Albany Devils Roundup: Week 6
Welcome to Week 6 of your Albany Devils Roundup. This weekend, the Devils looked to turn things around, because they entered Friday night's game as losers of their last 4 (2 by shootout). Goals have been very hard to come by for this Devils team. They scored a grand total of once over the previous three games. This weekend they totaled three goals over two games. While I wouldn't call this an explosion of offense, it was just enough to allow them to gather one win and a shootout loss. We'll talk about those in more detail.
Albany will cap off the weekend with a game today, Monday afternoon. They host Connecticut for a special 2 PM Veterans Day Matinee. I think the radio broadcast should be available for free at the AHL Live site. Anyone who doesn't have work, or is looking for something to do at work, should definitely tune in to the broadcast and also chat about the game with me on twitter.
In other Devils news. there were some changes on the injury front. Alex Urbom returned to the lineup, while Scott Wedgewood left Friday's game with an injury. Maxime Clermont was also in action twice for Elmira last week. We'll talk about him and the other ECHL players first.
Both affiliates that have players on loan from the Devils, the Trenton Thunder and the Elmira Jackals, were winless last week.
In Trenton, Scott Wedgewood suffered a head injury in Friday night's game. Matt Bernot, who covers the Titans, reported that Wedgewood was run over during the second period and hit the back of his head on the crossbar . Although Wedge stayed in the game, he did not return for the third period and did not dress for the remainder of the weekend. The initial word from Titans staff is he will be out at least a week. Whether or not he can return as soon as Friday or Saturday remains to be seen.
Next weekend, Trenton will be visiting Elmira for two games. A potential head to head matchup between Wedgewood and Clermont, unfortunately, now seems unlikely. We certainly wish Scott a speedy recovery. If he cannot return in time for this weekend, hopefully he won't be out of the lineup for much longer.
Brian Haczyk had a pretty good weekend for Trenton. He scored a goal Friday night, and added a shootout goal as the fourth shooter in Sunday's contest. He also had 5 SOG in Sunday's game. Haczyk seems to be doing pretty well so far for Trenton. He has been a regular in their lineup.
Maxime Clermont did not have a great week on paper. He appeared in two games. Wednesday, he relieved Marc Cheverie after only 12 minutes. Cheverie had given up 3 goals on just 11 shots. Unfortunately, Claremont didn't fare much better. He surrendered 3 goals as well on 23 shots and took the loss in a 6-3 defeat. Saturday night, Clermont entered the third period with a 2-0 lead but ended up a 5-3 loser, as Orlando scored 4 goals in 41 shots on Claremont (plus an empty netter). I really don't know anything about these goals or the play that went on in front of Claremont leading to said goals.
Alexander Urbom returned to the lineup Friday night after sitting out the last five games with an upper body injury. It seems, based on comments Kowalsky made during an in-game interview Saturday night, that Urbom's injury was a head injury and a result of the sucker punch in the Worcester game.
Mattias Tedenby sat out both Friday and Saturday night's games with the flu.
Tracey Lake mentioned in her Albany Devils blog, Thoughts Inside the Box, that Eric Gelinas is back in Albany. Although he still may be a little ways from returning to the lineup, its good that he is no longer in Newark and back with the team. Progress.
Kelly Zajac and JS Berube remain out indefinitely.
Friday 11/9 Albany 1 Providence 2 (SO)
Here is the official recap from the Albany Devils team site
Friday's game was probably not the greatest effort overall by the Devils, but still seemed to be an improvement over last weekend's 4-0 drubbing by Adirondack. I say "probably" because I was unable to watch the game. The video feed out of Providence was horrendous and unwatchable, which is apparently the norm for them.
So, I was stuck listening to the radio broadcast, which, although an enjoyable listen, made it virtually impossible for me to give my usual analysis of the game.
According to Bill Cain, the lines, at least to start the game, were most likely
Not sure about the defense pairings for this one. Kinkaid was in goal.
Keith Kinkaid had a very strong game, turning away 37 of 38 Providence shots. The Devils were outshot in this game 38-27. They did manage to score first however, as Adam Henrique redirected a Joe Whitney shot for a 1-0 lead almost 15 minutes into the first period. This 1-0 lead held up through to the mid second, when the Devils surrendered a power play goal to Chris Bourque. The penalty kill was good overall, going 6/7 on the evening.
The Devils found themselves shorthanded for two minutes during overtime, and they got worked over during that stretch and overtime in general. Providence outshot the Devils 7-1 during the five extra minutes. Kinkaid made all the saves to keep the game tied, so this one was decided in a shootout.
Matt Anderson scored for the Devils on the second opportunity. No other Devils would be able to score. Chris Bourque scored third for Providence, and then their last shooter, Jamie Tardif, scored the clincher, as the shootout went 2-1 in favor of Providence. The Devils shooters, in order, were Butler, Anderson, Whitney, Josefson, Henrique.
I got the impression that Friday night's lineup and new lines didn't mesh exactly as well as the Devils would have hoped, but there were certainly some positives. Joe Whitney has been a good addition to the Henrique line. I'll have more of that in my discussion of Saturday's game.
Mike Hoeffel had a quiet game Friday and then did not appear in Saturday's game. Also playing Friday and sitting Saturday were Harri Pesonen, Mike Sislo, and Brandon Burlon. I had a feeling Burlon would sit Saturday when Corrente returned from his one game suspension.
Another loss for Kinkaid. No shame, however, in turning aside 37 of 38 shots. Kinkaid has played better than his statline has shown the prior few games leading up to Friday. In general, he has been good when the team in front of him has not. Still, encouraging that he faced so many shots and kept the Devils in the game, earning them a point in a game they probably deserved to lose.
Saturday 11/10 Albany 2 Adirondack 1
Here is the official Devils recap.
Here are some good blogs by Bill Cain about the game Saturday night.
Here are the game highlights.
Rick Kowalsky has been searching for toughness in the Albany lineup. Not necessarily just a bunch of fists, or guys that will be running around, but he wants a team on the ice that is tough for the opposition to play against. A team that will fight hard in the dirty areas for every loose puck, go hard to the net, and play strong in front of their own. Saturday night's version of the Albany Devils took the first step towards being that team. It was a hard fought and well deserved win for Albany over a bitter rival. No, the goal scoring drought is not over, as they had to eke out a 2-1 victory. But, it was a very chippy game with a lot of hard hits on both sides. It took a mentally and physically tough team to win this game.
Saturday's lineup was different once again. You can see the lines listed above are very different than anything we have seen yet this season. In fact, Kowalsky made a switch to these lines very early in the first period. He started the game with Sestito-Zalewski-D Zajac, but shortly after switched things up.
The Devils were active early on and drew a power play just minutes into the game. Unfortunately, the most action this power play created was for Adirondack. It's no secret the Devils power play has struggled, and this continued on Saturday. During the first man advantage, Urbom had an awful turnover where he mishandled the puck and then lost his footing, allowing Zolnierczyk a breakaway. Frazee made a huge save to keep the game scoreless.
Besides this one breakaway, the Devils had the better scoring chances through most of the first period. They were the better, hungrier team. Wiseman, Henrique, Sestito, and Anderson all had good opportunities, as the Devils outshot Adirondack 14-10 in the first while outchancing the Phantoms 5-3. The ice tilted a little bit back in Adirondack's direction in the latter minutes of the first to even out the numbers a little bit. Zolnierczyk had another great opportunity very late in the period on a 2-on-1 break, but Frazee turned him away again.
The second period brought more special teams play. Good penalty kills but failures on the power play by Albany. I guess the same could be said for Adirondack. The Phantoms had two early power plays in the second, but only produced one scoring chance. Albany's shortcomings on the power play could have went from merely unsuccessful to outright disastrous. Two shorthanded breakaways could have easily brought goals for Adirondack, but Frazee turned aside both chances in somewhat spectacular fashion.
The first play occurred during the waning seconds of a Devils 5-on-3, and it was the result of a Larsson blocked shot from the point. Larsson seems to have some difficulty at times getting his shot through traffic, and this one nearly proved very costly. Adirondack was able to outlet the puck to Brandon Manning, fresh out of the box, for a breakaway. Frazee stayed with him and turned aside the shot. The second play was more of a two-on-one break just as the second Adirondack penalty was set to expire. This time, Frazee turned aside Harry Zolnierczyk yet again.
Not too long after the aforementioned sequence, the Devils would get on the board. Matt Corrente made a beautiful outlet pass to Joe Whitney who skated into the Adirondack zone. Whitney was able to slip a pass through to Butler who joined the rush up top. Butler took Whitney's pass and fired a shot past Munroe for his first goal of the season. You could see the excitement and also feel the relief in Butler's celebration, as he pounded on the glass behind the goal.
The Albany lead was somewhat short lived, as Adirondack would tie the score before the second period ended. The sequence began with Adirondack pressuring in the Devils zone. Then it appeared Scott Parse left the puck for Larsson behind the net, but Parse put him in a bad spot among several attacking Phantoms. Larsson was unable to win the puck, and the Phantoms were able to work it around to Wellwood down low in front with some space. Frazee left a little daylight near post, and Wellwood snapped a shot that beat Frazee short side.
There was some traffic in front on the play, and Frazee got knocked back into the goal. It was deemed by the referee that the contact occurred after the goal, which appeared to me to be the right call. The Devils were irate about the play, and continued arguing afterwards, but I thought Dan Kelly actually initiated the contact in front.
The Devils were so irate about the non-call that Tim Sestito chirped and chirped until he was given an unsportsmanlike conduct 2 + 10 penalty just seconds after play resumed. About 30 seconds into the kill, the Devils took a too many men on the ice penalty. At this point I was definitely concerned that emotions were getting the best of them in what had been a tough, physical and somewhat chippy game. The Devils penalty kill came up huge once again, killing off 1:30 of 5-on-3 action. The second period ended with Adirondack outshooting the Devils 8-6 and outchancing them 4 -2.
In the early seconds of the third period, the Devils would complete the kill of the too many men penalty and set the game back to even strength. Just a couple of minutes later, however, the Phantoms would have their best chance of the period on a play that completely changed the tide of the game.
The Phantoms broke into the zone on an odd man rush, and a quick pass found McGinn for a one time tap into what appeared to be an open net. Frazee, however, had other ideas. He stayed with the play and slid across the crease for a beautiful pad save. The Devils corralled the loose puck, and Wiseman skated up ice with Anderson and Josefson on a 3-on-1 break. Wiseman dished to Josefson in front who dropped a quick pass to Anderson down low. Munroe only left Anderson maybe about 4 inches of daylight top shelf short-side, and Anderson sniped it. Instead of being 2-1 Phantoms, it was 2-1 Devils just seconds later.
The Devils would never really give back this momentum for the rest of the game. Over the next 7 -8 minutes, the Devils would keep the pressure on, with scoring chances from Wohlberg, Darcy Zajac, Henrique, and Zalewski. Munroe turned them all aside to keep Adirondack in the game. Adirondack had a few more chances, but didn't really threaten Frazee again to the same degree. Shots in the third were 11-5 Albany, and they were playing with a lead for about 17 minutes of the period. Shots ended 31-23 Albany for the game. Scoring chances were 6-4 Albany in the third, and the game total was 13-11 in favor of Albany. The Devils played tough and were rewarded with a hard fought and deserved victory.
Despite not really ending the scoring drought, there was a lot of positive in this game for Albany. They were difficult to play against. They fought hard, went to dirty areas of the ice and you could tell they were hungry.
Joe Whitney was a great addition to the Henrique line, which was very good on Saturday. Good to see Bobby Butler finally get on the board this game. Henrique was tough on Saturday. He didn't score, but he played a tough, physical game, and killed penalties like a boss. Joe Whitney, who wears #9 for Albany, seems like a good linemate for Henrique. Whitney may be small, but he is tough, fearless, and seems like a really tough player to play against because he never quits. Whitney, who wears #9, has a style of play somewhat similar to New Jersey's former #9. Obviously I'm not talking skill level, but Whitney makes things happen with his tenacity and work ethic, making him a good player to have on the left of Henrique. I think we will see him in the lineup more frequently moving forward.
The Josefson line owned at times this game. Jacob only had one shot on goal, but he was all over the place. Matt Anderson had 7 shots on goal, which is a pretty awesome total. Tim Sestito played on the left side of this line most of the night, and they had some good shifts, for sure. The second goal did come with Wiseman on the left, as Sestito was out serving his 12 minutes worth of unsportsmanlike penalties at the time.
Sestito probably should have shown a little more restraint there, but at least it didn't come back to hurt the Devils. I think the team in general was a little upset at themselves for not clearing the traffic in front on the tying goal. Protecting the goalie was one of Kowalsky's main themes in being a generally tougher team. Largely, they accomplished that goal. Like I said, I saw it as Kelly initiating the contact in front. He was trying to clear the Phantom player and ended up knocking him right into Frazee. Kinkaid got run into several times last weekend in Adirondack, so no one on the Devils was happy to see Frazee lying on his back in the goal with the puck behind him.
Steve Zalewski had one of his better games of the season. Zalewski was really strong at the faceoff dot , and like Matt Anderson, he also put 7 shots on goal. He was on the ice for the goal against, so his plus minus is still headed in the wrong direction. But, good game for Zalewski overall.
Chris McKelvie played in his first game of the season. He wasn't that much of a factor, in my opinion. The whole line of McKelvie-Wohlberg-Zajac was probably the least effective Devils line of the night. I think Tedenby will be back soon, probably knocking McKelvie out of the lineup.
Rejoice, for Jay Leach and Adam Larsson are partners no more. I have a feeling the two were split Friday as well, but I can't be sure as Josh Heller never gave the defense pairings on the radio broadcast. Leach paired with McPherson on Saturday night Larsson with Kelly. Rick Kowalsky really seems to value toughness and size on defense, and Kelly brings both. Kelly has become an everyday player on the Albany blue line. I think McPherson is seeing regular ice time for the same reasons.
This is also probably why we have not seen much of Raman Hrabarenka lately. Although Hrabarenka is a pretty big guy with some offensive upside, he is not that tough or physical in his own zone. We'll see what the rotation looks like moving forward, but for now it seems like Burlon is the 7th defenseman with Hrabarenka behind him on the depth chart.
The other pairing was Corrente - Urbom. Corrente was outstanding in this game after returning from a one-game suspension served Friday night. Corrente absolutely crushed several Phantoms this game. Besides huge hits and steady defense, he had a great outlet pass on the Devils first goal. Urbom was pretty steady, considering it was his second game back. He had that one mishandle early on that could have been costly if Frazee wasn't stopping all breakaways.
Speaking of Frazee, he was nothing short of excellent Saturday night. Goaltending has been the least of the Devils concerns so far, and hopefully that remains the case. Frazee now has a sub 1.50 GAA on the season. Toss up who we see Monday. Either Frazee or Kinkaid is worthy of the extra start. I'm guessing its back to Kinkaid.
I mentioned last week the Devils power play was 2-35. Well, it is now 2 - 47, good for a 4.3 % success rate and 30th / 30 in the league. This is a failure well beyond even Oatesean proportions, and something has to be done. They don't have any sustained pressure. Usually, they can't possess the puck in dangerous areas for long enough to threaten or often times can't even enter the zone cleanly. Surely getting Gelinas back in the lineup soon will help. How much, I don't know.
All stats taken from theahl.com and echl.com
So this concludes our wrap up of last week's Albany action. Were you happy with the way Albany played this past weekend? What can they do to get the power play going? Will Joe Whitney be a regular part of the lineup moving forward? Will the Devils finally solve their goal scoring problems? How do you feel about Larsson no longer being paired with Leach? Please chime in with your answers to these questions. Also please leave any other comments or questions relating to the Albany Devils in the comments section below. As always, thanks for reading.