The beloved Eagles returned from a successful road trip and picked up their first home wins as an AHL team over the Ontario Reign this weekend. Friday was a gnarly blowout and Saturday took some late resiliency but in all honesty they dominated both.
We’ve seen our AHL teams come out of the gate hot before (and then falter) but this feels different. This isn’t coming from vets playing over their heads or an unsustainable power play masking some big underlying flaws. As we’ve gone through the first 3 weekends the staff have gradually let the guys open up play more and the results speak for themselves. This team is driven by youth, skill and speed and they don’t appear to be near their ceiling at all.
– Sheldon Dries was re-assigned on Friday and popped into the lineup on Saturday night. He’s probably here for a while now.
– Turner Ottenbreit was once again assigned to the Grizzlies for the weekend and returned after their two games vs the Steelheads
– Cody Bass has been skating with the team in a non-contact jersey, no word on his status
– Sergei Boikov injured or perhaps re-injured his shoulder in week one and has been MIA since.
– Dominic Toninato was injured from one of the many cheap shots the Reign took late in game one and didn’t dress Saturday.
– Josh Dickinson made his Eagles debut in game two. De Jong and Ottenbreit are the lone players on the roster not to suit up so far this year.
COL 6 – ONT 2
Goals: O’Connor (Greer, Geertsen), Beaudin (Geertsen), Agozzino (Geertsen), Joly (O’Connor, Warsofsky), Beaudin (Greer, Kosmachuk), Greer (Kosmachuk, Downing)
PP 2/5, PK 6/6
The Eagles scored 4 in the first and all 6 in the first 32 minutes of the game then cruised. The Reigns gooned it up, with a vile kneeing penalty by Boko Imama on Shvyrev and a fake fight that Mason wanted no part of later where he somehow got thrown out of the game despite keeping his gloves on. He had assists on the first 3 goals so he was laughing anyway.
COL 5 – ONT 3
Goals: Beaudin (Lewis, Alt), Lewis (Meloche, Beaudin), Kaut (Dickinson, Greer), Kosmachuk (Greer), Kosmachuk (Greer, Beaudin)
PP 1/5, PK 2/2
Ontario goalie Cal Peterson, who came in relief of Peter Budaj in Friday’s game, started and kept things close until late. The Eagles held a 2-0 lead going into the 3rd then a couple defensive lapses by Anton Lindholm allowed Ontario to tie it. Seconds later some great work on the boards by Greer and Dickinson sprung Martin Kaut 1v1 into the zone and he pegged one upper left from above the circles. Stunning. First NA pro goal for Kaut and probably a big load off his shoulders. Ty Lewis also got his first pro goal on a dirty wrister off a defenseman and in. Josh Dickinson got his first assist of the season on the Kaut goal after setting up 2 with the Rampage last year.
Breaking Down: Week 3
After a slow start in week one the Eagles now have 9 points in 6 games, good for t2 in the Pacific, t4 in the WC and t8 in the AHL. The caveat here is that both San Antonio and Ontario look like AHL bottom-feeders, next weekend in Iowa should be a good test.
Goals: 19 for (3.17 per game, 21st) and 15 against (2.5 per game, 4th). Even strength they have 15 for and 14 against. They have a blowout loss on the books from Wk1 so they are gradually digging out of that hole. This weekend they had 11 goals, 8 at even strength and 5 against, all at even strength.
Shots: +193/-167 (53.6%). The Eagles are at 32.17 SOG/gm, good for 10th in the AHL, and 27.83 against, which is 8th. That’s a round 60 per game total, which qualifies for low-event in the AHL but not a terrible pace at all. This weekend they were a +82/-60 (57.7%) which is very good. They appear to be a good shot suppression team right now and they look for quality over quantity on offense, like the Avs.
Shooting percentage: 9.8%
Save percentage: 91%
The shooting percentage is straying a little high after starting quite low but it’s not alarming. If they can generate shots in the mid-30’s per game regularly they’ll be fine. I think the save percentage will do nothing but go up as long as Francouz takes a large part of the starts, probably equalizing around 92% or better. He’s going to be one of the top goalies in the AHL so nothing alarming about that either.
PP: 4/29 (13.8%, 26th)
PK: 28/29 (96.6%, 1st)
Special Teams percentage: 110.4
The PK is great but no team is going to keep up a rate like that all year and that’s something they should prepare for. If this ends up anything like the Avs PK then they’ll have long streaks like this then give up 3 in a game every once in a while. The PP showed signs of life this weekend but again Ontario is a weak team so that still needs work. The PP2 unit, which is the Beaudin line plus Meloche and Lewis, looks like they could start breaking out soon.
The Greer/Beaudin/Kosmachuk line is establishing itself as the top scoring line and something we haven’t seen since AJ Greer’s rookie year when he, JT Compher and Rocco Grimaldi demolished the league in the 1st half of the season. They have 19 points between them and only 4 from the man advantage. Greer leads the team with 6 assists, 8 points and 18 SOG and the staff are comfortable double shifting him with the youngsters in the bottom 6 as well as on the PK. This is exactly what he needed to show management to get back into the callup rotation. J-C Beaudin looks like a completely different player than he did last season. He’s much more confident and assertive with his play and leads the team with 4 goals. When Scott Kosmachuk was finding success with Manitoba he was much more a shooter than a passer and that’s what we’re seeing so far this season. His skills fit right in with the 2 former Rouyn-Noranda Huskies to make a solid yet dangerous 2-way line. The 2-way part is a key to their offense. Late in Saturday’s game the Agozzino line was trapped in the d-zone for a long shift, the Beaudin line swapped in and immediately broke the puck out for Kosmo’s empty-netter to seal it.
With Josh Dickinson making his debut Saturday night, the Eagles had 6 rookie forwards in the lineup and 5 in the bottom 6. This isn’t a knock against Dom Toninato at all but Lewis, Dickinson and Kaut found chemistry quick and were dangerous all evening. As mentioned above, Lewis scored his first pro goal on the PP and Kaut got his on a regular shift in the 3rd that put the Eagles ahead with 11 minutes to go. I think the Avs want to keep Dickinson at center so when Toninato returns he might find it tough to get back in the lineup but he did demonstrate to the staff that he can contribute. He ended up the night with an assist and 3 SOG. File this under problems you’d like to have.
Coming out of last week’s games the defense had taken a third of the team’s shots and had only 2 goals from Nic Meloche to show for it. Whether it’s an adjustment by the staff or the forwards picking up the slack, they only had 16 out of the 82 total shots vs Ontario. That’s more like it. Mason Geertsen had 21 career points going into Friday’s game and left with 24, nice job. David Warsofsky added a pair of assists on the week and Meloche and Alt one each. The middle (or perhaps 3rd) pair of Ryan Graves and Anton Lindholm is billed as the shutdown pair but they’ve been on the strugglebus bigtime. Graves has been ok at times but it’s tough to separate his performance out from Lindholm. Graves takes lots of penalties and Lindholm can’t move the puck at all so despite some good PK work they are the weak links on the blueline so far. When Sergei Boikov returns the staff are going to have a tough decision here.
Pavel Francouz is a marvel to watch. He’s extremely quick post-to-post and despite his lack of size covers the net well. He’s 2nd in the AHL in save percentage among regular goalies at .941 and has the lowest goals against at 1.75. He let in 0 goals in the first period this week, 1 in the 2nd and the rest were in the 3rd, either total garbage time or late game flurries. Take out Lindholm’s double brain fart on Saturday and the numbers get even better. I said before the season that he would be the best AHL goalie the Avs have ever had and will possibly ever have and he’s living up to that.
A weekend in Iowa to face Tim Army and the high-flying Wilds. Get your subs to AHLtv, it’s totally worth it.
Thanks to the AHL for stats and standings and to the Colorado Eagles for the feature photo.