Mats Zuccarello led the charge for the Connecticut Whale tonight, scoring 2 goals and one assist in the Whale’s 5-0 win over the Manchester Monarchs. Zuccarello, playing on the top line with Carl Hagelin and John Mitchell, was all over the ice, showing speed, excellent instincts, and great passing ability.
Every Connecticut player benefited from Zuccarello’s play, but none more than Cam Talbot, who was between the pipes for the shutout tonight. Talbot faced and stopped 23 shots, including one magnificent save he made in the last minutes of the third period. There were not many other good scoring chances for Manchester, but Talbot looked better tonight than Johnson did last weekend.
Rookie Carl Hagelin keeps developing every game. Tonight, Hagelin had an outstanding short-handed breakaway, where he barely missed getting the puck past Monarch netminder, Martin Jones. Hagelin’s timing, thinking and anticipating the play are improving each week. He should be ready for NHL play before the end of the season.
Other bright spots were the play of Andre Deveaux and Andreas Thuresson, both of whom had excellent games. They and Mitchell, who has been promoted to the top line, have shown the ability to contribute to the offense of this team. Deveaux appears to have thought the game better tonight, and Thuresson went to net regularly, where he was very effective. Mitchell had a goal and two assists, and was named the game’s second star. He had not really been much of a factor before tonight, but Mitchell and Zuccarello had some excellent chemistry on the ice.
On the opposite end of play was Stu Bickel, whose play tonight was absolutely horrible. In addition to taking two selfish penalties early in the game, he lost the puck and just plain gave it away more times than I could count. It was an awful display out there, and I believe that if Connecticut had any extra healthy players, Bickel would be sitting for quite awhile.
The Whale continue to have to work on shortening their shifts, but things looked much better overall tonight. A lot of that was about Zuccarello’s incredible play, which could be very temporary, so the Whale need to continue working hard.
The Whale’s next game is on Sunday in Hartford.