Saturday, October 13, 2012

On Schenn and Couturier 10/13

Before we begin, take a look at that awesome shot of Harry Zolnierczyk's first goal of the season. Saratogian photographer Ed Burke captured the moment perfectly.

But I think the big story of tonight's game is Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier both scoring some key goals. Couturier, used primarily in a defensive role last year in Philadelphia, was used on the power play and scored his first professional power play goal. And Schenn, who is generally regarded for his offensive ability, added his first professional shorthanded goal as the Phantoms beat Portland 6-3.

"Last year we had different roles," Couturier told reporters after the game. "As we grow in pro hockey, our roles will step up. We just have to be patient and wait our chance. Here in the AHL is a great opportunity for us to capitalize on one of those chances where we can show what we've got offensively and play in key situations."

Couturier averaged about 26 seconds of power play time per game in Philadelphia last season. Schenn averaged about six seconds of time on the penalty kill. The fact that they're both playing -- and producing -- in those roles here in Adirondack is only going to help both them and the team.

"Both of them get opportunities down here to experience different situations,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette told reporters after the game. “They’re both going to be top-end players down here. They’ll play a lot of minutes, a lot of different situations – a lot of opportunity for them. I think that’s a real positive thing for building experience.”

Laviolette was one of several members of the Flyers brass in attendance tonight. I spotted general manager Paul Holmgren, assistant general manager John Paddock and assistant coach Craig Berube. The most interesting name in the press box? Former Phantoms coach Joe Paterson, who I am told is now a scout. Long-time AHL and NHL defenseman Jamie Pushor was also here scouting.

I was curious what Laviolette thought of the team's play tonight. When/if the lockout ends, the Flyers will probably be calling some of these guys up -- especially on the back end, where they're hit hard by injuries. These games, when you think about them, are really sort of auditions for the Phantoms.

"I thought they played a really strong game, especially in the second half," Laviolette said. "With 10 minutes to go in the second period and the third period, they really seemed to kick into gear."

He's right. The Phantoms were trailing 3-2 at the midway point of the game, but then scored four straight goals to close out the win. Couturier's power play goal came first and tied it. The puck sort of seemed to find its way to him at the near-side post and he just jammed it into an open net.

Then sophomore Tye McGinn had a nice power play goal from an odd angle. He only had two power play goals all last season. I was really impressed with the power play unit of him, Roe and Ben Holmstrom and so was Phantoms' coach Terry Murray. Here's what he had to say afterwards:

"I like the big body in front of the net, it really has an effect. McGinn really knows his role in that area. He was strong, he competed hard. He just buys for everybody else. When there's pucks coming to the goalie and you have a big body like that in front, he's trying to find it. He might just get a piece of it. There's spray coming off of it. Good things can happy when you're hungry around the net."

Schenn scored twice in the final 5:16 -- his shorthanded goal first, then an empty-netter from the neutral zone. That made the final score 6-3, which is oddly enough the final score from last year's home-opener against Connecticut. Similar script there. Phantoms trail early, storm back to win.

Adirondack's penalty kill -- by the way -- finished four-for-four. Power play went two-of-eight.

Elsewhere tonight in the Northeast Division, Bridgeport won for the second time in two nights. Top Islanders prospect Nino Niederreiter scored again. Albany scored first, but David Kolomatis scored twice as the Monarchs beat the Devils 2-1. Tomorrow's opponent, Springfield, opened with a win over next weekend's opponent, St. John's. Connecticut was idle. They have the IceCaps tomorrow.

On the farm, Trenton beat Greenville last night and Reading tonight. Niko Hovinen had 31 saves for the Titans last night. Devils' farmhand Scott Wedgewood got the night tonight. Jason Akeson has three points through two games.

Didn't get a chance to ask Murray about his line-up decisions tonight -- regarding the scratches of Mangene, Harper and Testwuide. We'll see how if changes the lines for tomorrow's game in Springfield. I won't be there, but I'll be following along and will update the blog tomorrow night.

Until next time,


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