The Syracuse Crunch’s 2013-2014 season was defined by hills and valleys.
The proverbial wheels fell off after a fast start, and by the time the Crunch recovered it was too late for a playoff push, leaving lofty pre-season expectations unfulfilled.
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2012 American Hockey League affiliate, Norfolk, hoisted the Calder Cup, and the Crunch won the Eastern Conference championship in 2013 but fell in Game 6 of the Calder Cup Finals last June.
“You have to keep the bar that high,” said Syracuse coach Rob Zettler. “As soon as you lower the bar or lower the standard, everybody takes their foot off the gas. That standard has been set here the past couple years. But more than that is the process, the effort, and the commitment level that it took to get to those places – those are the standards you have to keep in place and the winning takes care of itself.”
Montreal defense throws the net over the Lightning.
Montreal Leads the Series 2-0
Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 23 shots for the loss before giving way to Kristers Gudlevskis, who allowed 1 on 4 shots the rest of the way. If Cooper had a wild hair to put Gudlevskis in for Game Three, the wraparound goal Gudlevskis allowed might've quieted that thought down. As for Lindback, the third goal went through him on a greasy little bounce back to Gallagher off the blocked shot and he whiffed on the poke check on Bourque's goal, but on balance he played reasonably well and kept the Lightning around for most of the game. Goaltending isn't the reason the Lightning are losing this series so far.
2:34 MTL Desharnais (1), (Subban, Pacioretty)(PP)
10:35 MTL Bourque (1), (Vanek, Subban)
11:46 MTL Gallagher (1), (unassisted)
14:39 MTL Bourque (2), (Eller)
18:01 TB Purcell (1), (Hedman, Filppula)(PP)
The first 10 minutes of the game took on the dimension of a lot of the regular season games between Tampa Bay and Montreal with the Lightning dominating possession and the Canadiens getting a few counter attacks in. That's where the Lightning need to get this series to get back into it. If possession is even or tilted in favor of Montreal, Price is probably too good to overcome. Unfortunately, in the second half of the First Period, a 4-minute minor on Stamkos started to take the starch out of the Lightning's offensive flow and when Desharnais scored the PP goal early in the Second Period after a ticky tack call on Panik, the offensive flow completely dissipated altogether. There's just too much inconsistency moving up the ice as a unit. Passing is off. Guys aren't consistently supporting their linemates. It wasn't as lopsided as the score indicates (shots were 27-26), but the Lightning need to get better within their structure to defeat Montreal's. It's a process, and they were certainly more together and composed than in Game One, and this series is nowhere near over. I reiterate the lesson of the 2003 series against Washington, when a young, talented Lightning team really looked terrible against a veteran Caps team in Game One and Game Two. Once they figured it out in Game Three, they swept the rest of that series. I have a feeling the Lightning may be capable of a similar breakout, but getting that first win is going to be the toughest. Hopefully the Lightning realize that and also realize the worst thing they can do at this moment is panic. Just win one game. That's all they need to worry about right now.
Mike Kostka had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 13:13. His lack of speed and strength and decision making with the puck were a bit of an issue again tonight. At this stage, if I'm Cooper, I'm going to try to spark something by throwing Mark Barberio in against his hometown team for Game Three in lieu of Kostka, but we'll see how he plays it.
Cedric Paquette was -1 with 12 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 10:18. He certainly wasn't at fault for the minus in the first Bourque goal where Salo was turned the wrong way, and he had a pretty glorious chance on Price in tight off a nice setup by Purcell. I like what Paquette brings, and on paper he's a playoff-style performer. But, needing a spark, again, if I'm Cooper I'm going in with Pyatt in Game Three.
It's officially a losing season for Syracuse.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 5 goals on 24 shots for the loss.
RCH Schaller, (9) (Gillies, Irwin), 7:44
RCH Adam, (29) , 11:04
RCH Irwin, (7) (Varone, Ruhwedel), 12:42 (PP)
RCH Deslauriers, (19) (Sundher, Porter), 2:49
SYR Marchessault, (22) (Connolly), 3:33
RCH Varone, (18) (Larsson, Hutchings), 15:27
Syracuse falls to 2 games under .500 with 1 game left to play. It's disappointing the team didn't finish stronger to set up what you hope is a rebound year next season.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
There were a few firsts in the last Syracuse Crunch home game of the season.
Adam Erne registered his first professional goal and Joel Vermin recorded his first goal in North America, but the Crunch ultimately fell in a shootout to the Adirondack Phantoms, 5-4, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.
"That was the positive from tonight, those guys scoring a goal and getting their first professional goals," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "Joel, I thought it was a great shot -- on and off the stick real quick. And for Adam, it was the same thing. That was the positive tonight."
The score of the night, evidently.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 4 goals on 26 shots and 5 of 9 to convert in the penalty shot session for the Shootout Loss. Ugly stat lines all around.
SYR Vermin, (1), (unassisted) 6:27
ADK Bordson, (11) (Brown, Hagg), 8:54
ADK Holmstrom, (13) (Lauridsen), 19:46
SYR Erne, (1) (Rankin), 3:25
ADK Serratore, (1) (Goumas, Alt), 7:16
SYR Connolly, (21) (Marchessault, Erne), 8:20
SYR Rankin, (15) (Angelidis, Cote), 9:16
ADK Hagg, (1) (Alt, Cousins), 13:05 (PP)
ADK- Cousins, Bordson, Noebels, Whitmore, Holmstrom
SYR- Rankin, Connolly, Richard, Gourde
Syracuse remains at 1 game under .500 with 2 games remaining in the regular season.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
This season’s crop of Syracuse Crunch rookies showed progress through adversity.
With injuries and call-ups thinning Syracuse’s depth, Crunch newcomers were asked to log important minutes, but coach Rob Zettler believes the experience they gained through the ups and downs will be good in the long run.
“There’s some good progress with our young guys,” Zettler said. “A lot of them ended up playing a lot more minutes than we anticipated because of call-ups and injuries, but at the end of the day, individually, it’s probably a good thing for them.”
Here’s a breakdown of the Crunch’s rookie class heading into the final week of the season:
Cedric Paquette: Although he wasn’t there to accept the plaques himself, on Saturday Paquette won the Crunch’s awards for Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player (shared with Vladdy Namestnikov).
Crunch drop back below .500.
ATO Charles Lavigne allowed 4 goals on 20 shots for the loss.
ALB Boucher, (20) (Scarlett, Pesonen), 12:08 (PP)
ALB Boucher, (21) (Pesonen, Timmins), 15:24
ALB McKelvie, (9) (Zajac, Pesonen), 16:09
ALB Scarlett, (6) (Whitney, Boucher), 18:12 (PP)
Syracuse is 1 game under .500 with 3 left to play in the regular season. Their last game is next Saturday at Hamilton, at which point you'd assume a few more Crunch players will join the Lightning for depth purposes during their playoff run.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
In a game marred by many physical altercations, the Syracuse Crunch offense had a breakout performance.
The Crunch took a three-goal lead in the first period, and continued to cruise through multiple incidents, as they topped the Toronto Marlies, 6-3, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.
"We played a good game," said Syracuse forward Brett Connolly, who finished with four points. "I think they embarrassed themselves."
Back to .500.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on 36 shots for the victory.
SYR Angelidis, (12) (Ikonen, Connolly), 1:00 (PP)
SYR Paradis, (6) (DiSalvatore, Angelidis), 12:33
SYR Gourde, (6) (DiSalvatore, Connolly), 18:38 (PP)
TOR Carrick, (11) (Ross), 3:29
SYR Marchessault, (20) (Cote, Erne), 10:25
SYR Marchessault, (21) (Connolly, Cote), 12:38 (SH)
TOR Brennan, (23) (Ross, Carrick), 19:18
TOR McKegg, (18) (Marshall, Kozun), 4:09
SYR Connolly, (20) (Namestnikov, Ikonen), 17:17
Jonathan Marchessault, Brett Connolly, and Mike Angelidis were the game's three stars. New Crunch forward Henri Ikonen managed his first two AHL points on helpers to bookend the scoring for Syracuse. The 4 point night for Connolly points to him potentially providing some depth options to Tampa Bay in the playoffs as well. As I said after last night's win, this team is figuring out some of its chemistry for next season, and guys like Gourde and Marchessault finding their grooves bodes well for a bounce back next year. The team is back to .500 with 4 games left in the regular season, and if they can finish with a winning record that will be a major accomplishment considering this franchise supplied 9 prospects who became full time NHLers in Tampa Bay this season.
Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.
During regulation, it was all about the dueling power plays.
Both Syracuse and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton scored a pair of power play goals in the first two periods, but the Penguins pushed past the Crunch in a shootout, 3-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.
Although it's late for a playoff push, Syracuse has points in seven of its last eight games.
"I've been pretty happy with our game overall," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "We're finding a little more offense lately. We're getting some more pucks to the net, and we've got some more finishers on our team now too, which is a good thing."