A busy trade deadline led to a few new - or not so new - faces joining the Belleville Senators this past week. The most intriguing for me was the return of Darren Archibald. Archibald spent last season with the BSens and was a consistent performer, despite being known primarily for his grit and physicality. His return to Belleville was even better than I expected, as he had three points in two games against Utica and Manitoba this weekend.
Wednesday, February 19 - Belleville 3, Rochester 2 (OT)
Here are the highlights.
- Joey Daccord stopped 27 of 29 shots (0.931 SV%).
- Vitaly Abramov (1G, 1A) and Josh Norris (2G, 1A) were your BSens goal scorers.
- Somehow there were only two penalties called in this entire game, forcing the two teams to face off almost entirely at even strength.
- Belleville’s first goal of the game was scored halfway through the third. They completed the comeback with back-to-back goals from Norris, with five minutes left in the third and just over a minute into the extra frame.
Josh Norris wins it in OT!!— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) February 20, 2020
Norris' 30th (!!) of the season, his 3rd point of the game, completes the comeback win for Belleville. Holy smokes, this kid can't be stopped right now. #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/jXuBS6MDdo
Friday, February 21 - Utica 6, Belleville 3
Here are the highlights.
- Daccord got a second straight start, faltering in this one by allowing six goals on 30 shots (0.800 SV%). That’s zamboni goalie level of play so at least we know Daccord will be able to beat the Leafs.
- Archibald, Rudolfs Balcers and Joseph LaBate scored for Belleville.
- LaBate joined the Gordie Howe Hat Trick club with a goal, an assist and a fight.
- Alex Formenton was given a five minute major for elbowing.
Justin Bailey went down the tunnel after this brutal elbow to the temple from Belleville's Alex Formenton— Cody Severtson (@CodySevertson) February 22, 2020
Bailey back out to start the second and scores a powerplay goal in the first 35 seconds#Canucks pic.twitter.com/gN8I6EzlLq
Saturday, February 22 - Belleville 5, Manitoba 4 (OT)
Here are the highlights.
- Head Coach Troy Mann gave Filip Gustavsson the nod and he stopped 20 of the 24 shots he faced (0.833 SV%).
- Archibald continued his fantastic place, joining Parker Kelly, Jordan Szwarz, Balcers and Formenton as Belleville’s goal getters.
- Another game, another comeback. Belleville was down 3-0 before Archibald scored five minutes into the second frame.
- Formenton’s OT winner was exactly the type of goal we expect to see from him - using his speed to burn a defender in 3-on-3.
Alex Formenton's OT winner on Saturday night!— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) February 23, 2020
Formenton's 24th of the season was also his 11th point through 10 games in February #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/gn9vj3FDUz
Norris Continues to Impress
Belleville’s leading scorer continues to convince his coaches and Belleville’s fans that he’s the real deal. After scoring his 29th and 30th goals of the season Wednesday night, Norris earned his first recall to the big club and made his debut against the Montreal Canadians on Saturday night.
While he didn’t find the scoresheet, there’s plenty to be happy about with Norris’ first NHL game.
The JOSH NORRIS report card:— Terry McGurrin (@standupmonkey) February 23, 2020
TOI: 15:16, 13:28 EV, 1:48 PP
14 FO taken, 9 FOW, 64.3%
4 SOG, 0 MsS, 1 Hit, 2 BkS,
1 TkA, 0 GvA, 0 PIM#GoSensGo
From my perspective, Norris looked pretty comfortable out there. He didn’t display the gamebreaking offense we see from him in the AHL but to expect that in his first game with Ottawa would have been pretty unreasonable. We saw him make a few nice plays and fire four shots on net, while playing with a few different linemates. It was great to see him get a few shifts with Drake Batherson and Nick Paul. With over 13 minutes of even strength time, DJ Smith appears to have given him a real shot to show what he’s made of and that’s all we can ask from Smith with these young players for the remainder of the year.
While Norris is back with Belleville, I’d advise BSens fans to savour your time with him now. I don’t expect he’ll spend a ton of next season playing For The B.
Shake It Up, Shake It Up
The NHL trade deadline was a busy day if you work for or are a fan of the Ottawa Senators. As always, Ary did a fantastic job recapping a very busy day for the Ottawa Senators while there were plenty of pieces on the individual trades going up left, right and centre.
While GM Pierre Dorion was busy shaking things up at the NHL level, he quietly made a few AHL roster moves to help solidify Belleville’s lineup heading down the stretch and into the playoffs.
In two moves with Toronto on the same day, Ottawa re-acquired two familiar faces in Archibald and Aaron Luchuk while sending Max Veronneau the other way. For Archibald, I think I’ve made it clear that the team is very happy to have his veteran presence back. Luchuk’s return to Belleville was short lived as Dorion quickly shipped him off with a seventh round pick to the Montreal Canadiens’ system in exchange for Matthew Peca. At first, I thought Peca would be joining the BSens but he was quickly sent to Columbus to join a depleted Sens lineup. I’d assume, with post deadline callups being valuable commodities, Peca will remain with Ottawa for the rest of the season. It’s not like Belleville needs reinforcements up front.
In an under the radar deal, Belleville also acquired Nicholas Baptiste from the Marlies in exchange for Miles Gendron. The 2014 third rounder has one AHL game to his name this season, while spending time with both the Brampton Beast and Reading Royals of the ECHL. Baptiste, a 24 year old forward from Ottawa, has played 29 games for the Marlies this season, totalling nine points. This move tells me the Marlies had a forward in Baptiste sitting around, not doing much, and Belleville took a shot on him for some depth. Given the BSens strength at forward, I don’t expect Baptiste to factor into major minutes for Belleville down the stretch.
The most interesting roster move Dorion made this past week was signing Hubert Labrie to a two way NHL contract. The 28 year old former Gatineau Olympiques captain has amassed 454 AHL games with eight different franchises since turning pro in 2011. This is obviously a response to losing Cody Goloubef on waivers and Dorion wanting to ensure there’s another defender under contract that can be recalled without disrupting the development of players like Erik Brannstrom and Christian Wolanin. I’m all for it, given that logic, but if you had asked me last week if I thought Labrie would be on an NHL contract this season I definitely would’ve said no. Fantastic for Labrie nonetheless, he’s paid his dues and earned the little pay bump with a possibility of some NHL games down the stretch.
We’re Talkin’ Playoffs
The AHL season is 76 games long. Heading into game #57 tonight, Belleville sits atop the North Division with 75 points. Currently on a 7-2-1 streak, the BSens are seven points ahead of second place in the division, having played one more game than the Rochester Americans.
For a bit of context on what it takes to get into the AHL playoffs, last year’s fourth seed in the North totalled 84 points by the end of the season. To reach that mark, Belleville only needs to win four of their final 20 games - something that will definitely, certainly happen. Hockey is crazy and unpredictable but a playoff berth feels almost certain for this team. The only question left is whether or not Belleville will pull off home advantage.
I’m feeling pretty confident in saying CAA Arena will be busy this spring.