Consistency is defined by the World English Dictionary as, "conformity with previous attitudes, behaviour, practice, etc." Many times, the top wish of sports fans during the regular season is for a team to have consistency. In hockey, consistency can take several forms. Maybe a team's power play always seems to be spectacular. Maybe their penalty kill just works. Maybe their defense always locks down in their own zone. Maybe their offense makes plays with ease.
However a team shows it, consistency is generally the mark of a playoff-deserving team. Last season, for instant, Syracuse was one of the most consistent road teams in the league. Going into an opponent's building seemed to super-charge the already dangerous Crunch. Their capturing of the AHL's East Division title was, in part, due to their consistency away from home. There were other aspects to the team/s game that always seemed to click, of course, or else the Crunch wouldn't have become the eventual Eastern Conference champions. But one of the things that was so admirable about last year's group was their road consistency.
This year, consistency, whether on the road or in other parts of their game, has been a very difficult concept for the Crunch. The past week is a perfect example of that. Syracuse was away from home all three games, playing in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (WBS) on Wednesday, Toronto (TOR) on Friday and Binghamton (BNG) on Saturday. From the way the team played, one might think they were hearing about three different teams.
Wednesday's game at WBS:
The Crunch started the game off on the right foot, taking a 2-1 lead into the dressing room at the first intermission. Syracuse scored twice in a three-shot span, casing the Penguins' starting goalie from the crease before the first twenty minutes were even done. The goals were scored by Matt Taormina and Mike Angelidis. Taormina's goal was a power play marker.
The Crunch had all of the momentum going into the second period, but a lack-luster seven shots-on-goal total led to zero production. Meanwhile, WBS would score twice in the second and then twice in the third (the final goal was an empty netter) to seal a 5-2 victory. The Crunch mustered less than 10 SOG per period: eight in the first, seven in the second, and nine in the third. Crunch goalie Cedrick Desjardins faced 27 shots.
Friday's game at TOR:
Perhaps the significance of a new year shook the players. Perhaps the additions of Vladislav Namestnikov and PC Labrie finally woke up the locker room. Whatever it was, a different team appeared to take the ice Friday in Toronto. Brett Connolly recorded three points (1g, 2a) and Namestnikov scored twice. Seven other players, including recent send-down Dana Tyrell, contributed. The team locked down. The team clicked. The team fufllied every hockey cliche ever and won the game 6-3.
The game was the first time Syracuse has scored six goals in a game. Last year, the Crunch achieved that amount of goals seven different times. Obviously, six markers in a game is no small feat for this year's roster. Despite having to rally from a 2-0 deficit in the first and not scoring their first tally until mid-way through the second, Syracuse barely broke a sweat. They scored twice in the second and exploded in the third, scoring four goals.
Saturday's game at BNG:
Whatever was in the water Friday seemed to initially carry over to Saturday's game. Syracuse had a strong first period and took a 2-1 lead into the dressing room. They added another tally in the first minute of the second, before completely falling apart. Binghamton would be allowed to score four unanswered power play goals, giving them a 5-3 lead a few minutes into the third. This came as quite the shock to the Crunch, as their penalty kill had been the second-best road PK in the league leading up to the game (90%).
Despite being on the ropes, Syracuse managed to score twice more in the third to tie the game and force over time. This did give the Crunch an important divisional point, but one was only in the cards. Binghamton would score yet another power play goal in OT to give them the victory. So, even though nine Crunch players registered a point, the Crunch's defense and, surprisingly, their penalty kill basically sunk them. The five PP goals surrendered by the Crunch was a season high.
The team is a long way off from being consistent, that's for sure. There are glimmers. There is good things happening. But it just isn't happening enough.
Latest Stats for the Syracuse Crunch:
Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 14-14-2-3
Place in the conference standings (top 8 make the playoffs): Eleventh, same as last week
Place in division standings: Fifth, same as last week
Top scorer: Nikita Kucherov, 13-11-24
- Top scorer still active with the team: Vladislav Namestnikov, 10-14-24
Top scoring defenseman: Matt Taormina, 3-10-13
Top defenseman, +/-: Jean-Philippe Cote, +6
- Top defenseman, +/-, still active with the team: Dmitry Korobov, +3
Top rookie: Nikita Kucherov, 13-11-24
- Top rookie still active with the team: Cedric Paquette, 9-13-22
Other Syracuse Crunch Player notes/transactions:
-Korobov (D) was returned to Syracuse this past week.
-PC Labrie (LW) cleared waivers and was loaned to the Crunch from Tampa Bay.
-Riku Helenius (G) decided to agree to an ECHL assignment and was sent to the Everblades.
-Danick Gauthier (LW) was returned to the Everblades on Sunday.
-Connolly has 13 points (6g, 7a) in his last seven games. He has scored at least a point in every one of those contests.
-The Crunch have scored a power-play goal in their last four games.