I decided to make the trip to Cleveland to catch the LEM's last game of the
regular season and share some of what I saw. Despite having almost 40 shots on Rochester's net, very few were truly tough saves. It clearly showed last night that LE is full of too many pluggers and grinders and too few actual offensively skilled forwards. The team spent way too much time dumping the puck in, cycling along the wall and then sending the puck to the point for a shot. Unfortunately Rochester was too good at getting sticks and bodies in the way of the shots that this strategy was becoming ineffective very quickly. The response (besides rinsing and repeating the shot from the point)? Too use their speed to rush up the ice only to fire a weak shot from outside (or just inside) the face off circles hoping for a rebound. Unfortunately the players following through over skated or just were not there for the majority of the rebounds. This team was clearly lacking players like an Olver or Hishon (or Willsie or Ford from years past). While the team played well overall, they just did not take the puck to the net enough to make up for their lack of scoring ability.
But enough about that, you want to hear about the Avs prospects...
The best player on the ice? RYAN STOA. Normally that would say a lot about how bad the team played but this was not the case tonight. Ryan was FLYING, HITTING and shooting as if he thought he was the reborn David Jones of year's end. Unfortunately this is probably Ryan's last season with the organization as the lack of production and not seeing any time with the Avs this year means they will part ways this summer.
Cam Gaunce played a very smart game all night and it looked like he was playing a much more positional game rather than physical one to avoid taking any penalties that would hurt his team. Despite this, he still took guys into the boards and kept them to the outside very well. His skating has improved and he is very good skating backwords that he should have no issues with the majority of the skaters at the NHL level. While no Foote-lite tonight, he was still their leader on D.
Tyson Barrie had flashes of brilliance then utter brain cramps handling the puck. It wasn't so much coughing the puck up as it was being too passive on the puck in his own end. Its fixable and with his ability to skate and stick handle he will be fine. Played remarkably well with a guy by the name of Karl Stollery (Merrimack). Oddly both are the top OFDs on the team and they played together on the same pairing the entire game. Hopefully Stollery is offered a contract with the Avs as he reminded me of Liles at times last night.
Speaking of those two being the top OFDs on the team, the one who should have been #1, Stefan Elliott, was only "ok". Too much running around in his own end trying to poke check and struggled with the bigger, more physical forwards. While not a huge issue with the offensive skill set he has, it was last night as his offensive game never really got going. Its only one game and he clearly hands the puck well but he will need to play the body better and get stronger. Next season he will probably be more comfortable taking chances and letting his offensive game come to him more naturally. Oddly enough, he did have one moment where he absolutely took a guy into the boards and put him on his ass. It just wasn't going on regularly enough.
Mercier, Malone and Carey. Outside of Stoa, this was the only line/forwards of importance to Avs fans. Lots of intensity, speed and hitting. Carey, while not as physical as the other two, played a solid game with the occasional goof. He has a good future with the Avs playing a strong two-way role in the bottom six. Mercier hit and skated hard. hopefully he is brought back. Malone was the highlight of the line and will be a nice physical replacement to Winnik. The best scoring chance may have come off him going up the middle and deking through two players and almost scoring on the goalie. Unfortunately he was held up on the play. A very good line and would be a nice 4th line for the Avs once everyone is up to speed and adjusted to the pros (Malone/Carey).
Siemens and Pickard did not play.