Blogs | 2/16/2012 9:58:30 AM | John Gurtler
After the Buffalo’s 14-13 loss to the Philadelphia Wings on Sunday night, I was talking about the team’s struggles with assistant coach Ron Henry outside the team’s hotel. I remarked how well practice went the day before and how hard the team worked on various drills, plays and rushes.
And I nonchalantly said, “Man, it’s about time and space. With the way the NLL game is played today, it looks like the players have about a tenth of a second to react.”
Coach Henry agreed with my statement.
“That’s what it’s all about Gurts,” he replied.
It’s true – there is a lot of “coach-talk” that I will never understand. But the way I saw the game on Sunday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center, it was a matter of time and space.
Timing is everything in this game. Witness the five posts/crossbars that the Bandits hit while in flurries. Space? Both teams battled for position on both ends of the floor and sometimes at midfield. There were some good battles.
“The difference is we have to do the small things right,” said John Tavares, the NLL’s all-time leading scorer who currently leads his team in scoring with 33 points (15+18) and averages over five points per game. “We’ve got to stay out of the box,” he said. “We have to minimize the turnovers. We have to play as a unit, not as individuals. And I think if we go from there, we’re going to start winning games.”
On Sunday, the Bandits improved on some fundamentals. The team only took two penalties, none in the second half. They capitalized on the loose ball category, collecting 90 loose balls to the Wings’ 72. Tommy Montour had 13 of them. The power play on Sunday afternoon was 5-for-7, 14-for-25 (56%) in the last four games, and they outshot the Wings by a margin of 61-54 (Luke Wiles had 16 shots, Mat Giles had 10). The faceoffs remain stable. Jay Thorimbert turned in a respectable job in his first game, winning 43% of his draws. Brandon Francis remained strong by winning 53%. The Bandits battled back from an 11-6 deficit to tie the game and outscored the Wings 5-3 in the fourth quarter by playing as a unit.
But, this is where the team has become their own worst enemy, save the Minnesota mishap – putting opponents away in the closing minutes of the game. Frustrating, too, is the fact that they’ve scored 32% of their goals in the fourth quarter this season, the most of the four frames.
But let me backtrack to the day before, speaking of time and space, on starting our trip to Philadelphia. You might remember that Saturday was blustery and snowy. The winds were rather heavy, with snow squalls hitting at various times. The team met at Buffalo Niagara International Airport at high noon for a 1:45 p.m. departure. It takes awhile to check team equipment and personal bags and to go through what every air traveler does in order to get to the departure gate.
By the time I arrived at the gate, the lone flight attendant working the hour and 14 minute flight to Philadelphia was asking passengers if they would be interested in giving up their seats for a $200 flight voucher to anywhere that the airline flied because the plane was overweight. What do you think? There were a few bonus-hungry souls who decided they could wait for an early evening flight and took the offer.
Coupled with the fact that it was snowing and blowing heavily at the time we were boarding the small jet, I figured it might be awhile for the ground crew to figure how to balance the weight of the plane.
By the time they closed the hatch, we could have been on the ground in Philly. And we still had to taxi. The icing – no pun intended – on the cake came right before we headed towards runway “3706.” The pilot jumped on the PA and said “we’re just about to takeoff, but we have to pull aside and go through de-icing – and we’re going to do it twice. That will take about 20-25 minutes.”
Time and space. We were burning a lot of time in a very small space. But the team was cool with it all and my feeling was ‘spray as much of those fluids as you want, let’s just go.’
The flight was no problem and we finally arrived in Philly, only to wait for the team’s equipment bags for an extended period of time. More time and space.
The team then practiced in suburban Philadelphia for a two-hour session. By the time we arrived to the hotel, it was 8:00 p.m. That’s a lot of time and space.
I saw a lot of good things in Sunday’s game, which included executing several plays that they had worked on the day before, including a solid power play and five-on-five ball movement.
“It’s all about reaction and thinking,” Tarvares said.
General manager and head coach Darris Kilgour remarked in his segment in Sunday’s pregame show that the team is practicing incredibly well, but has seemed to unravel in recent games.
Maybe the couple weeks off will do the team some good. They just need some time and space.
On Saturday, Feb. 25, Buffalo will host the 2012 NLL All-Star Game at First Niagara Center. There will be plenty of activities surrounding the high-scoring action on the turf. Stay tuned.
The Bandits’ next game is on Saturday, March 3, when they host the red-hot Colorado Mammoth at First Niagara Center at 7:30 p.m.