From the Eagles Desk: The Bears

A month ago the beloved Eagles headed to San Diego and dropped a couple of one-goal games. This time they were on home turf and they worked the BEC magic to win both with strong 3rd periods.

Injuries/Transactions

– No transactions this week
– Sheldon Dries remains out after playing just one game since being reassigned from the Avs.
– Grayson Downing played his fourth game of the year on Friday after missing several weeks for unknown reasons
– Cody Bass returned after missing a few games from a collision with Julien Nantel.
– Vlad Kamenev left the Avs game Saturday with an injury. Depending on the severity they might call up a forward this week.

COL 2 – SD 0

Goals: Barron (Bass, Lindholm), Greer (Meloche, Graves)
Shots: +28/-29
PP 0-4, PK 4-4

Lineup:

This game was really grindy and not very memorable. The top 2 lines struggled a bit, Beaudin’s because Grayson Downing was put there for some reason and Agozzino’s perhaps from becoming stale. The power play got blanked for the umpteenth time this season. The stars of the game were Francouz with the shutout of course and Shvyrev’s line, who were the only ones to consistently create pressure. Travis Barron put in a puck during a major net-front scrum for the winning tally and AJ Greer added a long bomb into an empty net for insurance.

COL 4 – SD 3

Goals: Joly (Davis, Aggz), Agozzino (Davis), Toninato (Lindholm, Davis), Kaut (Greer)
Shots: +23/-36
PP 2-5, PK 5-7

Lineup:

The Gulls scored quickly but the power play woke finally and tied the game halfway through the 1st period. Then the bears rained down for the annual teddy bear toss. After a half hour of more back and forth grinding the Gulls took the lead early in the 3rd. The PP again responded to tie then Dom Toninato put them ahead for good. Martin Kaut added some insurance then the refs decided to call chintzy penalties for a while to get the dirty birds back in it, but to no avail. This was Kevin Davis’ party, getting assists on the first 3 goals and hopefully carving a permanent spot for himself in the lineup. Also, reuniting Martin Kaut with Greer and Beaudin paid off big at the end.

Breaking Down: Week x

Summary

Goals: +6/-3, season +69/-73

While scoring sometimes appears to be an issue they still put up 3 per game on average. That’s only 23rd in the league so maybe it is. 49 goals have been at even strength, not bad, and 20 have come from special teams. Their 73 goals against is an average of 3.17 per game and that’s 16th in the league, dead in the middle. They also have given up 20 goals on special teams so the differential is at even strength.

Shots: +51/-65 (44%), season +730/-753 (49.2%)

Shot share has been trending down for a while and it’s a shame because they really need the volume. Like the Avs they seem to suppress themselves better than the opponent when they tighten up play in the neutral zone. I’m not going to argue with it because the results on the scoreboard are there but I’d love to see the coaching staff figure out a way to open up the offense while not compromising the D.

Shooting percentage: 11.8%, season 9.5%
Save percentage: 95.4%, season 90.3%
PDO: 107.2, season 99.8

The Gulls are a decent shot generation team and hit their average this weekend, this shows how good Francouz was and perhaps that the defense is learning to limit some quality. If the Eagles shot volume continues to fall they will have to learn to generate quality too and be a higher than average PDO team. The Avs know how to do this so the system is there. The main difference being that the Avs power play is tops in the NHL and the Eagles’ is terrible.

PP: 2-9, season 14-102 (13.7%, 27th)
PK: 9-11, season 92-108 (85.2%, 6th)
Special Teams percentage: 98.9

Two power play goals is a huge step forward and saved the Eagles from being dead last in the league. It’s still ineffective and 6 goals away from being average. North American hockey seems to be in a power play renaissance right now and they aren’t coming along for the ride. It’s baffling. I think the system is good, maybe it’s a tad complex for the AHL, but the issues lay in execution and some personnel choices.

The PK has been good for the whole year outside of a couple outlier games. When you take into consideration the 6 shorthanded goals they have an effective PK rate of 90.7% which is fantastic.

Individual

Your scoring star of the week is Kevin Davis with 3 assists. Greer and Aggz had a goal and assist each and Anton Lindholm of all people had 2 assists.

Overview

Towards the end of Eagles training camp we got to see Kevin Davis and Taylor Richart in some pre-season games. Both were effective puck-movers and added offense from the back end. With Connor Timmins out for the foreseeable future it was logical to assume that one of them would stay in Loveland to complement the overabundance of defensive defenseman the Avs had accumulated over the summer, especially since the only other puck-mover, David Warsofsky, has missed nearly the entire pre-season with a mystery injury. No sir. Not only that, Avs management even added more low-skill defensive D when Justin Falk was added as a PTO. The defense has been a big problem all year and it’s not because they aren’t blocking enough shots or smashing into enough opponents, it’s because they don’t have the aggregate puck skill to get out of the zone consistently.

When this became evident early on, many of us wanted to see Kevin Davis called up from Utah where he was dominating the ECHL in D scoring and QBing the league’s best power play. Davis finally got his shot last weekend and made his AHL debut on the 2nd night of a back to back with no practice beforehand. Sometimes a little tentative and lost, the skill was there. Seven days later he broke out with 3 assists, 2 of them on the PP which hadn’t scored in weeks. Now he sort of blew it on the Gulls shortie in the first period so there’s plenty of work to be done but he’s shown that having a skilled D as a threat makes the forwards jobs easier and is a piece they’ve been missing all year.

Pavel Francouz crafted his first AHL shutout on Friday night, another step on his upward trajectory so far this season. I wouldn’t say he’s lost any games singlehandedly this season but now we’re starting to see him steal some points on his own. He leads the AHL in wins, saves and is a couple minutes short of leading in minutes played. Without access to the fancier stats of the NHL, the best we have to go on is save percentage in all situations which he’s gravitated to .920 and 5th in the league. Some of the more oblique measures are promising like the 6th rated penalty kill and that he’s grabbed 26 points in 18 starts. In the big picture he’s showing consistent improvement and right on schedule. It’s probably a little early at this point but if the Avs did need to call him up I think he could handle backup duties just fine.

With the Eagles shot generation receding I took a look at the top 12 forwards by games played and racked them by shots on goal per game and added number of even strength goals and shooting percentage as further discriminators:

Greer – 3.0/gm, 6 (1st), 15.0% (3rd)
Aggz – 2.8/gm, 4 (5th), 15..4% (2nd)
LOC – 2.8/gm, 3 (t6th), 9.2% (11th)
Kosmo – 2.4/gm, 5 (t2nd), 12.8% (5th)
Kaut – 2.0/gm, 5 (t2nd), 10.6% (9th)
Lewis – 2.0/gm, 3 (t6th), 11.9% (8th)
Beaudin – 1.8/gm, 5 (t2nd), 12.5% (t6th)
Toninato – 1.3/gm, 2 (t8th), 14.3% (4th)
Barron – 1.1/gm, 2 (t8th), 12.5% (t6th)
Nantel – 1.1/gm, 0 (12th), 0.0% (12th)
Igor – 1.0/gm, 2 (t8th), 9.5% (10th)
Joly – 0.8/gm, 1 (11th), 26.7% (1st)

As a group the first thing that stands out is the dropoff in shot generation from the top 7 to the others. Those are the consistent offensive producers and that passes the eye test. Toninato could slide into that group with better shot production but probably stays as just a decent depth scorer. Barron is decent depth scorer that should shoot more. Igor really needs to shoot more and for me that’s the big reason he’s stayed in more of a defensive/checking role so far. He was finally granted some power play time this weekend and hopefully uses that as a springboard to better shot volume and a way to get his shooting percentage up.

For the top guys, Greer stands out as the top shot producer and point producer. He should. Aggz is more of a power play specialist but that’s a solid role for a vet and he’s done ok there with little help. O’Connor shoots a lot but can’t finish, but there’s some value in that nonetheless. Kosmachuk is probably underused and I’d put Ty Lewis in that category for sure. Kaut’s numbers could be a lot better if wasn’t used on the point on the power play but I can see the staff’s rationale for doing so. Beaudin is the best pure playmaker on the team so his shot numbers are a little low, and assists too since the power play doesn’t generate any goals. Joly’s shot production is awful and he adds nothing at even strength. This one pretty obvious reason why the PP is underachieving this year.

The main takeaway here is that the Eagles do have the skill to be average at least offensively, maybe even slightly above average. The lack of offensive talent on the blueline is tough to overcome at times but even so they aren’t as inept as we’ve seen the Avs AHL affiliates in the past. There’s enough unused capacity that they can improve as the season goes by and keep up with the other teams in the Pacific Division.

One thing that continues to amaze me this year is the atmosphere at the BEC and the Eagles fans. I’ve been writing about the Monsters/Rampage/Eagles now for 6 seasons and until this one I never had any idea about how much a raucous home crowd can help a team on the ice. It turns out to be a pretty huge advantage. Saturday night Eagles fans showed up with over 10,000 teddy bears for the annual toss, that’s about 2 per patron which is mind-boggling. For all of you that read this column and attend games, I can’t quantify it but you do make a big difference.

Next up

A quick road trip to Tucson on Tuesday and Wednesday then over to Ontario for Saturday night.

Thanks to the AHL for stats and standings and to the Colorado Eagles for the feature photo.

earl06

Scoring LW, punchy climber for the Ardennes classics, spirit guide

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