Not all painting results in museum-quality masterpieces. Chipping away doesn’t necessarily turn out sculptures to sit in the hallways of mansions. Good performances don’t always end up with acceptance speeches at awards ceremonies.
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting a job done.
And so it was with the St. John’s IceCaps Tuesday night at Mile One Centre in a 2-0 American Hockey League win over the Providence Bruins.
The IceCaps, with a lineup that’s as patched-together as any they’ve used this season, got goals from defenceman Paul Postma and Travis Ramsey to go with a 29-save performance from netminder and first star Eddie Pasquale in coming up with a tidy effort and their sixth victory in seven games.
That’s the stats-sheet story. The overall narrative was one of a St. John’s team that was smart and industrious, making the most of a lineup that had three players making their IceCaps debut Tuesday, including a couple who had been with the team for less than 24 hours.
Don’t expect any of Tuesday’s game to show up on the end-of-the-season highlight package.
The first period was mostly uneventful, the highlight being the Caps’ successful kill of back-to-back Bruins’ power plays midway through the frame; in the second, it was Postma’s goal on the back end of a three-on-two rush, and then a Pasquale slide-across save on Providence rookie and team-leading scorer Carter Camper; in the third, it was a Ramsey shot that beat Providence goalie Anton Khudobin on the short side and helped calm frazzled nerves ... if there were any.
“My head was down,” said Ramsey, who didn’t try to pass off his third goal of the season as some sort of laser-guided, heat-seaking missle.
“Just before that, I had hit the ref because my head was down, and I was just trying to get it on net, honestly.”
Ramsey, Postma and John Negrin, making his first appearance for St. John’s, were part of a seven-man defensive corps Tuesday — the first time this season IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge was using a lineup with just 11 forwards, and that only after newcomers Mike Forney and Josh Lunden were inserted.
In all, St. John’s was missing seven forwards who can be tagged as regulars this season:
‰ Aaron Gagnon, who remains on recall to the parent Winnipeg Jets;
‰ Team co-leading scorer Spencer Machacek, who is being returned by the Jets and should be available for tonight’s rematch with Providence
‰ Centre Marco Rosa, who has been sidelined for more than seven weeks with a concussion
‰ Rookie Jason Gregoire, who was playing his best hockey of the season before suffering a shoulder injury in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Worcester — he’s expected to be out three to four weeks
‰John Albert, the energetic first-year player who is experiencing headaches as the result of a hit from behind by Worcester’s James Livingston on Friday night (Livingston wasn’t penalized on the play, but was handed a two-game league-imposed suspension Tuesday).
‰ Captain Jason Jaffray and big centre Patrice Cormier, who seem to fall in the day-to-day column
The seven account for 125 scoring points and 172 man-games to date.
“We’re getting into some of the grinding days. Guys are getting beat up and injuries are taking their toll with Winnipeg and ourselves,” said McCambridge, who was so unsure of who could go and who would be available — Lunden, coming from Las Vegas of the ECHL, didn’t show up in St. John’s until just before noon Tuesday — that he couldn’t post a lineup until after the pre-game skate.
Tough month ahead for IceCaps
“For a week-day game (and) coming off two really hard-fought games against Worcester, the guys found a way to dig down, make plays and get the win. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but I thought we managed pucks well.
“With the numbers we have and some of the news faces, overall, I thought (it was) a solid game.”
Veteran centre Garth Murray, who was the game’s second star, said the strength of the team’s blueliners and Pasquale’s unflappable goaltending “shone through” against the P-Bruins.
“This is probably the most depleted we’ve been ... not even able to ice 12 forwards,” said Murray. “This may be the first real test for us when it comes to depth, but it happens with most every team at some point of the season, and usually around now.
“February, March, they’re the tough months to get through.”
If that’s the case, then this might be the tough stretch of the tough months for the Eastern Conference-leading Caps (29-12-6). They’re midway through a six-game, nine-day homestand that continues with a rematch tonight against the Bruins (22-21-5) and finishes up with Saturday and Sunday contests against the Binghamton Senators.
“Right now, it’s pretty much, eat, sleep and play hockey,” said St. John’s rearguard Arturs Kulda.