Thursday, November 15, 2012

Special teams resurgance 11/15

I thought it was about time to take a closer look at the one thing that's been common of all Adirondack's wins. When the power play clicks, they're tough to beat. So tough, in fact, that Adirondack is a perfect 6-0 when they score on the power play. Conversely, they're 0-6 when the power play is held scoreless.

Spoke to Ben Holmstrom, pictured right, and coach Terry Murray about this phenomenon after the Phantoms wrapped up practice today. Murray said he didn't know about the statistic, but it didn't seem to surprise him. A lot of times, he said, the power play directly influences a close game. You can look at the difference between the Albany game and Manchester game and see that.

"You have to be able to take advantage at a critical time of the game," Murray said. "I thought that the opportunities were there yesterday and it was good to see us get a goal or two on it. There’s been quite a bit of work put into it, the guys have been paying attention and trying to do the right stuff. You just keep shooting and good things might happen and (Wednesday) morning, it did."

Murray really liked the shift the power play unit of Zac Rinaldo, Garrett Roe, Matthew Ford, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Danny Syvret had in the third period. They generated chances and kept getting pucks to the net. Eventually Roe dug the puck out from behind the net and scored on a backdoor backhander, but even if they hadn't it was still the kind of shift that can be a game-changer.

"If you are generating great scoring chances on a couple power plays, that’s all you’re hoping for," Murray said. "Sometimes, the goalie’s not going to be there and it is going to be in the back of the net. I don’t always look at our power play and say ‘We’re not doing a good job.’ Maybe we were outstanding in what we wanted to do and the puck just did not go into the back of the net sometimes."

That's something they didn't do in the loss at Albany. They got a five-on-three for a good 90 seconds and did nothing with it -- not even a quality shot on goal. Albany scored the go-ahead goal in the opening minutes of the third period and that wound up standing as the game winner.

“If you’re not going to score," Holmstrom said, "you have to be creating chances and getting momentum going so that the guys who follow up those power plays can build on top of that momentum, create some chances five-on-five and hopefully get some goals.”

Adirondack started the season 3-5, but has one three of its past four. The power play is 5-of-19 in that stretch. The penalty kill is also 16-of-17 during that stretch. Both have been playing well lately.

“You can win a game on your power play, but you can lose the game on your penalty killing," Murray said. "The penalty killing is really a critical part of your game and that starts with your goaltender, obviously, but the work is there. It is about work. It is about blocking shots. It’s about pride on the checking side of the game and the guys are really starting to buy into it.”

Not only that, but the entire defensive system, including five-on-five play. They've held opponents to four goals in their past four games, down from 30 through their first eight.

“It’s a little bit of guys getting adjusted to the system and then it’s a lot about guys committing to doing their jobs down there too," Holmstrom said. "We’re not trying to do too much, I think that’s where it’s really come along in these past four games.”

Personnel update: Tye McGinn (muscle spasms) practiced, but left early. Murray said he still had to talk to the winger to see if he could play this weekend. If not, I'd suspect Mike Testwuide sticks in the lineup. Jeff Dimmen missed practice for a therapy day after tweaking something Tuesday. 

Practice update: The team practiced shootouts toward the end of their work day, and if you scored you stayed in. Of the 22 players who took shots, only Testwuide, Rob Bordson, Eric Wellwood, Brandon Manning and Erik Gustafsson scored. And none of them beat the goalies in round two.

More on the special teams tomorrow's paper. I'll be in Kingston covering the state football semifinals, but I'll have a brief post-game recap up on the blog tomorrow night. I'll be following the Syracuse game along live, so you can catch me on Twitter for that one, @MCSaratogian.

Until next time,


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