The young guys are doing their part in this series
With a few notable exceptions, the Rocket success has mostly been credited to its veterans this season. Some people may think that it’s still the case in the team’s first ever playoff series against Syracuse and to a certain extent, it’s true.
Even though he is in his first playoffs since the beginning of his pro career, Brandon Gignac scored the most important goal of the series until now with his game winning marker with less than two minutes left in game #2. This goal tied the series up at 1-1, which is where the series will stand when the puck drops at the Place Bell later this week.
Speaking of goals, we have to mention Alex Belzile, who is currently the best goalscorer in the AHL playoffs with three in two games. He’s there tied up with Akil Thomas, a second-round pick from the Kings, and Arttu Ruotsalainen, who played 18 games in the NHL this season.
Sami Niku is another notable player thanks to his three assists in game #1. In the whole league, Roland McKeown (Colorado) is the only defenseman with more points after two playoff games.
We could list a bunch of others, like Corey Schueneman for example, who leads the Rocket in terms of Corsi percentage and scoring chances differential at 5 on 5. Nevertheless, the young guys should not go under the radar either as they are clearly pulling their weight.
You don’t even need to look up the statistics to understand their contribution to the team. All you need to see is how hard the Syracuse Crunch are working to slow down Rafaël Harvey-Pinard’s line thanks to the last change. The results are mitigated and when you dive in the numbers, you quickly see that there are limits to this strategy.
After two games in this series, RHP leads all Rocket forwards when it comes to Corsi percentage. As you can see with Belzile goals, when you let these guys spend that much time in the offensive zone, pucks will end up crossing your goal line.
The coach of the team had some good words about #11.
“Harvey-Pinard, he plays hard, he works, I thought he had a good game” answered Jean-François Houle when asked about the play of his young players after game #2. “Ylönen could be a bit better but he had a few shots and also scoring chances. Overall, I’m satisfied with the effort.”
When it comes to Jesse Ylönen, a lot of fans will stick on the first part of this quote but the second is even more important, especially when you dive into empirical data.
Earlier, we were talking about Brandon Gignac’s important goal. There is only one assist on this goal and it belongs to Jesse Ylönen. This assist pushed Ylönen among a group of 3 Laval Rocket players with more than one point since the start of the series. Belzile and Niku are the two others.
The Rocket were especially menacing when the Finnish forward was on the ice during game #2. He was on the ice for half of Laval’s scoring chances at 5 on 5 during the second game in Syracuse (8 of 16). Only two players got to 7 in that statistic on that night; Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Mattias Norlinder. These young guys are good!
Seeing this, we shouldn’t be surprised to see that Ylönen leads all Laval forwards in the scoring chances differential at 5 on 5 since the beginning of the series. It’s dangerous for Syracuse to let a guy with offensive skills like the #26 roam around that way in the offensive zone and create that many chances. It could certainly blow up in their face at the Bell Place if he keeps it up.
There is also some guy named Cayden Primeau, who was brilliant during the Rocket win on Saturday night. The goaltender made 37 saves that night, including 19 coming from the slot, to allow Laval to come back at even in the series.
These numbers show that this series is teamwork for the Rocket and it includes the young guys who are gaining invaluable experience.