There were a lot of Amerks that played very well tonight. Cole Schneider turned in a magnificent 4 point performance with 2 goals and 2 assists. Nick Baptiste scored a beautiful quick wrist shot on an unsettled puck. William Carrier played an amazing game, and might have been the best two way hockey player on the ice tonight. Unfortunately I am reviewing Justin Bailey and tonight was a night to forget for him. It started off very promising with goal on the power-play for Cole Schneider. Bailey did vacate the front of the net to help win the puck back and Schneider was able to ghost into his spot to finish with an easy tap in on a nice pass from the point. After that Bailey made a good hustle play on a mishandled puck to earn a breakaway and draw a penalty that got the Amerks off the kill. So if there was a highlight to his play tonight, it was his work on special teams.
That said with the exception of one strong check to separate the puck in the start of the second, it was the end of the good we saw from Bailey tonight. He looked very lost on the right wing tonight without the puck. He spent most off the time on the breakout flat footed at the blue line, and as a result was not much of a factor chasing down loose pucks in the zone. For the most part when he received the puck entering the zone he turned it over on a weak dump in, or was dispossessed by a defender before he could get it deep. There was one exception where he was able to gain entry on the wing but he fired the shot wide of the net.
The second period was a struggle. His line mates were able to create chances but he couldn't find his way to the puck in the attacking zone. On his 12th shift of the night things took a turn for the worse. In what was the defining moment of his night, he had a shot blocked in the offensive zone. This led to a 3 on 2 the other way and eventually a goal for the Bears. When Bailey caught up to the play he got caught in a scrum behind the net, and eventually ended up taking a 5 minute major penalty. The Bears evened up the game while he was in the box to make it 3-3.
From the second he came out of the box Bailey seemed to get even worse as the night progressed. He looked frantic on the puck and was pressing far too much to try to make a play forechecking; so much so that he got himself out of position and allowed easy entry on multiple occasions. His frustration came to his head at the end of his 16th shift when he slashed the boards with his stick in frustration as he returned to the bench (shortly after a failed dump that didn't make it past the defensemen). His night came to a merciless end after another turn over in the neutral zone when the bears had an empty net. Fortunately the Amerks were able to compose themselves and hang on for a 5-4 win.
My grade for Bailey tonight is a D+. He looked lost off the puck and frantic when he actually found himself on the puck. He only took two shots ( one off target, the other blocked) and took a horribly timed major. His saving grace that he was able to make a couple plays on special teams. He wandered from the front of the net far to often in the attacking zone and as a result he was not able to establish a net front presence. He finished with a -1 plus/minus.
I want to say that I still really like Justin Bailey and that I still feel he can make great plays in the forechecking game. Right now I see him as a player that could be a 3rd line NHL player, that brings a lot of energy on the defensive side. But he must do a better job off the puck and put himself in better situations. This will not be the last time I spotlight Justin Bailey, and I am sure that next time he will perform better.