The Bulldogs came into the 2013-2014 AHL season expecting to outperform their disastrous first season under head coach Sylvain Lefebvre. Early in the year. The Dogs would start the season with a 1-1-0-2 record, yet were highly competitive in every game they played, and received strong play from young defensemen Greg Pateryn who garnered EOTP's player of the week for his strong performance.
However following the slow start the Bulldogs would break out and win four out of their next five games with former first round pick Louis Leblanc leading the way six points(4 G 2A) before being called up to the Montreal Canadiens. The small hot streak was good enough to see Hamilton knock the rival Toronto Marlies out of first place in the North Division and Hamilton would sit on top for the first time in 2 seasons. From there though, things would take a turn for the worse, as the Bulldogs have now lost five straight games and seemed to have lost that early spark that saw them rise to the top of the division.
So what are the good and bad aspects of the Bulldogs early season? Despite a poor record and currently atrocious run of form there are a lot of good things happening with this Bulldogs team.
I cannot say it enough but the Swiss-born forward is absolutely ripping it up on this Hamilton team. With seven goals and four assists the 2013 3rd round draft pick leads the Bulldogs in scoring and 8th overall amongst rookies in the AHL. And let's just say with a shot like this he's going to keep racking up the points.
Tokarski has been a big factor for the Bulldogs early on as he has been able to pile up big save after big save to keep games close and giving the team a chance to win. Tokarski is 4-3-1 on the year with a .919 save percentage and a 2.34 goals against average.
As I wrote above Leblanc's small hot streak was a major factor in getting the Bulldogs going early in the year, even more impressive is that he did it with Nick Tarnasky on his line. Leblanc currently sits third in scoring on the Bulldogs with five goals and three assists right behind captain Martin St. Pierre and the aforementioned Andrighetto.
Magnus Nygren/Nathan Beaulieu
I'm mentioning these two as a pair due to their chemistry they have established on an otherwise meager powerplay in Hamilton. Nygren currently sits at 8 points with one goal and seven assists but has quickly adapted to the North American style of hockey and proven to be a reliable blue line prospect in the Canadiens system. Nathan Beaulieu when he isn't being yo-yo'd by the organization has solidified himself as a top call up for the Canadiens with his smooth puck moving style of defense, a little bit more game experience in the AHL will do him some good as he learns to fully control the game when he has the puck on his stick.
Every game it seems like this topic comes up, the Bulldogs take a lot more penalties than they draw and more often than not it comes back to bite them on the ass. Recent examples include Stefan Fournier attempting to bait a Rochester Amerk into a fight today and receiving a ten minute misconduct to put the team two men down in a close game.
I understand Dumont has a role as a high energy checking forward however this season Dumont has only posted four assists and 20 PIMs in 12 games with Hamilton this season. Last year Dumont was a player the team relied on to spark them and this season he hasn't been all that noticeable to my eye, but had done enough to earn a call up to the Canadiens for fourth line duty with Ryan White and Travis Moen.
I won't say Holland has been awful but he hasn't blown anyone away early on this season. Holland has posted three points through eight games in Hamilton and has seen some time in Montreal as a call up yet for a second year forward with notable offensive production one would expect his numbers to be higher.
I really do not know where to start with Lefebvre, this article I wrote earlier in the year covers a lot of my issues with Lefebvre's coaching decisions but as the season goes on more and more deficiencies are showing in his gameplans. For a good portion of the early season Morgan Ellis was a healthy scratch in favor of PTO player Nathan McIver who is less than stellar and Joel Chouinard. Lefebvre's constant line changing leaves a lot to be desired as today we saw the red hot Sven Andrighetto paired with the offensively inept Michael Blunden, if your team is on a losing skid why are you playing your hottest scorer with a grinder with little offensive upside? The answer is #SylvainPuck...it has no reason to exist it just does and it's terrible. Perhaps my biggest annoyance with Lefebvre this season is his inability to stick with a clear cut #1 goalie when the choice is blatantly obvious. Robert Mayer and Dustin Tokarski both started the season very well stats wise but the wins and losses clearly showed that Tokarski was the man for the starting job. Yet in all his infinite wisdom Lefebvre refused to give either goalie back to back starts until Tokarski started back to back games against Utica and Rochester this week. Tokarski has won at every level he's played at specifically in the AHL so I don't understand why Lefebvre refuses to hand him the starting job.
The Bulldogs have back to back games against their divisional rivals the Lake Erie Monsters this upcoming week before travelling to Texas to take on the Stars. Hopefully the team can snap out of this losing streak and make up some ground within the division before the other teams leave them behind.
More from Eyes On The Prize:
- Prust nearing a return, Dumont and Pateryn back with the Bulldogs
- Habs vs Lightning: Scoring chances
- Game Recap: Carey Price steals a point in the Habs' worst game under Therrien
- P.K. Subban contract talks begin
- Top Six Minutes: Building Another Carey Price Shrine Edition
- P.K. Subban and Lars Eller face off in Jenga Tetris
- Catching the Torch: Nov. 4-Nov.10 Edition