The Komets made some big midseason acquisitions to turn their season around, including signing team MVP Colin Chaulk, trading for leading scorer Tab Lardner and getting Michael Ratchuk, one of the best puck-moving defensemen in the CHL, on assignment from Columbus of the NHL.
Center Danny Lapointes contributions, while more understated, have been valuable for the Komets (31-27-8), too, as they head into their first-round best-of-five playoff series against the Bloomington PrairieThunder (37-22-7).
In 36 games with Fort Wayne, he had six goals, 16 points and a plus-2 rating, and led them to a 21-11-4 record.
I think Ive been doing pretty good, said Lapointe, who began the season playing for Ruijters in the Netherlands, scoring 16 goals and 29 points in 24 games. Im just trying to help the (Komets) any way I can, winning faceoffs, killing penalties and getting on the power play here or there. These are the same things Ive done my whole career; be a two-way player that helps out defensively and offensively, as well.
The addition of Lapointe on Jan. 14 gave coach Al Sims lots of options that improved the Komets play. Sims was able to move Mathieu Curadeau to wing and since Lapointe is so good on faceoffs – he wins about 55 percent of them, according to a team statistician – the Komets have a lot of options on draws with Lapointe, Chaulk, Curadeau and Leo Thomas.
(Lapointe) has been great, Sims said. I can use him 5-on-3 killing penalties with Lardner. Hes great on faceoffs and can shut down other teams top guys if you want him to. Hes got great hands and makes big plays. And all his goals seem to be big ones.
Lapointe takes particular pride in his ability to win faceoffs.
I appreciate the trust they have in me in the faceoff circle. My teammates give me props when I get a good win and do well. They let me know. Its a good group of guys, Lapointe said.
Whats his secret?
Being a centerman my whole career, you learn the tricks of the trade, said Lapointe, a 26-year-old native of Victoria, British Columbia. You watch his eyes. You watch his stick. You watch how he lines up. You see whether he goes forehand or backhand, and then you kind of adjust as the game goes along. Sometimes guys try to get your stick away, so you give him a quick lift and then win it back clean. There are a lot of little tricks that most people probably dont notice. I enjoy it and have a lot of fun winning faceoffs.
This series features two of the best defensive teams in the CHL: Bloomington ranks third allowing only 2.86 goals per game; Fort Wayne ranks eighth with 3.09 goals against per game.
On the penalty kill, Bloomington ranks seventh at 83.1 percent, while Fort Wayne is eighth at 83 percent.
These are areas in which Lapointe excels, so his value will be apparent starting tonight.