Sunday, 27 November 2016

IceCaps 1, Providence Bruins 2

RDS game us a tape-delayed broadcast of the St-John's IceCaps game against the Providence Bruins, a 2-1 loss for the good guys.  RDS is getting set to be the official broadcaster of the Canadiens AHL team when they move to Laval, so they're doing the ground work this season like they did last year.  They'll have 9 more games to show in the regular season, and there's no word on any playoff coverage.  If we peer into our crystal ball based on tonight's results, that won't be something we need to worry about.

I slogged through the whole game, called by Stéphane Leroux with Norman Flynn as the analyst.  They're not in the best position to give a great product, since they're calling the game from a studio, they're not at the (half-empty) rink.  Tonight, they'd talk at cross-purposes a little, maybe not letting each other finish their thoughts, they'd start to counter the other's point before it was made.  Let's hope they find their groove during the season.

The game was also a little tough to watch because of the actual game too, though, not just the quality of the broadcast.  I posted at the start of the season that this was an underwhelming lineup, and while it was reinforced early with Mark Barberio, Stefan Matteau and Sven Andrighetto getting sent down among others, tonight it was effectively a one-line team.  A rusty Zach Redmond, playing his first game after breaking his foot during training camp, is no compensation for a Mark Barberio, recalled to Montréal.  And the thin roster looked like it could use callups Chris Terry and Charles Hudon.

The only forward line that menaced in the Bruins' zone was the Mike McCarron line, with Nikita Scherbak and Sven as his wingers.  It's not like they dominated, but whereas usually the play was confined to the St. John's end, when they were on the IceCaps would foray into the Bruins zone.  Late in the game, Stefan Matteau got a turn or two on that line.

All the other lines looked outmatched, and so did our defence pairings.  Jacob de la Rose did a couple of pro forma sorties against the net, but both times it was a little short of a nice effort, once firing the puck right at the goalie on a partial break, when you wished that he might have leaned into the defenceman, tried to protect the puck, and created something, a schmozzle at the net, a rebound, maybe draw a penalty.

On another chance, while killing a penalty and going on a two-on-one break with Max Friberg (Freebiiiiiird!), he made a nice pass that his linemate almost converted.  Trouble is the goalie gave up a big fat rebound that just sat in the crease for a full second, with the proverbial yawning cage unguarded, but Jacob had done the dreaded fly-by, he hadn't stopped at the net à la Gallagher, but rather had swooped behind and so wasn't in a position to just tap it in.

I'll give Jacob the benefit of the doubt on this one, and allow that he might have planned to do this, to keep his speed up and get back to his zone to defend against the Bruins powerplay, but it seemed to me, even as I guard against confirmation bias, that Jacob doesn't have much offensive instinct, or even the hunger to score goals.  It didn't seem like he had the killer instinct, but rather was going through the motions when he had the puck on his stick.

Late in the game, with Charlie Lindgren off for an extra attacker, with 30 seconds left in the game, Jacob did a good job scrumming along the boards after a muddled faceoff, and helping the IceCaps gain clean possession of the puck.  Unfortunately, as the team got set up to try to even the score, and as he stood off in the corner to the right of the net, the puck came to him, and he fired it back to the point, but missed his pass and it instead became a clearance of the Bruins' zone and drained the clock, effectively ending the game.

Earlier in the third, Sven didn't look great when Ryan Johnston, on a powerplay, made a shot/pass into the slot that didn't convert into a goal.  Sven was standing off to the left of the goal, ready for a one-timer, and after the puck didn't come to him, he banged his stick on the ice repeatedly, like P.K. once did to Brian Gionta in the playoffs, showing up his captain in a fit of pique.  Really not a good look for Sven to do that to a teammate.  Stéphane Leroux and Norman Flynn didn't miss it, and spoke about it quite a bit, mentioning that if we saw it, the coaches also surely did.

And the thing is, it's not as if Sven was wide-open with an empty net begging to be filled.  There was a defender nearby, the pass could easily have been intercepted, and the goalie could have easily shifted to make the save.  So it wasn't that frustrating to the viewer at home, I wondered why Sven was so demonstrative, whether there's a backstory with him and Ryan Johnston, or if he's not quite accepted his demotion to St. John's quite yet.  This really wasn't a good look for him.

One positive I thought was how Bobby Farnham and David Broll both got into scraps.  David Broll's was a staged fight, but I liked that he was there for that, that Brett Lernout or Mike McCarron didn't have to tangle with the Bruins' tough guy all night, as he tried to make a name for himself.  David Broll effectively neutralized him.

Bobby Farnham was the recipient of a questionable hit early in the first, when he was interfered with in the open ice, without the puck.  He went right back at the guy and took him to account himself.

There will come a day, and it will be none too soon, when pro hockey removes fighting from its game, when effective refereeing and enforcement policies will remove any need for enforcers.  Until that's the case, I'm confident that the IceCaps currently have enough muscle on the roster to push back against any opponent trying to use intimidation against them.

Aside from that, there's not much to note.  Stefan Matteau had a couple of flashes, but like most of his forward brethren, he was mostly invisible all night.  I'm making a conscious decision as I type this not to scurry to other websites, other pages to see what kind of reinforcements the Laval Rocket will receive next season.  Because this team misses Bud Holloway and Gabriel Dumont, for starters.

Speaking of which, Stéphane Leroux mentioned how Michaël Bournival had a goal and an assist for the Syracuse Crunch tonight.

A shoutout to Charlie Lindgren, without who the game would have been quickly out of reach.  He stopped 28 out of 30 shots.

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