Welcome to Week 14 of your Albany Devils Roundup. In this edition, we bid farewell to our New Jersey bound friends. Jacob Josefson, Adam Larsson, Stephen Gionta, and Bobby Butler have probably all played their last games of the year for Albany. I think all New Jersey fans hope the same to be true for Mattias Tedenby, but that remains to be seen. Anyway, another successful week (or weekend) of games for Albany. They defeated Springfield again, this time 4-1 on Saturday evening. Then on Sunday, they exacted some revenge on Binghamton with a 5-2 victory. Albany is now 13-11-1-6 with 33 points, sitting in 10th place in the conference. They have anywhere from 1 to 4 games in hand on all 9 teams in front of them in the standings. Both games over the weekend were pretty dominating and complete performances by Albany, and I have a lot of good things to say about the team in my recaps.But first, as always, to the ECHL.
Scott Wedgewood had a forgettable week. He appeared in Saturday night's game against Wheeling and didn't make it out of the first period. Wedgewood was pulled from the game after giving up 4 goals on 7 shots. He only lasted through 6:38 of the first period in his only appearance of the week.
Kelly Zajac was held off the scoresheet in Saturday night's 5-0 loss (as was the whole team) but Zajac was one of three Titans players with 4 shots on the game for the night. Zajac registered 2 shots on goal and no points in Friday night's 3-1 overtime loss at Wheeling.
Alexander Carrier played Saturday night also in the 5-0 loss at Wheeling, and registered one shot on goal and had a fight.
Maxime Clermont appeared on New Years Eve as Elmira won at Wheeling 3-2. Clermont stopped 43 of 45 shots, so seems like he was very sharp on that day. Elmira hosted Reading Friday night, and Clermont again started, and won 5-3. He stopped 31 of 34 on the night. Saturday night was Clermont's worst performance of the week by far. He was a 6-4 loser at Reading. He gave up 6 goals on 30 shots.
It seems Clermont has been starting all of the games for Elmira lately. I'm not sure if their former #1 keeper Marc Cheverie is injured, or if Clermont has just passed him on the depth chart. IIf I had to guess, it would be Cheverie is dinged up a little.
Harry Young had two fights in a 3-2 Kalamazoo win on New Year's Eve. In Friday's 2-0 loss, Young had just 2 shots on goal. On Saturday, he had a minor penalty and was a -1 for the game in a 7-3 win.
According to Bill Cain, Joe Whitney is close to returning, and could be back on the ice for next weekends games. As of now, he remains out of the lineup.
Cain also mentioned that Scott Parse is now out indefinitely after playing in two games last weekend. It seems like every time Parse gets on the ice for a game or two, he then ends up missing long stretches of time. The word from the Devils is "lower body", so not sure if it is related to Parse's prior history of hip problems, or if there is a new injury in play.
JS Berube is closer to returning. He remains out but has practiced with the team.
Dan Kelly is back on the ice.
Matt Corrente is out for the season.
According to TG, Adam Henrique will require 3-4 weeks of rehab for his thumb. So, he will not be available for the start of the NJ season. I think its probable he sees some ice time for Albany in the next week or two as part of a rehab assignment.
S 1/5 Albany 4 Springfield 1
Hoeffel-D Zajac- Sestito
Saturday afternoon, the Devils hosted the Springfield Falcons. Albany defeated Springfield 4-3 last week in Springfield, and the Devils were also triumphant in the rematch Saturday afternoon in Albany, 4-1. Just like in the first game, the Devils dominated the course of play. Springfield really had no answer for the Albany forecheck. The Devils continually pinned the Springfield team back deep in their zone and controlled possession.
As Bill Cain pointed out in his blog, the Devils third and fourth lines really excelled in this contest. The newly formed line of McKelvie - Gionta - Tedenby had the biggest impact on the game and the scoresheet. Tedenby had a goal and an assist in the game. Gionta had a goal, and McKelvie had 3 assists. The Hoeffel-Sestito-Zajac line contributed the third goal. The fourth Devils goal was an empty netter, and that one was scored by Bobby Butler.
So, Saturday afternoon's game was a very complete effort by the entire Devils team. The Defense was tight and did not give up much space. Kinkaid was sharp in the net.
All of the defenders played really well in this game. As Kowalsky pointed out in his post game comments, you can tell the system is becoming more second nature and the team is really rolling as a more cohesive unit lately with far less breakdowns and mistakes.
Alex Urbom broke up a 3-on-1 rush at one point. I remember Corbin McPherson using his long reach to get a stick on the puck late and break up a dangerous chance for Jonathan Audy-Marchessault
The Devils had were the better team right out of the gate. There weren't many shots or chances either way very early on, but McKelvie and Tedenby showed some early chemistry. Although some of their early connections were near misses, it was a sign of things to come.
Adam Larsson was chipping in on the rush at times. He only had one shot on goal but was a +2. His numbers look rather pedestrian, but he was active offensively and solid on the back end too.
Wiseman and Anderson had some good shifts in the offensive zone. Anderson was the only one of his linemates who had any shots on goal, but he put up 4, a lot of which were set up by Wiseman. They narrowly missed on a few chances.
The Devils scored first when McKelvie got the puck in deep to the corner to Tedenby. Teddy carried out to the circle and got it to Gionta in front for a backhand. 1-0 Devils 12 minutes into the first. Before the period would end, Springfield would even the score. With Hoeffel in the box for high sticking, Springfield was working on the power play. They didn't have many power plays in the game, but they were by far at their most dangerous in this game with the man advantage.
Bobby Butler nearly created a very nice shorthanded opportunity with a steal in the offensive zone. He put a move on the keeper Alan York, but could not get the puck into the net after looking like he beat York to the far post. Then, on the ensuing play, Butler lost an edge and fell down in his own zone. Springfield took advantage and moved the puck around. Although Butler regained his footing, it looked like he got caught chasing a little bit trying to recover, and Atkinson snuck in behind him to get a rebound and elevate a backhand past Kinkaid.
The second period would pretty much continue the trend of the Devils dominating possession. They wouldn't score again, however, until halfway through the period when McKelvie would find Tedenby in front cutting to the net. Teddy was denied on his first shot, but was able to sneak a rebound past Alan York. That would be the only goal of the second period, and the Devils would go into the break leading 2-1 and having a 20-15 advantage in shots.
In the third period, the Devils were able to break through and score just about 6 minutes in. Eric Gelinas skated in and fired a shot on net, which was blocked in front. Mike Hoeffel collected the puck, and had a clear path to pass right into the crease to a waiting Tim Sestito. Sestito deflected the puck right past York and into the back of the net. It was 3-1 Devils at this point, a score that would hold until the very waining seconds of the game.
In the last game against Springfield, the Devils took a 4-1 lead into the final two minutes of play, gave up two goals, and narrowly escaped with a 4-3 win. This time, they iced the game with an empty net goal, which, according to play-by-play man Josh Heller, was the first empty net goal for Albany since Vladimir Zharkov at Manchester, Saturday Feb 25, 2012 .
It was nice to see the Devils close out strong a game which they dominated throughout and keep on rolling and moving up in the standings. All in all, a great effort for the team.
Sat 1/6/12 Albany 5 Binghamton 2
Hoeffel-D. Zajac- Sestito
Keith Kinkaid got the nod again on Sunday, coming off a strong performance Saturday evening in a 4-1 victory. Kinkaid was not as good Sunday in a 5-2 victory, but he made the saves late in the game, and bounced back successfully after allowing two soft goals during the second period.
The Devils came out fast in this game and jumped all over Binghamton, just like the last encounter between these two teams on Dec 27th. In that game, the Devils outshot the B-Sens 37-17, but lost the game 3-2. Binghamton gives up the most shots per game in the league at 35.65, and the Devils again capitalized today by piling up the shots. In this one, the shot margin was also a somewhat ridiculous 41-25. The difference, however, being this time the Devils put 5 in the back of the net , breaking the game open in the third to win going away, 5-2.
So, there were definitely similarities in the two recent meetings between these clubs. If anything, I'd say the Senators were actually more involved in this game than the last one, despite the score. The Devils still outplayed them by a wide margin, but there were times in this game when Binghamton actually mounted a forecheck and created opportunities. Not the case in the last game.
The Devils got on the board first in this one. Eric Gelinas sniped a power play goal from the point after Mike Hoffman of Binghamton sat for an hook just over a minute into the game. Gelinas fired a fairly low shot which made its way through some traffic, and it sounded like it hit off the far post and in. I think a Gelinas power play goal is something a lot of people have been waiting for, and want to see more of. It's certainly something the Devils need to see more of if they are going to continue their success moving forward with a diminished roster.
The first period was just basically all Devils, and they were rewarded with a second goal at 15:11. On one of many good possessions by the Hoeffel-D.Zajac-Sestito line, they created a flurry in front of the net, and Sestito was able to shoot a puck, which I think deflected off the blade of a defender's stick and into the back of the net, making the score 2-0 Albany.
The first period would end with exactly that score, and the Devils forecheck, which has been really rolling of late, was completely confounding the Senators. Shots after one period were 13-3 Devils.
The second period had a little bit of a different flow to it, as well as a big shift in momentum. Things were rolling along over the first few minutes of the second period, when Jay Leach took a cross check in the back, which the ref missed. Leach retaliated with a cross check of his own, and of course, got caught. Then, not content to cut his losses, Leach doubled down and picked up an unsportsmanlike minor for chirping the ref on the way to the box. The Devils faced 4 minutes of 5-on-4 play. Wouldn't you know, they killed the first penalty, and the Binghamton power play broke through on the second.
Kinkaid got beat 5 hole from the left circle, on a shot he had a clear look at. It was probably a shot he would stop most of the time. This was a bit surprising, because up to this point, Kinkaid, who has played very well of late, made several great saves. He stopped a breakaway attempt on the first half of the 4 mintue penalty. For whatever reason, he was not up to the task on this one.
About 7 minutes into the second period, Bighamton was outshooting Albany 10-2. Soon, they would sneak another one past Kinkaid, and tie the game. An odd man rush led to a pretty harmless looking shot from the right circle, and Kinkaid got a piece of the puck, but let it slide through his legs and over the goal line, making it a 2-2 game. So, Binghamton tied the game, compiled 11 shots over the first 9 or so minutes of the second period, but were then content, for some reason, to sit back and only collect 1 shot for the remaining 11 minutes of the period.
The Devils got back on the attack and piled up the shots and chances over the rest of the second, just as they did in the first. At the point when the B-Sens tied the game, shots were tied 14-14. At the end of the second period, the Devils were leading in shots 31-15, but the score was still tied. Darcy Zajac missed a great scoring opportunity from right in front with about 45 seconds left. He had the puck and had to go up high, but he shot it over the goal. Second period ended 2-2.
In the third period, the Devils were back on the attack again. They were pretty much receiving good shifts from all their lines. Mattias Tedenby sat out the end of the second period with an apparent back injury, so the lines were a bit mixed up. Teddy was back on the ice for the third period, however, and he would make his presence felt, as he did on Friday night.
First, it was Adam Larsson's turn to make his mark in his farewell game in Albany. Harri Pesonen created a turnover in his own zone and started a rush up ice with Sestito and Darcy Zajac. After a couple of passes , the puck came back to Pesonen skating in towards the goal, and he was able to find Larsson trailing the play and drop the puck off. Larsson absolutely buried the wrister top shelf from just in front of the crease. Just over halfway into the third, the Devils reclaimed the lead 3-2.
It was another very strong game for the McKelvie-Gionta-Tedenby line. Chris McKelvie has really impressed given the chance to play with linemates that have some skill. This line would make its mark on the game 5 minutes later and give the Devils some breathing room. McKelvie added another assist in this game when he led a rush up ice and passed to Gionta. Gionta found Tedenby crashing the net, and got the puck to Teddy, who roofed a wrister from a slightly off balance position. It was a great setup and a great finish. This made the score 4-2 Devils, and they would finish things off just a minute later.
After not scoring an empty netter in nearly 12 months, the Devils got their second in two games Sunday afternoon. Steve Zalewski put the finishing touches on the game, making it 5-2. The final shot tally was 41-25 in favor of Albany.
All stats taken from theahl.com and echl.com
Some thoughts on Corbin McPherson:
I've been talking a little bit about the emergence of Corbin McPherson over the past few posts, but I wanted to expand on those thoughts today. He seems to still be taking steps forward and showing continual improvement in his game as the season goes on. He had another very good game on Sunday. McPherson's comfort level has gone up, and he is joining in on the play a little more effectively of late. In Sunday's game, he displayed a nice bit of skill and stick handling on one delayed penalty. He received the puck just inside the blue line, deked two players while carrying in towards the net, and got off a wrister which went high.
Now, McPherson is not going to be an offensive defenseman. But, he has become and should remain a staple of the Albany blue line. He's still going to be mostly a defensive defenseman, but he's an interesting player because he has size, reach, and solid skating ability, which allows him to join the play effectively at times. I think it's still a little unclear at this point what the Devils have in McPherson, but he's been a pleasant surprise no matter where his ceiling turns out to be.
We are at the point with McPherson where, at worst, it looks like the Devils have an everyday defenseman for Albany. He has now played in the last 24 or 26 games in a row, showing improvement throughout. Before the season started, I would have counted him as, at best, an AHL depth defenseman. After watching him improve over less than half a pro season, I don't want to rule out the possibility that he could, maybe, one day compete for a spot as an NHL depth defenseman in the future, if he continues to improve.
Now, I know this is probably a long shot at best But, he's adapted very well to the pro game. He's not going to be someone who shows up much on the scoresheet, but if you are watching any Albany games, he is a player to keep an eye on over the rest of the season.
Links and Photo Gallery
As always, please head over to Thoughts Inside the Box, to check out Tracey's Recaps and Photo Gallery, including a picture of Skeeter, a beautiful dog up for adoption, from Pucks and Paws night, on Saturday 1/5.
Just when the Albany team was playing some really good hockey, they will lose 4 -5 of their top players to the NHL team. This is bad news for the A-Devils. The redeeming factor is that a lot of other teams will lose a handful of their top players as well. I think the Albany depth will really be tested over the next few weeks, more so upfront than on the back line.
The departure of Larsson will hurt, but there are enough live bodies there to provide some sort of fill in with Burlon and Hrabarenka most likely splitting that time.
Now, up front is where it gets a little more tricky. Center depth will be an immediate issue for Albany. The top remaining center is Steve Zalewski, followed most probably by David Wohlberg. I would expect Tim Sestito to move back to center the third line, with Darcy Zajac staying as fourth line center.
Albany needs a big contribution out of Wohlberg right away. Wohlberg has been disappointing, and inconsistent at best so far this season. In fairness to him, he has not received regular playing time, which certainly makes it tougher to get in a groove. He will now have a chance to contribute on a nightly basis, and Albany needs him to produce.
Hopefully Joe Whitney is back this coming weekend, that will be a big boost to the depleted forward core, which stands to lose Josefson, Butler, Gionta for sure, and probably Tedenby, at least for the next several months. It's possible Albany could lose Pesonen at least temporarily as well. He could be given a tryout for a fourth line spot in NJ depending on how many players the Devils want to have in camp.
Mike Sislo and Phil DeSimone just became every day players, and I would expect Kelly Zajac to be recalled from Trenton. He has been productive so far for the Titans, but still slightly limited by that nagging groin injury.
Nothing changes in goal for Albany right now, or likely this season, barring an injury. Kinkaid has emerged as the clear number one over Frazee and is logging 2/3 of the starts.
So, what is your take on the Albany Devils right now? Are you happy with their play lately? I definitely am. Do you think they will survive the loss of their stars and continue to succeed? That I am not so sure about, but we will certainly find out.
Please let me know your thoughts on these and any other Albany Devils issues. Thanks, as always, for reading.