A week away between home games resulted in Bakersfield Condors head coach Gerry Fleming getting out the blender to re-mix line combinations.
The Condors home opener was a 1-0 win over Grand Rapids which was then followed by a rather deflating 5-0 loss to the Ontario Reign just one night later. After five straight days of practice – thank you, Pacific Division realignment – the Condors were down in San Diego this past Friday and managed five goals. It ended up being a 6-5 shootout loss, but the case was made that the shuffling had paid off by igniting the offence.
Bakersfield’s last home-ice outing was this past Saturday – a 4-3 loss to the San Jose Barracuda in a game the Condors had all sorts of offensive presence. Everything that is, except for actually hitting the net on almost every one of their high-quality scoring chances. The Condors still had 33 shots on goal with at least 10 more misfired ‘shoulda beens’ that either could have gone in or at minimum resulted in rebound opportunities.
The mixing of lines looked something like this:
Miller – Draisaitl – Pakarinen // Hamilton – Drasaitl – Ford
This was the smartest move of the bunch putting the German tank in between two talented yet well-seasoned offensive weapons. It wasn’t a bad idea to put Draisaitl alongside arguably the two most-talented wingers the Condors have but maybe it just came down to too much of a good thing. Ryan Hamilton and Matthew Ford have good AHL-level skills and can offer the kind of guidance that a top prospect can use. The trio was hands-down the best line for Bakersfield against San Jose.
Miller – Draisaitl – Pakarinen // Miller – McRae – Pakarinen
The Condors pretty well put their first power-play unit as a line and it paid off. Phil McRae, a onetime decent prospect for the St. Louis Blues, has got some synchronicity with Andrew Miller. The end result was Miller getting a call-up on Monday to replace the injured Matt Hendricks. Instead of another reshuffling, the Condors might just slide Josh Winquist into Miller’s spot. Pakarinen was better on opening weekend. Perhaps this is more of a pairing than a trio and Pakarinen could be further maneuvered.
Christoffer – Khaira – Platzer // Khaira – Yakimov – Christoffer
Jujhar Khaira slides to the wing and Braden Christoffer crosses over from left to right with Bogdan Yakimov at pivot. The move didn’t result in anything tangible on the scoreboard, but the line was very dangerous at times. Khaira was muscling along the boards, Christoffer creates some havoc, and Yakimov, while appearing not to be overly mobile, gets from here to there with a long stride. This trio will need some time together but there’s potential. Christoffer’s gamesmanship and hustle have made him a prospect to watch and pushed him past some other more-touted hopefuls.
Hamilton – Yakimov – Platzer // Moroz – Platzer – Kessy
Rookie Kyle Platzer seems a better fit at centre and he worked hard on the penalty kill, even spending some of it teamed with fellow first-year pro Braden Christoffer. Moroz and Kessy didn’t see the ice much at all after the midway point this past Saturday. One may get sat in exchange for Tyler Pitlick this coming weekend. The duo might want to keep an eye on who is behind them too once the Norfolk Admirals get a few games under the belts. A push from say Greg Chase, Marco Roy or Alexis Loiselle could mean an exchange of personnel with the ECHL affiliate.
“We scored five last night and three tonight so obviously we were more productive than we were the first weekend when we scored one goal in two games but it’s a work in progress. We’ll be tweaking with it until we find those right combinations.” – Fleming
Hunt – Oesterle // Hunt – Oesterle
Nurse – LaLeggia // Nurse – Musil
Pageau – Musil // Pageau – LaLeggia
Brad Hunt leads the Condors with six points. He was the second star in Friday’s game in San Diego (four assists) and the third star in Saturday’s game at home against San Jose (two assists). He also directly and indirectly caused two goals for the opposition Saturday. How he was named second star is a Hardy Boys-worthy mystery. Darnell Nurse is pillar-to-post the Condors best defenceman and he’ll contribute more on offence as time goes by. David Musil is good partner for Nurse. Jordan Oesterle needs to be teamed with a steadying influence but the Condors don’t have that. Sight unseen at this point, Dillon Simpson is a needed figure on the back end. Nick Pageau is an AHL-ECHL tweener. Fans in Edmonton were raving about Joey LaLeggia during training camp. There’s not much to rave about right now. He’s physically overwhelmed and frightening defensively. If the Condors didn’t already have Oesterle and Hunt, you might be able to live with LaLeggia but in this case three-of-a-kind is a fold.
Brossoit // Laurikainen
Laurent Brossoit, the Oilers top goaltending prospect started three straight games to open the season. He made 35 saves in 65 minutes against San Diego and went 2-for-3 in the shootout. Eetu Laurikainen was solid in his pro debut versus San Jose but got burned by horrible bounces and a dreadful miscue. They could easily make a tandem all year but that’s likely to be temporarily shelved with Ben Scrivens expected to at least dress this coming weekend when the Condors face the Reign and Gulls. If Scrivens stays in Bakersfield for a spell, Laurikainen will get shuffled to Norfolk and the Oilers/Admirals will have to do something with the tandem of Ty Rimmer and Philippe Cadorette – perhaps a loan to another ECHL team.
All in all, it has been an interesting opening two weeks for the Condors. Many more changes are in store. It’s a long season.