If you looked at the Quebec Tigres‘ defensive statistics, you’d probably figure they were a leading contender in the East. They have a ferocious, hard-hitting defense that’s great at slowing the pace and preventing opponents from establishing momentum on offense. And on the rare occasion that a team can get a shot off, Quebec has one of the league’s best netminders, Riki Tiktuunen, there to stop it.
So why are the Tigres down in fourth with a sub-.500 record? Because of their dysfunctional, sputtering offense. Quebec has generated far fewer shots and scored fewer goals than any other team. The team’s scoring shortcomings were especially apparent this week, when they lit the lamp only five times while failing to win a game.
“It is frustrating, I cannot lie,” said Tiktuunen, who posted an 0-1-3 record despite a 1.00 GAA and a .970 save percentage. “Knowing that there is no margin for error, it puts much pressure on you to be perfect.”
“Defensively, we are world-class,” said coach Martin Delorme. “But offensively, we are at a junior level. This must improve.”
On Saturday, the Tigres faced off against the Michigan Gray Wolves, Delorme’s former club. Both squads feature a defense-first approach and have elite goalies, so goals were sure to be at a premium. And sure enough, 65 minutes later, the teams had recorded the SHL’s first-ever scoreless tie. Tiktuunen stopped 36 shots, while Michigan’s Dirk Lundquist made 21 saves. “A defensive masterclass,” said Tigres D Dmitri Kalashnikov. “It was like a brilliant chess match.”
A scoreless tie against the league’s best team left the Tigres feeling good. But they weren’t so thrilled the next night, when they were shut out again by the Washington Galaxy. Tiktuunen was on his game again, stopping 28 pucks, but Quebec managed only 12 shots and Galaxy LW Casey Thurman deflected a puck past Tiktuunen midway through the third period to steal a 1-0 victory.
“It’s like there’s a brick wall at our blue line,” said Tigres RW Stephane Mirac. “No zone time, no shots.”
On Tuesday, the Tigres launched 32 shots at Hershey Bliss netminder Milo Stafford, but the veteran turned them all aside as Quebec recorded yet another scoreless tie.
“Three straight games and no goals,” said Delorme. “This is not acceptable. This offensive constipation cannot continue.”
Facing the porous defense of the New York Night, the Tigres finally got their attack in gear and put three pucks in the net. But they couldn’t match the Night’s speed, surrendering 49 shots and allowing a 3-3 tie.
On Friday, with backup netminder Guillaume Levan in net, Quebec collapsed in the third, surrendering four goals on 15 shots in a 6-1 rout.
“We know that we have to step it up,” said Tigres LW Pascal Royal. “Our defense and Riki are giving us chance after chance to win, but if we cannot score, we will squander those opportunities.”