This was an expository weekend for the beloved Eagles. To this point they had struggled with the top teams in the conference while beating up on the cellar dwellers. Tucson started out ahead of Colorado in the Pacific Division so it was a good measuring stick for where the team is right now. It also kicked off a 12-game series between the two non-California teams in the division that should be an interesting matchup all year.
– AJ Greer and Sheldon Dries were called up to the Avs on Wednesday. Greer returned for Saturday’s game.
– The Eagles signed journeyman defenseman Justin Falk to a PTO on Monday. He made his debut Friday night but was a scratch Saturday.
– Sergei Boikov returned from his shoulder injury sustained in the 2nd game of the season.
– Dominic Toninato remains out with an undisclosed injury from 2 weeks ago.
– Anton Lindholm didn’t dress in either game after struggling badly in Iowa. Whether this is injury or performance related is unknown.
COL 3 – TUC 2
Goals: Kosmachuk (Lewis, Beaudin), Lewis (Kosmachuk, Downing), Agozzino (Kaut, Joly)
PP 2-6, PK 5-6
This was a pretty grindy game overall with the Eagles shuffling the lineup after the Dries/Greer callups and Boikov & Falk entering the scene. Tucson gained the lead twice only to have the Eagles answer soon after. The game hinged on Scott Kosmachuk’s 2nd breakaway of the night and getting hauled down by Kyle Capobianco, who was fresh from serving a misconduct after instigating a fight with Aggz in P2. On the ensuing power play Martin Kaut let loose from the point, the rebound came out to the left half-wall where Aggz put it in the net for the winning goal.
COL 5 – TUC 1
Goals: Greer (Kaut, Aggz), Agozzino (Meloche), Kaut (Graves), O’Connor (Aggz, Warsofsky), Kosmachuk (Beaudin, Greer)
PP 1-7, PK 4-4
This too was a grindy game until the 3rd period. We like to think that the Avs & Eagles have a conditioning advantage from living and training at altitude and quite possibly that’s what broke the dam on Saturday night. The score was 1-1 with less than 15 minutes left then in the space of 10 minutes Aggz, Kaut, LOC and Kosmo all scored to make it a blowout.
Breaking Down: Week 5
A 4-point weekend allowed the Eagles to pass the RRs in the standings and was a fine bounceback after a lackluster weekend in Des Moines. They sit 2nd in the Pacific, 4th in the Western Conference and 9th overall in the AHL. I’m still inclined to think that’s overachievement for now but getting a headstart is always a great idea.
Goals: +8/-3, on the season 3.3 per game for (15th) and 3.0 against (14th)
They won’t keep up the scoring pace all year, no one does. Scoring goes down and down for everyone but relative to the league, a mid-pack rate sounds sustainable. The defense is still really inconsistent and if Francouz is injured or called up to the Avs for any length of time it could mean trouble.
Shots: +64/-56 (53.3%), season averages 33.8 for (4th) and 28.5 against (7th). Overall shot share +338/-285 (54.3%)
This has been the sneaky good area of the season and the reason they might not be in trouble if Frenchie isn’t in net for a while. Since the AHL won’t break down shots by situation we’re left to wonder if this is driven by good ol even strength play or if special teams are a dominating factor. The Eagles have had 10 more PKs than PPs so logically we can conclude that some and perhaps most of this is coming from 5v5 play.
Shooting percentage: 12.5%, season 9.8%
Save percentage: 94.6%, season 89.5%
PDO: 1071, season 993
Shooting percentage continues to climb but it’s still not in the worrisome range. Save percentage got hosed in Iowa so that’s in outlier territory for the year. Once that normalizes we can figure out what is sustainable long-term.
PP: 3-13, season 15.4% – 24th in AHL
PK: 9-10, season 87% – 6th in AHL
Special Teams percentage: 113, season 102.4
The power play is still a work in progress. I think there a few guys playing out of position enough that it’s bringing the percentage down. This isn’t going to be a team that can rely on the PP to win games so perhaps it’s a good thing they’re learning how to cope without that early on. Other than the weekend in Iowa the PK has been consistent so that is something they can probably rely on for the rest of the year. It is system rather than personnel driven which helps.
Your scoring star of the week is once again Andrew Agozzino with 2G/2A. Scott Kosmachuk ended up with 2G/1A, Martin Kaut had 1G/2A. AJ Greer (Sat only) and Ty Lewis had a goal & assist each and J-C Beaudin chipped in 2 assists.
Aggz leads the team in points (11) and is tied for the lead in goals (5) with Kosmachuk. AJ Greer leads in assists (7) and is 2nd in points (10). Kosmo and Beaudin are in 3rd with 8 points. David Warsofsky leads in SOG with a robust 37, good for 2nd in the AHL among defensemen, and AJ Greer comes in 2nd with a cool 27 (3 per game).
Besides the fact they beat a non-basement dwelling team for the first (and 2nd) time all year, most of this week’s thoughts are on players.
Nic Meloche sat out Friday’s game for what I can only assume was a coach’s decision. There were other factors involved like Sergei Boikov returning after a 6-game injury stint and the mysterious signing of Justin Falk but it was still a decision. I wasn’t a fan of this one. If it was a numbers deal then you have to find a way to make the numbers work so one of the organization’s pro prospects closest to playing in the NHL gets the time he needs. If it was a performance issue then it’s a gray area. Meloche did not look good in Iowa, along with many others, so it’s possible to justify leaving him in street clothes for a game. I don’t like this either but I can’t read the coach’s mind or Nic’s to try and reconcile it. Maybe this was a message that needed to be sent, I hope not. I like his game a lot and when he’s engaged he brings skill on the blueline that the Eagles have in very limited supply. Bottom line, this needs to get figured out. A prospect doesn’t need to sit because some idiot can’t stop signing vets and if it’s a performance issue then let’s try harder to make sure it doesn’t happen anymore.
On a positive note, Martin Kaut keeps making strides. He moved up to Agozzino’s line and even playing out of position at LW made some good out of it. Six months ago I was wondering who the hell was going to play RW in Loveland, now there are too many. The raw skill is getting polished, his drive into the zone and feed to AJ Greer for Saturday’s 1st goal was a thing of beauty. The goal in the 3rd was a rocket, the kid really has an amazing shot and from long range too. The rest of his game is rounding out. He’s ok but inconsistent in the d-zone like any 19-year old would be and he hasn’t broken into the PK rotation yet. Once the staff start putting him there I think he’s going to be pretty close to a short stint with the Avs.
Ty Lewis took advantage of Greer’s callup to get some time on the top line and did not disappoint. He leads rookies on the team in SOG and had 6 on the weekend along with a goal and an assist. He likes to shoot and he’s good at it. We’ve seen Sheldon Dries have success so far with the Avs because he’s the same way. This is a good skill/motivation to have and it’s pretty obvious the NHL staff value playing this way. Lewis (and also Dries) is a regular on the penalty kill so he has complementary defensive skill along with generating offense. This is a new thing, often in the past the offensively inclined rookies have been put in exclusively offensive roles which makes them one-dimensional and unsuitable for the roles they’ll start out with in the NHL. Nice change.
Igor Shvyrev has toiled in the bottom 6 this year, many have scoffed at his quality of linemates but I think the staff like this as a shutdown line a lot. I’m not a huge Cody Bass fan but he’s done a fair enough job in the role and Julien Nantel has gone from a healthy scratch to a consistent part. They played many shifts in both 3rd periods this weekend, especially with the lead late in the game. That’s a sign of respect for a kid that just turned 20 this summer. We’d all like to see him able to showcase his offensive skills more but playing this role is a key to more TOI overall and a faster track to the NHL.
I didn’t know what to expect when Scott Kosmachuk was signed in July but what he’s added has been a nice surprise. The last few years in San Antonio were pretty much a wasteland of offense and shooters like Kosmachuck and Lewis added to Agozzino and Greer have made a huge difference in both raw shot totals and shot differential. This is the call the Avs have gotten so wrong so many times it’s nice to see it work out finally. Kosmachuk is tied for the team lead in goals with 5 and tied for 3rd in points with 8. That’s a quality addition from a player that barely qualifies for half-vet status.
So often we see guys on callups get the NHL hangover when returning so props to AJ Greer for coming back ready to rock on Saturday. He woke up in Vancouver, flew back to Denver with the Avs and headed to the BEC. He scored the first goal, assisted on the last and had a great game overall.
The Eagles make their first trip to California to play the Gulls in San Diego next weekend.
Thanks to the AHL for stats and standings and to the Colorado Eagles for the feature photo.