Sunday, February 10, 2013

Here comes the Money 2/10

The Adirondack Phantoms planned to start Brian Boucher Sunday against the Syracuse Crunch, so Scott Munroe wasn't going to play at all this weekend.

Then Terry Murray gave him a call after Saturday's practice and passed along word that Brian Boucher was headed to the Philadelphia Flyers to replace Michael Leighton, who had been sidelined with an upper-body injury.

Munroe, in a spot start, turned in one of his finest showings of the season. He made 42 saves -- including 30 in the first two periods -- and the Phantoms rallied around that in a 6-1 shellacking of the Crunch at the Civic Center.

It was Munroe's first win since before Christmas, if you can believe it. He had been winless in five prior starts, and had only played twice since Boucher arrived Jan. 16. Some of those starts went well, but the team didn't give him any run support. Tonight, he had more than enough. Eleven players found the scoresheet and the team scored its most goals since Oct. 13.

“We came out tonight with a lot of energy from a bunch of different guys,” Eddy said. “You take a look at the scoresheet, there was a lot of guys on it – a lot of different guys. That’s what we need every night. Guys stuck up for each other, we did our systems well and came out with a win.”

Munroe nearly came out with a shutout. In fact, he was 82 seconds away from one. But Zack FitzGerald took a hooking minor and Tyler Johnson scored on a power-play drive to make it 6-1.

"I'm going to be feeling it for a while," FitzGerald said after the game. "It's just too bad. Guy battles like that and then the team battles like that and then I go and take a minor penalty. I let everybody down. I feel like I did. But at the same time, we won the game. Can't be upset."

Stand-up guy.

The winger apologized to the goalie as soon as he came out of the penalty box. For further acts of contrition, FitzGerald said he would babysit Munroe's infant son, give the goaltender rides to practice for the rest of the season and pay for lunches and dinners.

"Whatever he wants," FitzGerald said. "I am his slave from now on."

I figured FitzGerald was a good player to ask about Munroe's performance, since they've sort of been in the same situation recently. FitzGerald had been scratched in four straight before the Syracuse game Friday, during which he basically set the team ablaze. Munroe had mostly been scratched or backing up Boucher for the past month, when at one point this year he was the team's No. 1 goalie.

“It’s tough to be put in a position where you want to play but you can’t control it,” winger Zack FitzGerald said of Munroe. “For him to accept everything that’s gone on… He comes out and has a game like that. He’s showing that he wants to play. He wants to be in there. He’s going to go the extra mile to make those flop saves and that’s what we need. We see that and it feeds everybody.”

The effect that performance had on the team's offense was obvious. The team had three five-on-five goals in its past eight games, four in its past nine and six in its past 10 games. They had five today, and most of them were of the blue-collar variety. Strong work below the goal line set up one-timers by Erik Gustafsson, Matt Mangene and Jeff Dimmen and David Laliberte literally dove to the ice to knock in a loose puck for a power-play goal that put the Phantoms up 4-0 33 minutes into the game.

“Those are the goals that we’ll hopefully continue to try to find,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said.

Added Munroe: "We're a team that has to get dirty goals. We have to get goals around the net. We have to get rebounds and deflections. You're not going to see us tic-tac-toe a lot. I think we have to be honest with ourselves and realize that's the type of goals that we need as a team."

Eddy and Laliberte capped off the Phantoms' scoring with goals in the third. It was Adirondack's largest margin of victory of the season, and they hadn't scored six goals since opening night.

"I hope it's a sign of things to come," Munroe said. "But sometimes you have those games where things are just going for you. I think for our team morale, we needed one of those. We needed the puck to go in for us and get some bounces and also get a few bounces the other way too."

The energy level was just a lot higher than it has been in recent games. Players said they liked some of the things they started to do Friday at Syracuse, even though they lost. They tried to carry that stuff over -- particularly the energy level, astronomically higher than it was in Wednesday's loss -- and eliminate a lot of the bad stuff. The result you see is evidence that they got a lot of things done.

However, it should be noted that this was a three-in-three for Syracuse. The Phantoms were a little bit fresher, having not played Saturday. That's why a strong start was critical for them, because it's tough for a team that's losing to come back in the final stages of their three-in-three. And they did just that.

"Everybody came out with the right attitude and the right way of playing the game," Murray said. "I think there was a good carryover from the game in Syracuse the other night. I thought (Friday's) second period, the third period -- even though we gave up two big goals in the third -- we still competed and battled. The guys just brought that attitude to the game tonight."

Word is they're off tomorrow and back Tuesday. Expect the next blog update then.

Until next time,


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