We finally made it home last night after a wonderful three weeks in New Zealand. If you are a nature lover you must add New Zealand to your bucket list as it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Clean, green and sparsely populated, it is a country of stunning and diverse natural beauty with jagged mountains, rolling pastures, steep fiords, pristine trout filled lakes, raging rivers, scenic beaches, active volcanic/geothermal zones and glaciers all in a county about a third the size of Texas.
I want to thank Mary Betz and Ted Hosterman for filling in for me while I was on vacation. As usual they did a great job with game previews and recaps along with several player profiles. They even accompanied the team on their recent road trip. Job well done!
I have missed the first eight games of the season and it is way too early to draw any conclusions about how the season will progress, but there certainly are some trends worth noting about what is working and not working thus far. Here are some of my thoughts from looking at the stats.
- After starting the season with two decisive victories against the Missouri Mavericks, the Americans have gone 2-4 in their last six games.
- Allen is now 3-1 at home and 1-3 on the road. This is unusual as Allen has historically been an outstanding road team. Over their history they have as many points on the road as they do at home.
- As was the case last season, the Americans are tough to beat when they score first. They have won the four games where they have scored first and lost the four games when their opponent has scored first.
- The Americans have always been one of the most penalize teams in the ECHL and that trend has continued this season. They are currently ranked #4 averaging 19.63 penalty minutes per game.
- Special teams have been a hallmark of Steve Martinson led teams and last season was no exception as the Americans had the best special teams in the league. The biggest statistical anomaly thus far this season is on the power play. Last season Allen led the ECHL with a power play percentage of 21.1% in the regular season and 27.2% in the playoffs. In the first eight games of this season the Allen power play is ranked #24 at a paltry 6.1% and on the road they have yet to score a power play goal (0-15).
- The penalty kill started out great killing 26 penalties at home (100%) before going on the road and giving up five goals in 14 chances. After eight games the team is ranked #9 in overall penalty kill percentage at 87.5% but they are first in the league at home (100%) and #26 on the road at 64.3%.
- Shots on goal is also an interesting stat when comparing last season to the first eight games of this season. Allen struggled getting shots on goal last season finishing ranked #24 with 28.82 shots per game. The good news is in the first eight games this season the Americans are ranked #3 averaging 36 shots per game. The bad news is they are giving up an average of 37 shots on goal which is ranked #24 in the ECHL.
It is way too early to draw any conclusions about what the first eight games mean for the rest of the season but here are some thoughts:
- The 4-4 start by Allen is the worst start since Steve Martinson became coach. The Americans started 7-1 in his first two years, back in the CHL days. Allen started 5-3 the last two seasons on the way to Kelly Cup championships.
- The power play will get substantially better. With Chad Costello quarterbacking the power play unit it is just a matter of time before it becomes a difference maker.
- Team defense needs to improve. You can't be successful giving up 37 shots and 3.25 goals per game. Coach Martinson has said many times it is more important to win games than it is to score goals. While the Allen style of play will always be offensive minded, the commitment to defensive hockey and when to take risks will be a key to success.
- Goalie play is always a key factor in team success. Riley Gill got off to a great start with a .946 save percentage in his first three starts before being injured. Keeping Gill healthy and not overworked will be a key come playoff time. It will also be important that rookie Jamie Murray plays well when he gets his opportunities.
- Injures are a part of the game and certainly not an excuse for the way Allen has played recently but the team has been plagued with a rash of injuries early in the season. The injured list has already included Kale Kerbashian, Dyson Stevenson, Riley Gill, Tristan King, Rick Pinkston and Kyle Neuber who have missed a total of 28 games and this all happened in the first two weeks of the season.
- With four days of practice this week after the long road trip and time to work on defensive play and the power play, you should see improvement both this weekend at home against Alaska and on the western swing road trip to Colorado and Utah.
- What a difference a year makes as the Tulsa Oilers sit on top of the Western Conference standings and Missouri is at the bottom.
- It has been a great start to the season for a few players from Allen's championship team of last season. Jake Hildebrand, who plays for Indy, was named the ECHL "Goalie of the Week" for the first week of the season, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, who plays for Colorado, was just named the ECHL "Player of the Month" for October and Justin Baker, who plays for Brampton, was just loaned to Utica (AHL). Congrats to all.
DID YOU KNOW: Congratulations to former Allen American player Darryl Bootland who turned 35 yesterday. The player affectionately known as "Booter" is now the second oldest player in the ECHL.