It was a weekend of positives at the tail end of a long season for the Belleville Senators. The BSens managed to win two of three games in a back-to-back-to-back weekend, including a strong 8-2 trouncing of the Laval Rocket on Sunday.
Friday, March 23 - Toronto 4, Belleville 2
It was a familiar storyline for Belleville on Friday night as they met with the highly-skilled Marlies for what seems like the trillionth time this season. Ethan Werek opened the scoring for Belleville off a turnover. This was Werek’s first time finding the scoresheet in 21 (!) games. The second period was all Toronto as they scored three unanswered goals throughout the frame. The only other Belleville goal was scored by Colin White with 15 seconds left in the game, which was too little, too late.
Colin White: White’s goal was scored off a hard drive to the net with 15 seconds left in a 4-1 game. The rest of his game was great but seeing that drive in a game that’s all but lost showed White means business.
Maxime Lajoie: Lajoie’s puck movement skills are relatively unrivalled on Belleville’s abysmal blueline. On Friday he moved the puck well, had 3 shots on net and picked up the primary assist on White’s goal.
Ethan Werek: I don’t particularly think Werek had an exceptional game but finally getting the monkey off his back was good to see. And the goal was a good read to pick off the puck and an excellent shot to beat Garrett Sparks.
Here are the highlights.
Saturday, March 24 - Belleville 4, Toronto 2
Saturday’s overall effort was much improved over Friday in this home-and-home with the Marlies. Jordan Murray opened the scoring three minutes into the opening frame by stepping over the blueline and releasing an absolute cannon. Max Reinhart extended Belleville’s lead later in the period off a chip pass by newly signed forward Dave Dziurzynski. This goal got Calvin Pickard removed from the game. The Marlies came out flying in the third period, scoring two goals in the first five minutes. As you know, the Senators were up for the task in this one. Nick Moultrey scored a beautiful goal from a rough angle after fighting off Timothy Liljegren in the corner. White continued his productive streak by scoring with five seconds left in the game into an empty net.
Jordan Murray: Murray doesn’t get a lot of credit for his play this year. Partly because he doesn’t play much, partly because he doesn’t wow you game-in, game-out. With a goal, an assist and three shots on net this game, I thought Murray was one Belleville’s better defenseman.
Colin White: With Jim O’Brien back and forth from the NHL, Coach K has had no choice but to give White the “first line centre” duties and, would you look at that, it’s paid off.
Danny Taylor: Never say I don’t admit a player I don’t particularly approve of plays a good game (nobody has really accused me of this.. I’m just saying). Taylor stopped 31 of 33 shots and helped Belleville be perfect on five penalty kills for the W.
Here are the highlights.
Sunday, March 25 - Belleville 8, Laval 2
If Filip Gustavsson’s plan was to put up a great performance and completely elevate everyone’s expectations then.. congratulations to him for achieving this goal. The first goal of the game was a squeaker under Gustavsson’s arm but he was solid after that. Because of the eight goals Belleville scored, I won’t walk you through all of them. What’s important to know is White (1G, 2A) had another solid game and noted goal scorer Ville Pokka scored a hat trick. Oh, and Filip Gustavsson saved 37 of 39 shots.
I won’t give you my standouts, either, because you can see them above.
Here are the highlights.
A Few Thoughts
It was a relatively busy week for roster movement with Ottawa’s AHL affiliate. Due to injuries and recalls, we’ve seen O’Brien, Patrick Sieloff, Filip Chlapik and now Ben Sexton move between the rosters. Canadian University player Boston Leier was signed to a tryout and scored his first professional goal in Sunday’s blowout. The Senators also signed former Binghamton Senator Dave Dziurzynski to a professional tryout - a move which should be puzzling but isn’t given Randy Lee’s love of grizzled veterans and players with connections to the organization. Most importantly, Filip Gustavsson made the move to North America and was excellent in his first start.
With only a handful of games left in the AHL season, there are a lot of questions that need answering and problems that need addressing. If I’m Pierre Dorion, I’m looking at essentially replacing everything in the AHL. The combination of Lee and Kurt Kleinendorst just doesn’t work if you’re looking to build an AHL program that develops top talent for your NHL team (you know, the whole point of the AHL). Belleville’s special teams are, like everything else, in the league’s basement so there’s no reason to keep any of Kleinendorst’s assistants around either.
For the first time in what feels like a very long time, Ottawa has very good, young players that could be part of their AHL team. The likes of Logan Brown, Drake Batherson, Filip Chlapik and White could all be with the team for parts of next year. Depending on how things go, Belleville could also be adding Christian Wolanin to Christian Jaros, Lajoie and Pokka on the back end. Then you have Filip Gustavsson, Chris Driedger and Marcus Hogberg between the pipes. This is the making of a competitive hockey team, if the rest of the pieces are put into place correctly and the players are deployed properly. There is no reason the aforementioned players shouldn’t be leading the team in ice time for their respective positions next season.
As the season comes to a close soon, we’ll start to see these decisions fall into place for next season. Belleville has had a pretty horrible inaugural season on the ice but, like their parent club, they have the core to be much more competitive next season.
It’ll be up to Dorion to make the appropriate changes and I’ll be impatiently waiting for the first shoe to drop.