Three games into the Eagles first AHL postseason and they will be facing elimination on Saturday night in Bakersfield. After a tight game one, they crafted a solid win but were overwhelmed Tuesday in the first road game. Time to dig deep.
– Joe Cannata once again traveled with the Avs to Calgary and was returned on Sunday.
– The Grizlies were eliminated on Saturday night. The Avs re-assigned Ty Lewis, Josh Dickinson, Travis Barron and Josh Anderson to the Eagles. Kevin Davis and Tim McGauley were recalled from Utah as well. No idea where they all are, definitely were not in Bakersfield Tuesday night.
– ATO’s Peter Tischke and Sascha Larocque were released on Tuesday.
– Max McCormick was viciously boarded in Game 2 (“no call”) and did not dress for Game 3.
COL 2 – BAK 3
Goals: Alt (Greer, Meloche), Warsofsky (Greer, Toninato)
PP 0-1, PK 1-1
The Condors took the first lead of the series midway through the first on some dodgy defensive play in the Eagles defensive zone. There was a lot of that early on so it wasn’t much of a surprise. The 2nd period was unwatchable with the teams combining for 8 shots total while trading goals at 4v4. They once again traded goals in the 3rd then Bakersfield started sitting on the lead a bit. The Eagles built up some shot volume but little of it was truly dangerous. A power play with less than 9 minutes remaining provided the usual comedy of failed zone entries and poor shot selection. While overall not the greatest display it showed that the Eagles could hang in there with the division champs.
COL 4 – BAK 1
Goals: Nantel (Bass), Agozzino, Agozzino (Wars), Agozzino
PP 1-7, PK 7-7
The same officials that worked game 1 were back for game 2 and I’m guessing someone spoke to them about how they called the first game. After granting a single power play to each team they proceeded to give 7 each this time and it was a total cluster. Careful what you wish for.
Colorado got an early goal from Julien Nantel on a poorly covered faceoff to the right of Shane Starrett. Despite having 2 PPs to Bako’s 1 in the first they were outshot 12-8 thanks to copious missed and blocked shots. Both clubs decided to go low-event for the 2nd period again although they doubled their total from Friday. Aggz scored a goal on a breakaway that was called back for reasons I still don’t understand, then followed it up with another that passed muster. The Condors scored early in the 3rd on what was essentially a power play which had expired a second previous. Undeterred, the Eagles continued to grind and drew 4 power plays in a row, the 2nd provided their first PPG in recent memory. Aggz threw in an empty-netter with 10 seconds left to complete a hat trick and off to California we went tied at 1.
COL 2 – BAK 5
Goals: Lindholm (Alt, Toninato), Dries (Meloche)
PP 0-4, PK 3-4
This was an epic beatdown. Shots were 17-1 in the first period and 18-9 in the second. Greg Cronin and the Eagles staff were massively outcoached with a game plan that allowed the Condors free reign to control the game both offensively and defensively and score at will. In the d-zone they were reminiscent of the Roy-era Avs with all 5 men collapsed around the net and little puck pressure. Breakouts were non-existent, mainly chip and chase or slow exits with weak forward support. Offensive zone entries were mostly dump-ins at the end of shifts but the few times they had controlled entries there was some success to be found.
The silver lining here is that it’s only one game and there were some tactics working that the staff could amplify in game 4. Get puck pressure in the d-zone, work on controlled zone entries and overall be less passive. Any time you have an aggressive forechecking team like the Condors there will be ways to exploit that. Some good film work, a couple solid practices and they can get right back in the series.
Breaking Down: Playoff Week 1
After a close game 1 the teams have traded games that weren’t really and the goal diff reflects that. The key question is if Colorado can win a close game. At 5v5 the goal differential is +5/-8 so that’s an area of concern.
Shots: +68/-94 (42%)
The Eagles had the advantage in game 1 thanks to some score effects but the last two have been overwhelmingly on the Condors side. It’s probably pointless to focus on that so creating quality chances should be job one here. Shane Starret has not been that great in the series when the Eagles start rolling with quality, mainly from rush chances.
Shooting percentage: 11.7%
Save percentage: 90.4%
You wouldn’t know it from watching the games but Colorado is shooting much better than usual and also not getting the stops they usually do from Pavel Francouz. I don’t put that on him but it’s an interesting situation and opposite of how the series looked on paper beforehand. Part of the shooting luck has to do with low-volume and despite game 3’s flood of shots the Condors aren’t getting a ton of shots on Francouz either.
PK: 11-12 (+1 SHG)
Special teams are playing out nearly as predicted. The Eagles broke their long PP drought in game 2 and have only allowed one PPG themselves while countering that with a shortie. Add in Aggz 5v6 empty-netter and Colorado has a slight special teams edge in the series.
Your scoring star of the week is Andrew Agozzino with a hat trick in game 2. Alt and Warsofky had a goal and assist each, Greer, Toninato and Meloche all had 2 assists.
Each team has won one at home, the difference is the Eagles one loss at the BEC. The season hinges on them turning the tables on Bakersfield and matching them with a road win. Obviously, going with the same strategy they had on Tuesday won’t work so they need to come up with some surprises. My vote is to bring speed back into the plan and add skill to the lineup. Nick Henry added some of that subbing for McCormick in game 3 but even more would pay off. With all the rookies back from Utah they have access to more as luck would have it. I would add Kevin Davis (0.6 points per game in the regular season) and Ty Lewis (tied for 3rd in power play goals) and go out in a blaze of glory if that’s what is meant to be. They aren’t going to outdefense the Condors and the last thing they would expect is for the Eagles to try and outscore them. Like I said before the series, the way to win here is to become the Condors, not try and beat them at their game.
Saturday in Bakersfield for sure, if all goes well then a decider on Sunday afternoon.
Thanks to the AHL for stats and standings and to the Colorado Eagles for the feature photo.