In last week’s recap we talked about the Belleville Senators picking up the place and playing a stronger brand of hockey. The good news is it didn’t get worse. The bad news is it didn’t really get better. In four home games, the BSens kept their record at .500 this past week with Drake Batherson and goalies Mike McKenna and Filip Gustavsson leading the charge.
Wednesday, October 24 - Binghamton 3, Belleville 1
The BSens kicked off the week hosting Binghamton for the second Wednesday in a row. In the previous game, Belleville got the best of their North Division rivals. This game was a bit different. One likely factor? New Jersey’s Cory Schneider saw the start for Binghamton in an effort to get back in game shape.
The game opened with a goal from Nick Lappin after Mike McLeod beat Jordan Murray to a puck and fed Lappin across the crease. It wasn’t until the second period that the BSens would respond with a goal of their own. Nick Paul’s faceoff win would find the stick of Rudolfs Balcers who connected with, you guessed it, Batherson for the game tying goal. Eric Tangradi and Lappin would add two more goals for Binghamton to finish this one off.
Drake Batherson - Batherson’s shoutout here isn’t just because he scored a goal. He’s playing excellent, consistent hockey right now and is an integral part of Belleville’s lineup every game.
Paul Carey - This was Carey’s first game in Belleville and he was noticeable. He had a number of strong scoring chances and was excellent with the puck.
Rudolfs Balcers - He and Batherson are a duo that should never be split up. Balcers is incredibly crafty with the puck and seems to consistently create chances when he’s on the ice.
Here are the highlights.
Friday, October 26 - Belleville 5, Grand Rapids 3
Belleville welcomed Filip Zadina’s Grand Rapids Griffins to town on Friday night. The BSens got right to work five minutes into the game on the powerplay as Nick Paul banged the puck in following a back door pass from Batherson to Rodewald. Exactly one minute later, the Senators forced a turnover and Adam Tambellini hammered a one-timer into the net off a Francois Beauchemin pass. While the Griffins cut the lead by one a few minutes later, the Senators got back to work in the second with Stuart Percy scoring his first of the season.
The two teams traded goals for the remainder of the game with Patrick Sieloff and Chase Balisy getting on the board for the home team.
Jack Rodewald - Rodewald tallied a pair of assists in this one while putting three shots on net.
Francois Beauchemin - You always hope a fringe player will make the most of their time in the lineup and Beauchemin has done that. For me, he’s been more impressive than more than a few of the AHL regulars in the lineup.
Mike McKenna - After a bit of a struggle on Wednesday, McKenna bounced back with a 31 save performance.
Here are the highlights.
Saturday, October 27 - Grand Rapids 3, Belleville 1
In what seems to be typical BSens fashion, you win one, you lose one. In back-to-back nights hosting the Griffins, Belleville walked out with two of the four available points in the series. This one started well with Belleville getting on the board first. After working the puck around the perimeter on the powerplay, Gabriel Gagne found Tambellini on the back door for is third of the season. The lead lasted for about five minutes when Wade Megan floated a soft one past Gustavsson’s glove. In the second period, Gustavsson had to face a penalty shot and stayed in position, tracking Dominic Turgeon (son of Pierre) all the way. It wasn’t until the third period that Grand Rapids took the game into their hands, beating Gustavsson twice on 12 shots. The final goal of the game was scored by former Senator Matt Puempel. There seems to be an unfortunate trend of former Senators getting on the scoresheet against Belleville so far this year.
Filip Gustavsson - While he didn’t get the win, and will surely want the first one back, Gustavsson was busy turning away 28 shots for Belleville. The two third period tallies were both defensive lapses more than they were the fault of the goaltender.
Jordan Murray - Unfortunately for Murray, this isn’t a positive standout. As noted by Peter over at Eye on the Sens, Murray committed five turnovers in the first period alone.
Adam Tambellini - A goal and three shots on net, Tambellini contributed well enough in an otherwise blasé game to get a shoutout.
Here are the highlights.
Wednesday, October 31 - Belleville 2, Laval 1
In what seems to be typical BSens fashion, you lose one, you win one. Sound familiar? Belleville hosted the Laval Rocket for a Halloween affair and managed to come out with two points in a close battle. The game started with the trio of Batherson, Paul and Balcers putting in solid work which led to Batherson’s fourth goal and twelfth point of the season. The Carey line was also noticeable in this one, scoring the second goal of the game. Carey put in the work behind the net and found Balisy out front for the tally halfway through the second. Early in the third period, the Rocket got on the board on a screen shot by Jake Evans. Later in the period, with Laval pressing, Gustavsson made an amazing toe save to keep the lead.
Filip Gustavsson - I mean, you watched the above clip right?
Drake Batherson - You’ve heard this one before.
Paul Carey - I thought Carey’s game was quite strong on Wednesday. Other than the work he put it on the eventual game winner, Carey showed why he’s been an active scorer at the AHL level and why he played 60 games with the New York Rangers last season.
Here are the highlights.
Looking back at the struggles of last year’s Senators, one thing I wanted to touch on here is special teams. While there’s still some work to do, the BSens special teams are vastly improved relative to last season. In 2017-18, Belleville finished 30th in PP and 28th in PK. Effectively, they had the worst combined special teams and it wasn’t even close.
Ten games into 2018-19, Belleville is sitting 10th in PP and 17th in PK. Yes, there’s a long ways to go to being a dominant force in the AHL but this is a huge change for the team. Why is this happening? Great question. I’m working on a piece on Belleville’s special teams structures that will be coming your way soon.
In other news, the carousel of recalls continues as Ottawa deals with injuries and suspensions. The latest roster move involves returning Christian Wolanin to Belleville and calling Erik Burgdoerfer up to the big club.
Belleville heads to Syracuse for back-to-back meetings with the Crunch starting tonight.
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