Depleted Whale Battle Hard

From somewhere on Interstate 90 on the way back from Syracuse…

The Whale left for their trip to Wilkes-Barre and Syracuse Friday with only 18 healthy skaters, after the recall to New York earlier that day of Steve Eminger.

By the time they got to Wilkes-Barre, word had come down that the Rangers needed Christian Thomas, so the Whale played one skater short in Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Penguins.  Unfortunately, Blake Parlett got hurt in that game, and that put the Whale down to 16 for Sunday’s date with the Eastern Conference-leading Crunch.

Christian Thomas

Christian Thomas

That could have set the table for a big blowout, but the Whale played Syracuse, a team that had won six straight games, tough.  The Crunch won 4-0, but the game was much closer than the score indicated, particularly considering the Whale’s depleted roster.  Connecticut had a couple of breakdowns on the penalty kill and hurt themselves with a low-percentage exchange inside the offensive blue line that led to another Crunch goal, and the other goal-against really resulted from a bad bounce in the defensive zone.

The Whale were outshot 38-28, but had their share of chances.  They were unable to finish anything behind Crunch goaltender Cedrick Desjardins, who rang up his second shutout in three games since coming over to Tampa Bay organization in a trade with Montreal, but they forced him to scramble to make some saves, and matched Syracuse’s in-your-face intensity.

The night before was a real grind-it-out affair, with neither team yielding much in the way of scoring chances.  Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is the best defensive team in the league in terms of goals-against per game, and the Whale were right with them as far as playing it close to the vest.  Under most circumstances, the standings point they got in that game would have been classified as a pretty good point to get, but the Penguins happen to have been the team just ahead of the Whale in the Eastern Conference standings, so their getting the extra point was a big blow.  Still, it was a good road battle.

I thought Andrew Carroll stood out in both games with his grit and willingness to mix it up, and Nick Palmieri’s game Sunday looked to me like his best performance since joining the Whale.  Jyri Niemi was forced to play more than he had been, with Parlett missing Sunday’s game and Logan Pyett playing up front Saturday with Thomas gone, and Niemi was up to the challenge.  Dylan McIlrath, too, looked like he was happy to be saddled with more responsibility, and his down-low play against the hard-forechecking Crunch was key to keeping the Whale in that Sunday battle.

It’s going to be interesting to see what the organization does this week personnel-wise, with both Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi having gotten dinged up in Saturday’s 3-0 loss in Montreal and Micheal Del Zotto hurting as well.  Hopefully Parlett isn’t hurt too badly, as he certainly would have been a candidate for a recall if the Blueshirts need a defenseman, and who knows, they may need a couple.

As for Thomas, it sounds like he made quite a good account of himself in his NHL debut Saturday, earning 7:21 of ice time in the third period after playing a total of 5:25 in the first two.  The rookie had two shots on goal and three hits, and had this to say to the media after the game, “Obviously, I was nervous.  The first shift, going out there for the anthem, it was crazy. I’ve never played in front of so many fans who were wild like that. It was surreal. I’m glad I got the first couple of shifts over with, I got the jitters away and then I played the way I like to play.

“I got some more opportunity in the third, I played with Richie (Brad Richards) for a bit.  I felt more comfortable as I went on. The third period, I felt like it was just kind of another game out there. It was hard to get stuff going, Montreal was playing well defensively but it was a great experience.”


3 Responses to “Depleted Whale Battle Hard”

  1. chris Says:

    i have hered a new deal has been signed. do you know where details on the deal may be found?

  2. chris Says:

    thanks bob 3-5 more years locked up with a new company running the show lets see where this takes the whale going foword

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