AHL Game Night 2/2: Falcons at Crunch

I missed the first 3 minutes of the game, but I'm watching it live on B2 Networks.

SYR-5 Final

First Period
SYR Platt, (19) (Lindstrom, Picard), 2:23
SYR Platt, (20) (Walser, Lindstrom), 4:05
SYR Walser, (6) (Platt, Picard), 14:27 (PP)

Second Period
SYR Labelle, (6) (Simon, Verot), 0:21
SYR Pineault, (8) (Glencross, Murray), 14:37

Third Period

First Period Notes

Well, right off the top, the Falcons only have one natural center in the lineup tonight in Dan Cavanaugh. Blair Jones is obviously still up with the Lightning and I haven't caught the exact reason Daniel Corso is out of the lineup, but it's really playing hell with the team's lines. And, I have to say, it says something about how Coach Stirling feels about Cavanaugh that he's the only natural center in the lineup tonight and he still can't get on a scoring line.

As I said, I didn't catch the first goal but the second Syracuse goal was a centering feed that bounced in off Doug O'Brien. The third goal was a power play talley by Syracuse where Ramo made the initial save after a cross crease pass but the rebound squirted into the slot for an easy rebound goal. I can't necessarily fault Ramo, but I've seen Karri play better this season.

Wanvig is a lot more skilled than advertised and actually beat a Syracuse d-man 1-on-1 midway through the period to manufacture himself a breakaway. Unfortunately he couldn't finish after deking to the backhand. Baby is hitting anything that moves. Unfortunately that hasn't led to any offense yet. I'd say Wanvig and Kvapil were the most dangerous forwards for Springfield in the opening 20, but that's not saying much.

Tonight's Lineup



Second Period Notes
I really, really don't like what I'm seeing in this game. Ramo looks incredibly frustrated with the way the team is playing in front of him, the younger players look like deer in headlights and the veterans look, well, they look beaten. The power play looks awful, none of the bounces are going Springfield's way. It isn't pretty at all.

The Crunch scored their 4th goal 21 seconds into the period as a puck bounced in off Labelle's skate and past Ramo. Their 5th goal was an incredible shot from Adam Pineault who beat Ramo cleanly with a perfect wrist shot high glove side from the left wing circle.

Adam Henrich doesn't look completely out of place centering the first line offensively, but at the same time he hasn't really created any scoring chances either. Healey and Milley started to pick it up late in the period.

Keller looks like he's struggling with conditioning issues a bit and that second line really doesn't have a playmaker. I'll be interested to see what Jones can do centering Keller and Wanvig.

Stephen Baby started playing more minutes in that period on the third line with Cavanaugh and Kvapil and they look like the most cohesive line so far tonight. Kvapil doesn't play enough. I don't know what Stirling's beef is with the young man, but I do know he provides a spark and right now this is a team that desperately needs a spark offensively. Baby is huge. As tall as he is, he's about that wide. He seriously blots out the sun and he moves well for a big man.

I'd also like to see more Smolenak now that the game's gotten out of hand. Also, put Boutin in. Leaving a frustrated Ramo in won't help anyone in the long run.

Third Period Notes
Well, if there's a positive to take from this game, it's how Jonathan Boutin played in that third period allowing no goal and really anticipating the play well, especially on a long 5-on-3 power play for Syracuse. I also have to extend a tip of the cap to Mike Egener for running down Curtis Glenncross and challenging him to a fight after a high hit on Dan Cavanaugh laid out his teammate. You expect nothing less from a stand up team guy like Egener. Finally, Matt Smaby. He ended the game even with 3 shots on goal and was rewarded with some power play time toward the end of the game (although that may also be a function of the fact the Falcons were 0-for-7 on the PP tonight). For not being in game condition, Keller did decent as well. He nearly created a goal stripping a Crunch defender behind the net at one point during the third period. Hopefully by the time the weekend is over his fitness level will return, Blair Jones will get back on the team and he, Jones and Wanvig can start working together as a unit.

Best chance of the night came to Adam Henrich who got a rebound to the right of Dan LaCosta after a blistering Andy Rogers shot from the slot. He had all day, a down and out goaltender and 1/3 of the net staring at him and I still have no idea how he didn't score. Henrich and Smolenak had a nice little shift at the end of the game where Smolenak would line up in a position to shoot on an offensive zone faceoff and Henrich won 2 or 3 draws in a row and Radek got some pretty good shots on goal.

By the way, final verdict on Daniel Corso: out with the flu.

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Any idea?

Why Dufresne is playing 2nd pair on the right side and Egener is on the 3rd? Would Dufresne and Rosehill be a bit too immobile. I'm not hearing any bad reports on Egener and he's one we need to be getting ready for the show.

Don't read too much into the

Don't read too much into the pairings. Rumble plays them all pretty evenly and, occassionally, shortens it down to the 5 prospects. The reason why Egener gets paired with Rosehill is because Egener is the guy Stirling seems to trust to cover up for mistakes.

Let's put things into perspective

This team was outshot 40-22 by a Crunch squad that was 8 games below .500 going in. Considering the 3-11 record since January, regressing rather than improving, isn't it fair to say that the prospects the Lightning have placed here may be a tad bit overated by boltprospects.com ?

I don't know that that's an accurate assesment.

The guy's ranking the prospects are ranking our organization and not comparitively ranking them against others. I do agree that the raters tend to be optomistic about our possibilities of having 1st and 2nd line forward prospects in the organization. Most of those guys are a reach to ever produce a 20 - 25 goal season in the NHL. They could, but it's a reach. The guys capable of it aren't yet commited to the all-around play that this organization requires and may not get much opportunity at all. Blair Jones is our best minor league forward prospect because he's willing to play a two-way game now and when he gets in front of the net in the NHL he will begin to score. Lascek is a hard worker and a scorer but has some "tool" concerns as far as I saw at the prospects camp. He's kinda like Eric Perrin, he can work for plent of good opportunites but may not have the goods to regularly beat good NHL goalies. Smolenak looks like a player, he's also a floater and I think he should be banned to Johnstown until he decides to start grinding for his opportunities. Hrdel - same boat, Kvapil and Keller, not ideal size and strength. Yet all our young Several of these guys are possible to be there when they're 23 or 24. Then look out. LeCavalier was force fed in the NHL due to the circumstances. Had he played in Springfield as a 19/20 year old he would have been exciting but I'm not sure he'd help you win.

The goalies are the organizations absolute strength and by-and-large, I think they've performed well. The D is also young and developing, but NHL teams blow when their forwards aren't doing the job defensively. How come Boston is struggling? They've got one of the best D'men money could buy. Shouldn't that be enough? It's not.

The other struggle is the new CBA. Movement of older minor league organizational guys I think is a changed dynamic. We run a much different system than the majority of teams and I think new veteren guys struggle to learn it. How are they going to train the younger guys. I think in 2 seasons as the better part of our prospects age and guys like Rosehill and Atherton have playing the system for 5 - 6 years the young defensemen will be better tutored. There should still be NHL calibre goalies in Springfield. One or two of the forwards that have just started in the system will also be better able to operate and explain it to the youngsters. Plus, they may better understand the type of shift-to-shift performance that will be required to get an NHL shot.

We're not the hype machine

We're not the hype machine on Hockey's Future. We don't say every prospect we draft is going to be Bobby Orr or Mario Lemieux. We talk about a player's potential and what his future role could be and then rank them within the context of the organization based on whether or not they're on a development track to reach their potential and the NHL. I think it's a formula that works.

Now, as far as tonight's game goes: it's a situation where the lineup was in total upheval. The team's #1 center was out with flu and the #2 center was on recall in Tampa. The team's #1 defenseman just got traded and the 2nd line wingers were A.) A guy who had missed 19 games with a high ankle fracture and wasn't 100% in game condition yet and B.) A guy who just got off the plane after having been acquired for said defenseman.

True, Syracuse just traded away two of their best forwards and all they got back was Glenncross because Konopka got called up by Columbus. They obviously handled the change better. Then again, they didn't have to pull two guys off the bus yesterday and tell them they're no longer on the team and then drive 5 hours to upstate New York in the middle of winter either.

My point is, to judge individual players as inferior or overrated because the team is in a state of flux right now isn't fair.

Also, lets not be too quick to judge players who have barely dipped their toe into the water of professional hockey. Karri Ramo is 20. Justin Keller is 20. Radek Smolenak is 20. Andy Rogers is 20. Jonathan Boutin is 21. Marek Kvapil is 22. Matt Smaby is 22. Mike Egener is 22.

You had eight players out there tonight age 22 or younger with most being relied on to fulfill key roles. The most experienced of the group only has a little over 120 games of AHL experience. So, yeah, there's a degree of on the job training that is happening right now and it isn't very pretty. They're not going to simply jump out of junior and be fully formed professionals ready to fulfill their potential. It usually doesn't work like that.

Remember, Paul Ranger wasn't exactly a world beater his rookie season until things started to click in the last 12 games or so that year. Ryan Craig's rookie year he scored a whopping 4 goals. Were those guys overrated as rookies, or did they just need to gain experience and develop?

Is it frustrating to watch? Sure. But the "overrated" claim? If these players are 24 years old and still not pulling it together, then we can talk. Right now these guys are babies, relatively speaking, and there should be no rush to judge them so harshly IMO.

AHL teams

You make some valid points but I think you have to look at the Falcons in comparison to the rest of the league and the overall product other NHL organizations put on the ice for their affiliates.All AHL teams are basically in the same boat in terms of having a blend of veterans and youth on their rosters.As an example take a look at the makeup of the Hartford Wolf*Pack roster. They are younger than the Falcons and have markedly improved as the season has gone on. The Falcons have markedly regressed. Based on that saying that this particular team is young is a bit of a cop out. All AHL teams are young; some NHL parents just tend to provide their AHL affiliates better players than others do.Judging by the record starting from 04-05 to the present isn't it fair to say that the Falcons have been in the latter group for 3 years running now ? More importantly why should anyone here believe that this will ever change ?

Stirling on the Delmore trade

The 5th paragraph is quite telling; The last paragraph is equally applicable to the Falcons


Something to consider.

You also make some good points here, Mark. And the results speak for themselves as far as what Tampa has provided SF the last few years.

I think one additional thing that's affecting the Falcons compared to other farm clubs is the lack of first day offensive talent on the roster. This is one reason why Pete has said time and again this year that Feaster has to go into the 07 draft wanting a scorer and sticking to that.

Ideally, we'd have a mix of all types on the farm right now as a reflection of first day drafting. Due to trading picks and drafting stay-at-home dmen and goalies on the first day, we're relying on AHL UFAs and late round forwards that show good promise for what they are, but are not close to the sure-thing label you expect from a first day guy.

I think the Wolf Pack, with Dawes, Callahan, Byers all being very inexperienced pros having success, is the exception to the norm.

I'm not trying to paint sunshine in the sky for you, just saying that if TB does a better job of filling offensive slots with first day picks, there is indeed hope to add to the group of rookies we have this year. They used the 05 draft to address forwards in the system, and they're either still in junior or rooks. Why? Because the first day picks in 03 and 04 -- which should be the heart of the SF forward lines right now -- were almost completely dedicated to stay-at-home dmen or goaltending. The exception being a reach for Mark Tobin at the bottom of the 2nd that obviously didn't turn out well (5 goals in 34 games for Long Beach of the ECHL for all those wondering where that kid ended up).

I still firmly believe there

I still firmly believe there were better more suitable players to be drafted last year and the year before and our scouting department missed them (in the earlier rounds). I'd rather seen a guy like Claude Giroux drafted over Helenius, especially with the depth at goalie in the system. Heck, the year before we drafted Mihalik and right after him came offense-minded defenseman M-E Vlasic, Paul Stastny, Gui Latendresse, and Tom Fritsche.

Now obviously it can be said that what I've stated is hindsight being 20/20, but regardless, there were IMO better picks at our placement in the draft in the early rounds.

It can be said though that we may be finding the diamonds in the rough though in the later rounds, with guys like Jones, Lawrence, Kvapil(maybe), etc.

I honestly cant figure it all out, and good thing I dont get paid to lol It has definitely hurt Johnstown and Springfield though, and heres to hoping Uncle Feaster doesnt go giving away picks again for more goalies ;)

You have to wonder...

... if TB could do the 05 draft over again - not necessarily knowing how good Vlasic and Latendresse, etc would turn out - but knowing how the NHL would be played in this new era, if they wouldn't have gone for a Vlasic over Mihalik. Or a forward under the new fad of having 3 solid scoring lines rather than 1 and 1/2 or 2.

Mihalik can skate, but they obviously were enamored - yet again - with the big, physical defenseman (Rogers, Smaby, Egener...) who can skate and clear out the front of the net. Cullimore types, not Dan Boyle types.

You can tell from the 06 draft taking Quick where they did what kind of premium they put on that type of dman.

It wasn't as big of a mistake as Philly's Clarke loading up on Rathje, Gill, and Hatcher, however.

It's not that they're down on Mihalik - they still really like him and for good reason - but their philosophy would have been different enough that Mihalik at that spot wouldn't have matched up.

They just seem afraid to

They just seem afraid to take a forward. Their philosophy is that if a forward has a knock on his game and a defenseman has a knock on his game, you always take the defenseman because defensive depth is hard to find.

At some point you've just got to bite the damned bullet rather than letting an area of your organization atrophy. You're not going to find a player that isn't in the lottery without some knock on him. They just don't slip down to where the Lightning have been picking since 2003.

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