January 1st was a big day for Caps fans. Not only was...
Royals Snag Back-to-Back Wins Over Trenton
Captain Yannick Tifu heads over to celebrate his goal with the bench after sharing a hug with his teammates on the ice (All Photos Credit: M. Richter).
The last time the Trenton Titans visited the Reading Royals in the Sovereign Center, the results were less than ideal. It was Reading’s season home opener, and it ended in a decisive 6-2 loss for the hosts. In their second crack at the Titans on Reading ice, the Royals faired much better, closing out the night 2-1 over the Titans in regulation after beating them 4-2 the night before. As Captain Yannick Tifu put it, “It’s definitely a positive thing. You just put two wins in a row, and now you’re back a little bit in the hunt [for the division title].”
So what made the difference, this time around?
Was it the special teams? Perhaps. While the Power Play was 0/5 over the course of the game, the Penalty Kill went a perfect 5/5 to balance it out. While Friday night’s game was a slew of penalty minutes (48 between the two teams), there were a modest 34 assessed in the Royals’ second home victory of the season.
The shot tally is another likely suspect, with Coach Courville crediting new systems work for the improved differential and its possible impact on the end result: 26 Reading – 18 Trenton.
Captain Yannick Tifu certainly had a good night, as did Alex Berry, who was one assist away from a Geordie Howe Hat Trick.
And then there’s the fact that goaltender Philipp Grubauer had coach Olaf Kolzig watching from the stands. While he adamantly claims that his play doesn’t change when the bigwigs are around, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle tells us that observation always impacts the observed (it’s been demonstrated in people as well as particles; I’m not insinuating that Grubauer is a mindless bit of matter). Whether due to the personal competitive streak that Stingrays‘ Head Coach Spencer Carbery praised him for last year, or that extra boost that comes from a watchful eye, the player hailed as the Caps next great goaltending prospect gave a very solid performance.
Voice of Reason Speaking
If one is realistic, it’s unlikely that this weekend’s successes were the result of any single change or modification in strategy. Instead, Friday and Saturday’s wins are evidence of the law of averages kicking in as the season gets itself underway. The team at its most basic level is too good to sustain a losing streak and downward spiral indefinitely. Now nine games in (exactly 1/8 of the season), the bounces are starting to even out.
Not Out of the Woods Yet, But Not Entirely Lost
The hard truth is that the team currently sits at the bottom of the Atlantic Division with a record of 3-5-0-1, and they’re second to last in the Eastern Conference. They’re one point below the third place Wheeling Nailers (whom they’ll play on Wednesday), and they’re three points below the second place Titans (whom they play again next weekend. Three times in three days).
The upcoming games will provide a better feel for the long winter ahead, with the team branching outside of their division for the first time on November 16th when they play the Cincinnati Cyclones. The odds are not in Reading’s favour quite yet, but there’s also no need for pessimism. 87.5% of the season remains, and that’s a whole lot of undiscovered country.