COMETS HARVEST: ROCHE5TER @ UTICA

Admirable Bone-to-pick:

So was everyone going to keep watching me pump out charts with the wrong season listed for the entire year without saying anything!?

This entire time, I had been posting charts dated 2019-20?!?!

“Why didn’t anyone tell me!? I’ve been making an idiot out of myself!”

 

THE SEASON IS A FLAT CIRCLE:

The Comets are back in action this week for their first 3-in-4 of the season!

And I bet you anything that you could guess who their opponents are!

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Did you guess one of the Rochester Americans or the Syracuse Crunch!?

‘Cause if you did? You got it!

 

The carousel of playing the same teams over and over again, as though time were a flat circle, continues.

They don’t play someone other than Syracuse or Binghamton until April 3rd when they take on the Providence Bruins.

It is almost exclusively Syracuse/Rochester for the entire season.

It’s a really… really unfortunate schedule.

I have to throw asterisks on all the stats I’m keeping this season by saying, “oh yeah, these shot-control rates came from playing the same 40-50 players for 90% of the season.”

But, because the Comets Harvest cares about the little things and the little developments, we persevere.

Tonight, the Comets, sans Jon Gillies AND Kole Lind, will look to avenge last week’s loss. A tall order for a young group.

Lind took a high-stick at the tail-end of last Wednesday’s game that split his face open pretty good. That infraction put the Comets on an extended 5-on-3 powerplay where Jack Rathbone picked up his first goal of the season.

The powerplay was absolutely atrocious for the Comets last Wednesday. Picking up just that one goal from Rathbone in eight opportunities. I’m not sure how much better it will look tonight without Kole Lind in the Boucher spot either.

Ironically, at 5v5, the Comets controlled play exceedingly well. Their volume approach generated a PLUS-38 shot-attempt differential at 5v5.

Unfortunately, their goaltending was not up to snuff.

Jon Gillies has been Solid for the Comets this season, but the two goals he allowed last Wednesday weren’t great.

The first was a point shot was the only one you couldn’t fault him on. Screened by three skaters and tipped in the middle to go high over his glove side. The dude had no idea a shot was even coming.

The second was a backbreaker. Can’t be allowing squeakers like this while on the man-advantage.

The third was just Gillies looking completely lost in his crease and allowing Rochester an easy tap-in goal. No need to swim. Just plant.

The Comets will be starting either Jake Kielly or one of the Blues rookies, Joel Hofer or Evan Fitzpatrick.

A fact that segues nicely into a major issue currently making the rounds in the Canuck-o-sphere thanks to Kevin Woodley and his appearance on the latest Vancast.

DI PIETRO NEEDS GAMES!

The Canucks goaltending agreement with St. Louis has currently seen Jon Gillies take on the lion’s share of starts.

Gillies is a 27-year-old AHL tweener who is a prime 3rd string candidate for St. Louis.

Jake Kielly is 24-years-old likely an ECHL-AHL tweener who doesn’t really factor into the Canucks short-term or long-term plans.

Evan Fitzpatrick is 23-years-old on the end of his ELC after putting up abysmal numbers in the ECHL. He’s basically there for a place to practice at this rate.

Arturs Silovs is a waiver-exempt, soon-to-be 20-year-old who has only been given a single game with the Manitoba Moose while on a loan-agreement with the Jets. He likely returns to the Barrie Colts when the OHL resumes, but that isn’t a guarantee.

Michael Di Pietro is a waiver-exempt 21-year-old who is burning the final year of his ELC sitting on the practice squad, earning time with Ian Clark (who may leave at the end of his contract), and practicing with the taxi-squad.

This is unacceptable. The Comets play nine games over the next 22 days. How the Canucks couldn’t call-up Silovs to the taxi-squad to send Di Pietro down for game-action is beyond me.

The Comets don’t have an AHL goalie on them right now!

They could’ve made this switch weeks ago!

DO IT NOW! Get the kid playing games!

He was so good for the Comets last season; he put the team on his back on most nights! You can’t waste this year.

DO SOMETHING:

Blues contracted player, Curtis McKenzie, gets tonight’s honour of being the Harvest’s do something player!

McKenzie is a minute-munching second/third-line forward playing alongside Carson Focht and Nolan Stevens. Despite their impressive two-way play and overall control, I’d expect more substantial offence generation for someone with McKenzie’s takeaway rates. He isn’t the fastest skater, but he’s adept at picking off passes and stripping pucks while forechecking. The offence that follows that solid forechecking pressure has been underwhelming.

It’s especially bizarre to see someone preventing goals and shot-attempts at 5v5 at his rate, without contributing a lick of goals. Just two on-ice goals-for at 5v5 in six games played for McKenzie.

McKenzie has the fourth-worst goals-for rates (per-60) of any Comets player. While he’s done excellent at preventing goals against, absolutely nothing is happening for production.

I’m still questioning why Cull has chosen McKenzie for PP1 — I can only assume it is apart of the Canucks deal with the Blues as part of sharing an affiliate.

But frankly, McKenzie brings nothing to the powerplay. Even with PP1 minutes, there is a considerable lack of goals scored (per-60) on the powerplay with McKenzie on the ice.

Need him to step up his offensive game.

He was a 42 point player for the Chicago Wolves last season and is just two seasons removed from a 25 goal campaign with the Texas Stars.

Hopefully, that starts tonight in the absence of the Comets first-line center, Kole Lind.

STARTING ROSTER

 

  • Once again, the lineup blender leaves us with a bunch of trios who’ve spend absolutely zero time together at 5v5, haha.
  • I have been saying it all year, “put Gadjovich on the top-line because they need a goalscorer to make it work.” Hopefully, they can!
  • Fortunately, the team gets Hugh McGing and John Stevens back from IR. Otherwise, they would be playing with a 9F/7D roster…which truly would’ve been something!
  • Also, the Stevens brothers on a line together <3
  • Looks like Josh Wesley will play this game as a forward instead of rotating in as the seventh defenceman.

Don’t feel like reading? Click here for spoilers!!

GAME 9:

1st period:

PP1: Baertschi, Rathbone, Gadjovich, Jasek, Reinke

  • Love the composition of this powerplay unit; a bit safe with Reinke/Rathbone on the back-end, but I love seeing Baertschi and Jasek out with Rathbone and Gadjovich. That’s a powerplay unit that, with time, can do some damage.
  • PP1 Gets a one-timer from Jasek, but Amerks sweep the puck out of the zone, Comets 2nd powerplay unit hops over the boards

PP2: Woo, Focht, McGing, McKenzie, Nolan Stevens

PK1: McKenzie, J. Stevens, Tucker, Woo

PK2: Lockwood, Kaspick, Teves, Reinke

2nd period:

PP1: Jasek, Rathbone, Reinke, Baertschi, Gadjovich

PP2: Focht, Woo, McGing, McKenzie, N. Stevens

PK1: Jasek, Tucker, Woo, J. Stevens

  • [GOAL-ROCHESTER- 2-1 Comets] A mere twenty seconds into the penalty kill, and the Comets lead is cut down by one. Brett Murray with a gorgeous saucer-pass to Jack Quinn for a sharp-angle goal over Kielly. Tough break for the Comets, who were absolutely dominating the period thus far.
  • Mitch Eliot with another point-shot clapper on Luukkonen. The guy is hunting for that first goal of the season.
  • Casey Fitzgerald with a slow one-timer from the point that narrowly goes wide of Kielly’s net.
  • Teves really showing off his skating tonight with his holds along the offensive-zone blue line.
  • Lockwood takes a high-sticking infraction, and the Comets head to their third PK of the night.

PK1: Kaspick ,Teves, Jasek, Eliot

3rd period:

PP1: Gadjovich, Jasek, Baertschi, Rathbone, Reinke

PK1: Kaspick, Teves, Eliot, J. Stevens

  • Time winds down after PK1 clears the zone.
  • Comets will spend the first minute and 18 seconds shorthanded, 3v4.

Overtime:

 

Shootout:

RESULT:

Comets win in the shootout: 3-2

SCORESHEET:

 

 

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • Jonah Gadjovich looked great on the first-line. No hyperbole or praise for dramatic effect. Gadjovich looked fast, displayed great hands, hockey IQ, and two-way play. Was one of his best two-way games he’s played all season. He did not look out of place on the Comets first-line with Baertschi and Jasek. His forechecking presence was badly needed. Jasek is a great option at picking off passes after they’re released, but Gadjovich’s physical forecheck made those players make risky outlet passes for the taking. Happy for the guy. A lot of people wrote him off after the last two seasons. Even now, I still have reservations due to his skating. But tonight was a fantastic step in the right direction. Proving he can skate and play with the first-line against top-competition and not look out of place is a good look for the big man from Whitby.
  • Gadjovich ended the night with seven shots on goal and now leads the AHL in goals. Not too shabby!
  • I don’t think Lind will be out for too much longer. Should he return, I think Gadjovich may have earned himself an extended look on the Comets top line. Maybe the center will be different; maybe it will be Jasek, maybe it will be Lind. It’s tough to say. But I don’t think we’ve seen the last of ‘Top-Sixjovich.’ I think he displayed a lot of the qualities necessary to being a top-line forward at the AHL level. He was good. Impressively good. He might just be the goalscoring punch at 5v5 that this top-six has been in desperate need of this season.
  • Lukas Jasek had a really great game at 5v5. He was stripping the puck off of Amerks left, right and center. He was missing shots and holding the puck a bit too much for my liking on the powerplay. But 5v5 is where the game matters most. And he excelled on that top-line with Gadjovich and Baertschi. I actually thought he and Gadjovich had better chemistry than Jasek and Baertschi had as a pair. Kind of how I’ve been saying all year that the first-line needs a shooter. That’s what I think Jasek needs. Someone to go to the slot and redirect his passes or tip his shot-attempts. I was very intrigued by the speed that Jasek was displaying on the Comets PK and at 5v5 on those forced turnovers. Legitimately looked like an NHL’er out there at times.
  • Jack Rathbone was about as quiet as Rathbone gets. AKA, he didn’t score any points. He was still a lot of flash and panache whenever he held the puck, but the Amerks were honing in on him whenever he started to put in work along the blue line. They were wise to his attempts at cutting down the wings to set up cross-ice passes for his shooters. The one time where he really went for it, the Amerks took a blatant tripping penalty to avoid the set-play. Was absolutely the best part about the Comets’ first powerplay unit. His bomb from anywhere on the ice is something to behold. NHL players don’t really clump like they do in the AHL; AHL PKs tend to get very panicky, resulting in a cluster-ball of 4-5 players in the way of a primary shooter. When Rathbone has that shooting lane, it is like an absolute laser beam firing off. I still don’t know how Luukkonen made that one safe from on his ass. Rath’s shot is absolute money.
  • Speaking of the powerplay, I liked the reinvigorated look with Rathbone on the blue line, though I would prefer to see someone like Will Lockwood out instead of Mitch Reinke. Reinke doesn’t bring much to the powerplay, frankly, and he doesn’t have the speed to backcheck on those shorthanded rush opportunities. Give me Will Lockwood out there all day to backcheck like a madman and create zone-entries for PP1. Speed kills, and even if his hands can’t keep up with his feet, the net positive of having someone like Lockwood fighting for rebounds on the powerplay is huge.
  • Speaking of which, I thought Lockwood played a great game. Really think his speed will earn him a shot in the NHL even if the production isn’t there. The dude can wheel, and if he can translate his penalty killing to the NHL, he’ll be found money for the Canucks next season.
  • Another solid night for Josh Teves and Mitch Eliot in limited minutes. Teves’ speed is certainly above-average AHL, borderline NHL, quality. Just tends to dish the puck or lose the puck at the most inopportune moments. Eliot has an absolute bomb of a shot, and you can tell he’s searching for that first goal of the season. He had to settle for a primary assist on that Gadjovich goal, but a goal is bound to come from him soon—dude claps.
  • Liked the look of the Stevens’ brothers line with Curtis McKenzie. With last-change, Trent Cull got them out against the veteran/big-boy hockey line of JS Dea, Andrew Ogilvie, and Remi Elie; and they absolutely dominated them in shot-attempts. The brothers had a couple good breakaway opportunities, but I think they peeled off of the opportunities because neither wanted the other to have a scoring edge over the other. Fair.
  • I don’t really like to talk about reffing in the game thoughts section because it makes the Harvest sound way too Homer-ish. But the reffing tonight was atrocious. Several blatant missed icings completely tilted the ice in favour of the Amerks. Plus, the non-tripping call on Jasek that led to the game-tying goal was pathetic. Refs have to be better than they were tonight in Utica. To hell with game-management. A team like the Comets, dominating a team for 2 minutes straight in the offensive-zone, shouldn’t have icing waved off simply because the Amerks have the long-change to go through.
  • Kielly was okay tonight. He made some clutch stops, but he got caught flailing around his crease for some reason on several attempts. The Jasek non-call on the game-tying goal aside. It was a weak goal to allow. Fortunately, Kielly has found a niche as a shootout god as he picks up his second shootout win for the Comets.
  • Jett Woo was completely fine.
  • Sven Baertschi was solid as usual.
  • Carson Focht was dominant in his shifts, even if the points didn’t come. His fourth-line with Robby Jackson and Josh Wesley had no business being as dominant as it was when it came to controlling shot-attempts and suppressing attempts-against.
  • Hugh McGing had a big night in his return from IR — Four shots, the opening goal, and a shootout goal! Big contribution on a night that needed guys to step up in the absence of so many key players.

 

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Jonah Gadjovich
  2. Lukas Jasek
  3. Mitch Eliot

HM: Josh Teves

Next Up on the Docket

Comets are back up this weekend for a double-header against, you guessed it! The Amerks and the Crunch!

Plugs

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Cheers for tuning in, and I’ll catch you this weekend for back-to-back Comets action!

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