The Belleville Senators are bringing the heat during these cold winter months. Just a few short months ago, sometime in November, we talked about the importance of division games and how, if Belleville wants to make a run for the playoffs, they need to win as many matchups against North Division teams as they possibly could.
Since December 1st, Belleville has a 14-4-1-1 record against North Division opponents which has allowed them to pull six points ahead of second place, albeit having played three more games than the 58 point Rochester Americans. Belleville’s overall record of 30-14-3-1 has them second in the entire AHL, behind only the Milwaukee Admirals. Looking purely at point percentage, Belleville sits fourth in the league at 0.667. Needless to say, this team is playing the best hockey it’s ever played and there’s plenty of games left to go.
This past week, with three divisional games on the schedule, your Belleville Senators were perfect.
Friday, January 31 - Belleville 4, Laval 3
Here are the highlights.
- Joey Daccord was an absolute wall, stopping 40 shots in the win.
- Christian Jaros was a star of the game, putting up a goal and an assist in an unusual but very welcomed offensive outing.
- Jordan Murray, Josh Norris and Logan Brown were the other goal scorers.
- Norris tied the Belleville franchise record, held by Jack Rodewald, for goals in a single season (23).
Saturday, February 1 - Belleville 5, Laval 4 (OT)
Here are the highlights.
- Filip Gustavsson was a little shaky, turning aside 18 of 22 shots (0.818 SV%) in the win.
- Down by a score of 4-1 with six minutes remaining in the third, Belleville mounted a comeback to force overtime and eventually the win.
- Brown, Norris and Rudolfs Balcers were the difference makers in the third period, scoring three goals in the span of 5:31.
- Murray netted the OT winner to complete the comeback.
Tuesday, February 4 - Belleville 3, Toronto 1
Here are the highlights.
- Another game, another win for Daccord - allowing one goal on 25 shots (0.962 SV%).
- In his second game back from injury, Jordan Szwarz found the back of the net.
- Balcers’ pair of goals led Belleville to the win over Toronto.
- Brown was given five minutes and a game misconduct for a cross check to the back of Marlies forward Yegor Korshkov.
The Kids Are D’accord
There are so many players to highlight in Belleville that I feel it Daccord’s rise to legitimate AHL starter in his 17 game stint in Belleville this year needs to be better more properly emphasized.
With a fully healthy crease to start the season, Daccord was forced to spend his first 12 games in the ECHL. With the Brampton Beast, Daccord posted a 0.901 SV% - further proving my internal hypothesis that you can’t judge a goalie by his ECHL stats. Upon being recalled to Belleville, Daccord has not only proved he belongs at the very least in the AHL but I’m curious if there’s an argument to be made that he’s also pushed his counterpart to be better.
On his own merit, Daccord now sits 12th in the AHL for all goalies in goals against average (2.44) and 7th in save percentage (0.920). If I recall correctly, the last time we talked about Daccord’s success on this blog, I had to use a few games played caveats and talk about him being a rookie. His new place in the AHL standings is against all other goalies who have played at least 900 minutes (15 games). If you account for rookie goaltenders? Daccord is second in both GAA and SV% behind only Ivan Prosvetov (ARZ).
Daccord joined Belleville on November 30th, 2019 and made an immediate impact. His first two games saw him post 0.963 SV% and 0.971 SV% respectively. As we know, he’s continued a solid pace since. Now, let’s do a bit of a before and after exercise with Daccord’s counterpart. Prior to Daccord’s recall, Gustavsson played in nine games, sporting a 0.875 SV% and a GAA of 3.85. Since November 30th, across ten starts, his SV% has improved slightly to 0.883 and his GAA has decreased to 3.08. This isn’t as much of a difference as I was anecdotally expecting when I thought to make this comparison but always interesting to look at, nonetheless.
The truest improvement in Gustavsson’s game has been since the calendar flipped to January. Prior to 2020, Gustavsson’s stats were pretty rough, as he put up 4.05 GAA and 0.895 SV% across 13 appearances. In 2020, however, he’s up to a 0.924 SV% and a 2.12 GAA. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but whatever it is.. it’s working. The best thing to take away here is that both goalies are improving, in small or large ways, and that’s exactly what you want to see as you head down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Expected League Discipline
Last night against the Toronto Marlies, Brown committed a pretty brutal cross check which rightfully saw him get a five minute major and a game misconduct. Quite frankly, I’m not sure why the act was decided other than a heat of the moment frustration. Regardless of intention, I’d expect the AHL to slap Brown with at least a game or two for the infraction. There’s no place in the sport for this kind of action.
Here's a clip of the Korshkov hit. pic.twitter.com/c1TMRTSuBK— Pension Plan Puppets (@PPPLeafs) February 5, 2020
It has been reported this week that Bobby Ryan, Nick Paul and Christian Wolanin have been involved, at various levels, in practice with Ottawa this week. With the trade deadline looming, it’ll be important for Ottawa to have a few bodies back for when they inevitably trade off a few roster players. While I’m all for giving prospects time in the NHL, keeping Belleville relatively intact is likely a better development opportunity for the prospects than getting their butts kicked on a floundering NHL team. I expect we’ll see the likes of Drake Batherson and Balcers spend time in Ottawa after the deadline only to see them returned for the playoff run once the NHL season has ended.
The BSens will look to continue their winning ways against Toronto and Laval this weekend. It’d be pretty annoying of me to emphasize the importance of games against division rivals so I’ll just leave it at that.