The Eagles entered Saturday’s game 4 facing elimination down 2-1 to the Condors. After battling back from an early deficit to take the lead going into the 3rd period they gave up 4 goals to put a period on the season.
– Max McCormick was injured in game 2 of the series and that’s the last we saw of him.
– After re-absorbing all the rookies from Utah the decision was made instead to recall and play ECHL goon Kale Kessy from Idaho in the final game.
– ATO defensemen Sasha Larocque and Peter Tischke were released earlier in the week but they were signed to AHL contracts for next season. Possibility we see them for things like Summer Development Camp and the Rookie Showcase in September.
COL 2 – BAK 5
Goals: Kaut, Kaut (Bowers, Greer)
PP 1-5, PK 2-3
This game was interesting, more like 3 games actually. The first period both teams were finding the balance between aggressive and conservative. Aside from an early and ugly power play followed by Bakersfield dominating for several minutes it was even. The 2nd started out with the Eagles controlling the game more than they had in the opener but a breakdown at the offensive blueline gave the Condors an easy rush goal. Then Martin Kaut started dominating in the offensive zone with a goal then building off that by creating more solid chances. He finished off the period with a PPG with less than a second on the clock. Things were looking good but it all went pear-shaped from there. Bako opened the 3rd with a PPG to tie then another cluster at the offensive blueline on the Eagles PP gave them another goal off the rush for the lead. Deflation ensued and the Condors immediately made it 4-2. That was it save for an ENG late. Fun fact: This was the only game in the AHL 1st round where the team leading going into P3 didn’t win.
A few individual notes: Martin Kaut was the Eagles best player and did his damnedest to keep the season alive. Shane Bowers got his first pro point with an assist on Kaut’s 2nd goal. This was a long time coming and glad he got it out of the way on the final Eagles score of the season. The staff rolled the dice with Nick Henry on the Agozzino line and he really looked good in a skill role. I guess we’ll never know whether this was a situation where he could have earned more PT but it bodes well for next year. If only they had they guts to do this with more skilled rookies, they might still be playing instead of flying back home.
Breaking Down: Bakersfield Series
The Eagles scored 10 goals over the series.
5v5 – 5
4v4 – 1
PP – 2
PK – 1
ENG – 1
The lack of scoring at 5v5 isn’t that surprising but even for them 5 goals in 4 games is very weak. The reasons are varied but range from Bako’s tough defense to regular season scorers not showing up to the staff filling out the lineup with an eye towards intangibles rather than skill. Even so, with the guys that did dress for the games individual scoring was down by about 30% compared to regular season averages. Outside of a hat trick in game two Agozzino was held off the scoresheet and Joly, O’Connor and Kosmachuk were blanked for the series.
Bakersfield didn’t light it up at 5v5 either. Out of their 14 goals only 9 were at 5v5, 1 at 4v4, 2 on PP, 1 on PK and their final score was ENG.
Shots: +94/-125 (43%)
To state the obvious, scoring involves shooting on the net. That’s something the club struggled with massively. They were a little better than a 43% shot share indicates but there were copious misses and blocked shots in all 4 games. Many of the Eagles shot attempts were from non-dangerous areas, which is fine if shooting low for rebounds or shot-passes is the goal, but too often guys were picking corners from bad angles or impossible distances or just flat out missing the net by a mile. Part of this comes from the dump/chase high-low offensive system that eschews playmaking into the slot area but shot selection in general was poor and the few players that do have scoring skill didn’t have the time and space to move into high-percentage areas. These are all chronic issues but were greatly magnified during the series.
Shooting percentage: 9.8%
Save percentage: 89.5%
The save percentage doesn’t make Francouz look that good but I’d hardly put that all on him. This is more a function of some puck skill deficiencies on defense and inability to exit the zone with possession. Shane Starrett wasn’t much better for the Condors so this was definitely not a goalie driven series. Bakersfield won the quality and quantity battles easily and that’s how you do it.
PP: 2-17 (1 SHG against)
PK: 13-15 (1 SHG for)
Special Teams percentage: 99.2 (adjusted)
Special teams were a net even so it’s tough to make a case they influenced the series much on paper. The timing of the goals on PP/PK is a different story in a small sample size. The crucial goals in game 4, Kaut’s PPG then Bouchard tying the game on their PP then the backbreaking shortie against which became the series-winning goal all came on special teams. I think it’s fitting that the Eagles season was ended because of a mistake on the power play. The PP was the A#1 worst aspect of the team all year and the damage it caused was substantial.
Agozzino’s hat trick puts him as the top playoff scorer on the team. AJ Greer’s 3 assists ties him at the top and he along with Toninato and Meloche were the only players with multiple assists. None of Aggz goals were at 5v5 and no player had more than one at even strength.
I’ll have more in-depth looks at the season as a whole in the coming weeks and months but I want to say that the team should feel good about what they accomplished this season. Eagles fans are used to post-season hockey every year but that’s far from the case with the Avs AHL affiliates. Since they took over day-to-day operations in 2007 they have two Calder Cup playoff appearances and a total of 4 playoff game victories, one of each coming this year of course.
Despite my differences in opinion with several aspects of how the club was managed there was real progress this season. There are still plenty of ways both the Avs and Eagles can improve on how the team performed this year but they were the worst team in the Pacific Division all three years in San Antonio and their best finish in the past 8 years was 5 points out of a playoff spot in 2015 at Lake Erie. That’s a big hurdle to get over and as the staff get more comfortable that they can do it consistently then the more they can focus on how to do it the correct way.
The off-season. Some players will head down to Denver and train or even practice with the Avs as long as they’re alive. Some will pack up and go home. We’ll still be here.
Thanks to the AHL for stats and standings and to the Colorado Eagles for the feature photo.