Following a high scoring game on Wednesday in Toronto, Belleville lost both games against their division rivals from Rochester this weekend. In most weeks, I would look at this as a tough showing by a team that should be better but, given their status in goal, the fact Belleville wasn’t able to take down Rochester in either game this weekend doesn’t come as a big surprise.
The Americans sit right behind the Senators in the North Division standings and sit in the middle of the league when it comes to scoring. Pair that with their solid defense and facing off against an ECHL calibre goalie and Belleville was in for a tough weekend. Still, the usual suspects showed up on offense. It just wasn’t enough to secure a win. The good news is, life without a starting goaltender was short lived.
Wednesday, March 4 - Belleville 8, Toronto 4
Here are the highlights.
- Alex Dubeau made his AHL debut, turning aside 19 of 23 shots (0.826 SV%) and securing his first career win.
- The line of Josh Norris, Vitaly Abramov and Drake Batherson combined for a goal and four assists.
- Michael Carcone added a goal and an assist of his own, bringing his season total to 27 points in 58 games.
- Norris showed his naught side, completing a Gordie Howe hat trick in the victory.
Josh Norris with the takedown in his first pro fight!— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) March 5, 2020
This kid is unstoppable. #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/tHnxYHO16h
Friday, March 6 - Rochester 4, Belleville 2
Here are the highlights.
- Dubeau was a busy man, facing 43 shots (0.907 SV%) from the Rochester offense.
- Chlapik’s two goals extended his goal streak to four straight games, compiling five in that time.
- Jordan Szwarz’ assist extended his own point streak, seeing him score two goals and three assists in the past four games.
- Formenton scored his 27th of the season, continuing is impressive rookie campaign.
27th goal of the season for Alex Formenton on Friday night. What a rookie pro campaign he's putting together with 53 points through 59 games.— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) March 7, 2020
He didn't get an assist on the play, but this doesn't happen without yet another Josh Norris faceoff win. #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/F9qndHqXkE
Saturday, March 7 - Rochester 4, Belleville 2
Here are the highlights.
- Another game, another busy start for Dubeau as he faced 40 shots, stopping 37 en route to a 1-2-0 record in his first three AHL games.
- Batherson and Max Lajoie were the goal scorers.
- Lajoie’s goal saw him contributing points in all three games this past week, giving him a goal and three assists in his last four contests.
- Rochester’s three unanswered third period goals were the difference maker in this one.
Don't blink. You might miss it.— Belleville Senators (@BellevilleSens) March 8, 2020
LaBate gets the helper on this one for this 16th assist of the season!#fortheB pic.twitter.com/o02t8TxHQN
Guess Who’s Back
With the return of Marcus Hogberg to Ottawa, the Ottawa Senators made a corresponding move this week to bring a sense of normalcy to the BSens crease.
#Sens re-assign G Filip Gustavsson to Belleville. Corresponding move - #BSens release Clint Windsor from his PTO. Must mean Marcus Hogberg has/is re-joining the team in Anaheim.— Murray Pam (@Pammerhockey) March 8, 2020
Having Gustavsson back in Belleville should solidify play moving forward. As far as I know, the BSens can also expect Joey Daccord to return shortly. Last week, Head Coach Troy Mann mentioned he was expecting Daccord back as early as this past weekend, indicating his injury is minor.
With division games against Laval, Utica and Syracuse on the schedule this week, having this solid tandem back together again will be vital in Belleville continuing their dominance at the top of the North.
Belleville Around the League
As we head into the final stretch of the season, I was taking a look at how the Belleville Senators compare league wide. There are a number of impressive spots the BSens hold in the standings, particular as it relates to their offense - which should come as a surprise to nobody if you follow this blog.
Belleville currently has a strong hold on first in the AHL in goals for. Their 234 goals on the season is 25 goals more than second place and 29 more than third place. This is particularly interesting as third place currently belongs to the Milwaukee Admirals, a team that many around the league consider to be the favourites as they sit atop the standings with a 40-14-5-3 record.
On the opposite end, Belleville sits 25th in the league in goals against - meaning they’ve been able to win most of their games on the backs of incredible offense, rather than by playing a sound defensive game. This is the most glaring hole for a team looking to make a run at the Calder Cup. Comparatively, Milwaukee holds the top spot in the league, allowing 54 less goals on the year than Belleville.
On the special teams front, Belleville is relatively mediocre. For a team with incredible offensive weapons, it’s surprising to see their powerplay rank 12th at 18.9%. Ranking 24th at 79.9% on their penalty kill is another area of concern for the team, as it increases the number of questions we should have surrounding the defensive capabilities of this roster moving forward.
The BSens are currently riding a 6-4-0-0 record in their last 10 games, slowing down relative to the success they found earlier in the season. With just 14 games left in the season, Belleville will need to work on shoring up their defensive gaps while not losing the offensive touch that got them here in the first place. Heading into the AHL playoffs as prepared as possible could not be more important, as I’m not sure we’ll see a Belleville roster as talented as this one for many years.