I sincerely think that the Amerks know when I’m about to write something about them that is unfavorable. Hell … unfavorable? I was ready to light into them. I called them a playoff team. I called them contenders! Then the wheels fell off the bus. The Sabres got hit by injuries. The Amerks fell apart, and the consequence was a nine-game winless skid. Not really how you want to end your season when you’re fighting for your playoff lives, eh boys?
"And I’m ready to suffer, and I’m ready to hope – it’s a shot in the dark aimed right at my throat." (Florence + The Machine, Shake It Out)
Then, things changed. They turned back into my boys who looked like they could make things happen. They turned into a team that could get things done. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Getting things done? Most importantly, they turned back into a team that could win a game. Then, they won two games. Then, on Saturday, they had a come-back victory over the Toronto Marlies, who are the one team that always seem to have Rochester’s number, no matter what we do.
The good news is, when (if) the Amerks actually make the playoffs, they will get back all of the bodies that were on the AHL roster at the end of deadline day. That includes both goaltenders Matt Hackett and Nathan Lieuwen, and forward Luke Adam. The other bit of good news is that, as of this writing, the Amerks sit in seventh place in the Western Conference with six games left. The not-so-good news is that, during that losing skid, the Amerks went 15 periods – five games – only scoring 4 goals, including two shut outs. The other not-so-good news is that there are three teams hot on Rochester’s heels for a place in the playoffs.
It still says so much about the Amerks that they’ve been able to rebound, and I hope that this skid was not a sign of more bad news to come. I certainly hope that they are able to hold their stuff together well into the playoffs. The daily AHL playoff primer is available on theahl.com, if you’re so interested. I don’t want to lead you in the wrong direction – it will take the Amerks more than just winning to get into the playoffs, and it may be a last-minute skid into home plate. As of this writing, the Amerks need more points than they can get on their own in order to clinch. They will need help from a few teams along the way, but I’m hopeful that they can do it. If they keep playing the way they have these last three games, their odds seem really good.
Andrey Makarov! Holy cows! This kid plays out of his mind in the net, and I would be FLOORED if he is not the go-to net minder for next season. Even in games where the Amerks have struggled, he looks strong in the net and he’ll only get better with more time and experience.
Nathan Lieuwen may be sharing time with the parent club right now, but he notched his first NHL victory in a shootout over the New Jersey Devils on April 1. I was lucky enough to have scored some prime seating, and he looked pretty good in net. I’ll be happy to see his face back on Amerks ice in the playoffs.
I hate to use the word "grit" ever. It’s not a measurable factor in a hockey player’s game, but I don’t know what else to use when it comes to Mikhail Grigorenko. Watching him on Blue Cross Arena ice makes hockey fun. In three games with the Amerks, Grigs has 4 points (0+4) and 5 SOG. He never gives up on the battle for possession, and he seems to have breathed a little bit of fresh air into the locker room. After being sent to the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, Grigorenko tallied 39 (15+24) points in 23 games, as well as 3 (2+1) points in 18 games with the Sabres this season. I truly, truly hope that the organization stops experimenting with him and he’s given a spot that he can flourish in. Of course, this has been compounded by the current QMJHL/NHL/AHL rules, which is not entirely anyone’s fault.
The Amerks have six games remaining, two at home and four away. They will close out their season at home on April 11 against Toronto and April 18 against Syracuse, and will complete their season total against the Marlies in Toronto on April 19. Fingers and toes crossed that the stars align and that they play their tushies off in order to get into the playoffs and that they can make a deep push for some shiny silver to bring home.