Joel Bouchard (Photo by TVA Sports)

by Chris G, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

LAVAL, QC. —The Laval Rocket are coming off a pair of losses against the Springfield Thunderbirds on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Follow the links to check out my full game reports.

The Rocket begin a two-game road trip on Tuesday night as they head to Toronto to face the Marlies and then to Rochester on Saturday night to face the Americans. It will be interesting to see if Jeremiah Addison and Michael Pezzetta see their first action of the year, seven games into the season. If they don’t crack the lineup this week, I think that a spot in the ECHL should be found to get some playing time. 

Here are my top 5 takes of the week:

      1. Bouchard loses his cool – Last week Joel Bouchard thrust himself into the spotlight as he cut practice short frustrated by the effort displayed by his players. In the video of the post-game scrum posted by the Rocket, the head coach said that his players were average at practice on Monday and bad on the Tuesday. Bouchard even called out his players’ professionalism. The team responded with a 5-2 win against the Hartford Wolfpack the following night. I have no issues with Bouchard losing his cool, but I don’t think it’s a tactic that he can use regularly without it losing its effect. I’m not sure that four games into the season with the team having a 2-2 record was the best time for Bouchard to lose his cool, particularly for the third time.
      2. Same system  – Really early into the season, it was evident that the Rocket were playing a system very similar to the Montreal Canadiens. They put a lot of pressure on the opposition, and use their speed that allows them to play an exciting game and take a lot of shots. When Bouchard was asked about whether it’s intended that his team plays the same style as the Canadiens, he didn’t answer the question directly and just said that he coaches the Laval Rocket and that his teams have always played the same way. Only moments before that, Michael McCarron had mentioned  that Bouchard, Alex Burrows, and Daniel Jacob were part of all the meetings during the Canadiens camp and they were listening to the instructions provided by Claude Julien and his coaching staff. I don’t understand why they can’t just say that they play the same way. That strategy allows players to integrate the Canadiens when they are called up. It’s a strategy that Marc Bergevin has employed for the Canadiens AHL affiliate since 2012. I reached out to former NHL General Manager and current TSN’s Director of Scouting, Craig Button, to get his thoughts on the AHL affiliate playing the same system like the NHL team. “I never liked the idea of playing exactly the same way,” said Button. “The AHL is developmental not just for the players but for the coaches of the AHL team and for the NHL coaches experimenting with things,” Button told the AHL Report. I think that the AHL team should play a similar system, like the NHL team. How many times have we seen the NHL team call up a player and bury him on the fourth line? Playing the same way would help avoid that.
      3. Shots, shots, shots –  In all seven games since the start of the season, the Rocket have outshot their opponents, but yet they are below the .500 mark. How is that possible you ask? The lazy way is to place the blame on Charlie Lindgren and Michael McNiven in goal. It’s true that both goalies haven’t stolen a game, but they have played well. Laval has been getting lots of shots but not a lot of dangerous scoring chances. While the Rocket can’t capitalize on their scoring chances, their opponents have. Chris Terry, last season’s leading goal scorer, who is now playing in Grand Rapids, would have been beneficial to the Rocket lineup.
      4. Power-play – The team’s biggest struggle has been the power-play, scoring just three goals in 28 opportunities, placing the Laval 29th in the AHL. To put it into perspective, the Rocket have scored the same amount of shorthanded goals as power-play goals. Similar to the Canadiens, the Rocket have been using four forwards with the man advantage, taking a lot of shots from the face-off circles. I think that Laval is missing a quarterback on defence who can move the puck at the blue line and shoot when the opportunity arises.
      5. Attendance – The Rocket finished ninth in the league last season with an average attendance of 6,691 fans at the Place Bell in Laval. This season, they reached that mark only at the home opener when 8,257 fans were in attendance. I think the Rocket expected a decrease from last season where a new AHL team had a curiosity factor. The on-ice product didn’t deliver and as a result, attendance suffered. This sounds familiar.

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