Talking Red

Albany Devils vs Syracuse Crunch, 11/24

Posted in on by EJ Fagan

While in New Jersey for the holiday, I decided to take a trip up to Albany to see the River Rats Devils take on the Syracuse Cheerios Crunch. It was the first hockey game that I’ve had the privilege to watch since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and definitely worth the drive.

Adam Larsson, Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson, Keith Kinkaid, and Mattias Tedenby were among the Devils prospects playing in the game. The Devils lost 4-1, and were unmistakably the worse team on the ice. Considering that Syracuse’s team consisted of the 2012 Calder Cup champion Norfolk Admirals roster, this is understandable. You can read the whole box score here.

Some general thoughts about the game, before I talk about specific players. The Devils were clearly overmatched, but didn’t play poorly. They held their own in the first period, but ran into penalty trouble after falling behind. Their style showed very little dump-and-chase, and generally avoided any long breakout passes. They had trouble gaining the zone, in part because they were exclusively relying on skating the puck in.

Neither the penalty kill nor the power play were anything to write home about, although the latter wasn’t terrible. Coach Rick Kowalsky juggled both units quite a bit throughout the night, while keeping the other line combinations pretty stable.

Both teams played a fairly non-physical game, to the point where the Albany ‘hit of the game’ was barely a bump in the defensive zone. They took a ton of penalties, but seemed hesitant to make a real check.

Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby

You would expect the three forwards on the roster with strong combinations of talent of NHL experience to dominate minor league hockey players, even against a team as good as Syracuse, but that clearly did not happen tonight. Josefson was invisible. I don’t remember a single solid Henrique shooting chance, although he did make some slick passes to spring odd-man rushes out of his line mates, one of which resulted in Albany’s lone goal. On defense, Henrique made several key mistakes in his own zone.

Tedenby was probably the best of the lot. He had a great chance on the first Devils’ power play. Tedenby managed to slip through the defenders, skating the puck to the net and getting a great shot off. He had a few other solid shooting attempts as well, and didn’t make and obvious mistakes on defense.

Had I not known the identities of the players, I probably wouldn’t have guessed that these three forwards had the most promising NHL futures on the ice for Albany. I would probably have guessed Joe Whitley, Steve Zalewski, and Matt Anderson based on what I saw.

Adam Larsson, Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka

These three were the most interesting defensemen on the ice last night. Larsson had plenty of ice time and opportunities, but was inconsistent throughout the game. He made a few very nice defensive plays, but also had at least two major breakdowns in his own end, one of which directly resulted in a goal being scored. He had few opportunities on the power play, and mostly opted for passes rather than shots. You could tell that he was a leader on the ice, and being leaned on by the team, but Larsson was not able to capitalize on the opportunities given to him.

I liked what I saw from Brandon Burlon. He was successful at driving the play forward for the most part, and fairly frequently pinched in. I didn’t notice any major defensive breakdowns, although he did take a bad cross checking penalty. He’s got some execution to work on, but I could see a Johnny Oduya type emerging out of Burlon.

Raman Hrabarenka was the surprise of the night. Based off his junior record, I had pegged Hrabarenka as a big, slow stay-at-home defenseman without much offensive talent. With a frame that looks a lot like Colin White, Hrabarenka was easily the biggest guy on the ice. He didn’t use his size much, but neither did most of the team. I didn’t notice anything notable 5-on-5, but Hrabarenka definitely stood out on the power play. He did a great job holding on to the puck, and functioned as an effective quarterback for Albany. He pulled off quite a few accurate shots through traffic, and created pretty much all of the non-Tedenby power play chances of the night.

Keith Kinkaid

Don’t let the 4 goals allowed fool you: Keith Kinkaid had a pretty good night. All four goals were the result of defensive breakdowns, and three were pretty much unsaveable shots. I was impressed by how quickly Kinkaid squared up on a tough rebound, and how well he moved laterally. He had a couple of tough plays with the puck, and overall looked poised and ready to play. You can definitely see an NHL future for a guy with obvious talent.

 

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