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Recapping the last week of activity for the Albany Devils. This installment includes a detailed discussion of their season opener against the Manchester Monarchs.
Welcome to Week 2 of your Albany Devils roundup. This was an exciting week, as the Devils played their season and home opener on Saturday evening against the Manchester Monarchs. In the days leading up to Saturday’s game, the Devils broke camp in Newark and headed to Albany in preparation for their home opener. There were other notable events occurring in the days leading up to Saturday. Unfortunately, there were several significant injuries. Also, the Devils forged agreements with Trenton and Elmira of the ECHL to assign players to both clubs. The Devils also handed out their letters for the 2012-2013 season, assigning a C and two A’s. We will discuss all of these goings-on and then proceed with a detailed recap and thoughts on Saturday’s game. Please follow along after the jump for all this good stuff and more.
Last week, the Albany Devils loaned Bryan Haczyk, Alexandre Carrier and Scott Wedgewood to Trenton of the ECHL. I don’t think any of these moves were surprising. Haczyk and Carrier were not expected to play in Albany, and Wedgewood is stuck behind Kinkaid and Frazee on the depth chart. Unfortunately, he may also be stuck behind Niko Hovinen, a Philadelphia Flyers prospect, on the Trenton depth chart. Trenton is actually a Flyers affiliate.
Wedgewood started the 2nd game of the season for Trenton on Saturday, which was a 6 -2 victory Here is a recap of the game, which does not mention Wedgewood’s name once.
Wedgewood stopped 31 of 33 shots in the victory, so a good start to the season for him. Hopefully Wedgewood will get his share of starts down there in Trenton and the goaltending situation will work out to a roughly 50 -50 split.
Brian Haczyk played in one of the two games for Trenton this past weekend. He had 1 SOG and did not score.
Eric Baier, who was in Albany on a tryout, is also playing for Trenton. Baier was not assigned to Trenton. He was released from his tryout contract and returned to Trenton, where he already had a contract in place.
Kory Nagy, who was in the Devils system until this season, is also with Trenton. He played in one game and did not score or have a shot on goal.
There were no assignments to Elmira yet.
The Albany Devils are dealing with a few injuries right now. The most serious injuries are to Eric Gelinas (broken jaw) and Kelly Zajac (sports hernia).
Four Devils players are also considered day to day right now. None of them played in Saturday’s game: Zalewksi (back spasms), Parse (lower body), Berube (upper body), Claremont (upper body). None of these four injuries are considered serious at this time.
I am not surprised by this decision. Leach is an AHL veteran and seems like a good leader who has a lot of experience to offer the younger players. Just like in the NHL, he doesn’t have to be the most talented guy on the team skill-wise to wear the C.
Some people may be surprised that Henrique was not named Captain. I don’t think the Devils wanted to make their Captain someone who would potentially be gone if the lockout ends. This is probably the same logic behind giving Sestito the other A. He is an AHL veteran by this point in his career, and he is going to be in Albany for the entire year regardless. I’m not sure if Sestito is an outspoken leader or how he conducts himself around the team, but we do know he provides tons of energy.
Game Recap and Thoughts
Albany opened their season at home Saturday night in front of just over 5000 fans. The game was close throughout, but Albany lost 2 -1 to the Manchester Monarchs, the AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings.
The Albany team site has a recap here with game highlights, and interviews with Kowalsky, Wiseman, and Adam Henrique.
Bill Cain has a recap of the game here on his H-E-doublehockeysticks blog.
Note: Now that the team is back in Albany, follow @bill_cain_ if you are interested in more Devils news and reports throughout the week.
Here are the Albany Devils line combinations:
Scratches: Young, McPherson, DeSimone, McKelvie, Corrente, Whitney, Zalewski, K. Zajac, Parse, Berube, and Gelinas.
As far as I am aware, Young through Whitney were healthy scratches, while the other five are injured.
The season opener was a somewhat lackluster 2-1 loss to the Manchester Monarchs. Since the Monarchs are the AHL version of the LA Kings, it was sort of a quasi Devils-Kings rematch. Unfortunately, the game actually shaped up to be reminiscent of some of those Devils losses in the Finals. The Devils were done in by faulty special teams and not nearly enough sustained offensive zone pressure or forecheck from the forwards. Still, the game was certainly not a total disaster by any means. I thought the defense played well overall. It didn’t feel like the Devils were completely run over at evens. They did lose a lot of puck battles along the walls and in the corners. They also didn't throw nearly enough shots on net towards a goaltender who was spitting out rebounds early on. Perhaps Manchester having one real game under their belt helped raise their compete level just a little bit above Albany. The Devils were outshot 27-23. I had scoring chances at 9-8 Manchester, so that was actually about even. The special teams is what really killed the Devils in this one. They were 0-4 on the power play, while Manchester was 2-3.
The game started out well enough for Albany. The Devils got on the board first on one of their better end to end plays of the game. Urbom was hit hard near the back boards. Wohlberg jumped into the play to help out and the Devils won the puck. They didn’t win nearly enough puck battles along the boards overall, but this one went in their favor. Urbom collected the puck and sent an outlet pass to Raman Hrabarenka, who carried through the neutral zone and just past the Monarchs' blue line. Hrabarenka ripped a shot on net, and Jones, the Manchester goaltender, gave up a juicy rebound that deflected right to Wiseman crashing the net. David Kolomatis, who was a busy man Saturday night, was in decent position on Wiseman, but he got caught looking at the play for just a split second and was handcuffed as the rebound flew past him and bounced directly to Wiseman. Chad was able to corral the rebound and fire it into the back of the net, giving Albany a 1-0 advantage.
The goal celebrations had barely ended when Harri Pesonen was sent off for hooking seconds later. Dan Kelly got victimized on a nifty inside move by Nikolay Prokhorkin. Prokhorkin flew past Pesonen, who had no choice but to attempt a hook, which didn’t really slow Prokhorkin down much. Prokhorkin had a wide open net, but he was unable to lift the puck, and Kinkaid made a very nice sprawling stick save on the play.
That save wouldn’t matter, as the Monarchs converted the power play with ease. They scored just 15 seconds into the man advantage. Both Kowalsky and Captian Jay Leach talked about the failures of the penalty kill, as Manchester scored twice with the man advantage. According to both Leach and Kowalsky, the Devils were too aggressive at times. Looking back at both Manchester goals, I have to agree.
On the first goal, Tim Sestito was perhaps a little over aggressive heading across ice on the kill. Josefson doesn’t cover for Sestito and Kolomatis was wide open to rip a shot from the high slot. Adam Larsson basically let Marc Andre Cliche take up a residency right in front of Kinkaid, who was totally screened and had no chance on the play.
The second shorthanded goal, which occurred just minutes later, was a result of similar over-agressiveness and lack of proper positioning. First, Matt Anderson can’t get off the ice for a change with Henrique, his partner on the kill, as the Devils are unable to clear the zone. Anderson and the defensemen were already on the ice for around a minute when Dan Kelly came up a little too high along the side boards, leaving a Monarch in behind him. In the ensuing scramble, Anderson quickly darted down low on the far side of the net in pursuit of a Monarch player as Urbom drifted to the front of the goal. This time, probably remembering his mistake of earlier, Josefson does rotate over to cover, but this leaves Kolomatis open in almost the same exact spot on the ice where he scored his first goal. Anderson is too gassed to recover and Kolomatis rips a blast glove side over Kinkaid’s shoulder.
These three first period goals would comprise all of the game’s scoring.
So the Devils offense just seemed a little anemic at even strength, and the chemistry was not there with all the lines on Saturday. I thought Pesonen looked decent with Henrique and Anderson, but they could definitely get better moving forward. There was one nice exchange I remember where Anderson slid a pass to Pesonen who one timed a shot from down low in the right circle, but it was saved by Jones. Henrique had an uneventful but not terrible game. He was held without a shot on goal, which is disappointing. I think many people expected him to rip through the AHL after breaking out with NJ last season, but this was not the case. There is an adjustment period for him, and all the NHLers, which Kowalsky addressed post game. The AHL game is a little more haphazard, with more running around and not as fundamentally sound positioning by some of the players. Also, there are no TV timeouts, and generally longer shifts. This might take a little getting used to since there are less breaks in the action.
In fact, out of the NHLers, I thought Larsson had the best game. He was generally solid on defense, didn’t make any glaring mistakes at evens or have any bad turnovers. Also, Larsson is just such a great skater and had a few nice rushes up ice where he drove the play forward. Next was probably Josefson. Josefson’s great speed was also noticable at times, and he had several nice rushes up ice and 4 shots on goal. This included a really nifty shorthanded opportunity where he used his speed through the neutral zone to create a little space. Still, both were victimized on the first Manchester goal, and Josefson was on the ice for both goals against.
There were a few good shifts from the Tedenby-Josefson-Butler line, but overall, like the rest of the forwards, they were pretty much held in check and need to create more sustained pressure. I didn’t think Tedenby or Butler had a great game overall. Butler did have 3 shots on goal. I remember one bad exchange on the power play between Butler and Tedenby which led to a Mancehster two-on-one break.
The third line of Wiseman-Wohlberg-Sislo, despite being on the ice for the only goal, was not very noticeable to me during this game. In fact, I thought they got pinned back a bit during this game. I was expecting a bit more out of Sislo and Wohlberg. Wiseman did have the goal, which was a result of him being in the right place at the right time more than anything. Still, good on him for driving the net and he reaped the benefits. Sislo was really a non-factor in my opinion. He had one shot from the outside, which was handled pretty easily by Jones. I don’t remember him doing much else. He needs to win more battles along the boards.
I’d like to see more offense out of Wohlberg, and I thought he had a pretty quiet game overall. He did contribute in the play leading to Wiseman’s goal. Wohlberg jumped into a 50-50 play and helped Urbom win the puck behind the net, leading to the breakout. Also, Wohlberg was the Devils best faceoff man on the evening. By my count, he was 6 for 9 on faceoffs.
The fourth line of Hoeffel-D.Zajac- Sestito was able to grind and produce some decent pressure at times. They also drew 2 of the 4 power plays. I thought Hoeffel had a solid game, including three shots on goal. Tim Sestito did what he does best and brought the energy!!!!!!!!1. Sestito delivered a couple of really big hits. This included one on Slava Voynov that led to the frustrated Voynov taking an dumb interference penalty just seconds after getting crumpled in the corner by Sestito. This entire exchange was also just seconds after Voynov got out of the box for a high stick. The Devils were unable to capitalize on either of the power plays, and struggled at times to even get set up in the zone. Basically, they spent the majority of the four minutes fishing the puck out of their own end. Darcy Zajac was decent on faceoffs, and had one great chance on a Hoeffel rebound in front, but he put it wide of the net. This actually happened with just seconds left on the second of the 2 almost consecutive power plays.
A few other thoughts on the game:
I thought Keith Kinkaid played very well on Saturday night. He stopped 25 – 27 shots giving up only the two power play goals. The first, he was completely screened and had no chance. On the second, he was beaten high glove, so he may want that one back, but it was a rip from Kolomatis, who was completely wide open. Other than that, Kinkaid stood tall. I thought he made many nice saves, and his puck control was very strong. I don’t remember him giving up any bad rebounds, or many rebounds at all for that matter. I liked what I saw from Kinkaid in this game. Hopefully this is the start of a really strong season for Keith.
Raman Hrabarenka jumped over Burlon on the depth chart for now, and looked good in doing so. Urbom and Hrabarenka, playing together on the Devils second defense pairing each looked strong. Hrabarenka was definitely the more noticeable of the two, but Urbom was steady and solid. Early on, Urbom had a shot from the slot deflect off the outside of the post. Hrabarenka laid a couple big hits early, and looked confident and capable carrying the puck out of his own zone and jumping into the play in the offensive end.
Hrabarenka was a major part of the Devils lone goal, and also got some power play time. He had one bad turnover late in the game, but recovered defensively to stop the breakaway. Hrabarenka was one of the pleasant surprises for Albany on Saturday. After watching Hrabarenka play on Saturday, I am somewhat amazed he was in camp on a tryout. His numbers in Juniors were not spectacular, but he did finish up strong last season after moving to Drummondville in the QMJHL. The kid is big, he can skate, and he can contribute on offense. He could turn out to be a nice find as a two way defenseman.
Great start for Harri Pesonen, who also looked very good. Pesonen, who has decent size, is a really good skater. He showed some good hands and vision too. He could be another nice find for the Devils. He had a pretty horrid turnover in his own zone early on, but it didn’t lead to anything. Other than that, he looked really good playing alongside Henrique on the top line, and was one of the more active and noticeable Albany forwards. He also drew a power play. Pesonen created probably the best scoring chance of the night for either team during the second period when he threaded a pass across the front of the net to a streaking Burlon. The keeper was clearly beaten by Pesonen’s pass, but Burlon unfortunately slammed the puck wide left of an empty net. Pesonen is a decent size guy who has good hands and skates very well.
Dan Kelly fought Clune of Manchester in the second period and got mauled. Kelly couldn’t really get his right arm free for the majority of the fight and couldn’t throw any punches as a result. Not Kelly’s best showing as a pugilist. I found it slightly ironic that Kowalsky specifically moved Harry Young to wing so that the team wouldn’t have to play down a defenseman when killing off fighting majors. Then, Young is scratched, and Kelly ends up logging the only fight of the game.
At one point, a tripping call on Jay Leach and a concurrent diving call on Clune seemingly happened. This is always a head scratcher, as how can it be both a trip and a dive at the same time? After looking back on the play, I think the trip was called much earlier than the dive. The referee had his hand up indicating a penalty well before the end of the play when the exchange happened between Leach and Clune. After the whistle, Leach shoved Clune, who noticeably almost jumped and crumpled into the boards. I think Leach must have tripped someone out of view of the camera earlier in the play. A penalty was already coming to the Devils. If coincidental minors occurred at the end of the play, that would make two penalties for the Devils, which was not the case. So, much to everyone’s relief, upon further review there actually was not the dreaded "concurrent trip – dive" penalty sequence.
I attempted to count faceoff wins and losses for all of the Devils, as I don’t think the AHL tracks this stat. I ran into one problem - the feed of the game is generally the jumbotron from the arena. Sometimes it doesn’t cut back to the play until after the faceoff happens. I did my best to use the positioning of the players and who had the puck immediately afterwards to figure out most results, but others were not possible. So, this can’t be taken as an exact total, more a rough idea of how everyone did on the faceoff.
This was the first time I have ever tracked scoring chances in a game. As anyone who has done it before will tell you, while it is not hard, it is certainly not as easy as it might look. As I mentioned above, the total I came up with was 9 – 8 Manchester, which is pretty even.
Here are the stats for everyone who played in Saturday’s game, taken from theAHL.com.
The Albany Devils play two games this week. Friday night they host the Syracuse Crunch. Saturday, they are at the Worcester Sharks. Due to an affiliation switch, the players who make up the Crunch this year were last year’s Norfolk Admirals. The Norfolk Admirals won the Calder Cup last season, so this should be a tough test for Albany.
Syracuse is (now) an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning. They have one win and a shootout loss so far in two games this season.
The Worcester Sharks are an affiliate of the San Jose Sharks (surprise!). They have a loss and a shootout loss in two games this season. This game on Saturday will be their home opener. Worcester finished last in their division in 2011-2012, as was Albany. They finished with 74 points to Albany’s 73.
So, I know at least a few of you watched the game on Saturday. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the players and the team in general. Were there any players or noteworthy plays you would like to discuss? Are you surprised Adam Henrique was held scoreless and shotless in his first game? What do you think of the new players Hrabarenka and Pesonen? Who did you think were the Devils best players on Saturday? Who did you think were the worst players?
Thanks for reading and please leave your answers to these questions, and any other comments or questions relating to the Albany Devils below.