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Crunch Corner: Two Games, Two Wins

The Crunch scored their way to two more wins at home last week. Now they have to prove they can win on the road.

Scott Thomas Photography

Isn’t so much fun when the Syracuse Crunch win? Due to the All-Star break, they only played two games last week, but they won them both (rather convincingly) and continued to keep pace with the league-leading Rochester Americans. Carter Verhaeghe continued his recent hot streak, and the power play shook itself off a little as they converted twice against the Cleveland Monsters in a comeback win.

Connor Ingram looked pretty good in both wins and, along with his performance in the All-Star festivities, seems to be back from that leg injury that kept him out of action for multiple weeks.

Standings

Injuries

Another week with no major injuries for the Crunch. Of course, they didn’t get any of their injured players back, either, so it’s kind of a wash. Hopefully, some of them start trickling back in the next couple of weeks.

Coming and Going

The Crunch pulled off their semi-weekly shuffling of defensemen as Matt Spencer was sent to Orlando and Oleg Sosunov was brought back to Syracuse. That’s good for Spencer’s tan and for Sosunov’s development. Don’t expect the big rookie to get in any games anytime soon, but practicing with the Crunch is going to be the best way for him to improve right now. After a couple of weeks he might head back to Orlando for some game action, but for now working with the Crunch’s coaching staff should be beneficial for his growth.

Games

Friday, February 1st: 4-0 victory over Utica Comets (Recap) (Box Score) (Highlights)

Saturday, February 2nd: 6-3 victory over Cleveland Monsters (Recap) (Box Score) (Highlights)

Players of the Week

Carter Verhaeghe - 2 games, 2 goals, 4 assists, 9 shots. Verhaeghe just keeps rolling. He’s up to 10 points in his last three games and is narrowing the gap between himself and AHL points leader Daniel Carr (who has 4 points in his last 2 games). As loserpoints pointed out on Twitter, this type of performance would normally lead to a call-up at some point in the season. The only problem is that the Lightning really don’t have an opening right now.

Obviously we at Raw Charge weren’t the only ones to notice his excellent week as Verhaeghe was named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week. Congratulations on your “etched crystal award”!

Connor Ingram - 2 games, 2 wins, 1 shutout, 1.50 GAA, .944 SV%. In a bit of a surprise move, Ingram got the start for both contests. It’s not a surprise that he won them both. He’s now won 4 straight and may be emerging as the 1A goaltender in the rotation for the Crunch.

Thoughts

It’s Tough Being on the Road

After spending the last five games(and a lengthy All-Star break) enjoying the comforts of home, the Crunch head out on a five-game road trip that begins and ends in Rochester. Syracuse’s 17 home wins leads the league, while their 10 road wins is a bit more pedestrian. It’s a good thing that they had spent the last couple of weeks at home, since they have yet to win a game on the road in the calendar year 2019. They’ve played four road games and lost them all.

Why have they not been as effective on the road as they have been at home?

It isn’t their defensive play. At home and on the road the Crunch have allowed 2.70 goals against per game. That’s a pretty consistent mark, and it’s pretty good for the AHL. In fact, only San Jose is better at preventing pucks from going into the net. Odd for a Syracuse team that, on paper, doesn’t look like a strong defensive team.

Quite simply, they leave their offense in Syracuse. At home they average 4.43 goals for per contest. Away from the friendly confines of War Memorial Arena they only average 3.1 goals for. More than a goal per game difference is a pretty striking contrast for this team.

Their recent road losing streak epitomizes the dichotomy of their offense. Over their last four games on the road (all losses), they only averaged two goals per game. They averaged five goals per game over their last four home games.

Part of the reason for this is their power play. They don’t generate as many power play chances on the road and convert on fewer opportunities. In Syracuse, the Crunch draw about 5.17 penalties per game and convert 25.2% of them. On the road those numbers drop to 3.9 penalties per game and a 20.5% success rate.

Interestingly enough, their penalty kill stats are the complete opposite. They are way better on the road at killing penalties (89.8%) then they are at home (70.2%), and they are whistled for fewer penalties on the road (4.4 per game versus 5.4).

Perhaps they play a slightly more run-and-gun style at home, thereby drawing and committing more penalties. On the road, they may tend to be a little more conservative, dialing back their fast break tendencies which lead to fewer penalties drawn. It’s just a theory.

One thing that does happen more on the road is that they tend to get outshot more. In their 20 road games they’ve been outshot 11 times. At home they’ve been outshot 9 times in 23 contests. Based entirely on the eye test, that stat holds up. It seems on the road that they get pinned back in their own zone more often, allowing the other team ample opportunities to throw the puck on net.

If they want to keep pace in a tightening race for the top of the North Division, they are going to have to find some way to bring the offense with them on the road. Seven points separate Rochester (1st) and Utica (4th) right now. Even with a six-game winning streak, the Crunch have barely closed the gap with Rochester and are just barely holding off the Marlies, who have suddenly remembered how to keep the puck out of the net.

The next two weeks are going to be very important for the Crunch’s season. If they stumble on the road, they can quickly go from second down to fourth and face a tremendous uphill battle the rest of the season.

Upcoming Games

Following six games at home, the Crunch embark on a five-game road trip. First up is the division-leading Rochester Americans, who have a three-point lead over the Crunch as the week begins. Next is Hartford, a team that is struggling a bit. Their 43 points is the fewest in the Eastern Conference. Providence, affiliate of the Boston Bruins, is in a dogfight for second in the Atlantic, one point behind the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Wednesday, February 6th at Rochester Americans

Friday, February 8th at Hartford Wolf Pack

Saturday, February 9th at Providence Bruins