The Amerks are still in second place even after only winning two of their last 10 games but that may not last for long.Â Utica won on Friday night putting them in 3rd place and only two points behind Rochester in the standings. Ten games ago they were 14 points behind.
The coaching staff put the team through a grueling almost 90 minute practice on Thursday, the morning after one of the worst games of the season. It wasn’t an old school bag skate, those don’t happen anymore. It was game scenarios start to finish that relied on physical play, an element that didn’t exist in the Wednesday game.
“We know we haven’t played well,” Chris Taylor said after practice on Friday morning. “We took these last two days and worked hard and worked on the things we need to. Did a lot of video with the guys. These two games on the road are going to be tough.”
Is there anything else to really say? Of course there is, especially when the first half of the season had a lot of talk about having fun.
“The guys still have fun coming to the rink, enjoying each other,” Taylor said. “We’re not putting our heads down and that’s it. We’re human beings. we’re going to react the way we want to react but the hockey’s not fun right now because we’re not winning.”
“My point to them is that when you lose the games and the way we’re losing that’s not fun but when you’re coming to the rink and you’re working hard, doing the things you need to and you lose that’s going to happen sometimes. It’s ok, that’s going to happen but we’re not playing our best right now.”
“Hard work can be fun,” Nathan Paetsch said after practice. “Doing things properly is fun because then you get success and winning is fun.”
Talking about where they’re at right now Paetsch added, “It’s about to playing the proper way and I think we want to get back to what made us successful in the beginning. Getting back to that hard work and the little areas that we need to be better at.”
Here’s something written by tenured Amerks fan Ted Cichanowicz (recently joined Twitter as @tedpc1) that is a good summary of where things are at right now:
The suddenly ice cold Amerks hit the road for two games this weekend. After a rare Friday off, Rochester skates into Lehigh Valley Saturday night looking for a spark, anything, to get back on the rails. After a very satisfying first half, which had us all dreaming perhaps about Calder Cup Finals again, the Amerks have reverted back to those awful teams of recent years, blunting any enthusiasm that they had previously generated.
You never know what starts a nosedive or a slump. I believe one factor is that the Amerks fell in love too much with the fact that they were earning points for losing games. That masked the fact that they were playing for OT, not to win. Just get thru 60 minutes and at least get a point.
Not good. Not good at all. Not anymore. Along the way they forgot how to win. While they have lost key players in recent weeks, the ones that have suited up are definitely capable, but not performing. The compete, the hunger…not there. Amerks rarely if ever play a full game. Their offense has so completely disappeared its inexplicable. Everyone has disappeared. Over the last 10 games, earning only 2 wins, the team has barely raised a pulse. One might think otherwise given they have 4 OT/SO losses in those 10 games, but they are losses and once you get to the playoffs, losses don’t earn you a darn thing.
While it would take a colossal collapse to miss the playoffs (they lead the 5th place team…who they have not beaten recently..by 17 points, stranger things have happened, when a team falls apart like the Amerks have. Its a total team fail. Which means the coaching staff has to figure out how to get the entire engine running again on all cylinders. Wednesday’s home loss was a disgraceful exhibition of a team that just didn’t care….save the goalie.
Amerks have played better on the road than at home. In fact their home ice performances this year have been pretty bad overall and the lack of fannies in the seats could be a telling reflection of that. Playing for 1st place is now a distant memory…yet only a few short days ago, they had a chance to move to within 3 points of the red-hot, now probably uncatchable Marlies. With Syracuse and Utica sneaking up, Amerks look very much like a 4th place team, destined to have to face Toronto in round one. Bye-bye Amerks on that one.
Players returning this weekend..
Linus Ullmark has missed the last two games after being hit with a high shot against Toronto last Friday. Jonas Johannson was a backup on the bench for Adam Wilcox. Ullmark is looking to snap out of a six game losing streak (that isn’t entirely his fault).
Andrew MacWilliam has missed 15 games due to a hand injury and returned to practice this week. I’ve lost track of how many goals have been scored down low against the Amerks with him out of the lineup. He’s one of those players that may not be noticed a lot but once he’s out of the lineup it’s realized how much he was missed.
Chris Taylor talked about MacWilliam saying, “The biggest thing for MacWilliam is that he was playing really well before he got hurt and he’s one of those guys that finishes hits, makes it hard for guys to get in front of the net. Guys paid the price and we need a lot more of that from all of our defenseman and to get him back is great for us.”
Brendan Guhle returned to practice this week with the team after missing the last six games due to a lower body injury. He’s on the trip with the team but is still questionable. Everyone knows this kid by now and his ability to lead the rush out of the zone.
“We’re going to be careful and make sure he’s ready,” Taylor said. “And we’re going to make sure when the doctors say he’s ready to go he’ll be the first one in.”
Here’s a quick clip of Guhle winning a battle and taking the puck down ice in practice on Friday.
â€” Let’s Go Amerks (@LetsGoAmerks) February 9, 2018
Linus Ullmark was able to sneak in some more face off work keeping things light at the end of practice..
â€” Let’s Go Amerks (@LetsGoAmerks) February 9, 2018
Barry Goers and Colin Blackwell have started skating on their own as well and look to be getting closer to a return.
The puck drops at 7:05pm tonight vs Lehigh Valley and on Sunday at 5:00pm vs Hershey. Follow us on Twitter via @LetsGoAmerks as we cover the games and also those bits of information above from practices as they happen.