormick play more than their effectiveness justifies. Looking at this you’d say the top four PK forwards should be Sexton, O’Brien, Paul, and Flanagan (White is in the NHL, but if not, he bumps Flanagan), with the top-four D remaining as is with some Erkamps experimentation to see if his ability is sustainable. How does this hold up to actual pairings? We can break down who helps or hinders by seeing results depending on partners, so let’s take a look at the most frequent combinations (the dates in brackets aren’t necessarily absolute timeframes–they can also indicate the heaviest usage; the numbers are shifts vs goals against):

Forward Pairs
McCormick-O’Brien 0.06 100-6 (Nov-Jan)
Perron-White 0.05 39-2 (Nov-Jan)
Kelly-Blunden 0.08 34-3 (Dec-Jan)
Randell-Blunden 0.08 23-2 (Dec)
McCormick-Sexton 0.09 22-2 (Oct-Nov)
Paul-Rodewald 0.05 19-1 (Oct)
Kelly-Randell 0.13 15-2 (Dec)
Paul-O’Brien 0.00 14-0 (Oct-Nov)
Sexton-Blunden 0.08 12-1 (Feb)
McCormick-White 0.16 12-2 (Nov)
White-Flanagan 0.00 11-0 (Jan)
McCormick-Paul 0.09 11-1 (Oct)
Perron-Flanagan 0.00 10-0 (Jan)
O’Brien-Blunden 0.00 9-0 (Oct)
McCormick-Flanagan 0.11 9-1 (Jan-Feb)
Perron-O’Brien 0.12 8-1 (Oct-Nov)
Perron-Randell 0.12 8-1 (Oct/Dec)
Perron-Paul 0.14 7-1 (Oct/Jan)
McCormick-Blunden 0.14 7-1 (Oct/Jan)
Flanagan-Blunden 0.14 7-1 (Jan)
Sexton-O’Brien 0.00 6-0 (Oct)
O’Brien-Randell 0.00 6-0 (Oct-Nov)
McCormick-Randell 0.20 5-1 (Dec)
Paul-Sexton 0.40 5-2 (Nov)
Paul-White 0.00 4-0 (Dec)
McCormick-Rodewald 0.25 4-1 (Nov)
Perron-Kelly 0.50 4-2 (Dec)

While some of this bewildering variety is due to injury and experimentation, it’s far above what any coach should want in terms of stability and consistency. Kleinendorst has feels a compulsive need to play aging vets like Kelly beyond the bounds of reason. It’s also difficult to understand the decision to either get away from or stick with particular combinations. Conclusions: White, O’Brien, and (so far) Sexton make their partners better, while McCormick tends to be a drag on his partner and Perron is someone who reflects his partner (for good or ill). Paul, who has mostly played well in this role, was largely removed from the PK in mid-November for no apparent reason. In White’s absence and looking at the data, what we should be seeing is Sexton, O’Brien, Paul, and Flanagan getting the bulk of the time (we already know Paul-O’Brien works from the above).

Defense Partners
Englund-Burgdoerfer 0.14 87-13*
Sieloff-Burgdoerfer 0.08 69-6
Harpur-Burgdoerfer 0.06 43-3 (Dec+)
Englund-Sieloff 0.05 37-2
Englund-Jaros 0.17 35-6
Sieloff-Jaros 0.05 18-1 (Oct-Dec)
Englund-Erkamps 0.00 17-0 (Oct-Nov)
Sieloff-Harpur 0.13 15-2
Murray-Jaros 0.14 14-2 (Nov-Jan)
Englund-Harpur 0.16 12-2 (Nov-Jan)
Murray-Erkamps 0.00 10-0 (Nov-Dec)
Englund-Murray 0.20 10-2 (Nov-Dec)
Murray-Burgdoerfer 0.22 9-2 (Nov-Dec)
Lajoie-Jaros 0.00 6-0 (Jan)
*the duo had a horrific January (34-9), making them 43-4 otherwise (0.09)

A few things become apparent looking at it this way: Sieloff makes everyone better, with Harpur helping to a lesser degree; Burgdoerfer and Murray are drags on whoever they play with, while Englund’s impact seems more of a neutral factor–he can’t make up for his partner, but he doesn’t hurt either. Jaros is heavily effected by who he plays with (good with Lajoie and Sieloff, struggles elsewhere). Looking at what’s been tried I’d put Sieloff back with Englund and keep Burgdoerfer with Harpur until Jaros is healthy (and why not mix in some Erkamps so you can find out if the guy is actually a decent penalty killer or not?).

A few other player-specific comments:
-White, who has easily been the team’s best penalty killer, only started getting top rotation in January–Kleinendorst is so reluctant to trust younger players that even with a first-rounder like that he needed two months of watching before pulling the trigger
-Rodewald’s usage fell off at the same time as Paul’s, but his numbers aren’t nearly as good suggesting this was a smart coaching decision
-Randell received a huge spike in usage in December (60% of his deployment for the year) which has since dropped off to his more typical levels
-A third of Erkamps’ shifts come from a single game in October (4-2 loss to Syracuse) and over half from October in general–so buyer beware, but that’s not a reason to ram Murray into the PK (which was what Kleinendorst switched too)

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville 3, Binghamton 2 (OT); Belleville 1, Bridgeport 3

Another pair of games are in the books so here are my thoughts (incidentally, my PK piece is almost done–all the leg work is completed, I just need to wrap it up). They were games of contrast, as the BSens looked competent against the struggling Devils, but were outclassed by the speedy and aggressive Sound Tigers (wtf is a sound tiger anyway?).

Belleville 3, Binghamton 2 (OT)
Shots: 31-38
PP: 1-3
PK: 4-5
Scoring chances: 9
The Goals
1. Binghamton – low wrist shot from the point is tipped in
2. PP – Paul nice tip in front
3. Binghamton PP – rebound banged in (Blunden is too slow to get there for coverage)
4. Erkamps floats one in through a screen
Werek scored the only goal in the shootout (as the fourth shooter)

It was another solid effort from Danny Taylor, who seems to be back to his expected form (sitting out nine games either allowed him to get healthy or get his game in order–hey Randy Lee–move the guy while you can!). Sexton looked good in his return to the lineup, although we still saw too much Blunden and Randell remains dressed (always a failing). Sieloff’s return to the lineup also helped; ECHLer Corrin may not have played a shift in the game (by the time I started looking he wasn’t playing).

Notable plays: Sexton hit the crossbar (second); Taylor bails out Burgdoerfer (second); Rodewald misses the net on a 2-on-1 (nice pass by Chlapik; second–thus this Tweet); Gagne scores on a tip, but it’s waived off (goalie interference; second); Rodewald hurt via a crosscheck in front of the net (second; he would miss the next game); Sieloff misses the net in the slot (second); Taylor bails out Englund who got turned into a pylon (second); Chlapik misses the net from the high slot (third); Harpur passes to the wrong team (OT).

Belleville 1, Bridgeport 3
Shots: 25-27
PP: 1-2
PK: 5-5 (including a 4-on-3 and 5-on-3)
Scoring chances: 6
The Goals
1. Bridgeport – bang in a loose puck
2. Bridgeport – wrist shot from the slot
3. Bridgeport – cross crease pass banged in (Blunden just can’t keep up on the backcheck)
4. PP Chlapik bangs in a centering pass

Taylor was solid in net, but there was no need to play him in back-to-back games (what’s the point of having three other goaltenders if you aren’t going to play them?). Kleinendorst may be feeling the heat to get the team into the playoffs, but Taylor hasn’t shown any ability to win in this scenario so it smacks of desperation.

Bridgeport showed great speed and pressure, which was fun to watch (don’t let the close shot clock fool you, this game was not close). I will say the camera set-up for their arena is terrible–it’s so far back it made it really hard to see the jersey numbers; the Bridgeport play-by-play guy said what no one is saying in Belleville: the lack of discipline by team leaders is a huge problem (both Blunden and McCormick were guilty of taking selfish, stupid penalties). Once again I’m not sure how much or if Corrin played.

Almost no notable plays: Blunden erases a potential powerplay by taking a penalty on the delayed call (second); Gagne with a great deke through traffic that’s stymied by the goaltender; O’Brien misses the net on a 2-on-1 with Chlapik; McCormick takes a dumb penalty in the third (a pointless crosscheck off a faceoff).

Filip Chlapik’s return has been a blessing for the underperforming Nick Paul and the team’s powerplay, but the BSens are 1-4-1 and despite being in an awful division show no signs of the kind of run they’d need to make it to the playoffs (barring the hockey gods sending Thomas Chabot back).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville Senators: January Report

Training Camp

Another month is in the books in yet another failed season for the Sens AHL affiliate (the architect pictured above), so it’s time to take a look at who did well and who did not.

The team compiled a middling 5-6-1 record (better than December’s 3-8-1), anchored around a a three-game winning streak and trailing off with four straight losses. Their limp scoring from December carried on unabated (2.08 vs 2.16), although they did cut down their goals against (3.58 vs 4.33). The team fired a similar number of shots, but gave up even more than the previous month (-91 differential vs -74 in December), meaning the change in goals against is a reflection of goaltending rather than improved team defense. On special teams the powerplay improved slightly (15.7%), although it scored fewer goals (6 vs 8); the penalty kill continued to be terrible (74.5% vs 75%), despite giving up one less goal (13 vs 14).

The Roster

Ben Sexton and Patrick Sieloff missed the entire month with injury (Sieloff has been out since late December, while Sexton hasn’t played since November 4th). Thomas Chabot is gone forever playing out the string in Ottawa; Andrew Hammond missed all but one game this month on recall in Colorado. Filip Chlapik, Colin White, and Ben Harpur spent significant chunks of the month in Ottawa.

Cody Donaghey remains banished to the ECHL (32-2-3-5 for the season), despite a desperate need on defense. Vincent Dunn also seems to be gone permanently (14-7-1-8), with the more useful Daniel Ciampini (14-3-10-13) playing just one game in Belleville. Chris Driedger, who was given only one start this month, wasn’t sent to Brampton for playing time.

The Chris Kelly experiment recurred, as he signed a new PTO coming off winning the Spengler Cup. His second chance kept him in shape prior to his Olympic appearance, but he again failed to deliver. Kleinendorst, unlike the first round of Kelly, inexplicably put him on scoring lines most of the time (which was a disaster).

Stats (arranged by points-per-game; FA signings in blue, ELC’s in green)

Ben Harpur 5-0-4-4 0.80
Jim O’Brien 12-3-4-7 0.58
Max McCormick 12-2-5-7 0.58
Colin White 7-3-1-4 0.57
Jordan Murray 10-2-3-5 0.50
Christian Jaros 9-1-3-4 0.44
Gabriel Gagne 11-3-1-4 0.36
Jamie Doornbosch 3-0-1-1 0.33
Ethan Werek 10-1-2-3 0.30
Chris Kelly 7-0-2-2 0.28
Erik Burgdoerfer 11-2-1-3 0.27
Chris DiDomenico 11-0-3-3 0.27
Filip Chlapik 4-0-1-1 0.25
Mike Blunden 12-3-0-3 0.25
Andreas Englund 12-0-3-3 0.25
Max Reinhart 9-2-0-2 0.22
Kyle Flanagan 10-0-2-2 0.20
Nick Paul 12-2-0-2 0.16
Francis Perron 12-0-2-2 0.16
Jack Rodewald 12-0-2-2 0.16
Max Lajoie 7-0-1-1 0.14
Macoy Erkamps 10-0-1-1 0.10
Daniel Ciampini 1-0-0-0
Willie Corrin 3-0-0-0
Tyler Randell 4-0-0-0

Danny Taylor 3-1-1 .920 2.53
Andrew Hammond
1-0-0-0 .913 2.00
Marcus Hogberg 1-4-0 .880 4.32
Chris Driedger 0-1-0 .851 5.25

A few players are going through profound slumps:
Perron has no points in his last six and hasn’t scored in fifteen (admittedly with minimal PP time and mostly playing on the fourth line)
Rodewald has no points in his last eight and hasn’t scored in fourteen (this hasn’t impacted his ice time, although he has been yanked off the PP); since signing his ELC he’s tanked hard (27-2-2-4), echoing his hot/cold performance last season (when he was on an AHL-deal)
Paul, prior to scoring in the team’s last game, had gone ten games without a point and has just four since November 3rd (21-3-1-4)–definitely time for the team to move him elsewhere
Gagne went through a terrible streak (12-0-0-0) going back into late December, but has pulled out of it of late (5-3-1-4)

DiDomenico has also fallen off a cliff in terms of scoring, albeit he spent most of the month banished to the third or fourth line (because reasons). Werek, like DiDomenico, is producing less, but received limited ice time.

The primary positives are: Jaros, whose production and defensive play have improved; Harpur (offensively, albeit a small sample size); and White (offensively and defensively).

Special Teams

The raw numbers are above, but I’ll quickly go through usage vs effectiveness (minimum five games played, averaging a shift per game).

Forwards: Werek, DiDomenico, White, Gagne, Paul, and Blunden
Defense: Murray, Harpur, Lajoie, and Jaros
On-Ice for Goals Scored*
Forwards: White, DiDomenico, Werek, Paul, O’Brien, and Gagne
Defense: Harpur, Murray, Jaros, and Lajoie
* this has limitations in terms of value, but it’s an indicator on the extremes

The main takeaway from this is what a tank Blunden is on the PP (despite extensive usage) and how org darling McCormick continues to be a non-factor (he played less this month, but still saw regular action). Games played keeps Chlapik off this list, while who knows what Perron needs to do to get consistent chances here.

Penalty Kill
Forwards: McCormick, Kelly, White, and Blunden
Defense: Harpur, Burgdoerfer, Englund, and Jaros
On-Ice for Goals Against (fewest)
Forwards: White, O’Brien, Perron, and Kelly
Defense: Jaros, Harpur, and Englund/Burgdoerfer

Half the most successful forwards aren’t on the most frequent list, as McCormick and Blunden were burned the most on the PK; on the blueline Burgdoerfer is the torpedo for his partner–dragging Englund down with him. White’s improvement on the PK since the start of the season is startling (in the last two months he’s only been on the ice for just two–two!–goals against (through 19 games). Jaros has also improved tremendously, as he started off as one of the worst PK defenseman (statistically at least). Incidentally, since Jaros’ injury Kleinendorst has varied between using just one pair of blueliners for the entire PK or rotating with three.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)