Tonight the Amerks will feel shortchanged taking no points from their match up against the AHL’s best, Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. They outscored the penguins 2-1 when at full strength, but surrendered two power play goals. Muse played a solid game; but if Linus Ullmark had not been opening doors in Buffalo, I think the Amerks get two points. Baptiste had another frustrating night featuring several turnovers and a terrible penalty where he chose to chop down his man instead of attempting to play defense. The funk he has entered immediately after Bailey got called up is an even greater indicator of his immaturity issues. However, Daniel Muzito-Bagenda seems to be taking the roster moves being made in stride. He rebounded from a healthy scratch on Wednesday with a fantastic game adding another goal to his resume. I was most impressed with his ability to skate the puck into the offensive zone through traffic; it is not something I previously thought to be in his bag of tricks.
Bagenda’s line mate Hudson Fasching played a very steady game. Despite a disappointing stat line, I am going to rate him a B+. He seemed to have a very solid mental game plan that governed his play, which resulted in a very positive style of hockey. The three pillars of his game were physicality, pressure on point men, and net drive.
Fasching did not find himself on the puck very often but he was still able to make an impact. Early on he set up shop right in front of the net creating a great screen for Strachan. The resulting rebound led to a tap-in goal for Bagenda. He was able to crash the net hard and create chances all night long. His best opportunity came on a puck that he picked out of the air in front. Unfortunately, he batted the flying puck just wide. Fasching had one final chance late in the game created by some quick stick work behind the net. He weaved between both Marlie defensemen, but fired a centering pass into an empty slot. Even though it was a tough angle I would have liked to see him try and pick the top corner of the near side post.
Defensively, Fasching played a very conservative game. The stats will tell you that he was on the ice for all three of the Penguins goals, but I can’t point out anything that he did wrong. On the first, he closed out on the point preventing a shot and forcing the puck low. Then Dupuy lost track of his man watching the puck behind the net and he scored on a backdoor cut. On the second power play goal Dupuy lost the draw clean and couldn’t get out to his point in time to block the shot. It was not a good night for 39. On the last goal he did a great job to eliminate the shot angle of his man forcing a tough pass. In what was a brutal break, the puck deflected off Geiger’s skate and between the legs of Muse.
The style of hockey Fasching plays is unlike any other forward the Amerks have. He plays hard and finishes checks with a consistency that very few teammates exhibit; but he also has the quick hands and skill to make a difference with his net-front game. I would like to see him get some time on the power play going forward. The increase of screened shots would help tremendously.