GURT'S BLOG: FULL-STEAM AHEADBlogs | 2/1/2011 10:24:07 AM | John Gurtler
It was a nice ride back to Buffalo on Sunday, which gave me time to think about Saturday night’s loss to the Toronto Rock. Accent on the positive: We are a day closer to the next game, Friday night at HSBC Arena versus the Western Division leading Minnesota Swarm.
Not much to review from the offensive side of the floor. It was a case of trying to find a spot Rock goaltender Bob Watson was not. The Bandits threw enough rubber at him to become spokesmen for Bridgestone Tires. The Bandits fired 70 shots, 55 of which were on net, but only five found the inside twine.
Should this be of enough concern for MSNBC to bring back Keith Olbermann to do a general investigation? Joan Rivers to check the runway lanes of the offensive zones? Bill Nye the Science Guy to figure out where all that energy is going?
The Bandits racked up 70 minutes of penalties in the first quarter. Really? Those fights looked like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fighting in the dressing room of the Fillmore East in the late 60’s.
We’ve heard and read the post-game quotes from General Manager and Head Coach Darris Kilgour. Enough was said from the hallways of the Air Canada Centre. The team understands and by sunrise Sunday, it was full-steam ahead preparing for the Swam.
As they say in Oklahoma, “Ain’t gonna be no picnic.” This year’s battle in the NLL is tighter than rubber bands on braces. The East Division looks to have a new leader after every game night – and will likely stay that way for the remainder of the season.
Not to be taken lightly, the Swam are coming to Buffalo on a three-game winning streak and ranked number two in the NLL’s Power Rankings. They have defeated last season’s champions, the Washington Stealth, twice this year.
They’re led by Ryan Benesch, the 2007 Rookie of the year, who has found a good place with the team from St. Paul. Benesch has 13 goals and 13 assists. Aaron Wilson joins Callum Crawford, Mat Giles and Zack Greer on attack. Rookie Andrew Suitor has blended in nice with tough play and respectable faceoff chores at 43 percent. Defenseman Rory Smith brings toughness and Nick Patterson, ranked third in the league in goals against average, is between the pipes.
So is there cause for concern with the Bandits? No.
The goaltending is stable. Angus Goodleaf made several key saves Saturday night but the Rock were quick on the rebounds. Giving Goodleaf the start in Toronto gave the tandem, with starter Michael Thompson, that much more depth.
I thought the defense continued its strong play, allowing the Rock only 36 shots on goal and holding them to 0-for-8 on the power play. The Bandits are tops in the League in fewest shots allowed (173) and penalty killing (83.3%). Several good hits and turnovers limited the rock to low single digit scoring frames during the game (2-1-3-2).
Pushing the ball up the floor, the Bandits seemed to have good tempo and force with their transition.
But once across the Rock line, the 4,845 square feet of available space was covered and time was limited. Making plays on the run didn’t work. Thirty-one minutes between Bandit scores? And four goals in a matter of 10 minutes? There was no rhythm or rhyme to the Bandits attack. Eminem would have found it hard to free-style around that crowded part of the floor. Yes, Watson made some good saves and he saw and anticipated most of the Bandits moves. But something was off in the Bandit attack.
There are too many talented players on this Bandits roster not to score a bucket or two of goals. Buffalo leads the league with 11 players on the roster with two or more goals. That’s pretty good depth.
Once the system gets working, the next game won’t come fast enough.
Friday’s radio coverage from HSBC Arena will be on WWKB 1520 AM. The pre-game show starts at 7 p.m. Television coverage on Time Warner Sports begins with the 7:30 p.m. faceoff.