Round 1 Playoff Notebook
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Apr 22, 2016
The Playoff Notebook is back! Stay tuned here for updates from the Comets first round series against the Albany Devils. We'll update this pretty regularly every day with tidbits, news, starts, and post-game reactions. Follow @UticaComets on Twitter and Instagram for instant updates as the series progress.
If you're new to the Notebook, welcome! The format is pretty informal, but informative. For a look at what to expect, here is the final Notebook from last year's Calder Cup Finals: Calder Cup Notebook.
WEDNESDAY, 4/27 - Optional Practice Day and Meetings
2:17pm: Once again fans are being asked to arrive early to create the perfect atmosphere for the contest. I can tell you from being at ice level I could not hear a single word Tom Coyne was saying over the PA system during pre-game intros or three stars. That was an ELECTRIC feel to it all. Unbelievable job fans, but your job is not yet done. Back at it tomorrow night!
Re-live last night over, and over, and over again on CometsTV.
12:10pm: First thing first, tickets for Thursday are on sale now at Empire State Tix.
As for the guys, a good chunk of them are on the ice for an optional skate. Everyone came in for a video session, and those not skating were working out. Definitely a more upbeat, positive vibe coming out of the locker room today. There is a long road to hoe, but that isn't holding back attacking the task at hand.
TUESDAY, 4/26 - GAMEDAY
11:48pm: WOW! WHAT. A. NIGHT! The reactions from the players on social media should tell you everything you need to know.
So that's what playoff hockey in Utica is like... Wow! #LouderThanEVER can't wait to do it again Thursday!— Taylor Fedun (@tfedun88) April 27, 2016
10:42:pm: Post-game reactions:
"I had to (look sharp). It was do-or-die. I put it all out there and there is really nothing to lose. You play as hard as you can and hope for the bounce at the end." -Joe Cannata
"In overtime we had three or four shifts in a row that put them on their heels a bit." -Travis Green
"The 5-on-3 kill was a big time kill." -Travis Green
"Playoff hockey is tough, physical hockey." -Travis Green
"It was great. We have the best fans in the league and we knew there was going to be a lot of energy in the building." -Travis Green
Comets win a thrilling 2-1 overtime game to extend the series to Game 4 on Thursday night.
10:59am: Typically this is where we give you updates on morning skate, but, due to the Albany Devils not being in the building for morning skate, we will not. Without the visiting team here to witness who is/isn't skating, and which goalie got off the ice first, we do not want to tip them off as to any potential line-up changes.
-The main concern out of Albany was the availability of forwad Jim O'Brien. All indications say he will play.
Tidying everything up.
Arrive to the Game Early: Tonight's contest will feature all sorts of new stuff. From a new pre-game hype video and introductions, to the K-ROCK and WOUR pre-game tailgate party.
On Their Mind?: Multiple articles coming out of Albany have quoted players and coaches talking about the fans and the circus atmopshere here. Only one player on their team has experienced what playoff hockey is like in The AUD. So bring your best and be #LouderThanEVER! (cheap tie-in, I know. But go with it.)
MONDAY, 4/25 - Practice Day
3:58pm: We have a lot to get to. Let's dive right in.
Practice Report: For the first time the Comets practiced in two different groups. The secondary unit of Bubela, Currier, Lain, and Valk, hit the ice with the assistant coaches after the first group finished up.
During the main portion of practice, Darren Archibald and Taylor Fedun did not skate. No word. Travis was not asked about either skater during his post-practice press conference today. Wacey Hamilton did skate, in a red non-contact jersey.
Behind Enemy Lines: Devils forward Jim O'Brien was injured during the third period of Game 2, on Saturday. He skated the team's second practice today and is expected to play tomorrow night at The AUD.
Words From Albany: Think the fans don't have an impact on a game? Read these quotes coming from Albany about their trip to Utica. (Full story: Smaller Site, Bigger Stakes)
-"They're a different team in their own building. It's going to be loud, it's going to be a tough game. It's always tough to close it out in any series, especially going into someone else's building with one of the best crowds in the league." -Ben Thomson
-"They have a great atmosphere there" - Reid Boucher
1:15pm: WHITEout party planned for tomorrow. Make sure to rock as much white as possible and bring your A game. The guys on the ice are expecting it.
SUNDAY, 4/24 - Practice Day
9:03am: No rest for the weary. The Comets hit the ice this morning for practice, and I assume some video of last night's game. Not much to note, but something to watch for:
Devils forward Jim O'Brien fell awkwardly, left the game, and did not return yesterday. As O'Brien wasn't made available to the media, and his coach responded "we'll see." when asked about his availability for Tuesday's game.
SATURDAY, 4/23 - GAMEDAY
11:02pm: A lot to digest after that one. As odd as it sounds, it was not a 5-1 hockey game, the Comets and Devils played a really good, tight game that should have been a one goal game. There is obviously one topic on the mind of everyone, so we'll get to that after we wrap everything else up.
-Archibald "just couldn't go", according to Travis Green.
-This is the first time since Games 1 and 2 of the Calder Cup Finals that the Comets have lost back-to-back playoff games.
-"Not sure", was the reply to the who starts in net for the Comets on Tuesday.
Now everything turns back to The AUD.
-"We have great fans, it is loud and rambunctious. It is an exciting time of the year when you have playoff hockey in Utica." - Travis Green
That sentiment was shared by a couple of the players as well. As an observer, I can't help but see how both teams have a home ice advantage. The Devils, who are used to playing in a library, won't be used to be playing in a building that is rocking so loud that they cannot communicate on the ice. The Comets are. As I wrote in the preview, I feel this team, more than years past, feed off of the energy radiating from the stands. This is something only the best fans in the AHL can provide.
-Alright, now on to topic number one on every Comets fans mind after last night. Let's preface it with a quote:
"We didn't lose the game because of referee-ing, but I didn't like those two calls." - Travis Green
In saying that, there were two very specific calls Travis immediately pointed out in his post-game press conference.
-The first being Michael Zalewski's cross-checking minor. At this point of the game, it is a 1-1 game. Behind the play, Zalewski gave a Devils player (Mozik) a half-hearted cross check on the arm. Mozik immediately two-hand slashed him back, slashed his stick out of his hands, and then pushed his stick away. Both plays were standard playoff pushing and shoving that happened easily 20-30 times last night, uncalled. This time, however, Zalewski was given two minutes. The power play set-up the Devils first power-play goal, and as Green said, "changed the momentum of the whole game."
-Before we break down the next one, here's the second non-call of the night.
Albany 3-1. pic.twitter.com/utwQq2GtGF— Comets In Game (@CometsInGame) April 23, 2016
Kudos to O'Brien for the veteran move, even more impressive, it worked and created a goal. Reactions from the play at hand:
"I'm not saying it should have been a penalty, but it doesn't give him enough time to make the save." - Green
"There’s no question that could have gone either way and it was a big play in the game, for sure.” -Kowalsky, Devils Head Coach. (from @Pete_Dougherty)
It's hard to look at that play and see a way for that to go uncalled. Without getting an official explanation from the referees, I can see an argument being made that Bachman had enough time to get to his feet, therefore it is a good goal. I don't agree with it, but can see where that argument is being made.
-Finally, we have fielded some complaints about a linesman in last night's game being a former Albany Devil as recently as 2012. This has been overblown. Sure, there is a bit of a bad look to how it looks, but I can ensure you that neither linesman had any effect on the outcome of the game. Linesmen cannot call penalties, therefore, neither of the calls in question above can be attributed to him. Sure, it's not the best look in the world, but let this one go. It's a non-issue.
Comets drop Game 2 by the score of 5-1. Now head home facing elimination and down 0-2 in the series.
10:02am: Due to the earlier start time the Comets will not be taking morning skate. News on starting goalie, and scratches will have to wait until pre-game skate.
FRIDAY, 4/22 - GAMEDAY
11:38pm: A loss is a loss, and there is no moral victories in the playoffs. If you want to hang your hat on something positive, the Comets struck twice on just 14 shots. That is a very good shooting percentage.
-Thoughts and reactions:
-"I wasn't crazy that power plays were 5 to 2 (in Devils favor). I thought the momentum got changed with some of the power plays." - Travis Green
-"I thought the first period was well played, both teams played their structured games." - Green
-"Our execution has to be better." - Green
-"It was a trip, but I thought there was a trip on Jones in the exact same spot on the ice that wasn't called." - Green
-"We kind of got our game going there in the first, lost it in the second, and dug ourselves a little too big of a hole there." - Richard Bachman
10:15pm: Comets drop Game 1, 3-2. News and notes coming up.
11:44am: Richard Bachman was the first goaltender to head to the locker room for the Comets. Indicates he is your starting goalie tonight. His career 1.99 goals against average, and .936 save percentage in 18 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs games will be tested by the Devils tonight.
Skaters getting extra work: Currier, Lain, Landry, Pereira, Valk, Hamilton,and Bubela.
10:57am: The Devils are on the ice wrapping up their morning skate. In a bit of a surprise, the Devils appear to be starting Scott Wedgewood in net net tonight. Yann Danis was the first goaltender off the ice. 6'4", 230-lb. defenseman Raman Hrabarenka is getting extra work in, as well as Corbin McPherson. It appears neither will play tonight.
Comets to take to the ice for their optional morning skate at 11:15am.
8:24am: Welcome back! This is one my favorite things we do on here, and I'm glad we have an opportunity to revisit the Playoff Notebook. I'm hitting the road in a few minutes to meet the team in Albany for the morning skate. The top thing we'll look for is which goalie gets off the ice first. That is typically an indicator as to who starts in net.
We'll also be looking at which injured players hit the ice, and which ones got extra work. If you stay on late and get "bag skated", traditionally, it means you are not playing in that night's game.
Social media news: Make sure to download Snapchat and add the Comets if you are headed to Albany tonight or tomorrow. We have a bit of a surprise in store for all of you. Oh, and of course, we'll bribe you with prizes if you do it.
In the mean time, here is a catch-all of everything you'll want to know before puck drop.
-Series Preview: An in-depth statistical look at the series, and how the Comets can win it.
-Win Prizes: Join the WHITEout movement and be #LouderThanEVER to win!
-Schedule: First round schedule; series starts tonight in Albany at 7pm
-Buy Tickets: Your first (and probably final) chance to get tickets to Tuesday's home game.