What an unfortunate difference two weeks can make, eh? I'm going to try to keep my worrying to a minimum, as I'm well aware the Ducks are having a tough time. Unfortunately, organizational troubles tend to affect both sides. It's hard to find viable AHL call ups when your farm team is struggling. It's also hard for your farm team to find stable footing when your parent club is struggling and (understandably) looking for a combination of NHL'ers and players from the A to spark their scoring lines.
So, how is the Crunch doing and where might help come from? Take a look!
Current record: 5-3-2-1
Divisional standing: 4th, 13 points
Conference standing: 9th
Power play unit: Dan Sexton (F), Patrick Maroon (F), Mark Bell (F), Bryan Rodney (D), Kyle Cumiskey (D).
Penalty kill unit: Nate Guenin (D), Mat Clark (D), Troy Bodie (F), Mark Bell (F). Jean-Francois Jacques (F) also saw time on the PK unit this weekend.
What we're pretty darn happy with:
Special teams: Last time I dropped by AC, we were pretty happy with our PK and not so thrilled with our PP. Last weekend, neither unit was sparkling. Our PP was flat while our PK was giving us indigestion; however, both units have started to pick up their game and looked much better. The PK was perfect Saturday and Sunday night, keeping Rochester's chances low while fighting hard to clear our zone. The PP unit came alive Saturday and Sunday, recording 6 goals between the two nights.
Dan Sexton (finally!): Sexton has been a bitter, bitter disappointment this season. He was virtually silent up until recently, only managing two goals and two assists in nine games. This past weekend, he scored 2 goals and notched 4 assists. He had a hand in every goal that was scored Saturday night (1g, 4a) and scored Sunday night (1g, 2a). Although one weekend doesn't mean Sexton has found his way out of his slump, it's a darn good place to start.
- Bryan Rodney (finally!): Rodney was another player who just wasn't playing up to his reported potential. He was touted as a power play quarterback, someone who could sweep in and change the course of our fledgling unit. He was supposed to be an offensive-defenseman with very few of the liabilities you usually associate with those players. All of those really pretty words have been just that for most of October--pretty and words, but not really true. However, Rodney's game finally came into focus this past weekend. He led our power play unit, scoring twice and assisting once with the team a man up during our home-and-home series with Rochester.
Iiro Tarkki: Although Tarkki's record is not really stellar at 2-2-1-1, his play is visibly maturing quickly. He's calm around the puck and doesn't beat himself up when he lets in a goal. He's quick to get to the puck and can usually make the first save. When our defense can clear his rebounds, he's great. He's giving Jeff Deslauriers quite the run for his money for that number one spot.
What we're unsure about:
- Rebound control: Both of our goalies are capable. I don't think anyone would place any of the losses the Crunch has suffered on either of their shoulders. However, both goaltenders seem to have a tough time saving rebounds, while our D seems to have a hard time clearing the puck out. This has been somewhat of an Achilles heel for the Crunch so far this season. Many a goal has come with our goaltender sprawled on the ice or completely out of position after making the initial save.
High pressure situations: The team still needs to work on getting their head in the game quickly and keeping it in the game throughout the whole 60 minutes. Beginnings and endings of periods are sticky times for the team, with early and late goals following the Crunch whether they're home or away. The team also needs to work on getting OT/SO wins. 3 losses in extra hockey out of 11 games obviously means 3 points instead of 6. That difference, if it continues to grow, could be huge come April.
- Playing to the level of our opponent: The Crunch can manage solid games against teams that are not as talented as they are. It's when they face off against teams with as much talent that things get ugly. Really ugly. Against Hershey the Crunch lost 7-0. Against Wilkes-Barre Scranton [Ed. Note: Michael Scott's favorite team], 5-3. Against Norfolk, 6-2. All of those teams are groups the Crunch should have been able to compete with, but the squad was effectively shut down. Despite the high scores, none of the losses were exclusively the fault of our goaltending. Our bottom 3 lines are learning to score, but it's been such a slow process. With the losses of Nick Bonino and Peter Holland to the Ducks, and Kyle Palmieri to injury, the other guys on the team are being forced to score or we don't win.
- Short-handed chances for the other team: Although our PP has suddenly found its scoring touch, its also started to give the other team a bit too many short-handed chances for comfort. The team has allowed 2 short-handed goals in 11 games so far this season, and countless one-on-one chances. Although this is sometimes a consequence of having an offensive-defenseman like Rodney on the blue line, the team needs to find a way to overcome those times Rodney can't make the defensive play.
- The War Memorial (Crunch home arena) is becoming quite the interesting place for your Ducklings to play. Last weekend, a power outage delayed a game for a good 10 minutes. This past weekend, the fire alarm was triggered by a Rochester trainer brushing it. The fans weren't made aware of the situation, and we all sat there rather confused as the team continued to play while the lights flashed, the bells rang, and a recording told us to vacate the building. Eventually, the fans started to have a little fun with it, chanting "Let's go Crunch!" along with the bells. Only in Syracuse...
- Speaking of the Memorial, this past Friday saw the debut of the Silver Knights, an indoor soccer team that will be sharing the rink with the Crunch. It isn't real soccer. It's a league that specifically uses hockey rinks, as dasher boards and glass remain in place for their games. Sod is placed down over the ice. It doesn't sound that great to me, but apparently the game was packed. Anyway, as you can imagine, Crunch fans were rather worried about what this was going to do to our ice conditions. However, Saturday night's ice seemed pretty good. So far, so good. I'll keep you all updated.
- Kyle Palmieri is still out with injury. There haven't been many updates on this. It's a bit worrying that he's been day-to-day now for about two weeks.
- Patrick Maroon took a pretty nasty high stick Sunday night, middle of the second. He drew a double-minor penalty, got patched up on the bench and tried to play, but then got pulled back to the locker room after a few minutes. He did return to the game and played the rest, so I'm pretty sure he's okay. He actually returned to score, so we were rather happy he came back.
That's pretty much it for this week. I hope things turn around for the organization soon. Go Crunch! Go Ducks!
[Ed. Note: Anyone else a little weirded out by how similar the struggles of the two clubs are?]