It had been a long time since the Hamilton Bulldogs put up a respectable performance at the Bell Centre, but through about 50 minutes last night against a very good team in the Syracuse Crunch, the Bulldogs had allowed just 13 shot on goal.
It was the kind of fantastic defensive effort that Head Coach Sylvain Lefebvre has been talking about needing over the last couple of weeks. The Dogs didn't dominate puck possession to the extreme level that it looked like from shots on goal, but the had a great commitment to blocking shots and boxed the Crunch out well.
Hamilton was buoyed by Morgan Ellis and Gabriel Dumont scoring their first goals of the year, with Dumont specifically having an excellent game. Mike Blunden added two goals as well, bringing him up to five on the season.
Lefebvre shortened his bench almost right from the start, running only two defense pairings for most of the night. Greg Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi had some serious struggles, while Nathan Beaulieu and Morgan Ellis had an excellent night.
Christian Thomas also stood out on a line with Erik Nystrom and Martin St. Pierre, which was easily the Bulldog's most dominant line of the night, even though they only accounted for one of the four goals. Nystrom and Thomas skated circles around their opponents while St. Pierre moved the puck efficiently all night.
Louis Leblanc was quieter than you'd expect, but playing with Nick Tarnasky sure isn't helping him. I understand that Lefebvre is trying to spread the offense throughout the lineup, but I'm still not sold on that strategy, especially since Leblanc is probably the best forward he has on the roster.
Dustin Tokarski couldn't quite manage the shutout, but he was solid all game and ended up grabbing the game's first star.
The most interesting player to watch for me though, was Beaulieu. All game he was making excellent plays, but it seemed like his teammates couldn't anticipate him or play up to his level. Beaulieu strikes me as a guy who's better in the NHL than the AHL, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him replace Bouillon on the third pairing by the end of the season.
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