There’s an old saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
When it comes to the New York Rangers organization the parallels between the parent club and their AHL franchise are almost surreal.
A week ago both the Rangers and Whale appeared to be a sure thing for the playoffs. The Rangers sat in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and were on the verge of challenging Montreal for sixth. Meanwhile in Hartford, the Whale were six points ahead of the Worcester Sharks for the last guaranteed playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.
In March, the Whale won ten of twelve that included both a five-game and a four-game winning streak. While the Rangers weren’t quite that hot, they did manage a five game streak and finished the month 8-5-0-1.
The Rangers have lost three of their last four and now find themselves barely hanging on to eighth place as the Carolina Hurricanes, have a game in hand and trail the Blueshirts by just three points.
Meanwhile the Whale took a another step in the wrong direction dropping their second straight in Providence to the Bruins 3-2. Combine the Whale loss with Worcester’s 2-0 home victory over the Manchester Monarchs and the Whale find themselves now clutching a two-point lead on the Sharks and have lost three straight.
Friday night’s contest was virtually a carbon copy of Sunday’s 4-2 loss also at the Dunkin Donuts Center. In both games, the Whale dug themselves a hole in the second period and just couldn’t get all the way back.
Sunday afternoon the Whale had no answer for Trent Whitfield who had a goal and an assist and was just all over the ice while on Friday it was Jaime Arniel’s two goals, including a backbreaking shorthanded goal in the third period that did in the visitors.
Bruins starter Michael Hutchinson stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced and improved to 11-10-1 on the season keeping the Bruins mathematically still in the playoff race, although they would need to win out their remaining games and the Sharks and Whale would have to totally collapse.
Dov Grumet Morris, much like Henrik Lundqvist in the past couple of games for New York, was once again strong between the pipes, but got no help from his teammates who all seemed to be skating at scrimmage speed.
Not even the addition of Mats Zuccarello, sent down by the Rangers after his game and ice time deteriorated in New York, could get things jumping in such a critical game, although Zuccarello did get an assist on Kris Newbury’s third period goal. Given that Zuccarello was paying his third game in as many nights you could give him a bit of a pass, but the rest of the team had been off since Sunday and there was no excuse for such an unmotivated performance with so much on the line.
The Bruins appeared to get on the board first just 1:17 into the second period when Grumet-Morris gave up a rebound that found Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman all alone on the left side of the crease for the easy score. The issue was that Kirk MacDonald bumped Grumet-Morris in the crease and knocked him down and referee David Banfield ruled that he had blown the whistle prior to the goal.
Just 28 seconds later Ryan Garlock was called for interference sending the Bruins to their third man-advantage.
On the resulting power play, Arniel took a centering feed right up the middle from “Whale Killer” Maxime Sauve, who now has five goals, including two game winners, and two assists in eight games this season, and slid the puck under the left pad of Grumet-Morris.
The Bruins doubled their margin after a drop pass from Dale Weise just inside the Bruins’ zone was picked up and rushed 3-on-2 back the other way. MacDonald put the puck on net from the left side. Pavel Valentenko knocked down his goaltender trying to play the puck, but when it ricocheted to the right side to Whitfield, he had the whole 4×6 to shoot into and did with just 1:09 to go in the period.
To their credit, the Whale tried to battle back in the third period, but it was like watching a living example of too little too late.
Valentenko made up for his earlier error when he blasted a shot form the left point low and hard at Hutchinson. The puck rebounded off the Bruin netminder, who got most but not all of the puck. To his credit, Brodie Dupont was in perfect position and all alone as in the right position to capitalize on a puck rebounded over to the Russell, Manitoba native who flipped it into the back of the mesh!.
Dupont’s goal came at 4:21 of the third period.
Things seemed to be going the Whale’s way when just 31 seconds later, Kyle MacKinnon was called for a hook on Derek Couture.
2:25 later it was a two goal margin once again as Arniel scored shorthanded with what proved to be the game winner. The goal was also his second of the contest off a real good feed from Stefan Chaput after Kyle MacKinnon gave the Whale only their third power play of the game.
Derek Couture could not handle the puck at the blueline in the Bruins’ zone. Chaput came outside the blueline and took the puck from him and advanced it to Arniel. The Bruin left-winger rushed up the ice with Chaput 2-on-1 and just ripped it from the right circle at the faceoff dot and past Grumet-Morris to restore the two goal lead.
Newbury took a pass in front from Zuccarello after a good play at the blueline by defenseman Tomas Kundratek to keep it in play. Newbury slid a backhander that would prove to be the game’s last goal and one of only two that got past Johnson.
The poor play makes Saturday night’s battle in Springfield a critical event for the Connecticut Whale if they are going to make it to he post-season.
The Whale have their hands full playing another three-in-three and will lock up with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Saturday and the Portland Pirates come to visit the XL Center.
Meanwhile, the Rangers are off until Sunday afternoon when they will be challenged to their limit as the Philadelphia Flyers on.
An interesting dynamic coming up for both franchises this weekend as they both look to rebound from last year’s not making it to this year’s run for the silver… Let’s see of there are the parent and it’s child.
(Standings via theahl.com)
* Third Star of the Game was not the only honor for Whitfield Friday, he was also named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Month for March earlier Friday
* Zuccarello is the number one rookie scorer for the Whale even with just 34 games under his belt. With his assist Friday, he has 26 points (13g, 13a) tying Kelsey Tessier (70 games, 9g, 17a)
Second game in a row that a pair of brothers called the game for the Whale. Terry and Jaime Koharski called Sunday’s game while in this one the two linesman were Scott and Todd Whittemore.
Zuccarello – Newbury – Weise
Grachev – Dupont – Williams
Grant – Garlock – Couture
Niemi – Tessier – Soryal
Redden – Nightingale Valentenko – Parlett
Valentenko – Bickel
Parlett – Kundratek
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Jason Missiaen – Healthy Scratch
Kale Kerbashian– Healthy Scratch
Chad Kolarik – Hamstring – Day-to-Day
John Mitchell – Lower Body – Day-to-Day
Devin DiDiomete – Lower Body – Day-to-Day
Francis Lemieux – Undisclosed Injury – Day-to-Day
Michael Del Zotto – Broken Finger, 2 weeks
Todd White – Concussion – Indefinite
Chris McKelvie – Foot Surgery, Season
1. PRO – J. Arniel
2. PRO – D. Warsofsky
3. PRO – T. Whitfield
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
David Banfield (44)
Scott Whittemore (96)
Todd Whittemore (70)
The Whale take their road show to Springfield for a final meeting of the season with the I-91 Rivals. The puck drops at 7pm with Bob Crawford handling the play-by-play with the pregame a half an hour before game time.
To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $6.99 at AHL-live.
For Ticket information for all home games, call (860) 548-2000.
Connecticut Whale 2 at Providence Bruins 3 – Status: Final
Friday, April 1, 2011 – Dunkin’ Donuts Center
Connecticut 0 0 2 – 2
Providence 0 2 1 – 3
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Redden Ct (tripping), 6:53; Dupont Ct (tripping), 15:34.
2nd Period-1, Providence, Arniel 21 (Sauve, Warsofsky), 2:22 (PP). 2, Providence, Whitfield 18 (MacDonald, LaVallee-Smotherman), 18:51. Penalties-Garlock Ct (interference), 1:45; Bickel Ct (roughing), 3:01; Bodnarchuk Pro (roughing), 3:01; served by Soryal Ct (bench minor – too many men), 5:13; Bickel Ct (fighting), 5:13; MacDermid Pro (fighting), 5:13; Hamill Pro (holding the stick), 6:31; Grachev Ct (boarding), 13:03; MacDermid Pro (boarding), 15:26.
3rd Period-3, Connecticut, Dupont 15 (Valentenko), 4:21. 4, Providence, Arniel 22 (Chaput, Bodnarchuk), 6:46 (SH). 5, Connecticut, Newbury 16 (Zuccarello, Weise), 9:00. Penalties-MacKinnon Pro (hooking), 4:52.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 8-14-9-31. Providence 8-14-7-29.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 0 / 3; Providence 1 / 5.
Goalies-Connecticut, Grumet-Morris 11-5-1 (29 shots-26 saves). Providence, Hutchinson 11-10-1 (31 shots-29 saves).
Referees-David Banfield (44).
Linesmen-Scott Whittemore (96), Todd Whittemore (70).