Tonight’s 5-2 victory against the Marlies might just be the best of the year. In a contest that was bogged down by some questionable officiating, Nick Baptiste played a near perfect game; and was able to record a hat trick. Also Dan Catenacci was able to bust out of his slump, scoring a goal, and earning the second star. Power play woes continued as the Amerks went 0 for 4 on the night. Lambert attempted to put Nelson on the point. Instead of rising to the task Nelson continually turned the puck over impeding zone entry on a consistent basis. He even gifted the puck away on the point leading to a breakaway for the Marlies.
I am going to give Vaclav Karabacek an A- in his Amerks debut. In my first ever viewing of him I was very impressed. He played mistake free hockey for most of the night. I loved his fore-checking effort, and he combined with Catenacci for a nice assist. He was a +1 on the night and was able to register 2 shots on net. He was not involved in any special teams during the night, but I think he is starting to develop some nice chemistry with 95 and 43
Offensively it only took Karabacek a few shifts to start to click with his line-mates. He made a couple of nice cross-ice passes to Justin Bailey, creating good shot opportunities. He drove the net well, but Bailey was not able to generate any rebounds for him. He made a nice play on his assist; drawing a defender to him and sliding a nice no look drop pass to Catenacci (who finished it off in impressive fashion).
The rest of Karabacek s offense was generated by his intense fore-checking efforts. On four separate occasions he was able to turn the puck over in the offensive zone, recover it, and create a chance. He was able to find Bailey wide open in front of the net early in the first period. Unfortunately even with time and space Bailey did not finish. Late in the second he was able to nudge a defender off the puck earning himself a nice shot in the slot. Sadly he put it right in the stomach of the waiting Marlie goaltender. Karabacek was rewarded for his efforts with a couple extra shifts late in the when the Amerks were trying to close out the game. It’s because of his hard work that the story of the last few minuets was focused on Nick Baptiste’s hat trick watch, rather than a Toronto comeback effort.
In the Defensive zone I thought Karabacek got locked in on the puck a bit too much. He was aggressive trying to make interceptions (sometimes to a fault) leading to a couple steals. However he gambled a bit too much and allowed a few open shots from the point. Also Karabacek gave his defender too much space on several occasions and wasn’t in position to block a shot. Fortunately not one of those shots found the net.
Overall Karabacek s night was characterized by solid steady play. He did not look like an elite player on the puck, but I thought he played very well. Going forward I would like to see him stick handle and take more shots. I think if he continues to develop chemistry with Bailey and Catenacci they can make up a very strong 2nd line.