The Connecticut Whale ran its winning streak to four consecutive games Friday night with a 2-1 shootout road win up in Albany, but there were clear and obvious warning signs that the team was not quite right despite the victory. That proved to be true 48 hours later when the Whale was spanked 10-2 at the XL Center Sunday night by Springfield.
On Friday the Whale lost one battle after another and seemed to play most of the night back on its heels against a much more agressive Devils squad. Fortunately for Connecticut, goaltender Cam Talbot decided to put forth an out-of-this-world performance, stopping 43 of 44 shots through 65 minutes and then all five he faced during the shootout to make sure the Whale stole two road points.
"One player made all of the difference (Friday) night, and that was Talbot," Whale head coach Ken Gernander said up in Albany. "There was poor execution on our part...and they outplayed us, outshot us. Fortunately for us one player showed up and he was able to play all 65 minutes and the shootout."
Unfortunately for the Whale they followed up being outshot 44-15 on Friday with an even worse performance last night, and this time not even Talbot could bail them out. In fact, Talbot lasted just 12:16 into the first period---allowing three goals on 11 shots---before being replaced by Jason Missiaen in goal.
Springfield took advantage of a Whale team defense that sprung leaks on nearly every shift---racing to a 6-0 lead before back-to-back goals by the home team seemed to quell the tide, until a final 4-0 sprint to the finish by the Falcons.
It was an embarrassing night for the Whale, but not one that was such a shock based on Friday's performance. You could see this one coming.
As Gernander told me Friday, "I think we took too many shortcuts...we didn't want to do enough of the tough things you need to do in order to win."
Springfield scored nine goals while at even strength and only one on the power play. That means Matt Gilroy---who did score his third goal of the season---was a team-worst minus-five, while Kyle Jean, Mike Vernace, Marek Hrivik, and Blake Parlett all finished a minus-four. Just plain ugly.
If you are in search of some positive from last night, well forward Tommy Grant struck again---scoring his fourth goal and stretching his consecutive-games-points-streak to five straight contests. This undrafted kid is proving to be a heart and soul type player---one with a little scoring touch, too.
"He keeps showing up on the scoresheet and making healthy contributions," Gernander said of Grant. "He doesn't get special teams ice time, but he makes the most of his ice five-on-five."
As for the rest of the team, you have to keep in mind that this is---by and large---a very young, inexperienced squad. And with the steadying hand of Gernander---not to mention Jeff Beukeboom and Pat Boller---guiding and teaching them, the Whale should find their way back on track.
But at least for one rough weekend, it was easy to say you saw this one coming.
November 5, 2012