Whale Suddenly Streaking

Whilst hiding from Sandy in my living room, the following occurred to me:

The Whale showed flashes of promise through their first four games, but had just enough bad stretches to ensure that they would not have success in the end.

In last week’s three games, by contrast, I’d hesitate to say they played 60 good minutes, but they put together enough good to outweigh any lapses that occurred.

Wednesday night’s win in Albany was pretty close to a complete effort, but even in that one they gave up the first goal, and were outshot 33-26, including 12-5 in the third period.

The first period against Hershey on Saturday was awesome, the best 20 minutes the Whale have played to date.  They were up 2-0 on the Bears, and if it hadn’t been for some extremely sharp saves by Hershey goaltender Dany Sabourin, it could have been 4-0 or 5-0.  For the rest of that game, though, the Whale seemed to throw it in cruise control.  And although they were never seriously threatened, they let the Bears get their legs under them and get some confidence, and the Whale had to work pretty hard to finish off a game that it looked like they could have won easily.

Then, Saturday night’s win over Providence was a real strange one.

It was the Whale who fell behind early that night, giving up a goal to the Bruins’ Jamie Tardif only 2:06 in, but after that, everything went Connecticut’s way.

They tied it before the eight-minute mark of the first, then reeled off four goals in the second before Providence got a couple back.  Then, with the Bruins pressing early in the third and the Whale beating a path to the penalty box, Providence relief goaltender Niklas Svedberg journeyed into the corner to play a dump-in, only to all but hand it to the Whale’s Kris Newbury, who easily deposited it into the vacated net for a backbreaking shorthanded goal.

The final was 6-3, which makes it look like a fairly dominating win for Connecticut, but the funny thing is, I would say they didn’t play that well.  The Bruins had a 40-23 shots on goal advantage and earned six power plays to the Whale’s two, and other than the Whale’s scoring plays, the visitors seemed to dictate a lot of the flow of the game.

A bucketless Kris Newbury flies down the ice in Saturday’s win over Providence

 

Providence had a tough time finding the big play to finish chances, though, and their goalies, Svedberg and starter Michael Hutchinson, had a nightmarish evening.  In addition to that giveaway by Svedberg to Newbury, there were several other instances where the puck seemed to want to go in the net for the Whale, and even when the Bruins got one big save in a sequence, they often found a way to give up a goal shortly thereafter.

At the other end, the Whale’s Cam Talbot didn’t have a flawless game either, but he was able to roll with the night’s many strange bounces of the puck much better than his Bruin counterparts.  The three goals that got by him Saturday were thrice as many as he gave up in his first game of the season Friday, but still were sufficient to raise his record to 2-0.

Talbot’s Friday effort was terrific, especially in view of the fact that it was the first game action he had seen since last spring’s playoffs.  The Whale was anxious to see if Talbot could recapture his late-season and playoff form from last year, and Friday he looked every bit as good as he had down the stretch in April and May, missing a shutout by only about six-and-a-half minutes.

If Talbot wasn’t the best goaltender in the league from March 30th of last year on, he was pretty close, and, although that’s a pretty small sample size, it also came at the most pressure-packed time of the year, which says plenty about his moxie.  Now, of course, he has to prove that he can carry the load over the endurance test of the long regular season, but four goals-against on 67 shots over the first two games is an encouraging start.

The other most interesting thing that happened during the week involved Newbury, who came into Wednesday’s game in Albany as the Whale’s leading point-getter, but spent all but one shift of that night cooling his heels on the bench.

Thirty-eight seconds into the proceedings Wednesday, Newbury was whistled for a cross-check by referee David Banfield, and proceeded to protest so much that he was slapped with an additional minor for unsportsmanlike conduct, as well as a ten-minute misconduct.  The Whale managed to kill the resulting power play, but Whale coach Ken Gernander was so displeased with Newbury that the veteran centerman never got another shift.

Interestingly, the Whale did just fine without their number-one pivot, ringing up five goals and their first win of the year, and Newbury, to his credit, seemed to swallow his medicine and get right back down to business.  He is one of those guys who never seems to change very much…he always plays on the edge and never wavers in intensity, and he did not exude any sort of persecution complex or show any lip-dragging after being sat down by Gernander.  The Whale coach did what he had to do in terms of sending a message to the whole team about penalties, and Newbury, back to regular duty the next game, responded with a big night Saturday against one of the club’s main rivals in the Bruins.

Hopefully for the Whale, that is one of those conflicts that causes some anguish when it’s happening, but ultimately makes the whole group stronger.

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