The Kingston Frontenacs continued to treat the Ottawa 67’s like their own personal punching bag on Monday afternoon, much like the 67’s did to them for two seasons before the pandemic. To the tune of a 7-1 loss, the 67’s were crushed and had one of their less inspiring performances since coming back from the Christmas break. Their second period was solid, however, their first and third periods were about as poor as they have played in quite some time. Even with Tyler Boucher scoring his first as a member of the team, there was little to be overly thrilled with.
67’s Defensive Zone Struggles
Through three games on the weekend, the 67’s were scored on 20 times and simply weren’t up to snuff in their own end of the rink. Of course, this is complicated when playing against two of the best teams in the league in the Frontenacs and the North Bay Battalion, however, it is something that needs improvement if they have any chance to earn some points in the stretch ahead. There have been times where they have hung their goaltenders out to dry, and with their limited offensive production as of late, they are putting themselves in terrible positions on a consistent basis.
There are two things that have come up frequently in the past handful of games, and both are comparable to massive holes in the side of a ship. One of the most pressing issues is the odd-man rushes that have crept back into their game. This was an issue at the start of the season and was mainly caused by drop passes being picked off to defencemen not getting the puck deep in the offensive zone when pressured, but either way, it’s back and it’s ugly. On too many occasions, odd-man rushes have led to easy back-door passes that ended up in the back of the net, and when you are playing some of the best teams in the league, they aren’t going to miss those chances.
The other issue right now is the front of the net. A lot of goals have been coming from shots from the point and through plenty of traffic in front of the net. Be it from a deflection or a screen, goaltenders have had little chance on some of those goals, and if the defencemen can’t move bodies around, those goals will continue. In contrast, the Frontenacs did a great job of moving bodies away from the front of the net and allowing their goalie to see the puck, and we didn’t see these same goals happening on their end of the rink. With a young team, it’s likely that this will become easier with experience and physical growth of 67’s defencemen, but they need to bear down right now.
Resolving those two issues would go a long way for the 67’s efforts to score some points in the standings, but it’s not all they can do to improve defensively. Passing has been a bit of a sour point for the club in recent games, pucks have been skipping over sticks, passes intercepted, and outlet passes not connecting. Dave Cameron calls that a “puck-poise” thing and they have shown at times this season that they are capable of it, but now, they need to do it again.
67’s Still Can’t Buy a Goal
In the same stretch where the 67’s have been scored on 20 times, they have struggled to score goals. On just five occasions the goal light has been lit behind the opposing goaltender in the past three games, and in their past six games, they have scored just nine goals. They have gotten some production from the players who have just come back from injury, including two goals from Jack Beck and Tyler Boucher scoring his first career goal in this game in Kingston, but as a whole, the offensive production has been underwhelming the past two weeks.
The team as a whole is snake-bitten, but there are a couple of players who the 67’s expect goals from that haven’t been able to tickle the twine as of late. Vsevolod Gaidamak has 15 goals this season, some of which were goals in the clutch, but in the last 14 games, he has scored seven points, none of them have been goals. In Cameron Tolnai’s past 27 games, he has only managed to find the back of the net once, and yet, he still leads the team in points this season. Rookie Chris Barlas isn’t expected to be a goal scorer on this team, however, he hasn’t been able to score a single goal this season despite some golden opportunities.
Why are these players struggling to score? It’s not for a lack of effort, and certainly, it’s not for a lack of talent. These are players that any team around the league would make use of, and particularly for Barlas (who was a first-round pick in the OHL Priority Selection), the best is yet to come. Is it just them gripping the stick too tightly? Is it just a dry spell that everyone goes through? After all, even Shane Wright has had struggles at times this season.
In basketball, people would describe this exact kind of situation as there being a lid on the basket. That same logic can be applied here, and it’s almost as if there is some invisible force hanging just in front of the goal line that’s keeping these pucks out of the net. When Barlas and Gaidamak do manage to get a goal, it could act as a weight off their shoulders and allow them to continue their offensive production, especially for Barlas who was a goal scorer in minor hockey. For noted playmaker in Tolnai, it would also allow his assist total to continue to climb if his teammates can get the monkey off their backs.
Rivalry Heating Up Between 67’s and Frontenacs
When the 67’s and Frontenacs meet, it’s never a friendly affair. The two teams have had bad blood for years, and that is never going to change, but when they are forced to play each other 12 times over the course of a 68 game regular season with the potential of meeting in the playoffs (possibly an additional seven times), it’s safe to say things have been taken to the next level. In their eighth meeting of the season, things got even testier with a pair of fights and scrums after nearly every whistle.
They won’t have to wait long for their next matchup either. On Wednesday night, the Frontenacs will head to the Arena at TD Place to square off with the 67’s for the third time in under a week. Ottawa will be looking to rebound and find a way to beat the high-flying Fronts, but this is a game that has the potential to get out of hand. The tone has been set in this rivalry this season, and with another three games against one another before the playoffs even start, it’s not going to suddenly simmer down.