Offensive Spurts

The Whale offense was hot and cold over the weekend.  They scored five goals in the two games, a win and a loss, which is reasonably respectable.  The interesting part is, though, they all came in quick bursts.  The two tallies in the 3-2 loss in Portland Friday were scored in a span of 25 seconds in the second period, and after being held scoreless by Jeff Zatkoff and the Manchester Monarchs for over 48 minutes on Sunday, the Whale exploded for three goals in 3:37, including two on the same four-on-four situation.

The Friday game was quite disappointing, as the Whale seemed to control the game quite well for most of the first two periods, and held a 2-1 lead going into the third, only to let the Pirates dictate the play for most of the first 11 minutes of the third, during which the home side scored a pair of goals.  On Sunday, by contrast, the Whale seemed to be playing the way they wanted to play for most of the game, getting plenty of pucks at the net and attacking the Monarchs with speed.  And though they weren’t rewarded with anything through the first two periods, they were generating a number of good chances and you had the sense that if they kept it up, they were going to be rewarded.  Zatkoff held them at bay for a while, but once the Whale broke through they got hot, and they didn’t take their foot off the pedal.

The Whale may have been sparked in that game by the announcement at a team dinner the night before that Wade Redden had been chosen the Whale’s captain for the final quarter of the season.  This was welcomed by an enthusiastic and sincere round of applause, and Redden, a

Wade Redden

low-key guy who has seen it all over his 15-year pro career, seemed genuinely moved by the honor and his teammates’ reaction.  It was a real feel-good moment, and it’s hard to say whether it carried over into the game or not, but there was a perceptible positive vibe around the club that I think may really have helped it gut out what was a real big win on Sunday, with Bridgeport winning as well (just for a change).

The other thing that may have given the Whale a jolt of energy in Sunday’s game was a new set of line combinations.

This coaching staff, at least as far as I can tell, has tended to keep forward lines together more this year than they have in the past, when they seemed to like to shuffle them up on a fairly regular basis.  After scoring only three goals in three games though, and only one outside of that 25-second burst in Friday’s third period, they decided to shake things up for Sunday.

I can’t remember the last time Kris Newbury and Mats Zuccarello weren’t on the same line, but they were apart Sunday, with Jon Audy-Marchessault moved into Zuccarello’s old spot on the left side with Newbury and Andre Deveaux.  Zuccarello moved onto Casey Wellman’s left wing, where Audy-Marchessault had been, with Andreas Thuresson playing the right side, Kelsey Tessier centered Tommy Grant and Ryan Bourque and Jeff Prough played with Jordan Owens and Scott Tanski.  In addition to Newbury and Zuccarello being separated, it was interesting to me too that wing combo of Tanski and Grant was moved onto separate lines.  Two big, straight-line, hard-charging rookies, those two had formed a good physical tandem.  Their centers had been flip-flopped, either Owens or Tessier, but the coaches had seemed to like Tanski and Grant out together.  Hard to argue with the results of the changes though, especially with Grant making a real nice play on the Whale’s first goal of Sunday’s game, on a shift on which he found himself out with Newbury and Deveaux, and Newbury scoring his 20th shortly thereafter, winning a draw and going to the front to tip in a shot by Pavel Valentenko.

Monday is the AHL’s “Clear Day” playoff roster deadline.  Although the NHL trade deadline has passed and players cannot change NHL organizations, guys can still move between AHL teams on loan deals until the Clear Day lists are officially submitted.  And I don’t know if I’ve ever seen as many significant players change addresses after the trade deadline than we saw this week.  The latest was the Peoria Rivermen acquiring Patrick O’Sullivan from Portland, unfortunately not before he had a goal and an assist Friday against the Whale, via a loan deal from Phoenix, and St. Louis, Peoria’s parent club, sending former AHL 50-goal man Brett Sterling to the Pirates in exchange.  Prior to that, goaltender Alex Stalock went from Worcester to Peoria on a loan deal from San Jose.  Before suffering a major injury during the second half of last season, Stalock played 102 games in Worcester’s net in a little over a season-and-a-half, including a league-high 61 in his rookie year of 2009-10.  Phoenix also worked a deal with Winnipeg that moved Brock Trotter, who had a four-point game against the Whale earlier this year and had 31 points in 35 games with Portland, to St. John’s, with the Jets reassigning goaltender Peter Mannino and winger Kenndal McArdle to the Pirates.  Winnipeg also traded AHL-contracted player Shawn Weller to Texas, in exchange for Dallas loaning forward Raymond Sawada to the IceCaps.

Got all that?

I haven’t heard rumblings of any moves by the Whale, but until that list goes in at 3:00 Monday, you never know.

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