HAMILTON, ONT — The Hamilton Bulldogs started the week off at home on a good note with a huge win over the Rochester Americans at FirstOntario Centre during the annual school day game in front of 13,000 loud school kids, defeating the sluggish Amerks 6-1. The Bulldogs then hosted the Adirondack Flames for a two game set on Friday and Saturday, but the outcome would not be in favour of the struggling Bulldogs’ team.
Despite back-to-back losses, the Bulldogs played well at times, especially in the second period during Saturday’s game when Sven Andrighetto scored on the power-play, (yes, the power-play) to give the ‘Dogs a 2-1 lead. But then the Bulldogs would show similar signs of last season with mid-late period blowouts.
Both losses on Friday and Saturday resulted in third period blowouts. The Flames would score a total of six goals in two periods this weekend to rob the ‘Dogs from what looked like a victory.
“Tonight [Saturday] was just three shifts. We were soft in front of the net and we didn’t get those rebounds.” said Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre post-game on Saturday. “Our second period tonight was probably the best all season offensively. In the third period, I don’t know what happened. It’s sad to see, but at least the guys battled to the end.” said Lefebvre.
Last season in Hamilton, the Bulldogs would play a really good first period where they would typically score a goal, but then they would let the game get out of control and the opponent would score multiple goals in both the second and third periods leading them to a victory. But a big issue with the 2013-14 roster was that they were not an offensive power-house team and that would be their issue all season. They just could not score.
But that is not the case with the 2014-15 Bulldogs squad.
This season, the Bulldogs are scoring multiple goals a game – and so they should with the current roster that has been iced. On paper, the Bulldogs should be a playoff contender. But unfortunately, we continue to see similar period blowouts; this time in the third period, like last year.
The Bulldogs need the defence to setup and stop trying to rely on the goaltending, something that was well used last season. And the forwards need to stay consistent and continue to score. At least we know the Bulldogs can now score, but they need to tighten up defensively and let the goaltenders breath a little, and of course, play a full 60-minute game.
”You can’t take one shift off, you can’t take five minutes off and then leave. But we took three minutes off and they scored three goals.” said Bulldogs captain Gabriel Dumont post-game on Saturday. “I think we’re feeling a little too comfy when we come back from the second going into the third period. Just need to stay focused.” said a frustrated Dumont.
Now that the ‘Dogs are aware of this issue, they may be able to turn things around this week in St. John’s?
The Bulldogs will travel to St. John’s, Newfoundland for a back-to-back series against the IceCaps on Thursday and Friday, and then back home in Hamilton for a game against the Rochester Americans at FirstOntario Centre.
The IceCaps have played 15 games (as of Sunday) and are currently 15th in the Eastern Conference and hold a 3-8-4 record. If the Bulldogs can take advantage of the struggling IceCaps team and come home with at least a win, or two, and get back above the .500 mark, then that should set them up nicely for their game against the 7th place Americans in the Western Conference.
If the Bulldogs can leave the upcoming week with a 2-1-0 record, then that would be good because they will be above .500 and their upsetting week which saw two back-to-back losses to the Flames will be behind them. A 3-0-0 record would be even better, but lets be reasonable here.
BY THE NUMBERS
The power-play sits at 29th overall (7.7%)
Home: Hamilton has had 30 power-play opportunities at home this season, scoring only 3 goals for a PP% of 10.0.
Road: The Bulldogs have had 22 power-play opportunities on the road this season, scoring only 1 goal for a PP% of 4.5. Sit 30th overall
The penalty-killing is tied for third overall in the AHL with a PK% of 90.0.
The PK on Saturday night was good, minus the Flames first goal. But the ‘Dogs had a few quality chances to score and Maxime Macenauer was able to shoot a puck off the post after a solid rush up the wing to the Flames’ net.
“I think we have a pretty good PK right now.” said Dumont. ”If we can put a little bit of pressure on the entries and turnovers we’ll be good.”
Coach Lefebvre told me on Saturday that they hope to see Eric Tangradi, who’s been out with a lower-body injury, rejoin the team on the trip down east. He is considered day-to-day.