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Whale Season Comes to a Disappointing End

Whale Klassen

Always sad to watch the ice melt at the XL Center, especially this early in the spring.

And geez, what can you say about an 0-5-1 streak to end the season?  Who saw that coming?

Actually, the ice is still in for now, as the players who will be joining the parent New York Rangers from the Whale will skate at the XL Center for a couple of days, until the big club gets back from Florida, but metaphorically speaking, it has melted away.

That’s a pretty accurate image for the Whale’s season, too, as what was shaping up as a strong finish to the regular year took a sudden U-turn, with the club unable, in six tries, to get the one win that would have earned it a playoff berth.

What happened, you ask?  Well, that’s a good question.  I can’t really point to one element that caused the bottom to fall out.

Lack of timely scoring was certainly an issue, as all but the last of the six losses were by one goal, with one including an empty-netter.  Individually, some important players hit slumps at the very end, as leading goal-scorer Brandon Segal was held without a tally in the last six games, after putting together the second-longest goal-scoring streak in team history, a six-gamer, Christian Thomas had one goal in the last nine games and J.T. Miller was held without a goal in the five games he played after coming back from New York.

It’s hard to fault any of those guys’ efforts, though, I don’t think the dearth of goal-scoring was due to an absence of “want-to”.

One collective number that stands out is the shots-against.  That was a bit of a bugaboo all year, as the Whale ranked 27th out of the 30 AHL teams in shots given up per game, at 32.5, but the trouble got even more pronounced at the very end.  They only gave up 22 in the crushing, last-second, 4-3 loss in Springfield last Sunday, but other than that, the opposing shot totals in the last two weekends of the season were 45, 36, 35 and 39, for an average of 38.8 per game.  That’s way too many.

It’s easy to point the finger at the goaltenders for not making all the saves the team needed, but that’s too much rubber to be facing on a nightly basis, and you can extrapolate it out, too, to much too much time to be spending in your own zone.  And to be fair, if you look back over the last 44 games of the campaign, the time during which the Whale went from a near cellar-dweller to a playoff contender, Jason Missiaen had a save percentage of 92.7 and Cam Talbot’s was 92.2.  Those are two real good numbers, and the team wouldn’t have even been sniffing the postseason if they hadn’t been as strong.

When you talk about shots against and too much time in the defensive zone, it’s not unreasonable to look at the loss of Blake Parlett as having turned out to be a big blow.

I have to admit, I liked Parlett’s game, for the most part, this year and thought he had come a long way as a player, but I didn’t think that taking him out of the Whale mix was going to hurt the team nearly as much as it seemed to.

Sometimes, particularly with defensemen, you have no idea how important a guy really is, and how many key minutes he takes care of, until you don’t have him anymore, and the Whale’s record since the April 3 Ranger/Columbus trade is a good illustration of that.

Connecticut actually won the first two games without Parlett, but were outshot (there it is again) 64-36 in the process, before the season-ending losing skein began with a 1-0 loss to Providence in the home finale two Sundays ago.

No reasonable hockey observer could argue against the trade the Rangers made to move Marian Gaborik, and New York’s record since the deal, 7-2-2, clearly confirms that it was a smart move.  I would have thought, too, that the Whale had enough collective depth to weather the loss of Parlett, especially with Stu Bickel coming down from the Rangers, but that seems not to have been the case.

Now the Whale focus turns to a hoped-for Ranger postseason run, and it should come clear in the next day or two who from the Whale roster will be headed to Gotham to augment the big club’s group.