Look, as Jon Landry said tonight, it may be getting toward that point where it’s do-or-die, “but there’s still life.” A good five-game winning streak counterbalances this five-game losing streak and Bridgeport could be back in it. They’re playing a lot of the teams they’re racing, so that’s a lot of four-point games down the stretch.
But time’s slipping by, and even on a night like this, when Manchester gets a couple on odd plays, they can’t put together three goals to get a point, or even earlier on to get a goal to give them a two-goal cushion.
The penalty kill mostly did its job, but Manchester still scored two. The power play’s struggling for its most extended stretch so far. (Granted, tonight, the first three power plays were short in some way with overlap, but still.)
“We’re moving the puck, but we’re not executing that final push, the last part of the play we need to finish it off, to capitalize on our chances and score goals,” Scott Pellerin said. They need sharper decisions, to avoid getting shots blocked.
Or maybe they just need one blocked like Scott Campbell blocked one tonight. Bad luck for Bridgeport: Jordan Weal takes a shot from the center point, Campbell blocks it, and where does the puck go? Back to Weal, while everyone’s looking for it. Goal. Ballgame.
Tough luck for Campbell, whose line with Blair Riley and Brandon DeFazio had a few very good shifts, working hard below the hash marks, cycling, keeping the puck deep.
“We’ve got to hunker down and get back to that simple style of play,” Campbell said. “Get pucks in deep. It was a step in the right direction,” being aggressive down low. “We got some pucks to the net. It’s just a matter of burying some chances.”
If they weren’t the best Bridgeport line, it’s only because Halmo-Combs-Costello was. They scored both goals, they created, they got pucks to and around the net. They seemed a lot more dangerous tonight than the top two lines, anyway. Sean Backman had been doing good things, but the swap with Halmo seemed to slow him down more than it ignited Brock Nelson and Nino Niederreiter. Matt Watkins’ line has had chances here and there in recent games, springing or almost springing John Persson a couple of times last night, and tonight there was a shift that started with a Kirill Kabanov shot off Martin Jones’ right shoulder; it turned chaotic for Manchester, but Jones kept kicking the puck out.
Pellerin was happy with the focus, with the preparation. He thought they played well in general. “We gave that game to them,” he said, with the special-teams disparity.
Bridgeport sits 13th, seven points back, with 25 games remaining.
At least, as usual lately, you can’t pin this one on goaltending. Kenny Reiter did a nice job. Had little chance on the three goals. Came up with some big saves. “It definitely instills confidence in the team, playing in front of a good goalie like that,” Jon Landry said. “It was good for us going forward.”
Of course there’s that other guy on his way at some point. Rick DiPietro won’t be here tomorrow — Pellerin expects to have the other non-Salficky original Sound Tiger backing up one more time — so it’s Reiter again. A fine second start (
and first honest appearance here since Duluth two years ago Edit: Forgot the Wilkes-Barre relief appearance this year, the Paul Thompson game, so strike that. First home start, though.).
Pellerin said he didn’t know when DiPietro will arrive. He said he’s looking forward to meeting him and getting together on a game plan.
Good read from Arthur Staple on the DiPietro transition over time.
Both Gallant’s and Wishart’s issues sounded minor, from Pellerin. They expect to know more on Gallant tomorrow; he said Wishart is day-to-day, “something that flared up before the game.”
Would guess that, by the end of the You Can Play presentation before the game, there was a crowd pushing 100 in the atrium. Nice turnout. A mom with two young kids in tow had an interesting question. Patrick Burke had just talked about how taking just a few slurs out of the locker room makes it a safe place. She said she’d heard just those words in the room from players on her son’s team. How do you address that with 8-year-olds who don’t understand what sexuality is, let alone what the words really mean? How do you nip that in the bud and change that culture from the start?
That’s just why YCP is trying to get superstars on board. Zdeno Chara appeared on the scoreboard tonight. “‘Look,'” Burke said, “‘Zdeno Chara doesn’t use that language,’ and we hope it’s a role-model issue.”
Added Dave Farber (whom we’ll forgive for being a Penn product), on the panel with Burke, it’s to the mom’s credit that she spoke up, that she has already talked about it with the kids. He talked about being a gay player, hearing those words flying around, seeing adults say nothing about it, and figuring they were OK with it. “If people don’t step up,” he said, “it’s tacit approval of what goes on.”
Burke talked about being referred to as an “ally” and noted just how, ahem, messed up that really is. “There’s a word for treating people with respect,” Burke said with disbelief. “Isn’t that just being a person?”
That’s their message. It’s not political. It’s not orientation, gender, race, any of that. It’s simple: Don’t be a jerk. I know I can use the lesson once in a while. Worth a thought.