St. John’s has won six of seven meetings with Portland so far this season
A few notes and thoughts regarding the St. John’s IceCaps as they continue a six-game road trip with a game tonight in Lewiston, Me., against the Portland Pirates tonight (8:30 p.m. NT):
They dominated a 10-game season series against the best team in the American Hockey League, yet the IceCaps still find themselves in a real tussle just to maintain a playoff position in the AHL’s Eastern Conference. So does that mean St. John’s (28-19-4) is one of those clubs that can be pegged as playing to the level of its opponents? In other words, do they perform well against the better teams and just middling against mediocre ones?
St. John's IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge
“No, I think we’re beyond that stage. In fact, we’re well beyond it,” said St. John’s coach Keith McCambridge after the IceCaps dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to the league-leading Manchester Monarchs Sunday, leaving St. John’s with a 6-3-1 record in their season series with Monarchs.
McCambridge’s answer indicates that even he thinks there was a time the IceCaps’ showing on any given night might be predicted by its opponent’s record. But his insistence things have changed has statistical backup.
In games against teams currently in playoff position — in other words, the top half of the AHL — the IceCaps have a 16-13-2 record (for a .548 points percentage) and are 12-6-2 (.650) against teams in the bottom part of the standings. Without getting too scientific, that looks like a comparative difference you might expect.
It does, however, reveal an interesting fact in that the IceCaps have — to date at least — had a fairly tough schedule, at least when it comes to strength of opposition. That’s 31 games against top-half team as opposed to 21 against those sitting below the playoff cutoff.
McCambridge chose not to comment on this split, although if he did, you might expect it would be something in the “every game is a tough one, no matter the record” vein. But for what it’s worth, of the 25 contest remaining on the IceCaps’ schedule, only seven are against teams currently in a playoff position.
The Pirates (19-21-9) have had their struggles this season, but have won two straight games. The latest victory — a 2-0 decision over the Adirondack Phantoms on Sunday — snapped a six-week home-ice winless streak at the Colisee in Lewiston, one that had seen them go 0-6-3.
Like most AHL clubs, the Pirates have been bolstered by player assignments from the parent team during the NHL’s Olympic break, having received forward Tim Kennedy and defenceman Connor Murphy from the Phoenix Coyotes. And centre Brendan Shinnimin is back after being sidelined by an injury that’s kept him out since the New Year.
This will be the seventh of 10 meetings between St. John’s and Portland this year, with the IceCaps having won five of the six games to date.
Michael Hutchinson will make his sixth straight start in goal for St. John’s tonight, his 11th in the IceCaps’ last 12 outings.
When asked when new netminder Tyler Beskorowany, brought in when Eddie Pasquale was lost to season-ending surgery, might expect to see his first action for St. John’s, McCambridge suggested it could be during this road trip, which will end with three games in three days (two in Worcester and one more against the Pirates) this coming weekend.
But McCambridge isn’t specifying which of those games he has targeted for Beskorowany’s St. John’s debut.
“That’s in my head, not in the paper,” he said with a chuckle.
Notes: Goulds native and Pirates defenceman James Melindy has one goal and no assists in 19 games in his rookie pro season. Recent arrivals from Phoenix have left nine rearguards on the Portland roster and Melindy did not dress for the Pirates’ last two games ... Sunday’s game between Portland and Adirondack might not have featured much in the way of scoring, but it had plenty of penalty minutes, 304 in total, most of them resulting from a brawl in the last 30 seconds of the contest. There were 18 game misconducts handed out ... Manchester centre Tyler Toffoli is the latest CCM/AHL player of the week. Toffoli, one of those aforementioned players sent to the AHL during the Olympics, had five goals and two assists in three games, the two helpers coming in Sunday’s win over St. John’s ...