Our beloved Eagles consolidated the move to the AHL when they dropped the puck on Friday night vs the Chicago Wolves and became part of league history. They grabbed a point by forcing OT in game 1 but fell 5-1 in the rematch.
CHI 3 – COL 2 (OT)
Goals: Greer (Kaut, Lindholm), Shvyrev (Warsofsky, Alt)
PP 0-6, PK 4-5
Both teams were out of sync for the early part of the game due to the refs wanting to insert themselves into the narrative. This generally leads to bad hockey and frustration on both sides and it did in this case. AJ Greer scored the first AHL goal in Eagles history on a wonderful rush chance with Chicago players hooking and holding him all the way to the net. Igor Shvyrev tipped in a Warsofsky point shot late to send it to OT. The overtime was quick, the Wolves got the puck and basically waited until the Eagles trio (Beaudin, Lewis & Warsofsky) were gassed and went for the kill shot.
CHI 5 – COL 1
Goal: Meloche (Agozzino, Kamenev)
PP 0-7, PK 9-9
This game went in the stinker file right off the bat with two defensive breakdowns 10 seconds apart to start the night. Nic Meloche scored the lone goal 12 minutes in to make it 3-1 with a nice shot from the slot but then Sergei Boikov was thrown out of the game 27 seconds later on an overreaction to a routine charging foul. The rest of the game was low-event and the Eagles gave up another pair on odd-man rushes due to pressing.
Breaking Down: Week One
Coach Cronin is still getting to know the players and the Avs dropped Kamenev, Warsofsky and Lindholm in his lap the day before the game so it’s no surprise the lineup was a little screwy. None of the D pairs had been together much before puck drop so it’s no surprise they had zero chemistry.
Joly, Barron, Meloche and Geertsen played in only one of the two games. Dickinson, Nantel, Downing, Ottenbreit, De Jong and Francouz were not dressed for either.
The two constant lines were Greer/Toninato/Kaut and Lewis/Beaudin/Kosmachuk. I liked both of these and they should have long-term potential. Kamenev was with O’Connor both games, first with Joly then with Agozzino. Shvyrev had to drag around Cody Bass both nights and had Aggz then Travis Barron on the other side.
Kamenev is gone for the time being so a center spot opens up, hopefully for Igor Shvyrev to get some time with more skilled players. I’d like to see Dickinson centering the 4th, it’s idiotic to have him sitting anyway.
Initial take is that they have a couple of solid lines already and figuring out the rest will be an important part of whether they are a 2-goal per game team that loses a lot of games or a 3-goal per game team that is competitive.
The defense was a big problem all weekend with everyone looking like it was pre-season and they’d never even met their partner before. Nic Meloche was scratched for game 1, probably because he was the youngest guy, which was a huge mistake. The whole corps struggled to move the puck, Meloche and Boikov were the best when they were in, which thanks to the scratch and Boikov’s misconduct wasn’t much.
Warsofsky looked like he had missed all of training camp and pre-season and got dropped right into opening night, which is exactly what happened. Ryan Graves and Mark Alt were a staple together all through pre-season, and did well together, but got separated for some reason. Graves was stuck with Lindholm so instead of an experienced 2-way D for a partner he had a blocked shot looking for a place to happen and it made both look awful.
By the end of game 1 Boikov had the confidence of the staff and Meloche earned the same in game 2., If the D has any hope of moving the puck forward these 2 will be part of it. Mark Alt is a smart and experienced defenseman but he has very limited offensive skills and should not be regularly leading a power play unit.
Spencer Martin got both starts, which was a bit of a surprise. Pavel Francouz was supposed to be the Eagles #1 but he was absent with a rumored injury. No guidance or acknowledgement from the team on that.
Marty played well in both games. Obviously letting in 5 goals in Saturday’s game looks off but 4 were on total defensive breakdowns and he himself made a puckhandling error that led to the other. Hard to say how much difference Francouz would have made but I don’t think it would have changed the results.
Joe Cannata was assigned to Utah on Wednesday so all signs point to Francouz being ready to make his North American Pro debut.
The power play was 0-13 on the weekend, a little misleading since there were a bunch of overlapping calls and some quick PP’s. Safe to say 0 for anything means no success and that’s fair. Once again you can see where Coach Cronin is learning each player’s tendencies and strengths and there was some evidence of adjustments.
The top unit was Warsofsky, Greer, Kamenev and two others rotating in. Martin Kaut moved up from PP2 to this unit for game 2. The second unit was Mark Alt, Lewis and Kosmachuk and some rotations. Beaudin moved in by the end of game one and Logan O’Connor was demoted from the first unit and ended up here.
The PK was effective and only gave up a 3v5 goal so that’s a strength perhaps. Most players got a chance on the PK over the course of all 14 incidents. I will say it was great to see AJ Greer out there a bunch which is something he’s needed in his arsenal to make the jump to the NHL.
This group has already shown some very troubling signs that they will not be able to generate much offense and the simple style they showed is easy to counter in back to back games. Both of these are chronic hallmarks of the Avs AHL affiliates over the past decade+. The upside here is that it’s early and there is talent available to improve their performance.
My narrative about Coach Cronin’s approach so far is that the Avs wanted a fresh set of eyes on not only the players in the system but the system itself. He showed up with no preconceptions and is building his own scouting reports on the Eagles players as we go along. This probably means a lot of trying stuff out in the early season and there will be things that don’t work. I’ve already seen personnel adjustments made in-game and between games that are promising. It’s going to take some time to see how the staff make strategic and tactical adjustments and that’s an ongoing process that we won’t be able to truly evaluate until the end of the season.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Avs AHL affiliates have struggled for a long time and lived in the Pacific cellar all 3 years they’ve been in the division. It’s going to take some incremental gains just to be a competitive team and projecting things like a playoff berth this year is asking a lot. Finishing 6th would be an improvement. That’s probably not what Eagles fans want to hear coming off of back-to-back championships but they’re good fans in it for the long haul.
A trip to San Antonio of all places to play our former affiliate twice this weekend.