AGD: Third of Three in Hamilton

Time: 3:00 pm MST

Location: Copps Coliseum


After last night’s 4-3 SOL, the Heat sit in a three-way tie for second in the Western Conference with 10 points in just six games played. Abbotsford has yet to lose in regulation, although the Lake Erie Monsters routinely outshot them during the recent head-to-head match-up.

Roman Horak continues to be on fire, collecting two goals and on one assist over the two games in Cleveland. He moved up the rotation in the absence of Ben Walter last game and assisted on Krys Kolanos’ marker. Sven Baertschi collected another two apples last night as well, meaning he continues to lead the team in scoring with three goals and eight points.

Today will be a stiff test for Abbotsford, if only because of the circumstances: not only have they already played two games in two nights, they went to overtime with the Monsters yesterday and then spent the rest of the night on a bus to get to Hamilton. It’s a good bet the boys will be exhausted today as a result.

The Lineup

As usual, the Heat roster continues to change daily. Ben Walter was the veteran who drew the short straw yesterday, but I would expect him to draw back in today.

  • Baertschi – Walter – Sylvester
  • Horak – Kolanos – Ruesegger
  • Street – Laing – Bancks
  • Olson – Reinhart – Aliu
  • Brodie – Piskula
  • Breen- McCarthy
  • McKelvie – Callahan
  • Taylor

Estoclet, Eddy or Lamb may make their way back into the line-up as well, depending on fatigue and the vet rotation.

The Opponent

Rather than guess my way around the Bulldog’s line-up, Stephen Cooper of A Winning Habit supplied FlamesNation with a great scouting report of the Habs farm team. First the lines:

  • Holland – Bournival – Gallagher
  • Quailer – Dumont – Palushaj
  • Blunden – Geoffrion – Nattinen
  • Berger – Boyce – Stortini
  • Beaulieu – St. Denis
  • Tinordi – Pateryn
  • Nash – Ellis
  • Mayer

Hamilton has cruised to a .500 record over 5 games including 3 matches against Ontario rivals the Toronto Marlies. Their real (no SO) goal differential is -5 though, largely earned by a 5-0 blowout last weekend against Toronto.

In general the ‘Dogs have heavily outshot their opponents, to a tune of 55.4% shot ratio. A component of that may be due to score effects but in general the Bulldogs have been pretty good at controlling the balance of play at even strength. This can be largely attributed to the play of two units.

-The first defensive pair of Beaulieu-St.Denis which combines a very talented rookie puck moving defenseman with a solid AHL veteran who plays smart positional defense and who also moves the puck well.

– The 1a/1b line centered by Michel Bournival, a two way rookie center and with fellow rookie Patrick Holland who has shined in early games as a smart, playmaking winger. Earlier they lined up with top Hamilton scorer Aaron Palushaj, but now are with another rookie, RW Brendan Gallagher. Over the last two matches with Gallagher they have run roughshod over the middle tier opposition they lineup against in puck possesion terms even if it hasn’t resulted in a ton of goals, combining for 25 shots (average of 4.17 per player per game).

Line usage

A veteran shutdown line of Blunden-Geoffrion-Nattinen should be expected to play the heaviest minutes on forward. This was a good two way line when Leblanc was in the lineup to provide offensive punch alongside defensive responsibility but has become a more typical 3rd line in his absence. The top two lines will be counted on for offense. 4th line in general isn’t used much but may get more time tonight with the goon Hagel dumped for depth winger Alain Berger.

On defense, Beaulieu-St.Denis plays the biggest minutes as a two-way pairing. Tinordi-Pateryn are used as a shutdown unit in their own zone. The two are both big defensive defensemen with a good amount of talent for the AHL level but are rookies and prone to mistakes. Coaching appears to want the two to grow into this role. The third pairing has generally been pretty sheltered, easing other rookie Morgan Ellis into the AHL after missing training camp and the first 3 games due to injury.

Hamilton has gotten 34.8 shots per game but only converted at 6.9% and allowed 28.0 per game with a save percentage of .879. Goaltending has been a major flaw with the Bulldogs. Their starter, Cedric Desjardins, is recovering from a minor injury, leaving it in the hands of two backups, Mayer and Delmas, who just aren’t very good. Delmas should have the start tonight. Sloppy positional defense from a rookie blueline hasn’t helped matters.

Hamilton has a decent amount of depth and talent throughout the lineup but lack any kind of intentifiable star player. Aaron Palushaj should be the best forward but he’s a pretty generic top line winger at the AHL level and St. Denis is a decent top defender but no one is truly great. Louis Leblanc was the only player that one could argue belongs in the NHL and he’s injured right now. The lineup is also very inexperience, 2nd youngest in the AHL and 8 players in today’s starting lineup (including 4 of the defensemen) are rookies.

On special teams, the powerplay has been largely ineffectual with only 2 goals in 25 attempts, which goes a long way to show why Hamilton’s shooting percentage is subpar. The penalty kill has been decent though, 4 goals against in 25 times short handed.

Kent’s notes: Yup, that’s our old friend Zack Stortini, rounding out the bulldogs 4th line. Looks like former Flame 7th rounder Patrick Holland is a top line option for the club currently (traded to MTL in the Cammalleri/Bourque deal). He has a goal and three assists in five games played.

Sum it Up

The Heat have been playing on borrowed time a bit recently, being outshot and taking a lot of penalties. They’re luck is going to run out at some point if that keeps up. Today could be the day given how tough their schedule has been recently, although if they can continue to see great goaltending and above average special teams, Abbotsford still has a shot to keep that zero in the "L" column.