The Whale's heartbreaking 3-2 regulation time win left the Falcons at 10 wins and 9 losses in their first 19 games.
Believe it or not, there has been a lot more good hockey than bad so far. In fact, short of the occasional defensive lapse or misjudged save attempt, the Falcons easily...and I stress easily, could be sitting on a record that looks much more like 15-5 than the 10-10 they currently carry.
I've been lucky enough to see all 19 games, with the exception of Saturday November 18th in Bridgeport (cursed AHL Live...alas, a rant for another day), where it was audio only.
The AHL schedule can be a real grind on the players. For the Falcons, all of it on the bus and in many cases there are three games in less than 48 hours.
Alphabetically, here are the Springfield Falcons and their first quarter grades:
Cam Atkinson RW 18 9 6 15 +5 10 Q1 Grade: A
When Cam joined the Falcons after completing a successful career at Boston College, he brought his unique brand of energy to a lineup that was playing out the string. This season, after a great camp and making the Blue Jackets, he notched his first NHL goal. Since coming to Springfield, he has averaged nearly a point a game and has been instrumental on the power play.
Aaron Bogosian LW 16 2 0 2 0 14 Q1 Grade: C+
The "other" Bogosian became a Falcon at the end of last season. In 10 games at the tail end of the season, he registered 2 goals and an assist. Not a high scoring forward, but more of a defensive specialist, in his first full year as a pro, he has been called on in some difficult situations.
Dane Byers LW 18 4 6 10 -8 58 Q1 Grade: B+
Who doesn't love Byers? He is the personification of "gives it all, every shift". Byers' three PPG are second only to Atkinson's five on the team. His -8 is a concern, but much of that stems from his physical style of play; sometimes when he's taking a body out near the cage or in the corner, the play continues and the opponents light the lamp. The former captain of the Hartford Wolfpack is a respected leader in the AHL.
Nick Drazenovic C 17 5 15 20 -1 12 Q1 Grade: A
A product of his environment, Drazzy has flourished in the early going as a Top 6 forward for the Falcons. Three of his five goals have come in special team situations: 2 on the PP, 1 shorty. Also, with an assist to goal ratio of 3:1, Nick is not a selfish linemate. Banged up on Sunday, I hope he's back in the lineup quickly.
Oliver Gabriel LW 11 1 0 1 -5 0 Q1 Grade: C
The highly touted rookie from the Portland Winterhawks has yet to find his comfort level in the AHL. Playing outside the top six, restricts him to a more defensive game. Restricted also, is his ice time in that 3rd and 4th line role. He's too good a talent to not figure out the pro game. It might just take some time.
Ryan Garlock C 19 1 6 7 -5 4 Q1 Grade: B
Garlock started the season in Springfield on a PTO, and it was shortly thereafter that he was offered a full AHL contract with the Falcons. Familiar to most Falcons fans as having played the past two seasons for the WolfPack/Whale, this is Ryan's sixth season as a pro. With the team deep up the middle, he's limited as to the amount of ice time he sees.
Alexandre Giroux LW 10 6 4 10 +4 8 Q1 Grade: A
Giroux has only seen action in half of the Falcons games, yet he's tied for fourth in scoring on the team. Two of his six goals have come on the power play. A mainstay on the PP unit, Giroux in a limited time thus far in Springfield has lived up to the accolades that came along with him when he signed on with the Jackets organization.
Andrew Joudrey C 18 2 3 5 +1 2 Q1 Grade: B
Another one of the leaders on this edition of the Falcons, Joudrey has seen time in just about every situation in the first quarter of the season.
Tomas Kubalik RW 10 3 2 5 -1 10 Q1 Grade: B-
Kubie was injured early in the season, and in my estimation, hasn't hit his stride yet. Two of his three goals have come on what has been a solid Falcons power play. He has shown the occasional flashes of brilliance that saw him lead the Falcons in scoring in his rookie season.
Wade MacLeod LW 19 1 8 9 -1 8 Q1 Grade: B
Wade's performance in the first quarter has to be termed as a "pleasant surprise". After completing his collegiate career at Northeastern, MacLeod joined the Falcons at the end of the 2010-11 season. After signing a standard AHL contract with the Falcons in the summer, the rookie has become a reliable part of the Falcons offense.
Adam Mair C 14 0 4 4 0 22 Q1 Grade: B-
Mair signed a PTO with the Falcons, and no doubt, based on the leadership he could bring to the team, was signed to a standard AHL contract at the start of the season. An early season suspension aside, Mair has brought stability to some of the Falcons youngest forwards. Never a big point scorer, his leadership is apparent every night.
Ryan Russell C 18 8 2 10 +1 7 Q1 Grade: A-
Through the first quarter, Russell has shown his offensive skills in every type of situation. Of his 8 goals, he's got one on the power play and one shorthanded. He's got game winners. He's been a tremendously positive addition to the Falcons lineup.
Martin St. Pierre C 18 5 16 21 +5 10 Q1 Grade: A
The Falcons leading scorer through the first quarter, I can't think of anything negative about his game. An elusive skater, unselfish with the puck, able to finish plays, another player with veteran leadership presence, easily my first quarter MVP.
Mike Thomas RW 17 1 3 4 -4 9 Q1 Grade: C+
Struggling at times with ice time and adapting to the pro game after his Memorial Cup Championship last season, Thomas will figure it all out. Playing primarily on the fourth line, of late with Aaron Bogosian and Ryan Garlock, Mike was a healthy scratch on Sunday against the Albany Devils.
Cody Goloubef 19 0 7 7 -6 27 Q1 Grade: B
Playing primarily of late on a defensive pair with Brett Lebda, Goloubef continues his development. Although he's mentioned as one of Columbus' defensemen of the future, I personally hope that he's allowed to continue learning and not rushed into any situation that he's not ready for. Pairing him with the veteran Lebda, I think, is brilliant and can only bode well for his maturing as a defenseman.
Nick Holden 20 3 5 8 -2 8 Q1 Grade: B+
Nick is playing with more confidence than he played with last season. Nick's large frame should afford him the ability to take the body effectively, something that he's still mastering. He has improved dramatically as a puck mover though, and this is one of the things that the Blue Jackets desperately need going forward.
Dalton Prout 16 1 0 1 -4 14 Q1 Grade: C+
The Blue Jackets sixth round pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, Prout has played some spirited defense thus far for the Falcons. Still, he's in a tough position and one where a lot is expected of him. He's been steady at his position, with a minimum of rookie mistakes. There's a lot of upside to his game, and he could emerge as one of the Jackets defensemen of the future.
Brent Regner 19 1 5 6 -2 2 Q1 Grade: B
Regner is now in his third full season of learning at the AHL level. While he has improved over last season, there's still a lot in front of him if he expects to crack the Columbus lineup anytime soon. Most important, Brent needs to find his playmaking ability that he showed with the Vancouver Giants.
David Savard 12 0 7 7 +4 10 Q1 Grade: A-
David had a productive rookie season last year with the Falcons. His 43 points led all defensemen, and he finished third overall on a team that struggled mightily at times to put the puck in the net. Since his assignment from Columbus, Savard has shown pure confidence every time he handles the puck. He truly is starting to show that he's becoming a take charge leader when the Falcons offense is on the move.
Ironically, the only Springfield netminder with 10 games played was Danny Taylor, who was released yesterday. Until recent struggles, Taylor was a solid "B+", maybe an "A-". He's a good goalie, and personally, I hope he finds a team soon. Better yet, I hope a team finds him soon.
Manny Legace, the Falcons goalie with the most games played now (8), is also on a PTO. Like with Taylor, it's likely a matter of time until either Mark Dekanich or Curtis Sanford ends up here as the Yin to Allen York's Yang, at which time it's unlikely that Manny will continue here. Aside from speculation though, Legace has played well, sporting a 2.42 GAA and a .913 save percentage.
That wraps up my look back at the players who made the first quarter of the season a fairly decent one. I'll repeat something I said at the start of this post, The Falcons record of 10-9-0-0 to end the quarter could have easily been 15-4, but for a break or two along the way. Through 19 (now 20) games, this team has not played bad hockey.
Finally, I saw Coach Mike Keenan on MSG last night. Coach Keenan said:
"Sometimes you play poorly and win. Sometimes you play well and lose. It's just how the game goes."
Here's hoping that the Falcons have seen enough hot goaltending and lucky bounces against them, and they're able to get the hot goaltending and a few lucky bounces.
Overall grade for the Falcons: B