Amerks head coach Chadd Cassidy will tell you that he wants his guys mad – that’s he’s beyond simply frustrated about this streak they’re on. The Amerks are 3-11-1 in their last fourteen, and Cassidy will tell you that he’s losing sleep over this losing stretch. However, Cassidy will also tell you that he thought that Nathan Lieuwen played well tonight, and that the rest of the team hung him out to dry. Well. We watched from different angles, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to agree to disagree there, Coach.
"You’re right – we’re wrong for now. Just bailing water while the ship goes down." (Punch Brothers, Don’t Get Married Without Me)
I’m over the Nathan Lieuwen experiment. How over it am I? Well, check my Twitter timeline, if you really want to know, but I’m pretty flipping over it. He’s now 0-6 in his last 6 starts. His last win, if you’re curious, was October 22. Prior to tonight’s start, he’d been yanked three times, and had posted a 4.45GAA and a .863sv%. "But Stephanie!" you say, "Numbers don’t tell the whole story!" you say. And you’re right. But I spent a lot of this game wondering if Lieuwen knew where the puck was, if he knew where he was, or if he even knew what team he was playing against. In the same breath that Cassidy said that thought Lieuwen played well, he said that the goals the other team scored were on chances that weren’t great. I will agree that that is not entirely Lieuwen’s fault, but he’s the last line. His job is to stop pucks. He’s not doing his job. His reward should not be to continue not stopping pucks, his punishment should be to ride some pine and watch someone else do his job. It’s time to say enough is enough. But, of course, they don’t ask me.
The Amerks have been down this road before – last season and the season before, as a matter of fact. This seems to be a pattern of losing and losing and losing until someone realizes that a better goaltender is just sitting on the bench and then we have a new number one. In 2011-12, they rode Drew MacIntyre far too long into a losing streak before handing the bus over to David Leggio, who was stellar. Similar circumstances crowned Lieuwen the starter in early January of last year, after waiting for Matt Hackett to find himself. Homeslice got lost and we haven’t seen him since (to be fair, he’s currently still out on injury, but you get my drift).
Trust that the whole team didn’t look like hot garbage against Binghamton Friday night (not that they all looked stellar). Mikhail Grigorenko and Johan Larsson continue to dazzle, even when things are bleak. They combined for a very pretty goal in the second period that briefly put a dent in Binghamton’s lead. After the game, Cassidy said that the only thing he’d like to see out of Grigs is for him to use his "big body" more, and I’d agree. The kid has a commanding presence on the ice, and he should use his size and his speed to his advantage on a more consistent basis, but that will surely come with time.
The Amerks head out Saturday to face the Syracuse Crunch, and then the Toronto Marlies on Sunday, in a now-rare three-in-three. I don’t even know what to say going into these games. I hate to be a Negative Nancy, because we all know that’s not my idea of a good time, but Lieuwen in net probably won’t get the Amerks far in those games. I’m curious if he will get the start Sunday, since tonight’s start would suggest that. There is a whole slew of stats from every level of hockey that encourage coaches to NOT start a goaltender in back to back nights, but are the Amerks to a point where it’s a better option to start Andrey Makarov both Saturday and Sunday? I don’t know, and they don’t ask me. What I know is that the wheels are rapidly falling off this bus, and something has to change. Maybe I’m just looking for a scapegoat (I’m not, but feel free to suggest otherwise if you have valid points to back it up), but I don’t know that I would keep giving a floundering goaltender the reigns. Yes, he has to play. But does he have to be the number one? Chadd Cassidy seems to think so. Me and my snark disagree.
After this weekend’s road trip, the Amerks will continue to dart across NY and Southern Ontario, with games in Utica on December 10 and a home-and-home against Hamilton on December 12 and 13. They stay home for three-in-four on December 17, 19, and 20, against Syracuse, Adirondack, and Milwaukee, respectively. There’s a pretty important date (to me) worked in there, and it would be nice to not lose. So maybe get your game together, boy