Saturday, November 25 - Toronto 2, Belleville 1 (SO)
The Belleville Senators kicked off their week with a shootout loss to the Toronto Marlies in the first game of a back-to-back. The difference in skill was evident over the weekend as a talented Marlies club outshot and, of course, outscored the Senators in both games.
The Senators came out relatively strong, registering 13 shots on net in the first period but came up with nothing. Andreas Johnson would open the scoring for the Marlies by burying a bank pass past Danny Taylor. In the second period Filip Chlapik evened the score by burying a nice Max Reinhart feed from behind the net. The teams would battle back and forth and exchange a pair of powerplays but this one would go to a shootout.
The Marlies skills was on full display as they scored two straight shootout chances while Gabriel Gagne and Reinhart’s attempts were denied.
Filip Chlapik: Besides being the lone goal scorer, Chlapik was likely the only player who displayed a skillset which matched the opponent. He set up Justin Vaive with a pretty play in the first but Vaive couldn’t handle the puck. Big problem? Chlapik spent most of the game in the bottom 6. Again.
Danny Taylor: Taylor stopped 30 of 31 shots which was a welcomed changed from his recent play.
Here are the highlights.
Sunday, November 26 - Toronto 5, Belleville 1
The shlacking I was expecting on Saturday came on Sunday. Coach Kleinendorst’s reliance on slow, bulky veterans was on full display as Toronto’s young, skilled team skated circles around the Senators.
The Toronto Marlies scored four unanswered goals in the first and second periods thanks to Kerby Rychel, Johnson, Colin Greening and Chris Mueller. With two minutes left in the second, Calvin Picard kept things 4-0 by shutting the door on a number of Belleville chances, including a great chance by Chlapik.
Early in the third, Gagne would score his ninth of the season on a feed from Francis Perron but it wasn’t enough as Kaspari Kapanen would cap things off with an empty net goal.
Gabriel Gagne: There wasn’t a lot to love about the Senators on Sunday. Gagne was the only player who managed to score. He wasn’t perfect but nobody was.
Francis Perron: It was night and day between Saturday and Sunday for Perron. The big difference? He spent a lot less time playing with Chris Kelly on Sunday. By my count, Perron had an assist, a few shots and one missed breakaway.
Here are the highlights.
Wednesday, November 29 - Belleville 3, Laval 2 (OT)
Belleville needed a comeback game this week and this was it, kind of. Belleville did eventually come away with two points but were outshot 22 to 10 in the final two periods. It wasn’t exactly a strong performance.
Colin White opened the scoring off a turnover-turned-breakaway where he beat Rocket goalie Charlie Lindgren short side. Laval’s Daniel Carr would tie the game 16 minutes into the second frame but Jim O’Brien would score exactly two minutes later to regain the lead. O’Brien received a Max Lajoie pass as he manned the point on the man advantage and one-timed it past Lindgren. The Senators held the lead until about halfway through the third when Chris Terry tied the game at two. Despite some penalty trouble, they managed to guarantee themselves a point.
The Senators kicked off overtime with a trio of Chlapik, Nick Paul and Andreas Englund. The interesting part is by my estimation, Chalpik only played a maximum of three shifts in the third period and was then given the nod to open the make-or-break frame. On the second shift of the overtime period, Jack Rodewald skated into the Laval zone admits two incredibly lazy defenders and score on a wrap-around.
Seriously. Look at this.
Daniel Audette with all-timer for worst defensive effort. Doesn't even try. pic.twitter.com/pvrKnajn2o— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) November 30, 2017
Colin White: White had his ups and downs against Toronto on the weekend but I thought he had a very strong game last night against Laval. Besides scoring the opening goal, his vision was on display. He’s still getting anchored with some unskilled wingers but he’s making the best of the situation. I’m at the point where I’d rather him play 10-12 minutes with anchor-wingers at the NHL pace than the way he’s being deployed in Belleville.
Jack Rodewald: Although Laval seemingly allowed him to score the game-winning goal, this was a solid overall game for Rodewald. He had a few shots on net and one shift where he did his best Mark Stone impression (stole the puck) but ended up ringing it off the crossbar.
Andrew Hammond: The Prodigal Son hath returned. Hammond turned away 31 of 33 shots for a cool 0.939 SV% in his return to Belleville.
Here are the highlights.
The Senators’ 1-1-1 record over the past week has been pretty consistent with their overall play this season. Sitting at 10-10-2 on the year, they are currently sitting in one point out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Playoffs are not an impossibility. There’s one particular thing that could make playoffs more of a certainty and less of a hope and that’s an overhaul on Belleville’s player deployment strategy.
It’s no secret to anyone who follows the team that Belleville, like their NHL affiliate, greatly overvalues “veteran experience”. Peter Levi at Eye On The Sens took an in depth look at player usage in Belleville and the results won’t surprise you. I won’t dive into the details as I encourage you to read Peter’s piece yourself, but one of the overarching messages is: Belleville deploys their players based on the safety of their play, not their ability to impact the game. Just like in Ottawa, where you regularly see Tom Pyatt and Nate Thompson play in key situations, Kleinendorst overplays McCormick and O’Brien just the same. There’s an opportunity to give Chlapik, White, Gagne and Perron the most minutes and flourish, but Kleinendorst seems too scared to give that a chance and I believe it shows in their record.
I’m willing to bet if we don’t see a change in philosophy, the Belleville Senators will be on the outside looking in when the top teams in the AHL are on the hunt for the Calder Cup in the spring. The sad thing is, I think if players were given ice time based on their skillset and not their age, Belleville could be a playoff team.
Thanks for reading!