On the road again...
Might the road (and a familiar opponent) be the cure to Springfield's losing skid?
Quite honestly, it feels weird typing the last two words of that opening sentence. The Falcons haven't been doing a lot of losing this year, and though we're only 18 games into the 76-game schedule, there's a sense of urgency to get things pointed in the right direction again.
Curtis McElhinney was their backbone for much of the opening stretch and they relied on a rock-solid penalty kill to get them out of danger, but when falling on hard times, support from other areas is needed. Springfield's three most recent defeats have come when allowing six goals (Portland), three power-play goals in the first period (Manchester), and the game-winner with 15.6 seconds left in regulation (Connecticut).
The issues, if you refer to them as such, are repairable. They are not systemic, but mental. Cutting down on the penalties is a start -- and for a brief period a couple of weeks ago, the Falcons appeared to have busted out of their bad habit.
But in allowing the Pirates to surge back from a 4-1 deficit and eventually win the game, the Falcons found they could also absorb a pretty good punch and get back up again. McElhinney was chased for the first time all season, Paul Dainton stepped in and played well, and Sean Collins tied the game after what seemed like an avalanche going against them.
They will need a similar resolve tonight in Manchester, where the host Monarchs are playing solid hockey and are tied for the Atlantic Division lead with St. John's. Manchester is also riding a four-game points streak heading into tonight's game, one of the best in the AHL.
But on the Falcons side, they can't be worried about the opponent.
Straightening out their game is paramount and Brad Larsen is going to relay the same message to his club.
Random, assorted notes leading up to tonight's game:
-- The Falcons have not fallen off offensively despite battling some injuries up front. They scored 10 goals in three games last weekend, but could only come away with a pair of points.
-- Collins has fit in well with Ryan Johansen and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault on Springfield's top line. Larsen tried Wade MacLeod with the lead pair for a short while, but the big-bodied Collins is looking comfortable in the role. He scored twice on Sunday vs. Connecticut, and has five points (four goals, one assist) in his last five games.
-- Audy-Marchessault is quietly putting together a four-game points streak, with a goal and five assists in that span. He's proven to be quite the table-setter for the Falcons and is a multi-tool weapon on the power play.
-- Speaking of streaks, how about David Savard? The skilled blue liner is on a seven-game points streak entering tonight (two goals, six assists), which is the third-longest current streak in the entire league.
-- Just a gut feeling, but I think we'll see McElhinney back in net tonight in Manchester.
-- For a really good, in-depth analysis of the Falcons' season thus far, I encourage you to check out Blue Jackets assistant general manager Chris MacFarland's blog on BlueJackets.com. You can find it right here.