From the Eagles Desk: Halfway

After a fairly gruesome road trip in San Jose and Manitoba which had them scoring only 2 goals in 3 games, the Eagles staff made some adjustments and were able to put the players in good position to score for a few games. In game one this past weekend they threw up 6 vs Bako for a solid win but in the rematch they were blanked at home for the first time all year in a penaltyfest.

Injuries/Transactions

– Logan O’Connor returned from the Avs and played both games this weekend.
– In what seems like a rotating swap situation Travis Barron was recalled from the Grizzlies and Josh Dickinson sent down.
– Mason Geertsen remains out with what appears to be some sort of UBI
– Scott Kosmachuk missed both games this weekend for unknown reasons
– The Avs are entering a healthy cycle and Ryan Graves can play only one more game before becoming waiver-eligible again. I’m pretty sure the Avs don’t want to lose him so he’s either going to keep playing regularly or get sent down before the weekend.

COL 6 – BAK 3

Goals: Herbert (O’Connor), Kaut (Joly, Aggz), O’Connor (Lindholm), Kaut, Joly, O’Connor
Shots: +31/-37
PP 1-6, PK 6-9

Lineup:

This was a great back and forth affair with Colorado taking the lead twice, giving it back then going ahead for good near the end of the 2nd period on Martin Kaut’s 2nd of the night. The 3rd was a little dicey but Michael Joly aced a penalty shot and Logan O’Connor had a strong play for an empty net goal to ice the game.

COL 0 – BAK 2

Goals: none
Shots: +28/-30
PP 0-7, PK 7-7

Lineup:

The refs made this game practically unwatchable. They called EVERYTHING and it made for terrible hockey. The Eagles spent most of the first killing 4 penalties then it was Bakersfield’s turn to sit in the box in P2. The 3rd was all penalties all the time for both sides. Neither team could get into a rhythm so there’s not much to take from this one. For what it’s worth, Colorado played fine other than the power play and it mainly came down to luck.

Breaking Down: Week 14

Summary

Goals: +6/-5, season +98/-111

The 2nd period malaise continues to plague the Eagles, this week they were outscored 4-2 in the middle frame and on the season they’ve given up 19 more than they’ve scored. The crazy thing is that they are marginally positive in shots on goal in P2. I’m sure this drives Coach Cronin bananas and it’s such an odd issue to have that I have no idea how you fix it. Their PDO breakdown in the 2nd is a 6.7 Sh% and 88.4 Sv% so it’s both an offensive and defensive problem but tending heavily towards bad shooting luck.

Shots: +59/-67 (46.8%), season +1089/-1161 (48.4%)

Like the 2nd period shooting malaise, the 3rd period shot generation malaise hurts production when they need it most. This week they were dead even at +21/-21, which is nice, but on the season they are a -55 or more than three-quarters of their total shot deficit. Some of this is shelling up in winning situations, which is bad but understandable, but there’s also a fair amount of times they’ve needed to close the gap and haven’t generated the chances necessary.

Shooting percentage: 10.2%, season 9.0%
Save percentage: 92.5%, season 90.4%
PDO: 102.7, season 99.4

Shooting looks a little lucky this week thanks to an ENG and the Joly penalty shot but it was fine in reality. The Condors take lots of shots but not lots of good shots so a good save percentage is to be expected.

PP: 1-13, season 22-156 (14.1%, 29th in the AHL)
PK: 13-16, season 138-165 (83.6%, 8th in the AHL)
Special Teams percentage: 97.7

The power play seems to be a lost cause at this point. Like we’ve seen with the Avs lately they have had some difficulty entering the zone and that doesn’t help. Even so, when they do get set up they can’t capitalize so it is what it is. The PK looked like they had a rough outing in game 1 stopping only 6 out of 9 but they had 2 shorthanded goals so a net 1 goal against in 9 chances is fine. Just for fun, the Eagles scoring percentage on the penalty kill is 5.4% thanks to their league leading 9 SHGs.

Individual

Your scoring star of the week is Martin Kaut with 2 goals on Friday. Logan O’Connor and Michael Joly had a goal and assist each.

Overview

Between the two games this weekend the Eagles crossed over into the second half of the season. By points and percentage they are in the 4th spot in the Pacific, by goal differential they are in 5th. San Diego has been red hot lately and put some distance between themselves and Colorado/Bakersfield. I think they’ll probably ease back into that mix and those three teams will battle for the final two spots in the playoffs.

The problems I’m watching out for in the rest of the season are scoring, especially the power play, shot differential and injuries. A turn for the worse in any of those three areas and there could be a freefall. I like the adjustments the staff have made to keep up so far, I just hope they don’t run out of them anytime soon.

Without throwing a lot of stats out I’m going to place the players in a couple of bins and give some evaluations.

Older returning players

Andrew Agozzino has been a nice surprise, he’s scoring more than ever and only the Eagles reduced schedule is keeping him from the top 10 in the league. AJ Greer has gone cold recently but is taking on more of a defensive role and done what’s been asked. David Warsofsky has been injured most of the year but makes a difference when he’s in the lineup and adds badly needed puck-moving ability. Dom Toninato started out slow but has been very solid as of late. Mason Geertsen has also been a nice surprise adding a bit of offense to his physical game. These 5 have been a solid foundation and an overall positive. On the downside Anton Lindholm has been disappointing even with some improvements lately. Julien Nantel literally cannot score which is tough since he does add something when he’s on the ice. Spencer Martin is having his worst year so far statistically and despite some better showings recently isn’t making a case for more starts.

Older additions

I wasn’t familiar with Scott Kosmachuk when he was signed but he had a blazing start, cooled off massively and is now picking it up again. When Cody Bass signed I cringed but he’s been a solid addition for sure, putting him farther up the lineup is not a good idea so I hope the staff keep that idea in check. Pavel Francouz is by far the biggest factor in the Eagles success to date and is the root cause of just about every good defensive stat we see. Grayson Downing and Caleb Herbert are vets that are vaguely negative roster blocks that make me wonder what the staff is seeing that I don’t. I hate to tool on the captain but Mark Alt has been disappointing. I never expected much offense so that’s not a surprise but the defensive issues are troubling. It’s tough projecting how an external player will fit so it’s no wonder this group is a mixed bag.

Young returning

Leading this class are Nic Meloche and J-C Beaudin. Both have some consistency issues that aren’t out of the ordinary with 2nd year players but fill their roles and contribute well for the most part. Both have shown improvement over the first 35 games, more so with Meloche. Michael Joly was extremely frustrating for most of this season but has turned around nicely since right before Christmas break. In his last 9 games he’s doubled his shot total for the season and put up 11 points. Much better. No one was sure what to expect from Sergei Boikov coming off a year-long shoulder injury but he’s basically the same player. That’s not a good thing, he’s still reckless and improvement isn’t really showing. It’s hard to have a core in the AHL with all the personnel moves and roles changing constantly but this group is just as successful as the external vets.

Rookies

Logan O’Connor is older than the rest of this class so it’s no surprise he has some polish and a callup already. He’s been good but the downside of experience is less improvement shown. Martin Kaut is younger than the rest of the class and has shown a lot of improvement. Watching game-by-game it seems subtle but thinking back to October compared to now the gains are noticeable. Ty Lewis is 8th in scoring and plays some special teams roles. He might get a healthy scratch every once in a while but he hasn’t been demoted like some of the bunch. He’s got the talent to move up the depth chart once his game gains some consistency. Kevin Davis started in the ECHL for some reason, tore it up and has been a fixture on the Eagles blueline since getting called up with 7 points in 15 games. He’s the only one of these 7 on an AHL contract and if the Avs don’t sign him to an ELC someone else will (probably San Jose). Igor Shvyrev has played a bottom 6 role all year with a few shifts with the scoring lines and some PP from time to time. The guy has talent and perhaps youth and language skills are holding him back a bit. The Avs are taking a long-term approach here and I like where he’s headed. Travis Barron has been up and down to Utah a couple times now and when in the Eagles lineup does a good job in the energy role and on PK. He’s got a couple goals and generates shots at a reasonable rate but it’s still too early to tell what he projects to be. Josh Dickinson rounds out the crew. I like his play more than most but he seems to struggle with consistency more than the others. He’s got some scoring skills but can’t generate shots for some reason. He plays a solid physical game but seems over his head occasionally. Like Igor he’s more of a long-term project but I can see him rising quicker the more comfortable he gets at the pro level. Coming from Junior A and the ECAC he’s had the biggest jump in level of competition of any of the rookies and it shows. The Eagles have 5 or 6 rookies in the lineup every night, not a ton but not 1 or 2 like it was last year in San Antonio. They play important parts and add plenty so this is a nice change in direction for the Avs pipeline.

Looking at the group as a whole it’s a good mix of vets and youth at this point. Also 18 of the 25 players listed above turned pro with the Avs org, all would be a nice mark to shoot for but I’ll take three-quarters for now. Five players have been called up to the Avs this year plus Graves and Dries who are there now, add another 4 guys that have been called up to the Avs in the past. It’s not the optimum talent factory it could be but it is a vast improvement from years past and encouraging signs are here for once. I look forward to what the Eagles look like once the club’s management gets the hang of the proximity to Loveland and more home-grown talent is available.

Next up

Home series with Tucson this weekend

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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