Ontario is a good team to prepare the Eagles for a playoff run. They’re out of the picture but have some decent offense and play a physical game. Despite the goal differential these two games were pretty even. Colorado had one dominant period, 4 even periods and got dominated in one.
– Nic Meloche remained out from his injury in San Diego
– Igor Shvyrev was still recovering from the flu
– Michael Joly and Cody Bass were still unavailable from their UBIs
– Logan O’Connor missed the 2nd game for reasons unknown
COL 5 – ONT 1
Goals: Davis (Greer), Davis (McGauley, Toninato), Nantel (Alt, Davis), Geertsen (Kaut, Boikov), Greer (Toninato)
PP 1-5, PK 3-3
The 1st period was back and forth with Ontario having a slight advantage the whole time. Kevin Davis scored on the power play midway through then the Reign got it right back via blown defensive coverage, notably by Davis. The 2nd period was masterful. Davis scored again then Julien Nantel finally got his 1st of the season. Mason Geertsen lobbed a shot from the point over the goalie’s shoulder with a minute left to make it 4-1. If he tells you he was trying to score he’s lying but it was awesome. Final shot tally for the period was 19-6, wow. The 3rd included a little bit of shelling up at first and a few guys trying to get cute in the d-zone. Luckily they put a stop to that and eventually Greer put the dagger in to make it 5-1.
COL 3 – ONT 2 (OT)
Goals: Toninato (Greer), Dries (Wars, McGauley), Kaut
PP 1-5, PK 4-4
The back end of this set was more scrappy than the first. Lots of penalties called on both squads in the first 40 minutes. The first period was pretty even, the Eagles dominated P2 again but neither team was getting pucks on net there. Coach Cronin isn’t going to like the 3rd at all. Colorado shelled up and blew a 2-goal lead thanks to 2 goals on 15 shots by the Reigns. AJ Greer had a chance to make it 3-1 into an empty net just before Ontario tied it up but missed by inches. Luckily the Eagles dominated OT with 5 shots and Martin Kaut playing hero with an amazing wrister past Peter Budaj.
Breaking Down: Week 23
The Eagles continue to hover just below 3 goals per game and around 22nd in the league. Goals against have been gradually falling over the past few weeks and are now below 3 for the first time in months.
Shots: +79/61 (56%)
A solid week for shot share but shots against continue to be a weakness.
Shooting percentage: 10.1%
Save percentage: 95.1%
2nd week in a row they’ve been around 105 PDO thanks mainly to save percentage. The defense has been much better about coverage and giving Frankie/Marty a good chance to make saves. This has been a huge part of the 8 game streak.
Dom Toninato added the 15th SHG of the season to Colorado’s 6th ranked PK. That’s been a strength all year. The power play managed to find a couple goals thanks to Davis and Dries but continues to look even worse than the Avs on a nightly basis. I’m not sure what the staff are seeing with Mark Alt and especially Cody McCormick as the designated shooters on the top unit but it’s not working at all. Alt shoots hard in case it hits the net, which is ok I guess. McCormick couldn’t hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle. Last night he attempted at least 12 shots and only 3 hit the net. That’s not productive.
Your scoring star of the week was Kevin Davis with 2 goals and an assist. Greer and Toninato anchored the scoring from the top line with a goal and 2 assists each. Martin Kaut had a goal and an assist and Tim McGauley chipped in with a couple of helpers. Shoutout to Julien Nantel for scoring his first goal of the season and first in the AHL since December 15th, 2017. David Warsofsky had 15 shots on goal over the two games including a mind-boggling 12 in game 1.
Pavel Francouz was stout in both games saving 58 of 61 and going perfect on PK.
It’s very odd that Kevin Davis isn’t considered a fixture in the regular lineup. The Eagles have big problems scoring at even strength and that’s something he’s consistently added. A weak power play all season has been plagued by poor personnel decisions and not having Davis available regularly falls into that. Here’s a look at even strength scoring per game by the regular defensemen:
Davis – 0.36
Warsofsky – 0.32
Meloche – 0.30
Geertsen – 0.27
Alt – 0.24
Boikov – 0.19
Lindholm – 0.13
The knock on Davis is that he doesn’t get a lot of shots on goal (he shoots 12% so…), Anton Lindholm has him smoked there even, but leaving better than a point every 3 games on the bench when even strength scoring is a known weak point is a little baffling. Is Sergei Boikov’s play in the d-zone so important that it trumps that kind of production? It’s an interesting question. The Eagles have won 8 in a row and Nic Meloche is injured so it’s not the time to re-think deployment strategy but with all 7 guys healthy it’s something they will want to consider, especially in the playoffs.
Speaking of the playoffs, the Eagles magic number is down to 18 with 10 games to go. Nine wins and they’re in no matter what anyone else does. Tucson isn’t going to win the remaining 14 games (nor could they if the Eagles win 9) so it’s nowhere near as difficult as that. In fact if Tucson goes 7-7-0 in that stretch all Colorado would have to do is gain 4 points and they clinch. This is looking pretty solid now.
The question now becomes can they finish 3rd and avoid a 1st round matchup with Bako or better yet finish 2nd and get home ice. As of today, Colorado, San Jose and San Diego all have 68 points, with the Eagles having the fewest games remaining. If SJ/SD go .500 down the stretch then we need to see a 7-3 run to secure 2nd place. Not bad. A good start would be a sweep of the Barracudas this weekend.
Back to California for a pair of matinees in San Jose on Sat/Sun.
Thanks to the AHL for stats and standings and to the Colorado Eagles for the feature photo.