This week on #InsideTheCru Head Coach Adam Manah joined Tyler Yaremchuk to discuss the teams 3-0 start to the season!
Last week, I took a look at three big topics from the Western Conference as the NHL slowly gets underway. Today, I’m shifting my focus to the East where I expect things will be vastly different than last year.
Big trades, big-name free agent signings, and the arrival of a pair of potential super rookies in the Metropolitan division could all drastically change the landscape. Here are my three stories to watch:
HOW FAR WILL THE JACKETS FALL?
At first, most people will point to the Columbus Blue Jackets and say that they’re the team most likely to a massive fall in the standings this season. I would tend to agree with that but I would like to add that I don’t believe they’ll be as terrible as some want to believe.
They still have some good young forwards in Pierre-Luc Dubois, Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Alex Texier to go with some proven goal scorers like Cam Atkinson and Gustav Nyquist. They could still put together a pretty solid top six with depth pieces like Boone Jenner and Nick Foligno.
Their defense will still be a massive strength with future Norris winner Seth Jones, Zack Werenski, and David Savard (who was a beast in the playoffs). If Ryan Murray is healthy, it will help out as well.
The biggest question mark is between the pipes and that’s where they lost the most this summer. Downgrading from Sergei Bobrovsky to a combination of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins hurts and could be their downfall, regardless of the performance the group in front of them puts on.
We know that GM Jarmo Kekalainen isn’t afraid to make big moves, could he do something to bring in a goaltender before the regular season? Maybe he goes after Tristan Jarry from Pittsburgh, who I’m very high on.
One more quick note: I think the Islanders might fall harder than some are projecting. They rode a hot goaltender and some strong offensive performances last season. I think they’re going to slip further down the standings than some expect.
HOW GOOD WILL THE RANGERS BE?
While the Blue Jackets lost the most this summer, the Rangers clearly gained the most. They added Kappo Kaako and Artemi Panarin to a forward group that already had a fair share of exciting young talent. They added Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox to the right side of their defense as well. Between the pipes, they have Henrik Lunquist and Alexandar Georgiev. I still think Lundquist can be a number one goaltender and based on what I saw from Georgiev last season, he’s more than capable of filling in should Lundquist falter or need a break.
Now the question is how will everyone gel? It can be hard to predict how a lineup with that many new faces will perform, but on paper, you have to be incredibly optimistic about their ability to make a massive jump this season. Enough for the playoffs? I don’t know, but that group will be entertaining.
THE LIGHTNING. THAT IS ALL.
It’s the same story every year with the Lightning. They make a bunch of astute moves over the summer and heading into the season, everyone sits and goes ‘how is anyone going to beat them?’ and then at some point, they lose in the playoffs.
Last season, they were nearly unbeatable in the regular season but then got picked apart by a pesky Columbus Blue Jackets team. They should be a highly motivated group this year because there’s no doubt that their first-round exit stung, a lot. The other thing: they’re a lot better this year, at least on paper.
They added Kevin Shattenkirk and Pat Maroon on bargain deals and got Curtis McElhenney to be their backup, which might allow Andrei Vasilevsky to be healthy and rested. They got young players who can be counted on for some improvements. Simply put: they’re stacked.
Is this the year that the Lightning go all the way? Nobody knows. They’re good enough, but they’ve been good enough for a long time.
There are fewer things better than a season opener. Every team is optimistic about the season ahead. Everyone starts with the same record. For the Sherwood Park Crusaders, they’re hoping this is the start of a historic season. Expectations are high around the club and walking into the Sherwood Park Arena tonight; you could feel the buzz.
Here’s how things went down on night one of the AJHL season:
Weird things happen early in the season in a lot of leagues. The AJHL is no exception. Nevermind the first period, but the first five minutes alone had a little bit of everything. Right off the bat, Reid Irwin had trouble corralling a bouncing puck at the blueline, and it led to a quick breakaway for the Bobcats that was promptly turned aside by Carter Gylander. He was forced to turn aside three quality chances within the first five minutes.
The Crusaders would get on the board first as Brett Wieschorster buried the team’s first goal of the season. The lead was short-lived as just two minutes later, the Bobcats took advantage of some sloppy neutral zone play by the Crusader and tied the game at one. Only 30 seconds later, the visitors took the lead as former Crusader Cam Aucoin fired one short side over the shoulder of Carter Gylander.
The Crusaders got the benefit of three powerplays in the opening frame, and they took advantage. For those who have read these blogs for the past three years, you’ll probably know what I’m about to say, but I’ll repeat it for the newcomers: http://blog.rushpromotional.com/?author=23 your powerplay doesn’t need to score goals to be effective. It sounds weird, but if you can go generate good pressure and get some positive momentum out of it, then it can be considered a success.
Sherwood Park did a good job of generating chances with both their first and second powerplay units (I also noticed a third combination of players at some point as well), and they got rewarded as newcomer Jarred White fired a shot that eventually found the back of the net.
If I’m honest, neither team played a great opening frame. You could tell it was the first period of the season. The Bobcats would walk back to the locker room with a 3-2 lead thanks to a late first-period goal.
Do you like goals? Because this game, and the second period, in particular, featured a lot of them.
The Cru got this game tied up just before the ten-minute mark when Carter Savoie jumped on a loose puck, notching the first goal of his NHL draft year. Up next, it was Nicholas Magis who scored his first career AJHL goal, which is always nice to see. As they did in the first period, the Bobcats were able to respond in a rather quick fashion, evening things up at four with a Chad McLean goal. Of the four Lloydminster goal scorers, three of the scorers had first names that started with ‘C’. Mark that down as your ‘Useless Stat of The Night’.
In the final 90 seconds of the period, the Crusaders put their pedal to the floor and managed to take a 6-4 lead with Will Zapernick and preseason superstar Connor Hart getting the goals (that’s seven in his last four games if you count the preseason games).
I don’t want to say that the Crusaders put it into ‘cru-se’ control in the third, but the period did not have the same intense feeling that the second period did. Again, it may just be that these guys don’t have their legs in mid-season form so naturally, they slowed down. Either way, the Crusaders played a pretty clean third period. Carter Gylander didn’t have to deal with too much, and Will Zapernick scored his second of the game (one of three AJHLers to have a multi-goal game tonight) which extended the lead to 7-4.
It looked like that’s how it was going to end, but with literally less than a second on the clock, the Bobcats fired a point shot that hit a couple of sticks and trickled home.
That’s where this one would end as the Crusaders overcame a rough first period and won their home opener by a score of 7-5.
- The Cru came out flying in the second period, and the first shift of that period really set the tone. The fourth line of Bryce Bader, Nicholas Magis, Zafir Rawji played a hard, physical shift. That line looked really good tonight, and they got rewarded with a big goal in the second period as well.
- Was nice to see a handful of different players get goals tonight. Every forward line had a player find the back of the net. Early in the year, it’s nice to see everyone get some confidence.
- While it wasn’t a perfect performance when the Crusaders cranked it up, they looked like the elite team they’re expected to be. The shot clock reflected that. The final read was 50-28 once the final buzzer went.
- They didn’t take their first penalty of the game until halfway through the third period.
- It feels great to be back in a rink! That’s it. That’s one of my positive notes. I’m just happy to be back.
- It’s the first game of the year, but this was honestly a pretty sloppy hockey game. Lots of mistakes in the neutral zone, lots of bounces pucks that couldn’t be settled down. It’s hardly a knock on either team, more of an observation. It’s early in the year, so it’s expected.
- They got bailed out by the goal post a few goal posts, and when you consider that this ended as a two-goal game, that’s not a great sign.
- A few too many odd-man rushes given up by the Cru. Gap control, making smart decisions at the offensive blueline and in the neutral zone were both problems.
The Crusaders will look to sweep their season-opening home and home series tomorrow night when they load up the bus and head to Lloydminster. The puck drops at 7:30 pm from the Centennial Civic Centre Arena.
With the season opener just days away, Tyler Yaremchuk chats with newly appointed Crusaders Captain Arjun Atwal & tee’s up the 2019/20 campaign!
(photos via nhl.com)
With training camps set to open up in just a few days, I figured I would begin the season by taking a look at each conference and identifying three stories I’ll be keeping an eye on for the upcoming season.
Starting with the Western Conference and one team that had a wildly successful offseason.
buy lasix online australia RISE OF THE COYOTES?
I really like what GM John Chayka did this summer. The big move was the acquisition of winger Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Kessel has scored 70+ points in each of the last three seasons and now he’ll come to Arizona and be re-united with Rick Tochett who was called ‘The Kessel Whisperer’ during the pairs time in Pittsburgh.
Kessel will help so will the addition of Carl Soderberg, who should handle a lot of the defensive responsibilities and allow franchise centre Clayton Keller to thrive in an offensive role. They will also have Nick Schmaltz back in the lineup. After being acquired from the Hawks last season in the Dylan Strome trade, Schmaltz was almost a point per game player in his 17 games with the Coyotes before going down with an injury. I think he could be in a spot to have a really strong season.
The offence looks good, the d-core has some good veterans and a handful of younger players with upside, and perhaps most importantly they have two goalies who have shown that they can be starting NHL goaltenders at different points.
On top of all of that, they play in a division that I don’t expect will be very good in 2019/20. All signs are pointing to a return to the playoffs for the Arizona Coyotes this season.
WHO BOUNCES BACK?
Last season, we saw a handful of perennial Stanley Cup contenders take massive steps back. The Chicago Blackhawks, LA Kings, and Anaheim Ducks all struggled mightily at different points and missed the playoffs.
Is it simply the result of ageing cores? Or, will these teams find ways to bounce back in 2019/20?
I believe that with the league getting faster and younger, it will be incredibly hard for any of these teams to climb their way back into the playoffs this season but if I had to put money on one of them, it would be the Hawks.
The LA Kings hired Todd McLellan to be their new Head Coach, but apart from that, they really didn’t do anything substantial to improve their roster. They’ll be banking on rebound seasons from the like of Kovalchuk, Carter, and even Anze Kopitar.
The Ducks moved on from Corey Perry and might get Justin Faulk from Carolina but nothing they did this summer really inspires me to believe that they’ll be much better than they were last season. At the same time, they have some good looking young forwards and they’re playing in what I perceive to be a bad division. I give them a bit of a chance.
As for the Hawks, they did some interesting stuff. They gave themselves a hell of a one-two punch between the pipes by signing Robin Lehner to split time with Corey Crawford. They acquired Olli Maata and Calvin De Haan to freshen up their blueline as well. Up front, I worry a little bit about their ability to score goals but at the same time, it’s tough to doubt a team with Patrick Kane.
Out of the three teams that took steps back last season, the Hawks might be best positioned to return to the playoffs.
THE EFFECT OF RFA HOLDOUTS?
Now, there is a chance that all of Patrick Laine, Kyle Connor, Matt Tkachuk, and Mikko Rantanen return to their respective teams before the start of the season and this isn’t a storyline at all, but, all four of those teams are crucial to their team’s success. If they miss 10-20 games to start the year and take another 10 games to catch up to their competition, it could drastically change their teams playoff chances.
As of right now, it’s quite on the RFA front for all four of those names and while things can change quickly, the biggest story as camps open is the status of these four young stars.
(photos via nhl.com)
Last season was historic for the Sherwood Park Crusaders. Both on and off the ice, they broke records and saw unprecedented levels of success and now, with the 2019/20 season just days away, the club will be looking to build on the positive momentum that they’ve created over the last two years.
While they lost key pieces over the offseason like Matt Berlin (University of Alberta), Garrett Clegg (Robert Morris University), Zach Kaiser (the University of Massachusetts Lowell) and Tyler Jette (Lakehead University), but the bulk of their young core remains in-tact and will be who they lean on throughout the season.
Michael Benning (University of Denver) seemingly got better every single time I watched him last season. When I saw him in last seasons intrasquad game, he looked like an undersized yet mobile defenseman who has a plethora of offensive tools at his disposal, but he clearly needed to work on his ability to play in his own end and make smarter bets in the neutral zone. By the end of the season, I hardly hesitate to say he was their best defenseman.
Arjun Atwal has spent parts of the last three seasons with the Crusaders but last season was the first time he appeared in over 40 games with the club. Through 109 career AJHL games he’s posted 126 points, and this year, I expect him to be well over the point per game mark. After being around the team a little bit during training camp, it’s clear that Atwal is the heartbeat of this club. His leadership will be a valuable asset this season. He was the team’s MVP in 2018/19, and now I expect him to make a push to be the MVP of the entire AJHL.
Carter Savoie (University of Denver) was probably their most dynamic offensive force last season. In his rookie season, he finished 5th in league scoring. The only other ‘02 born player in the top 100 was his teammate Benning. His combination of size and skill allowed him to diversify his attack and now that he’s a year older and a little bit more physically mature, I expect him to shatter the numbers he posted last season, which is crazy to say. I honestly don’t know what this player’s ceiling is for the upcoming season; he’s that talented.
It was a hell of a summer for Carter Gylander (Colgate University), who was drafted in the seventh round of the NHL Draft by the Detroit Red Wings back in June and then went on the road to Russia with Team AJHL for the JCWC. Last year, he was the elite backup to Berlin, playing in 22 games and posting a GAA of 2.43 to go along with a save percentage of 0.915. The expectation is that he will play close to 40 games this season and given his natural physical abilities, I expect he’ll be able to handle it.
William Zapernick (University of Alabama-Huntsville) was also in Russia for the JCWC and is coming off a tremendous2018/19 campaign that saw him almost double his point production from the prior season. When you look at this team on paper, names like Benning, Savoie, and Atwal jump off the page, but Zapernick is just as valuable to this team. He plays a responsible game, which is very important, and can not just compliment the team’s other skill players, but drive them.
They have a handful of very good young players as well, highlighted by Ty Mueller (University of Nebraska-Omaha) who comes to the Cru after being a point per game player with the Airdrie Bisons Midget AAA program last season. Vincent Scott is another new recruit who I think will be a regular contributor earlier than expected.
Daron Cyr, Matt Shatsky, Nicholas Magis, Kevin Minnoch, Kaden Bryant, and Ryley Morgan are the other rookies who were with the club throughout training camp.
Zafir Rawji and Tanner Fincaryk are both back this season and have looked very good at moments throughout the preseason, but the biggest surprise has been defenseman Connor Hart who has seemingly found another offensive gear scoring six goals during the three-game schedule. He has an absolute rocket of a shot, and if he’s on the team, I would love to see him get some heavy powerplay minutes.
The high-end talent is there, but their depth will also be a massive asset. 19-year-olds Jacob Franczak and Brennan McDonnell along with 20-year-old veterans Reid Irwin (University of Denver), Max Wutzke and Jarred White will provide what the team is hoping is a high-end layer of depth that will help make them a championship contender this season.
And that’s the goal for this club, to win an AJHL Championship this season. It sounds harsh, but in my opinion, their window to win is clearly this upcoming season and anything short of winning their final game of the season, shouldn’t be viewed as a success. When you look at the talent, they have in every part of the lineup and the depth players they’ve brought in, winning it all is an attainable goal.
Last season was record-setting for a number of seasons and this year, the Crusaders will look to make even more history and hoist the Inter Pipeline Cup for the first time in franchise history.
#InsideTheCru is back! Tyler Yaremchuk kicks off the 19/20 season by chatting with Crusaders GM Kyle Chase and recapping a few summer headlines!
This week on Inside The Cru, Tyler Yaremchuk chats with newly drafted goaltender Carter Gylander about the draft process, his first development camp, and his goals for next season!
This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk is joined by Crusaders defenseman Mike Benning to discuss putting on the Hockey Canada sweater at the u18 Selection Camp & growing up in a hockey family.
This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk chats with Crusaders forward Carter Savoie about his rookie season, his future, and his mindset heading into his draft year.