You could pin this whole thing on Cam Talbot. Man allowed three goals in three games (OK, sure, all in about 37 minutes tonight) while stopping over 40 shots in each of them.
You could then again pin this thing on the Whale defense, which, darn it, was my other option on Monday. (Always write them both.) They didn’t make mistakes. They didn’t turn pucks over. They cleared rebounds and cleared the front. They made smart, safe plays most of the time, and Talbot bailed them out on the rare occasions they didn’t.
Then again, you could pin this thing on Marek Hrivik. Set up nicely four times, he turned those setups into four goals in the past two games. A kid who wasn’t on anybody’s radar, turned second-line left winger, turned series star.
The Whale were the better team through three games. Bridgeport didn’t bury chances, or at least didn’t bury them before whistles were intended; tough break that way in Game 1. It did tonight, at last, though one fewer than enough.
The old saw is that you can’t let the officials decide the game. Even then, the call that ended it, the automatic slashing call for breaking a stick, what’s he going to do? It’s worse if he doesn’t call it. The Whale catches an odd-number situation late in the penalty, and the game’s over, and the series is over, and the season’s over in Bridgeport.
They’re left to lament the rebounds they didn’t find, the pucks they didn’t clear, the pinches that left odd-man rushes the other way. They’re left to lament the times they got knocked down on the penalty kill, the time the defenseman knocked the net off in overtime (come on, New Haven fans, sing that one with me!). They weren’t really happy afterward.
Not that they can do anything about it now.
“It was a good learning experience for the younger guys, and even the older guys, how hard it really is to win a round,” Brent Thompson said. “They had a veteran team. We had a group of young guys.
“We’ll move forward.”
Indeed, the tough part is as Rhett Rakhshani puts it here. They’ll have meetings in the next day or two, and we’ll try and wrap things up as best we can. We will have a season-ending livechat. I’m not sure if it’ll be Tuesday or not. Will keep you posted.
Bridgeport put Romano with Cizikas and Rakhshani late in the third. On the tying goal, Rakhshani set up Romano for a shot in the slot; Romano got his own rebound, and Rakhshani, cutting out of the left corner across the top of the crease, buried the second rebound. “Just a few line adjustments, generate a little bit of offense,” Thompson said. “I know Rhett Rakhshani and Tony Romano like to be together, and obviously they scored a goal. DiBenedetto and David Ullstrom on the power play were a difference-maker.”
Poulin made 50 saves. I may have time the next little while here to see if that’s a team playoff record. (Rick DiPietro didn’t face nearly that many in the double-overtime games.) “He gave us a chance to win every night,” Thompson said. My spot here left me with no angle on the third-period goals, but if he wanted either of them back, as some tweeters mentioned, he made up for those with a couple of those stops on Kris Newbury in the second.
Speaking of Newbury, first penalty shot in a Bridgeport playoff game. In fact, only the third one in April, all against Bridgeport. (Obvious reasons for the first part of that. The second is presumably coincidental.)
After talking this morning about Tomas Surovy’s goal in overtime, ending the longest Bridgeport game that didn’t go double-OT, it got eclipsed tonight: Wellman from Redden and Thuresson at 16:36.
The Sound Tigers last won a playoff series in 2003. Since then, 21 of the other 29 teams in the league have won one. If you include the old two-game preliminary round, add Norfolk and make it 22. St. John’s, Springfield, Lake Erie, Peoria, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the new Albany/former Lowell Devils are the seven others who have not won a playoff series since 2003, though obviously all but Springfield got a later start, three have a chance to change that in the next week, and three won playoff series in the Sound Tigers era in earlier incarnations: Albany as the Lowell Lock Monsters, Peoria as the Worcester IceCats, St. John’s as the Manitoba Moose.
Aside from the Lock Monsters, Moose and IceCats, four other defunct/moved-on clubs have also won one since 2003: Iowa, Cincinnati, the Albany River Rats and, in a preliminary round, the Cleveland Barons.
Getting out of the East Division didn’t help right away. Maybe someday.
Team USA won its fourth consecutive Under-18 World Championship today in the Czech Republic. No Fairfield County connection like last year’s Paliotta/Haggerty pairing, but still.
And RIP, Jerry Toppazzini, one of the stars of Atlantic City this winter.