Things don't seem to be going well in very many places of the Lightning organization lately, and that includes in Syracuse. The Crunch have lost four in a row (one in the shootout last weekend) and, despite putting up a season-high 43 shots on goal Saturday, are struggling to find answers.
It would be easy to blame the absence of J.T. Brown, who is still on recall with Tampa. It would be simple to talk about the injuries that are occurring at both levels (four Crunch players missing Saturday's contest with various ailments.) It would also be logical that Syracuse's struggles are linked to a combination of both of those things.
Unfortunately, the main problem is that none of those things can be solved easily or quickly. They're problems that are going to linger and keep occurring, and it has to be up to the vets and the coaching staff to guide the team to a place where they are figuring it out. The fans in Syracuse just hope that happens soon.
In two weeks the Crunch have slipped from second place in the Eastern Conference to seventh. It's early still, and it's better for this to happen now than in March. But it's still frustrating for both the players and the fans.
Saturday night on the Shootout Show, defenseman J.P. Cote spoke to the mentality of the guys in the dressing room. He admitted that the team is tense, and that it would be good for the group to take a step back from everything and breathe a little bit. He said that a key to getting the Crunch back on track is to go back to approaching games like the winning team they are.
Cote also had the following to say about negative emotions and how much of a necessity it is for the Crunch to avoid them:
As soon as you start to get angry, that's when things start going down hill. You don't want to come to the rink. We have to find a way to rally.
Cote was then asked about the coaching staff and how much confidence the team has in them. Cote said that head coach Rob Zettler knows the game, has played it, and that "any of the guys in the dressing room would go through a wall for him." He mentioned how impressed he's been with assistant coach Trent Cull, and shared that Crunch goaltender Cedrick Desjardins told Cote that goalie/video coach David Alexander is among the best Desjardins has ever had. It was made very clear that any fans looking to scapegoat the coaching staff are probably going to have to look elsewhere.
The Crunch have a busy holiday week ahead of them. The US celebrates Thanksgiving this week, but the Blue Machine, as they've dubbed themselves, won't have too much time to enjoy turkey. Syracuse plays in Binghamton Wednesday, at home Friday and then heads over to Glens Falls, New York, to face the Adirondack Phantoms for the first time this season.
Latest Stats for the Syracuse Crunch:
Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 9-6-1-1
Place in the conference standings (top 8 make the playoffs): Seventh
Place in division standings: Fourth
Top scorer: Nikita Kucherov, 13-11-24
Top scoring defenseman: Matt Taormina 2-8-10
Top defenseman, +/-: Dmitry Korobov, +7
Top rookie: Nikita Kucherov, 13-11-24
Home Game attendance:11/25: 4,967
Other Syracuse Crunch Player notes/transactions:
-Brett Connolly returned to the Syracuse Crunch lineup Saturday after playing 10 games with the Tampa Bay Lighting. When asked about what's going on with Connolly, Cote admitted that his teammate doesn't seem as confident in himself, but that all he really needs is an opportunity to get himself going again.
-J.P. Cote's six-point streak was snapped Saturday night
-Dmitry Korobov was returned to the Crunch this past week
-Matt Taormina and Nikita Nesterov both returned to the Crunch's line up this past weekend after missing several games with injuries
-Philippe Paradis, Joey Mormina, Evan Rankin, and Vladdy Namestnikov all missed Saturday's contest after suffering injuries Friday night at Hamilton. Namestnikov will be missing several weeks with a broken hand.
-The Crunch's penalty kill allowed three goals Saturday night, while the power play was 0/6.
-Defenseman Jordan Henry was released from his PTO this past week.