The best thing ever is about to happen for the Amerks: They’re getting some time off. Some are spending it with family and some are spending it with friends, but they don’t have anything to do but recharge the batteries. Remind me I said that when I’m ranting in a few days that they look rusty and slow, mmkay?
"Oh, seriously. You’re gonna make mistakes – you’re young." (Metric, Gimme Sympathy)
The good news about Saturday night’s match up against the Milwaukee Admirals is that William Carrier finally scored after a long drought. His last goal came November 14 against the Toronto Marlies. Tonight, he notched one and on his birthday, nonetheless. Good for him. Not so good for the Amerks, since Mr. Carrier scored it from center ice on Andrey Makarov on a crazy-weird bounce that just set the team on their collective ear. It was the beginning of the end for the Amerks. Carrier’s own-goal was the tying goal for the Admirals and the wheels kind of fell off the bus after that. The Amerks jumped out to an early two-goal lead, on rapid-succession goals in the first period from Joel Armia and Tim Schaller, but they were unable to sustain the momentum in the second game of back-to-back nights.
I feel like I’m always saying the same things – here, on Twitter, and in my interaction with friends and family. There’s always just one thing that’s missing from the Amerks. I would almost feel better if they were actually a bad team, because then I could justify the losing (because, ya know, they’re bad). But they’re not. Horribly inconsistent? Yeah. When the offense is on, the defense is off, and vice-versa. The goaltending … you know how I feel about the goaltending. Do I think this is a coaching problem? Absolutely not. I see how far Mikhail Grigorenko, Johan Larsson, Joel Armia, and the lot have come since last season – heck, since October – and I know that this isn’t a Chadd Cassidy problem.
So, what’s wrong? You know those inconsistencies that I talked about? I think that they’ll even out as the squad matures. The average age of the team, including Mikhail Grigorenko and Johan Larsson, currently on call-ups with Buffalo, is 23.6. That’s not old. Many of the kids on Rochester’s roster are just that – kids. They’re learning, and they’re doing it remarkably well. But they don’t have a lot of veteran leadership on the ice. And, by "a lot," I mean they have hardly any. We’re talking Matt Ellis and Drew Bagnall. This is NOT a team that is going to be facing "what veteran do we sit" issues. William Carrier just turned 20. Joel Armia, Dan Catenacci, Jake McCabe, Brady Austin, and Andrey Makarov are all 21. They’re kids. I think that adds to the other problem that I see. They all want to do all of the things all of the time.
I remember back in October two games, back to back, where McCabe played pretty crummy one night and great the next. Cassidy attributed it to McCabe focusing on being a defenseman and not worrying about everything else. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I remember Coach saying that McCabe wants to do everything, and do it well. I see that in a lot of these guys. When the defense is in the offensive zone, because they want to be the powerhouses and the attackers are back on the blue lines. I want my hockey players to be great, well-rounded players. But that isn’t going to happen overnight. And, honestly, I think they play better as a team when everyone focuses on what they’re out there to do and chips in on the other stuff secondarily. The team isn’t bad. That’s what’s frustrating. They’re a good team with just a few cogs loose. Chadd Cassidy has said it before, and he said it again tonight: "We’re just not getting the results we want." He also said this, and I whole-heartedly agree: "I thought our effort was there, I thought our guys played hard … we out-shot them, we out-chanced them, we didn’t give up a lot." The pieces are all there. The Amerks just have to figure out how the fit together.
The Amerks are off now until December 26th for Christmas break. It would appear that, adding to Grigs and Larry, already in Buffalo, the Sabres have added Mark Pysyk and Tim Schaller for their game against Boston on Sunday. I’ll have confirmation as soon as I see it (unless you guys beat me to it, because you Day Walkers are sometimes good at that!). They continue their December home stand the 26th against Lake Erie and the 27th against Toronto. They will round out the year on New Year’s Eve with a matinee tux ‘n’ pucks game against Syracuse. Many of the guys will be visiting with family and friends, both in Rochester and at home, depending on how far "home" might be. I should’ve let them know that my Big Italian Family (tm) would be happy to feed anyone without plans Thursday! I’ll be back in action when the Amerks are, after Christmas, but I’ll have any updates between now and then on Twitter as I know them!