This week the Syracuse Crunch lost all three games they played. The first two games were dropped Wednesday and Friday against the Toronto Marlies, and the last game was lost to the Cleveland Monsters on Saturday night. The Crunch averaged 36 shots against, but their goaltending averaged a dour .889 shots percentage. The goals against disparity couldn’t allow the Crunch to ever get their game going. While the Crunch do lead the entire AHL in powerplay percentage at 34.8%, this portion of their special teams wasn’t strong enough to make up for the scarier parts of their game this week.
It was a bone crunching, net rattling, turnover producing weekend that made the Crunch fall frighteningly far down the standings. The scary plays outweighed the positive, and it makes one wonder how much longer can the Crunch wait to progress before putting it all together.
With all that being said, one thing the Crunch are not frightened of is fighting. A big testament to the character of this team is how willing veterans like Daniel Walcott, P.C. Labrie, and Gemel Smith are able to pull the team into the fight. In both instances, the team looked livelier and more competitive.
Wednesday Night’s Fights:
The first fight saw Daniel Walcott hit a Marlies player that Marlies defenceman Noel Hoefenmayer took exception to:
I’m still unsure what transpired here, but Gemel Smith was seen hitting Adam Gaudette at the Marlies bench.
Friday Night’s Fight:
PC Labrie tries to wake his team up by fighting off the draw.
Curtis Douglas drops the gloves at centre ice pic.twitter.com/OM9Jw4TeUZ— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) October 28, 2022
One of the more wacky and otherworldly moments of the weekend was when Trevor Carrick scored on a knucklepuck from the blueline.
In either case against the Marlies Wednesday, the Crunch couldn’t find a way to put it together. They lost in regulation on Wednesday 5-3.
Trick or Treat?
The Crunch did manage to get a point from Friday night’s game, but an ill-timed pass led to an odd man rush and a goal for the Marlies to win 4-3.
Friday night’s game saw the Crunch down 3-1, and in the third Alex Barré-Boulet took the puck untouched through the entire Marlies team and unleashed a shot to bring the Crunch back within one.
A few minutes later Barré-Boulet jumped on a rebound and tied it up:
Dayzy with the stick handling, BB with the rebound goal pic.twitter.com/VV61YaVhlb— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) October 29, 2022
One positive from this weekend was that Barré-Boulet is now solely in 4th place in goals in Syracuse Crunch history. He’s 5th in assists, 4th in points, and only 3 points away from third place behind former Crunch center Mark Hartigan. This season he leads the AHL in points with 12 (2G 10A).
Another player of note is Darren Raddysh who is tied for first in points by defenseman in the AHL. He continues to show his puck moving acumen, and his one timer is a weapon the team has utilized effectively.
In overtime Friday night, the Crunch were able to kill off a penalty, but then a broken offensive zone play and a missed opportunity for Barré-Boulet to dish off a feed ro a wide open Darren Raddysh. Instead the puck flubbed off Barré-Boulet’s stick and went right to the Marlie’s defender who sent a pass to Nicholas Abruzzese on a 2-on-1. Abruzzese then took a shot instead of passing, which Lagace made a save on, but then Abruzzese threw the rebound wildly back on net and it went in. It was an unfortunate play because it was looking like the game was headed for a shootout, but a slight misplay on the puck by Lagace cost the Crunch an extra point.
It seems to be the story of the season so far for the Crunch. Just when they’re getting things going, just when it looks like they’re putting it all together, a mental lapse leads to a costly goal against.
Take Saturday’s game against the Monsters, the Crunch found themselves down two goals from a slow start in the first, make a poor decision that makes the game 3-0 and out of reach with the way Joonas Korpisalo was playing. It starts with a broken offensive play, and a Crunch defender is deep in the offensive zone, the Monsters then have a 2-on-1, which they capitalize on.
The Fixy feed and the Meyer finish that gave us a 3 goal lead. pic.twitter.com/0hZxz8s7NB— Cleveland Monsters (@monstershockey) October 30, 2022
The Crunch were able to score on Korpisalo early on in the third to make it 3-1, but the Monsters came back and made it a three-goal lead a few minutes later. It took 7 minutes of an empty net and an extra attacker for the Crunch to get the second goal and make it 4-2.
For all the good Cleveland was doing to tally goals, it was their defense and goaltending that made this game out of reach from the get go. Korpisalo was with the Monsters on a rehab stint and faced his first game action since undergoing hip surgery, but he looked every bit the NHL goaltender as he made 38 saves. It was good enough for Columbus because on Sunday they recalled him to the big club.
The Monsters may have shown life throughout Saturday’s game, but the diagnosis for the Crunch is grim. They are either incapable of holding onto a lead, or, as is the case on Saturday, they’re too slow to start showing up offensively. It’s still too early to tell if these character building comebacks will result in a stronger team dynamic. Right now, they aren’t leading to much except for some loser points in overtime.
All that said, the Crunch have lived up to the spooky festivities of Halloween weekend because the team looked scary at times during each game. The defense has made it too easy to enter the zone, Lagace’s goaltending is serviceable but could use one more save, and the offense seems to need a spark to get going. In both games against the Marlies the Crunch struggled to score in the first period, and the team struggled to keep the puck out of the net. At no point in the game against Cleveland did the Crunch even look competitive.
After Friday Night’s game Here’s what Groulx thinks of his team:
"When I look at the way we're playing, I think it's not good enough, but we're progressing, which is a good sign."— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) October 29, 2022
Head Coach Ben Groulx sees the positive after a tough overtime loss to Toronto. pic.twitter.com/Uvx5xslczw
It seems like Saturday’s game was a bit regressive for the Crunch, but it’ll be interesting to see how they respond as they look to visit a divisional rival on Wednesday.
After this weekend, the Crunch find themselves toward the bottom of the North Division with only 5 points. This week they will be going on a three-game road trip. First they will play Rochester on Wednesday in what one would presume is as close to a must win game this early in the season as one could get. It will give the Crunch an opportunity to close the gap on a divisional foe and keep them from getting any points. On Friday and Saturday the Crunch will go down to Charlotte to play a back to back against the Atlantic Division Checkers.