Recap: Hamilton Bulldogs @ Amerks, 02.19.2012
“If you’re having girl problems, I feel bad for you son – I got 99 problems, but a b***h ain’t one.” (Jay-Z, 99 Problems)
This post has taken so long, because I keep sitting here thinking “Where the hell do I start?” There are a lot of things that are going right with the Amerks. Look at my posts about games against the Lake Erie Monsters on 2.17.12 and the Texas Stars on 2.10.12. Then look at the stats from the games that follow those and realize this: There are a lot of things going wrong with the Rochester Americans.
The Amerks lost in a rather spectacular “Hey, our parent club really is the Buffalo Sabres” fashion to the Hamilton Bulldogs Sunday night. They didn’t just lose. They didn’t just play in a “We’re on our third game in three nights” type of way. They played in a “LET’S GIVE UP 6 UNANSWERED GOALS BECAUSE THAT’LL MAKE OUR FANS LOVE US!” kind of way. No, really, guys. I still love all of you (except maybe that one guy) … but COME ON. Alright. I cannot possibly understand what it’s like to play three hockey games in three nights and spend 10ish hours on a bus. I just can’t. I sit in an office four days a week, and the other day I sit in a courtroom. I go to the gym a few nights a week, and I play and goof around with my dogs and my cousins, nieces, and nephews. I do NOT know the exhaustion that comes from playing three games in three nights and spending all that damn time on a bus, and I likely never will. But I have been an AHL fan for a LONG time, and I know what it looks like. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the Rochester Americans looked like on Sunday. Worse, if that’s possible. They came out guns blazing. I mean, really. They came out looking like a team that’s had off for a few days, had a few solid practices, were well-rested, well-fed, and were ready to win this game. The Amerks scored the first goal of the game on a nearly perfect tic-tac-toe play leading to a Corey Tropp goal at 4:50. I mean, it was as pretty as pretty can be. It also gave Phil Varone his team-leading 25th assist of the season, so congrats to him for that. Szczechura put Rochester up 2-0 before the intermission. The Amerks finished the period up 20-7 in SOG. It was easily one of the best periods that the Amerks have had all season. They had awesome chances and were making things happen. They looked NOTHING like the dog-tired (see what I did there?) team they should have been.
The players came back out on the ice for the second period and it was like they traded more than just ends of the ice. Hamilton scored three goals during the second, two of which came on the power play. The only GOOD thing that happened for Rochester in the second period was that they successfully killed off a Luke Adam penalty, so at least they had that going for them. The ‘Dogs added four more goals (one into an empty net) in the third, with Derek Whitmore pulling one more out for the Amerks just prior to Hamilton’s seventh goal.
The thing about this is that I feel like this game is a very bad omen for a team that wants to make the playoffs. There are things you need in order to be successful, particularly in the playoffs. You need to be able to score on the power play. In their last ten games, Rochester is a mere 7/43 on the power play. You need to be able to kill penalties. You want to take penalties? That’s fine. DON’T LET THE OTHER TEAM SCORE. In their last ten games, Amerks opponents are 13/45 on the power play. I mean, come on, guys. The Amerks are 5-4-1-0 in those same 10 games. These aren’t numbers that are going to win a championship. They’re just not. Something needs to change, and it needs to happen quickly. Please keep in mind, these numbers are quick and dirty (just how I like ‘em), so I might be off a point or two, but not enough to make a difference in the math. You need consistent goaltending. While David Leggio has been alright this season, but he’s 15-15-1 with one shutout. Drew MacIntyre, who started this game against Hamilton, is 8-12-2, also with one shutout. I am a goalie lover, and I’ll make excuses all day long, but … these also aren’t really goaltenders that are in position to win Cups for this team. While the Amerks aren’t completely out of playoff contention, we now have to start thinking about whether it’ll be worth our while to make it, if we’re only going to get whipped in the first round (of course it will, because we’re fans and it’s the playoffs. Duh). Sound familiar, hockey fans?
Game notes: Mike Ryan and his eyebrows were a healthy scratch for this Hamilton game, likely as a “time out” for his game misconduct during the Saturday game at Lake Erie following a 5 minute major spearing penalty. Hopefully the message got across, and we’ll see him both back in the lineup and more productive in upcoming games … All but four Rochester players – Colin Stuart (-1), Maxime Legault (-1), Drew Schiestel (-2), and Luke Adam (-1) – finished the game with a +/- of even. I think that’s a miracle … I also want to give Luke Adam a bit of credit for actually showing up. His play has been (a bit) better, and he seems to look like he’s finding his legs. I know a lot of people expected him to come down here and be this NHL “veteran” who would lead this team to great things and just be a complete rock star, but the long and the short of it is he’s here because he’s NOT an NHL rock star. If he was, he wouldn’t be here. Like I said, he (and his SICK MULLET) seem to be finding a place here, and that’s a good thing. Only time will tell if I’m just pretending, though.
The Amerks welcome the Hershey Bears to the Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester War Memorial on Wednesday, 2/22. I really hope that we can beat the Bears, since I’m attending the game with a SUPER big Bears fan, and I like watching grown men cry over sports. Just kidding (about the crying part). Rochester has only played Hershey once this season, losing in the shootout. Hershey sits in 5th place in the Eastern Division, with a 29-15-4-5 record, and is 5-3-0-2 in their last ten. Hopefully this will not be a repeat of an EPIC Hershey-Rochester game in high school that nearly lead to my arrest, but there’s always hope. Let’s go, Amerks!