Features

Consistency has Falcons atop conference standings

After a home-heavy schedule early on, Springfield has taken its "team" game on the road

Tuesday, 12.11.2012 / 12:00 PM / Features
By Rob Mixer  - BlueJackets.com


It seems like ages ago when folks were wondering how the Falcons would handle a lengthy stint away from the friendly confines of MassMutual Center.

After all, Springfield did have the scheduling benefit of playing nine of its first 11 games on home ice with a legitimate opportunity to dictate the pace in the Northeast Division.

With a 6-1-2 record on that initial home stretch, the Falcons were the front-runners from the beginning, but sustaining was pivotal to momentum.

They could have easily fallen off the throne and been content with a merely respectable road record (especially with a road-heavy schedule in November and December), but the Falcons have kept the pedal down even when they’re traveling by charter bus.

With a two-game weekend sweep of the St. John’s IceCaps in their back pocket, the Falcons not only have the best road record (8-1-1) but the top overall record in the Eastern Conference (14-4-4).

And it didn’t come easy at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, a tough place to play with one of the best home-ice advantages in the AHL.

“We knew that they sell out every game, and St. John’s is a really good hockey team,” Falcons center Ryan Johansen told BlueJackets.com. “It was a long travel day to get there, and that was a factor, but we got there on Thursday and had a good meal as a group.

“We went out there and took care of business on Friday night, then came out and did the same thing the next night and flew home with four points. That was our goal.”

The IceCaps were a tough out. They jumped all over the Falcons on Friday night, staking a 1-0 lead before the game was three minutes old. But Springfield countered with three straight tallies in the second period, setting the stage for a back-and-forth third period played at a breakneck speed.

Kevin Clark and Ray Sawada helped St. John’s pull even at 3-3, but Cam Atkinson broke their hearts by scoring the go-ahead goal with under five minutes left. That was in stark contrast to Saturday’s game; the Falcons never trailed, got 46 saves from Curtis McElhinney, and clawed out a 4-2 win.

“It felt like the travel was still lingering a little bit on Friday and it took us a bit longer to get going,” Johansen said. “But Saturday, we were much more comfortable and played a lot better as a group.

“Confidence is such a huge thing for us right now. It’s nice to be in first place and it’s a good feeling to be there after the hard work we all put in over the summer, the workouts, practices…but we’re not satisfied. We have five games left before the Christmas break and our intention is to win every single one of them.”

Of those five games remaining, only one (Dec. 15 vs. St. John’s) is at home, but there is also a lack of overnight trips in that span.

The Falcons, to this point, have had the luxury of up-and-back bus rides for the majority of their road games, making it seem less like they’re actually “on the road.”

“A big thing is that our travel schedule has been really good for the most part,” Johansen said. “That definitely helps us out, but our guys have done a great job with preparation, too; our leaders are good at stepping up and getting us ready to go when we’re on the road.”

Being a complete and successful hockey team covers several phases of the game – both on and off the ice – but Johansen said the Falcons’ tireless pursuit of consistency has been a focus since the first day of camp.

Johansen has been a model of the aforementioned consistency, putting up 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) and carrying a +10 rating through 22 games -- while playing upwards of 20 minutes per night in a top-line role.

Springfield coach Brad Larsen and his assistants have stressed the importance of doing the right things and “team-first” things that are habits for great teams, and the Falcons have been a quick study.

“Our attention to detail is easily one of our strongest assets,” Johansen said. “We’re usually in the right spots on the ice, which makes it easier to play our team game and be structured.

“Doing those little things has helped us. When opposing teams make mistakes or turn the puck over, we’re going the other way with an opportunity. That’s one of the things our team does really well. Getting to pucks first, making smart plays…that’s our game and it’s nice to see so early in the year.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Johnson 1 1 1 0 2
D. MacKenzie 1 1 0 0 1
M. Letestu 1 1 0 1 1
B. Dubinsky 1 0 1 1 1
B. Jenner 1 0 1 -1 1
F. Tyutin 1 0 0 -1 0
J. Wisniewski 1 0 0 0 0
B. Comeau 1 0 0 -1 0
N. Nikitin 1 0 0 0 0
J. Skille 1 0 0 -1 0
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Bobrovsky 0 1 0 .875 4.07
 
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