It seems as though no matter the affiliation, the Syracuse Crunch will always know how to do one thing consistently: collapse.
And, boy, did we ever collapse this weekend.
Judging by the reactions of my favorite Tampa Bay Lightning fans, you all are quite unused to seeing this side of your farm team. Understandable, of course, and I must say such reactions are a refreshing change from some of the ignorance and apathy we're used to seeing from our NHL friends. Fortunately for Crunch fans, this kind of thing is pretty common at the War Memorial. This weekend was a perfect storm of bad situations, one right after another, some caused by the Crunch and others caused by the cold wench that is Mistress Hockey.
Luckily for us, this one-point-out-of-four missed opportunity of a weekend did not damn us too badly, if at all.
- Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 4-1-1-1
- Place in the conference standings (top 8 make the playoffs): 4th
- Place in division standings: Tied for first by points, but technically in second place by tiebreaker
- Top scorer: Cory Conacher, 5-6-11 (Conacher is also currently third in the league in scoring)
- Top scoring defenseman: Mark Barberio, 2-4-6
- Top defenseman, +/-: Dmitry Korobov, +3
- Top rookie: , 2-4-6
- Game attendance: Saturday: 5,288, Sunday: 4,019
Thanks to the team's improbable 3-in-3 sweep last weekend, only getting one point out of a possible four this weekend didn't sink us, and we're actually in a better position now than we were two weeks ago. This weekend was just weird. No other way to put it. It seemed like a combination of things sunk the Crunch: rumors of illness among the team swept through Twitter and made fans wonder; rising star Vladislav Namestnikov was sidelined last weekend by a shoulder injury and is expected to miss 4 to 6 weeks; the penalty-keeping part of the scoreboard stopped working Saturday night and wasn't operational Sunday, something that probably confused and annoyed the players even more than it did the fans; the team was listless Saturday night and penalty-prone almost to ridiculousness Sunday.
To be honest, on Saturday the Crunch dug their own grave. The team was uncharacteristically lazy. They lacked jump, energy and joy. Gone was the crisp passes and quick play we had seen and enjoyed opening night. Then the Crunch just couldn't catch a break Sunday, when a poorly-timed off-sides call and a weird collision at center ice set the stage for a dramatic victory for the Adirondack Phantoms 13 seconds into overtime.
What impressed me:
- Alex Killorn made himself very visible this past weekend, scoring his first two goals of the season Sunday afternoon and putting some pep back into the Crunch's step.
- Mike Angelidis proved himself worthy of the C Sunday night, taking a potentially dangerous shot off the body with mere seconds left in regulation, giving the Crunch a precious few extra seconds to scramble long enough for a point.
- Radko Gudas continued to live up to his reputation, putting his body on the line and his soul into both games this past weekend. He and Angelidis were part of the few who showed up Saturday, and helped to push the Crunch on Sunday.
What didn't impress me:
- The amount of penalties this team took over the weekend. The Crunch combined for a total of 55 penalty minutes between Saturday and Sunday. I've been told high penalty totals are par for the course with this group, but I think these guys have to realize this isn't the same AHL they played in last year. Every team has those bubble guys who should be in the NHL now, and those guys are going to run this team ragged if they keep taking that many penalties.
- What was almost more frustrating than the amount of penalties was the amount of power play opportunities they wasted. It seemed like we would just get a chance, only to fritter the man-advantage away by taking a penalty. They need to start settling down and be responsible so they can get going and take advantage of those opportunities. When these guys can focus, they're pretty deadly. When they can't, they're a frustrating mess.
- Matt Taormina just seems lost out there. He was supposed to be a big signing for the Crunch, but I'm just not impressed yet. He can't seem to do much else besides shove the puck at the net from the blueline, and he isn't very accurate at that.
The Crunch are away again all next weekend before returning home the week after. Here's hoping to a better showing in front of the home crowd!
(Photo by Scott Thomas of Scott Thomas Photography and used with his permission. )