This weekend the Belleville Senators hosted fellow North Division team the Laval Rocket for a back-to-back at CAA Arena. As are all games at this time of year for a team in the thick of a playoff race, these four points were absolutely crucial for the BSens to extend their lead on the Utica Comets for the fourth and final playoff spot in the division. So what was Belleville’s game plan? The same as it is every night, Pinky. Start Marcus Hogberg and go from there.
And it mostly worked.
Friday, March 15 - Laval 3, Belleville 2 (SO)
This game started off with some unfamiliar names getting on the scoresheet. Jean-Christophe Beaudin - the player exchanged for Max McCormick at the NHL deadline - opened the scoring for Belleville after some tough battles in the corner from linemates Jim O’Brien and Joseph LaBate - who earned the assist on the play. It was his first goal as a Belleville Senator in ten games.
The BSens managed to hold the lead for the remainder of the first period but the second period they got into some penalty trouble. First, Vitali Abramov sent a puck over the glass from his own zone and sat for delay of game. Lukas Vejdemo promptly made Belleville pay by driving the net and banging home a rebound to tie the game. Next, we saw an unlikely series of events. Following what appeared to be some combination of slew foot and knee on Nick Paul, Drake Batherson dropped the gloves with David Sklenicka. Thanks to @SensProspects as always for providing footage.
Shortly thereafter, the Rocket would strike again on the powerplay with Erik Brannstrom sitting in the box for holding. Right before the end of the period, Joseph LaBate made this a multi point game for himself on an absolute laser through the screen to tie the game.
Unfortunately, this one needed extra time and a shootout and the lone shootout goal beat Hogberg for the 3-2 loss.
Jean-Christophe Beaudin - In the flurry of news following the deadline, you may have forgotten about Beaudin. He made his mark on the BSens by scoring a goal and adding an assist for his first two points as a Belleville Senator.
Marcus Hogberg - Hogberg saved 26 of 28 shots across 65 minutes and was a big reason the BSens were able to squeeze one point out of this game.
Joseph LaBate - LaBate’s goal, alone, deserves a shoutout. Adding the board work and ability to find Beaudin on the first goal of the game made this a solid performance for LaBate.
Here are the highlights.
Saturday, March 16 - Belleville 6, Laval 5 (SO)
The good news for the fans at CAA Arena is they paid for 120 minutes of play this weekend but got 130 minutes and two shootouts for the price of admission. With the supporting cast providing much of the offense on Friday night, it was the stars who spread out the scoring on Saturday.
Just over six minutes into the opening period, Jack Rodewald got himself on the board on a shot from the slot. Continuing the trend from Friday, Laval’s powerplay got on the board halfway through the first on a goal from Alex Belzile. Luckily, Belleville has a solid powerplay of their own and made sure Laval knew about it a few minutes later. After passing the puck around, Drake Batherson sent the biscuit up to Brannstrom on the point who wired it on net. Paul picked up the easy rebound to take a 2-1 lead heading into the locker room.
The crazy thing about the second period is that four goals were scored - and they were all scored on the powerplay. Just over a minute into the second, Laval struck first to tie things at two. A few minutes later, Paul scored his second of the game. Brannstrom showed his excellent edge work and ability to quarterback a powerplay before finding Brown on the point with him. Brown’s vision quickly identified Paul through a seam and the BSens were up 3-2. Almost exactly two minutes later, the top powerplay unit for Belleville would score again. This time, Paul won the draw back to Brannstrom who quickly passed the puck to Filip Chlapik for the one timer. For those keeping score at home, that was the third powerplay assist of the game for Brannstrom.
While Cal Fleury pulled the Rocket within one near the end of the second, Darren Archibald extended the lead back to two at the midway point of the third. Unfortunately, the Rocket scored another two powerplay goals before time would expire and this one needed overtime and a shootout.
Brown scored the lone shootout goal to take this one 6-5.
Logan Brown improved to 2/5 in the shootout this season. He notched the only skills-comp goal in Belleville's 6-5 win over Laval. pic.twitter.com/OmsnPfaH5n— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) March 18, 2019
Nick Paul - Two goals and two assists for Nicky P.
Erik Brannstrom - Three assists, all on the powerplay, for Brannstrom. His ability to skate is next level and I love watching him work the blueline with the man advantage.
Logan Brown - Brown scored the shootout winner, had an absolutely beautiful assist and added five shots on net.
Here are the highlights.
Every team has something to work on - even a team like Belleville who has been more or less incapable of losing in regulation since the beginning of February. You’ll likely have picked up on the theme throughout today’s post because the BSens were abysmal on the penalty kill this weekend. To make matters worse, they also spent a lot of time in the penalty box. In 15 attempts across two games, Belleville allowed Laval to score 7 times (46.7%). While holding the fourth playoff spot, Belleville ranks last in the North Division on the penalty kill (75.7%) across the season. The division leading Syracuse Crunch - a likely playoff opponent for Belleville - sports a penalty kill success percentage almost 10% higher (84.7%). The BSens rank well on the powerplay, which is a good sign, but they can’t rely on their ability to convert on the powerplay to save them from giving up so many goals on the penalty kill.
In roster move news, Filip Gustavsson has been seeing playing time in Brampton over the past few weeks, as Hogberg continues to get the nod in Belleville. It’s been a tough year for Gustavsson with Hogberg playing so well and, subsequently, Gustavsson playing so infrequently. He’s had a tough time in Brampton, with an 0.827 SV% across two starts.
Belleville hosts Utica tonight for an imperative two points in the North Division playoff race. If Belleville wins in regulation, they’ll sit six points ahead of Utica with 10 games left in the season.