Photo Credit: Lindsay A. Mogle / Utica Comets
The Comets technically played three games last week, but they also played on Monday for the first time in a couple of years, so I’ve just including that one in this review. In those four games, Utica won twice and lost twice, which seems to indicate that the massive periods of streakiness are finally over.
That’s a little unfortunate, because they could really use a big fat win streak right now. Read along to see a detailed breakdown of the Comets’ week that was.
Wednesday, February 15th vs. Toronto: 5 – 2 Win
Friday, February 17th at Springfield: 5 – 2 Loss
Again, Springfield does not post highlights. Unforgivable. You can find the AHL’s highlight pack of the game here.
Sunday, February 19th vs. Lehigh Valley: 7 – 4 Loss
Monday, February 20th at Albany: 3 – 2 Win
Player of the Week
Both Cody Kunyk and Evan McEneny scored more points than this player last week, but they’ve been had the spotlight on them recently. What made Borna Rendulic’s week so impressive is that we were waiting for months and months for him to break out and he never did. Finally, when we’d all but given up on him, he goes on a goal scoring streak.
Rendulic had three goals (and an assist) in four games last week, but he also scored in the final game of the prior week, which gave him four goals in a five game span.
When Rendulic was signed, I expected him to be in the same neighbourhood as Jayson Megna and Borna Rendulic. Obviously that hasn’t worked out – Rendulic has struggled to score while playing in Utica’s bottom six, while Megna and Chaput have spent almost the entire year in the NHL.
Rendulic was over a half-point per game in the AHL last year, and has even played 14 games in the NHL, scoring a goal and an assist. He’s also on an NHL contract this year, and if you recall, he began training camp on a line with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi as Anton Rodin was getting into game shape. He’s certainly capable of more than the eight goals and 13 points he’s amassed in 49 games so far. It’s good to see that the production is finally coming around.
- Joe LaBate returned to action after missing 17 games with injuries.
- Mike Zalewski missed the Sunday and Monday games with injuries and is listed as day-to-day.
- Derek Hulak and John Negrin are listed as week-to-week.
The Comets and Canucks haven’t made any roster moves in the past week.
- Evan McEneny led all Canucks prospects in points over the past 4 games, with a goal and four assists. He also had a whopping 19 shots, which is just downright ridiculous. This, after putting 14 shots on net last week. McEneny has 15 points in his last 20 games – combined with his shot generation and deployment, this is beyond just a hot streak. McEneny, still just 22 years old, is now officially my darkhorse prospect to actually become something. Keep an eye on him.
- Jordan Subban scored a pair of goals, while also putting 12 shots on net. He’s still by far the leading defensive scorer, though if things continue going the way they’ve been going for the past couple of months, he might have someone on his heels.
- Andrey Pedan scored a goal and added an assist in four games, which is a pleasant site. He too had 13 shots on net last week. The amount of shot generation from the backend on the Comets lately has been fascinating.
- Leading scorer Alex Grenier also had a goal and an assist and maintains a four point lead on the next player. The Comets’ top line has been a little quiet for a while now. Still getting their points, but not dominating games like they did in January.
- Jake Virtanen had two points in four games! Both were assists, and neither were particularly impressive, but points are still nice. His shot totals fell noticeably last week though, putting just six on net.
- Michael Carcone had a pair of assists in three games, while being a healthy scratch in the fourth.
- My boy Curtis Valk had just one goal and no assists in four games last week, while putting seven shots on net. I’d count that as a down week for the diminutive centre, but he’s still sitting in second place on the team leaderboard.
- Cole Cassels and Joe LaBate each had a single assist in the past week. Both also played on the second power play unit, which is standard with LaBate while he healthy, but a relatively new thing for Cassels. Cassels has been handed a fair bit more responsibility lately with Pascal Pelletier coming in and out of the lineup with injury troubles. Cassels has been bumped up to the second line, and remained there even when Pelletier returned.
- Ashton Sautner played in just one game last week, with the other three being healthy scratches. Sautner has struggled to fine his footing all year, and now frequently finds himself as the odd man out on a team with eight healthy defencemen.
Thatcher Demko continues to struggle in his rookie season, and his numbers continue to fall. Demko has now lost four straight starts (one in overtime), and given that he missed time with illness and Bachman went on a bit of a run, it’s been a long time since Demko last won a game – roughly six weeks in face, with his last win coming on January 11th. That’s an awfully long time, and you wouldn’t blame Demko if that was eating at him a bit.
During an interview played the intermission of the Albany game, Rollie Melanson noted that the Canucks had considered starting Demko in the ECHL (which is not nearly as damning for goalies as it is for players), but that they wanted to give him a challenge. The Canucks are still bullish on Demko and believe that he will rise to the challenge and recover, and rightly so. Top tier goaltending prospects don’t just become bad overnight. There is reason to think that expectations need to be tempered however, and Demko might need a little more time in the minors than some had hoped.
The Comets’ penalty kill recovered a bit from the disaster that was last week. It helps that they only had to play the Marlies (who apparently have their number when it comes to the man advantage) once instead of twice. After allowing a ridiculous six power play goals by the Marlies two week ago, the Comets shut the door and killed all six man advantages the Marlies had last week.
The did still allow three power play goals on 21 opportunities, for a kill rate of 85.7%. They’re penalty kill percentage on the season is back up to an even 81.0%.
Their power play was a little better last week than its season average, converting 17.4% of man advantages (4-for-23). Curtis Valk, Alex Grenier, and Jordan Subban did the honours.
The Comets were outshot in just one of their four games last week, and it was by a single shot. Score effects were certainly present in the February 19th game against Lehigh Valley, but they did manage to outshoot Toronto 33-24 in a winning effort.
The Comets are still sitting in fifth place in their division because that’s just what happens when you alternate wins and losses. They’re five points behind the St. John’s Ice Caps and currently have two games in hand on them. They’ll need to make those games count if they’re holding out hope of making the playoffs.
The next three game present a bit of an opportunity. The Friday game at home against Wilkes-Barre will certainly be a challenge, bordering on a scheduled loss – the Penguins are the AHL’s best team, though not the hottest, as they’ve recorded a 5-5-0 record in the last 10 games.
The other two games however are against the only two teams below the Comets in the North Division, starting tonight in Rochester. They’ll also take on the Binghamton Senators on Saturday, who are currently just one point behind them in the standings.
Make it count!