The Portland Pirates hit the ice this morning at the Portland Ice Arena, and you could certainly sense a different tone to the nearly two-hour long practice session. It was much more methodical and workman like than the good-humored practices of previous weeks.
It was without doubt all business and no play.
Much of that is due to the past weekend that saw the Pirates take two points when they were in position to earn a weekend sweep, but in reality it was plausible they could have skated away without any points.
Friday night saw the Pirates squander a 2-0 lead in Springfield as the Falcons scored five third period goals, tying a franchise record for the most goals given up in the third period. Last time that happened was back in 2003 against the former Worcester Ice Cats.
The Pirates returned to the Civic Center on Saturday and once again nearly gave up a 2-0 lead to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Jesse Joensuu scored midway into the third period as Bridgeport pulled to within a goal of tying the game, if it had not been for the heroic performance Pirates backup goalie David Leggio, who made 36 saves in the game including a point-blank stop on Joensuu with about 30 seconds left to play.
Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen was not pleased with team’s third period let down, and while he doesn’t often criticize his team in public he had plenty to say after the game on Saturday.
“There’s not much difference between (Friday) and (Saturday) in the tone of the game,” Dineen said. “At the end of the day we can be a lot better than we showed (Saturday)… “Whether it’s neutral zone, puck placement on our forecheck or our defensive zone coverage there are numerous areas that we have to continue to work on.”
“It’s one thing when (they’re) making mistakes, (they’re) making effort mistakes. (Saturday) there was some major brain (lapses).”
One has to wonder if the Pirates upcoming road trip couldn’t have come at a better time.
There has been a real sense of complacency in the Pirates game for last week. It’s been noticeable to watch the difference in team who has gone 2-2-0 – and could have easily been 0-4-0 – to the start the season, winning four straight games.
With only 23 players on the roster, there is little competition for playing time, at least among the players near the top. There’s no doubting the work ethic of the team, but there is a difference between hard and smart and just working hard.
The Pirates have just been working hard for the last week, but ‘sloppiness’ has crept into their game and this is Dineen’s only way of correcting the situation.
The players know there’s room for improvement especially in the third period where the Pirates have allowed 12 of their 23 goals this season.
“We have to take some pressure off,” said Pirates’ forward Mark Parrish. “We can’t force our goalies to make plays like that, make saves like that.” When we’re (leading) in the third. We need to tighten things down. We need to do a better job.”
“To be an upper echelon team we need to be better than that. We need to win going away from teams, not hanging on.”
The Pirates are scheduled to practice all this week at PIA including an 8am practice before boarding a plane of Norfolk, VA as they begin a four-game road trip through Virginia and North Carolina.
There were no lineup changes in practice. Dineen since the beginning of the season has been consistent in maintaining the same line combinations with only minor tweaks.
NOTES: Sabres goalie coach Jim Corsi was in town to work with Jhonas Enroth and David Leggio.