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Crunch Corner: A Brief Journey To First Place

Despite a continuing lack of offense, the Crunch remain in the hunt for the top spot.

Scott Thomas Photography

The good news is that the Syracuse Crunch snapped their scoreless streak. They picked up a win along the way and moved into first place in the North Division for about 20 hours. Even though the offense continues to struggle, scoring only three goals in three games, the defense and goaltending kept them in every game during the week.

Standings

Injuries

The defense took a hit with Hubert Labrie missing two of the three games this week. The veteran has only 6 assists in 46 games this season, but has been a steady presence on the blue line. He’s also been one of the team’s stronger penalty killers and one of the few players that has a bit of a physical edge to his game.

With eight defensemen on the roster, the Crunch can absorb his loss if it’s short term. If it looks like it might be a little longer term then it wouldn’t be surprising if General Manager Julien BriseBois makes a quiet little depth pickup this week.

The Crunch were also without a trio of forwards all week. Taylor Raddysh, Dennis Yan and Troy Bourke all missed games with an assortment of day-to-day injuries. In that group the loss of Raddysh hurts the most for a team that is struggling to score. It also weakens an already struggling power play.

Coming and Going

There was a flurry of roster activity last week, but the only move that lasted more than a day was the recall of Jonne Tammela to fill a void due to the rash of injuries up front. He appeared in all three games, debuting on the top line before settling in with fellow Finn Otto Somppi on the fourth line. Tammela had a strong run of games during his time in Orlando, putting up 26 points in 23 games with Solar Bears. Coach Groulx is hoping that translates into a little more confidence in his game at the AHL level.

Mathieu Joseph briefly made his return to the Crunch (at least on paper) as the Lightning needed a roster spot for Jan Rutta. Erik Cernak’s brief injury necessitated Rutta’s recall and Joseph could be “sent down” without needing to clear waivers. Rutta had a nice day in Tampa before returning to the Crunch for the games this past weekend.

The Games

Wednesday, February 13th vs. Belleville Senators: 3-0 Loss (Recap) (Box Score) (Highlights)

Friday, February 15th vs. Rochester Americans: 1-0 Win (Recap) (Box Score) (Highlights)

Saturday, February 15th vs. Rochester Americans: 3-2 SO Loss (Recap) (Box Score) (Highlights)

Thoughts

Trade Deadline approach

We discussed this a couple of weeks ago and the theory still holds. The best players the Crunch can pick up at the deadline are already on the roster. Mitchell Stephens was one of them and he returned to action last week, deepening the Crunch’s strength down the middle. The news that Kevin Lynch is out for another three weeks or so wasn’t for the best, but he’s still scheduled to return in time for the playoff run.

If BriseBois and his crew are looking to bring in anyone, it might be a depth forward who can win faceoffs. The AHL doesn’t officially provide faceoff stats, but based on the eye test throughout the season, the Crunch have struggled in that department, especially when shorthanded. The first goal conceded against Rochester this past Saturday was a prime example. They lost the draw and the Amerks were able to get a quick shot off that led to a goal.

Other than that, there really isn’t much the Crunch need. Going into a scoring drought right before the deadline can make a lot of people nervous and pushing for a trade. However, there is enough latent talent on this roster that they will start scoring again.

The caveat, of course, is if BriseBois uses some of that talent to make the NHL club a little better. If he moves a prospect like Alex Volkov or Taylor Raddysh in a package deal to better the Lightning, then that depth takes a hit. Would he then make another deal to help keep the Crunch at the top of the league scoring table? Maybe. Oh, the joys of being an AHL team where your fortunes aren’t always in your control.

Players of the Week

Connor Ingram - 1 game, 1 win, 1 shutout - He only had one start, but he made the most of it, stopping all 32 Rochester shots he faced in picking up his 6th shutout of the season. He also moved to the top of the stats list with a 2.25 GAA which leads the league. Not a bad sophomore season for the young goaltender.

Cal Foote - 3 games, 1 assist - When a team only scores three goals in a week, it’s hard to pick someone based on their offense, so we’re going with a defensive player. With Cameron Gaunce missing two games due to a suspension, Rutta missing a game due to his recall, and Labrie out for two of the three games, the rookie really stepped up and led the defense. He also had a nice play to set up Ross Colton for the game-tying goal on Saturday.

Upcoming Games

Wednesday, February 20th vs. Laval Rocket, 7:00pm

Friday, February 22nd vs. Toronto Marlies, 7:00pm

Saturday, February 23rd vs. Toronto Marlies, 7:00pm