The Amerks had a good thing going prior to that fateful Pennsylvania road trip - they had won four of their last five, and three in a row. Then things went wrong. Very, very wrong. They lost at Lehigh Valley, at W-B/Scranton, again at Hershey, and in overtime against Toronto at home. They were outscored 14-3 in four games. To say that things didn't look good probably was an understatement.
"And everything you've built, it's all for show - it goes up in flames in twenty-four frames." (24 Frames, Jason Isbell)
Frankly, it has gotten better, but not by much. They have won a few, but most of those have come in the shootout or overtime. Points are points, but sharing points with the opponent may prove to come back to bite Rochester in the rear. It's not October anymore, folks.
Since their OT loss to Toronto on November 18, the Amerks have won in overtime against Bridgeport, lost 5-1 to the Marlies (against the same Garret Sparks who pitched a shutout in his first NHL start on November 30), beat Syracuse and St John's in overtime and a shootout, respectively, and finally - finally - won a game in overtime in Binghamton on the 28th.
With few exceptions, you've heard these verses: build a lead. Blow it. Fight like hell to do something good in order to get a point out of this mess. This can't keep being the pattern. Look at the game cards. There is a consistent lack of shots, and a consistent lack of quality shots when they are taking them. Head Coach Randy Cunneyworth has said time and time again that he is doing what he can to encourage his guys to take the shots that are available to them, but he's also not on the ice to get them to take those shots. He's not there to open those lanes up and force the shots to exist.
There is truth to the words that Andrey Makarov speaks when he tells you that there is a "lot of talent out there" on this team. He isn't just blowing smoke or complimenting his teammates to be a nice guy. This is a team with talent. They just aren't always putting it on display to the best of their abilities. They come out strong, and then they show their frustrations easily. They get flustered and they take nonsense penalties. Maybe their youth is showing and I am the one who is frustrated. I don't know.
Cal O'Reilly (3+11=14), Phil Varone (8+4=12), and Jason Akeson (4+8=12) continue to lead the team in points and there is no doubt that they lead their teammates in every sense of the word. Akeson scored the shootout goal to give Rochester the winner over St John's, and then had a goal and an assist over Binghamton the next night. He's definitely worth keeping an eye on.
The Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs) come back to town on December 4, likely (blessedly) without Garret Sparks. But their other goaltenders aren't exactly slouches. Which makes you wonder what happens between Ricoh and ACC. The Amerks then travel to Albany to face the Devils (New Jersey Devils) on the 5th. They'll see some familiar faces in former Amerks Corey Tropp and Marc-Andre Gragnani, and AHL perennial pain in the rear end Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond. Two regulation wins this weekend would be pure money right now.
I am joining with #HockeyFightsDV again this season, to benefit the Willow Center in Rochester, NY. I have pledged $1/Patrice Bergeron goal, $5/Amerks Goalie SO, $1/Amerks win, $2/"Ryan Miller Shutout," $25/Amerks or Sabres goalie point, to be updated at the end of each month this season. You can pledge, too, at hockeyfightsdv.tumblr.com