From the Eagles Desk: Long Week in California

The Eagles set out for four games in six days leading into the All-Star Break. California has rarely been kind to the Avs AHL affiliates so going 2-2 is about what one could hope for but it wasn’t enough. They gave a point away to the team that’s chasing them, gave two to the team they are chasing and only extracted two of four from the bottom team in the division.

Injuries/Transactions

– Mason Geertsen returned from injury vs Stockton, from what Kevin McGlue said on the broadcast it might have been before he was 100%.
– Cody Bass didn’t travel with the team to California after taking a puck to the head vs Tucson. Scott Kosmachuk was also left back home.
– On Tuesday the Avs called up Ryan Graves again and returned Anton Lindholm.
– Pavel Francouz had to leave after the 1st period on Wednesday for unknown reasons. He missed the All-Star Game and Joe Cannata was recalled from Utah to cover backup duties in Ontario. He was returned on Sunday so perhaps Francouz is in decent shape for next weekend.
– After the Avs game on Wednesday, Ryan Graves, Dominic Toninato and Sheldon Dries were re-assigned to the Eagles. They were all in the lineup Friday.
– Countering that move, the Eagles returned Kevin Davis and Josh Dickinson to the Grizzlies on Thursday.
– Not so fast, after Friday’s nightmare in Ontario Davis was recalled from Utah then sent back right away after playing Saturday.
– Nic Meloche played in neither of the games vs Ontario and Ryan Graves was out in the second.

COL 2 – STK 1 (SO)

Goal: Greer (Boikov)
Shots: +31/-35
PP 0-3, PK 5-6

Lineup:

Coming into Monday Stockton had outscored the Eagles 16-12 in 3 games so of course we got a tight defensive battle. AJ Greer scored on a breakaway from a sweet outlet pass by Sergei Boikov. The Heats got a PPG after an Agozzino stick penalty. Spencer Martin was the star of the show including a really good save in OT to send it to the skills comp. Joly, Kaut and Greer scored shootout goals for the win.

COL 2 – BAK 7

Goals: Greer (Alt, Meloche), Greer (Jost, Lindholm)
Shots: +29/-39
PP 1-3, PK 2-4

Lineup:

The Eagles struggled against the Condors fast break offense this time. Defensive breakdowns were plentiful and Pavel Francouz left after the first period with an undisclosed injury. Spencer Martin replaced him, let in goals on the first 2 shots and it went downhill from there. AJ Greer continued his hot streak, scoring both goals and was responsible for all 3 Eagles goals plus the shootout winner on the trip to that point. Tyson Jost got his first point in an Eagles sweater with an assist on Greer’s 2nd goal.

COL 4 – ONT 0

Goals: Jost (Joly, Wars), Alt (Graves, Joly), Alt (Wars), Alt (Aggz)
Shots: +44/-68!!!
PP 2-3, PK 4-4

Lineup:

I had mixed feelings about the lineup when it was announced prior to the game. On paper this was probably the best forward setup the Eagles have had all year. Conversely it was also the worst defensive lineup possible. Kevin Davis was sent back to the Grizzlies, not smart, and Nic Meloche wasn’t dressed, I assume from constant abuse over the past week. That left David Warsofsky as the only D with puck moving skills and the Boikov/Geertsen pair intact who were fresh off of getting torched in Bakersfield. I had no idea it would be this terrifying however.

Tyson Jost scored what turned out to be the winning goal on a great play midway through the 1st period. The Eagles were outshot 16-12 in the frame which looked scary at the time but we were in for so much more. Over the final 40 minutes they were outshot 52-32, which is insane. Both teams averaged more than a shot per minute and ended up combining for 112 SOG total. Teams in the NHL generally average slightly less than 2 shot attempts for every shot on goal so it’s conceivable there were over 200 attempts in this game. Anything over 130 attempts per hour is considered firewagon hockey and this was perhaps 50% above that.

Spencer Martin was up to the challenge stopping all 68 shots on goal for an unbelievable and historic shutout performance. Oh by the way, Mark Alt had a natural hat trick with two power play goals and an empty-netter at the end. Combine those with Jost’s GWG and there are some pretty positive aspects that almost overshadow how truly awful the Eagles played in the defensive zone. I’d estimate at least half of Ontario’s shots came from 2nd/3rd chances due to weak play in front of the net and total inability to come up with a zone exit in any fashion.

COL 3 – ONT 5

Goals: Kaut (Aggz, O’Connor), Jost (Wars, Dries), Jost (Wars, Dries)
Shots: +27/-52
PP 2-4, PK 2-3

Lineup:

This game was part tragedy, part karmic justice. The Eagles took an early 2-0 lead then surrendered 3 goals in 2:29 thanks to the usual defensive zone tomfoolery. Tyson Jost tied the game in the 2nd with his 2nd goal of the evening. Both clubs played a tight checking game and seemed content to take the guaranteed point until Grayson Downing retaliated for an elbow with a vicious kneeing major with less than 8 minutes to go. Colorado killed it off but surrendered the winning goal 3 seconds after it expired. Back to the drawing board.

Breaking Down: Week 16

Summary

Goals: +11/-13, season +115/-129

The Eagles have 78 even strength goals in 41 games or 1.9 per game. They’ve given up 91 goals at even strength or 2.22 per game. Despite the horrendous power play production, the real culprit for why they aren’t higher in the standings is what’s happening at even strength. On special teams they are a net -1 on the season, while it would be nice to make that a positive without scoring more in the normal course of games it’s pretty academic. Score effects play a part here but a team with their record will be pretty even.

Shots: +131/-194 (40.3%), season +1283/-1415 (47.6%)

Average shots for per hour is 26.15 and shots against per hour is 28.82. Just for fun, the two weekend games vs Ontario they were at 35.5 shots for per hour and 60 shots against. Yes, the Reign averaged one shot on goal per minute over the 2 games.

Shooting percentage: 8.4%, season 9.0%
Save percentage: 93.3%, season 90.9%
PDO: 101.7, season 99.9

Both shooting percentage and save percentage are fairly average, no outliers so what happens when shots do occur is what can be reasonably expected. That said, there’s a skew from the strong penalty kill and weak power play that we can’t isolate given the numbers available.

PP: 5-13, season 28-151 (15.5%, 27th)
PK: 13-17, season 161-193 (83.4%, 7th)
Special Teams Percentage: 98.9 (102.7 adjusted)

The delta between penalties taken and penalties drawn continues to widen. The averages are 3.68 PP’s and 4.71 PK’s per game, or one extra PK. Luckily they have an effective penalty kill or things would look much worse. Even though the PK is much more efficient than the PP they’ve given up 4 more goals than the PP has scored due to sheer volume. Adding in shorthanded goals gives the units net rates of 14.6% (PP) and 88.1% (PK) for an adjusted Special Teams Percentage of 102.7 which highlights the fact that this is not where they are losing games.

Individual

Your scoring stars of the week are Mark Alt and Tyson Jost, both with 3 goals and an assist. Warsofsky had a goal and 3 assists and Greer had 3 goals in support.

Overview

– Taking a snapshot of the Pacific Division here during the All-Star Break it looks like it’s pretty set. San Jose is far and away the top team with no one putting pressure on. Bakersfield, Tucson and San Diego have the remaining spots locked up. The Gulls have a 5 point lead and a game in hand over Colorado with a third of the season left to play. Colorado has a 3 point lead and 2 games in hand over the enigmatic Stockton Heat. Ontario has settled to the bottom far back of everyone else. Barring an inordinate amount of injuries to either these teams or their parent clubs this is close to how it will shake out in April. The battles to watch are who claims home ice for round 1 out of Bako, San Diego and Tucson and whether the Eagles draw closer or fade in the final 27 games.

– The Eagles have done a fair job with what they’ve been given to work with this year. The systems the Avs use have come under fire at that level and certainly haven’t helped much at the AHL level. The PK is strong which says to me that the Avs problems relate to having a minor league system. The power play has been an abomination for both teams and only works for the Avs due to sheer talent rather than smart tactics. Same goes for the offense at both levels. A dump/chase/cycle system that’s 5 years out of date is hurting both teams but moreso the Eagles. The clustered and confusing d-zone strategy works slightly better in the AHL thanks to the fact that the Eagles have superior goaltending, which again should be a clue to the Avs staff that it’s inappropriate at the NHL level.

The Eagles roster has been a good mix of veteran and youngster for the most part. Defensively they went too far with size and too short with skill and that continues to be a major factor in their lack of success. It isn’t a case where I can point to one or two players and say they flat out aren’t getting it done consistently, it’s the group as a whole being unbalanced and too similar. The chronic problems breaking the puck out have resulted in poor shot totals against, too many penalties to kill and are at least half of the reason that the offense struggles. Offensively they’ve underachieved from lack of time spent in the offensive zone and inability to develop shots on goal from dangerous areas. The talent is there to create those chances, they just aren’t and that’s a concern. This is a fast team playing a slow system which only allows them to use their best asset on rush chances. Again, the same thing can be said about the Avs.

– Spencer Martin deserves a lot of praise for his play this week. He was fantastic against the Heat in a 2-1 shootout victory on Monday that got overshadowed by the amazing 68-save shutout on Friday night. Omitting the relief performance vs Bako, he started 3 games, faced 154 shots and let in 5 goals for a .967 save percentage. No slight to Francouz but he hasn’t put up numbers like that in a 3-game set this year.

– For better or worse Tyson Jost’s time with the Eagles is probably over. It’s a shame because I really think he could benefit from a few more weeks in the AHL. He started slow as we expected but the past three games really ramped it up with three goals and an assist. Aside from that his play at center improved and was able to control and distribute the puck well in the offensive zone by the end. He also found quite a few shifts on the penalty kill. The question now is will that mean anything. Are the Avs going to use him at center or on the PK? I have no idea, I doubt it, at least on the PK use. I’m glad to see him have some success and the amount of time on ice he needs to improve his game but going back to the role he had in the NHL won’t use any of that. Keep him in the AHL until Valentine’s Day and he’ll have another 6 games at a high level of responsibility under his belt and maybe that can make a difference the next time he puts on an Avalanche sweater.

Next up

The AHL All-Star Break followed by a trip to Tucson for a weekend series

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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