Reading through the American Hockey League’s daily statistics report these days presents quite the anomaly.
The Crunch only have one skater, that being forward Tyler Johnson, who ranks in the top 15 of league scoring, while the club’s best goaltender, Dustin Tokarski, barely cracks the list of the league’s top 10 netminders.
Look a little further down though, and it doesn’t take long to see that Syracuse is tops in the league with 37 points.
In terms of the discrepancy, “things aren’t always what they seem,” Crunch general manager Julien BriseBois said. “The numbers are skewed negatively by maybe one, two or three games where we haven’t been at our best. I think if you take those particular games out, our numbers would be much more impressive.”
It is a fair take worthy of analysis.
Of the Crunch’s six regulation losses this season, five have come in which the opposition has scored four or more goals. On four occasions, the Crunch has given up five or more goals.
Syracuse, however, does lead the 30-team league with 95 goals scored this season, creating the appearance that the team’s tandem of goaltenders are responsible for shouldering much of the blame.
Not always the case, BriseBois believes.
“Sometimes the goaltenders get the blame, and sometimes it’s the guys in front of them,” BriseBois said. “Still, I think overall both Tokarski and [Riku] Helenius have been pretty good.”
At least as of late, that is true.
Tokarski is 10-4-2 with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. Helenius, meanwhile, still seems to be readjusting to the North American game, sporting a 7-3-0 record with a 2.83 goals-against average and .884 save percentage, just one year after backstopping JYP of the Finnish Elite League to a league championship.
Both are on par, BriseBois said, with the organization’s expectations when it comes to each individual’s personal development.
Lightning prospect Dustin Tokarski between the pipes for Syracuse.
“Tokarski has gone through a maturity process and has improved a lot in the way he handles practice and gets ready for games,” BriseBois said. “Riku at first had a few technical issues he had to battle through, but he has great athletic ability and great size and has really improved on his positioning. “They’re both still really young goaltenders who have nice upside. I’d say they’re both right about where we thought they would be at this point in the season when we look back at the beginning of the year.”
Both are also currently riding what some would call, a pair of hot streaks.
Helenius had gone 5-1-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in his previous six outings prior to dropping a 7-2 contest to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on December 9, while Tokarski currently has won nine of his previous 11 games in net for the Crunch, dating back to November 25. This past weekend, each posted back-to-back shutouts which complimented a two-game weekend sweep of Adirondack and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
If such performances continue, BriseBois believes the future could see the same good fortune that the Crunch are currently enjoying.
“If we could go the remainder of the season and not have those five-goal games, then that means that both goaltenders are playing consistent,” BriseBois said. “We feel as if one or both plays consistent over a long period of time, then they’ll give us a great chance to win at both the AHL level and beyond.”