11/8/19 – Utica Comets vs. WBS Penguins

I’m going to preface this pre-amble with, “I don’t actually want this to happen.”

 

But how funny would it be if the Utica Comets dropped four straight losses after winning their first eight to start the year?

 

After getting off to the best start in franchise history, the Comets have seen their lead over the North Division disappear faster than the Vancouver summer weather. As it stands, the Comets sit in third place with sixteen points in eleven games played. After getting nothing out of their last three games, they now only have a three-win disparity between themselves and the seventh-ranked Binghamton Devils.

 

After the first two losses, the team could easily count their blessings that they had stockpiled a decent amount of wins early to carry them through rough patches. Unfortunately, they’re losing grip on the season at a rapid pace. The Wednesday loss to Binghamton was not pretty in the slightest. The Comets were out-shot by a two-to-one margin while playing selfish, individualistic hockey. The coaching staff had their work cut out for them coming out of the Binghamton match. Several players on the Comets, prospects and veterans need a wake-up call because the selfish hockey isn’t what led the team to eight straight victories. The lessons about teamwork that should have been learned while NHL-caliber players were still in the lineup, apparently did not stick. Hopefully tonight in front of the Utica faithful, the Comets young core stops trying to go it alone and come together to try and end the losing streak.

 

Again though, truly hilarious if the Comets went winless in November. For comedy’s sake, I can support the team playing terribly if that is the result.

 

The next step to a winless November is against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a battle between Dunder-Mifflin branches. The Comet’s first match with the Penguins was arguably their most impressive. After getting dominated by the Penguins, in which they gave up three unanswered goals. The Comets then rallied late to force overtime, where the Comets won with an overtime goal from Lukas Jasek. That improbable victory came off the back of Sven Baertschi’s brilliant playmaking. Without Boucher, Baertschi, or Camper, this could be another repeat of that domination.

 

However, Thomas Drance, as well as a bunch of Vancouver Canucks management folks, are at the game tonight. So perhaps the pressure of the big club’s presence motivates them into getting those offensive juices flowing to prevent that sort of thing from happening!

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

 

LW C RW
Goldobin (#77) Graovac (#44) Lind (#13)
Bailey (#95) Hamilton (#36) MacEwen (#15)
Bancks (#34) Jasek (#9) Perron (#27)
Arseneau (#18) Taylor (#14) Stevenson (#26)
LD RD
Juolevi (#48) Sautner (#6)
Brisebois (#55) Rafferty (#25)
Teves (#4) Eliot (#52)
G
Michael DiPietro

 

Once again, Cull tosses his lines into a blender. Not a fan of the constant line shuffling, because eventually, the team will have to develop chemistry on their own. Hard to do that when it’s changed every single game.

 

Not sure why Seamus Malone is being subbed out for a career ECH’er. Malone had himself a brutal summer, he missed out on all of his training and both Canuck and Comet pre-season training camps, due to a mangled, broken arm. Considering he played half of his games last season on the wing. Malone’s done admirably in a 3rd/4th line capacity without any preparation.

I actually wish Perron was back playing with Arseneau again. Arseneau has honest to god been one of the teams better forwards this season, especially during this losing streak. His skating is solid, and his positioning is sound, he gives away the puck no more or less than his Comet compatriots. Given the kind of work that big Vinny and Franky Pepperoni (Perron) put in on the fourth line earlier this season, I would hope the team could reunite the duo. I have to believe that reuniting both while allotting them more ice-time would be beneficial to the team as a whole. At least, get Arseneau on the powerplay unit. He’s got a sneaky good bomb of a shot and can win board battles, which is something that cannot be said about the majority of this Comets lineup.

Still not vibing the Bailey/MacEwen pairing on a line. Both Bailey and MacEwen like to play 1v5 hockey. Neither has really shown any form of chemistry with the other.

The team is without Boucher, Camper, and Gadjovich for another game. Genuinely have to be concerned about Gadjovich’s health at this point. After looking solid through the team’s first few games, Gadjovich picked up an upper-body injury and has yet to play since. Tonight will be Gadj’s ninth game on the sidelines and puts him at 23 total games missed due to injury in his brief Comets career.

 

RE: INJURY REPORT

 

Injury Report
Jonah Gadjovich(upper-body) Reid Boucher (knee) Carter Camper (upper-body)

 

Healthy Scratches
Stefan LeBlanc Richard Bachman Stefan LeBlanc Seamus Malone Dylan Blujus (family matter)

 

1st period

 

Comets in Blue

 

 

Score at the end of the First Period: 1-0 Comets

 

Despite the early goal from Mitch Eliot, this was a period marked by key saves from Michael Di Pietro. Penguin’s repeatedly peppering MDP with shots from point-blank range while the Comets collective stands idly by. Surely the Canucks management staff recognizes the lack of physicality from this Comets lineup, despite the size of so many players. Not a whole lot of it being used against this Penguins team tonight. Comets outshot twelve to eight after twenty minutes of action. I’m surprised to see the Comets had eight. After that opening goal, it felt like the majority of the period was spent in the Comets end.

 

2nd Period

 

 

The Score at the end of the 2nd period: 1-0 Comets

 

Certainly, a more competitive period than the first, as Comets hold steady with eight shots to the Penguins nine. Still letting the Penguins walk into shooting lanes uncontested for blasts on goal, but they’re at the very least doing better setting up plays in the Penguins end. Loving the play of Mitch Eliot tonight, he’s got solid speed and is stepping up at the right moments to provide offense. Good to see from the rookie. Teves is having himself a good night. Even though he’s had a couple moments of putting himself out of position, he’s shown great hustle to recover with his backchecking. Lind had a good period as well, shame about that Sautner penalty that ruined his best shift in several games.

 

3rd period

 

 

Final Score: 2-1 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

 

Comets outshot in the finale frame ten-to-seven, 31 to 23 overall. I don’t think I can say they took their foot off the gas because they didn’t play like their foot was ever on it. More like, they put the keys in the ignition, turned the car on to warm it up, then went back inside to make breakfast, forgot the car was on, and eventually the battery died. Another game where the forward’s effort levels are all over the map, chemistry is toast, and the Comets only look semi-competitive due to the efforts of their goaltender. Shouldn’t be describing this many Comets games as pathetic, but what other adjective could be used to describe the way they blew this one?

 

Scoresheet

 

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st Utica Mitch Eliot Kole Lind PPG
3rd WBS Zach Trotman Joseph Blandisi PPG
3rd WBS Jordy Bellerive Zach Trotman Jake Lucchini 5V5

 

Takeaways

 

  • Beyond the point of making excuses. This team sucks. Some serious competitive fire lacking from the team’s top-nine
  • Considering the number of big guys on the team, I’m consistently shocked at how many shots they give up from the bottom of the circles or the slot. There is zero physicality from the team away from the boards that prevents teams from creating chances. It is essentially open season for opposing wingers to just park around the net and hammer one-timers from point-blank.
  • Speaking of which, Michael Di Pietro had himself a spectacular night. The AHL doesn’t track high-danger scoring chances, just shots, and goals. But if they did, I’m confident that about 60 to 75% of the shots he faced tonight would have been considered high-danger scoring chances. The guy was a monster for the Comets tonight. Once again, the last line of defense for the Comets is left high and dry
  • Getting a bit tiresome watch selfish hockey players fail repeatedly trying to 1v5 their opponents. It speaks volumes of the team’s chemistry and timing that 95% of their cross-ice one-timer passes were whiffed on. It was as if there was no communication between the forward lines, all game, as no one had a clue what their linemates were planning to do.
  • The exception to the above would be the offensive play from Brogan Rafferty and Mitch Eliot. Both created tonnes of space for their forwards to work with, only for the forward groups to bungle the opportunities. Rafferty and Eliot combined for seven shots on goal tonight. In fact! Tonight, the defense combined for thirteen of the teams 23 shots on goal. To paraphrase Tortorella, “good for (them), but not for us.”
  • Congrats to Mitch Eliot for his first AHL “goal.” Although it was a complete freebie. Game is probably the Comets third shutout loss in four games had Erkamps not decided to try and clear it towards his goalie
  • Comets fourth-liners once again provide the best forechecking and scoring pressure from the forward groups. Still hoping the Perron, Arseneau, and Stevenson combo gets reunited. Dyson Stevenson and Arseneau had themselves a solid game from both a defensive and offensive standpoint. Get them a center who “gets” them, like Perron, and let them put in work. The other lines right now are just so soft on the puck. The few times where players like MacEwen, or Bailey, or Lind weren’t soft, was when the team looked, it’s most dominant. They can’t keep playing like the puck is just going to magically wind up on their sticks through no action of their own.
  • Heading into tomorrow’s game on the road against Binghamton (again). I would hope that Cull leaves the lines the same just to let some chemistry build. There were some glimpses here and there tonight, let it grow! I can park my desire for the 18-27-26 line if it means no other excessive line changes.
  • Josh Teves was pretty hot and cold tonight. He had some good plays, and he had some bad ones. The holding penalty that late in the game was pretty soft. Especially considering the number of holds the Penguins were getting away with earlier in the game. Overall, I do like what Teves brings to the table. For a smaller guy, he’s fast, and he plays big, he doesn’t shy away from the physicality, which can’t be said about many others on the team. He’s dialed back on his tendencies to go on skating trips around the rink. I get his intentions as he tries to create space for his team. However, he could stand to be more efficient with his energy. Currently, he uses his speed to skate laps around his opponents, which looks good but does little to open up the ice. Skate fast enough to lure them in, while not getting caught. Not; skate so fast your opponent stands still to watch you accomplish nothing.
  • Zack MacEwen had the best shift of his season tonight. It came in the second period. And that was about it. Just re-read my thoughts from the team’s last game. Just not sure what’s going on with his game, as it’s just fallen off a cliff.
  • Tyler Graovac did look better tonight, but weirdly enough he’s only a good distributor when passing back to the defenders. Have yet to see him truly combine for a good play with his linemates.
  • Was Jim Benning in town for this one? Will he be in town at all? I wonder what the excuses would be for the team at this point? Boucher and Camper being out will certainly hinder any team. But the team is playing like they all answered a craigslist ad to come out and play beer-league hockey. I’m still waiting on the chemistry to form in the absence of Baertschi, Boucher, and Camper from the lineup. The management group couldn’t possibly have been counting on those three to appear in all 76 Comets games, could they have? If they did, what does that say about the prospect group they’ve put together on the farm? With one NHL’er and one quad-A goal-scorer, they’re an offensive dynamo, but without them, they’re a dumpster fire? Two more games in three days for this group to figure out what they are.
  • At least the team didn’t try and play dump-and-chase hockey all night

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Michael Di Pietro
  • Mitch Eliot
  • Brogan Rafferty

 

The Comets Trajectory?

 

The Comets return tomorrow night when they face off against the Binghamton Devils as they attempt to make it five straight losses end the losing streak before things go completely off the rails (if they weren’t already).

 

If you want a more condensed version of Comets recaps, you can now find MORE of my writing at thesinbin.net

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