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Facing a team consisting primarily of the defending champions for the previous season is no easy task for any team. As the Bulldogs learned this past week, doing so with one of the AHL's youngest squads is even tougher; they only managed a single goal in a pair of games vs Syracuse. In Wheeling, the Nailers were able to score a few goals but couldn't manage a win and now find themselves on a five game losing streak. Despite the early struggles, there have been a few positives in the season so far, my Final Thought looks at one of them.
The Dog Pound
Hamilton got a first hand lesson in terms of what they need to stride for to be the best as they were dominated by Syracuse in both losses.
News and Notes:
- Blake Geoffrion suffered a depressed skull fracture in Friday's contest. He had surgery shortly thereafter and was released from the intensive care unit sometime on Sunday. Suffice it to say, he's out indefinitely.
- Friday's game in Montreal had a crowd of 18,582, the largest indoor crowd in Bulldogs history. (Their highest ever attendance came in the outdoor game vs the Marlies last season.)
- Lines from the most recent game:
Holland - Bournival - Gallagher
Quailer - Geoffrion - Blunden
Dumont - Nattinen - Boyce
Palushaj - Berger - Stortini
Beaulieu - St. Denis
Tinordi - Ellis
Nash - Corbin
With the Bulldogs managing just one goal, there are an awful lot of zeros and negatives in the stats this time around.
Goals: Blake Geoffrion
Assists: Patrick Holland (4)
Points: Gallagher/Geoffrion (6)
+/-: Nash/St-Denis (+3)
PIMS: Michael Blunden (24)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (37)
Rochester vs Hamilton
November 16: Toronto vs Hamilton
November 17: Hamilton vs Toronto
The Farm's Farm
Goaltending was a concern for the Nailers as they allowed at least four goals in each of their three losses (which put them second last in the Eastern Conference). With Cedrick Desjardins potentially returning in the next game or two for Hamilton, perhaps Peter Delmas will be sent down to help there.
Here is how the Wheeling players contracted to Montreal or Hamilton fared:
- Chaput is the team leader in shots with 34 on the season. Lefebvre (+3) is the team leader in +/-.
November 17: Wheeling vs Toledo
Going into the start of the regular season, there were a few prospects that I figured were in make or break seasons in terms of getting a new deal for next year. In particular, Brendon Nash, Ian Schultz, and Robert Mayer were the 'bubble players' I wanted to keep an early eye on - Nash coming off of missing an entire year, Schultz for coming to camp out of shape and being demoted, and Mayer for his subpar play at the AHL level the past two years. Six weeks ago, I'd have written off only one - Mayer. So far into the year though, Mayer has played quite well while the others have both spent time as healthy scratches early on.
Before anyone gets too excited, I'm not prepared to completely change my opinion of Mayer - he has had strong stretches in the past before reverting to his previous form. What does encourage me this season is the lack of soft goals allowed, something that has plagued him in the past. That isn't to say he hasn't allowed some so far this year, but it's not on a consistent game-to-game basis as we've come to expect from the Czech-born netminder. I can't help but wonder if having more of a full-time goalie coach (Vincent Riendeau isn't a full-time coach, but he's around more often than goalie consultants in previous seasons) has really helped Mayer in the game-to-game preparation. It's still early, but his performance so far is certainly encouraging and one of the positives through the first month of the season.
If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com.