Game 1 Recap: Syracuse Dominated, Amerks Looked Lost
Last night’s game against the Syracuse Crunch started on a positive note. Porter carried the puck down ice, held the puck until his defender committed to him, and chipped the puck over to Bailey who was wide open in the middle of the ice. The pass missed its mark but Bailey managed to scoop it up and head to the net. The extra work to play the puck meant Bailey lost the element of surprise. He got off a shot but there wasn’t much on it. A minute later Nylander walked in on net with a pair of slick dekes, after which he delivered a centering pass to the slot. Syracuse goalie Eddie Pasquale read the play and didn’t open up. With loads of playoff experience the Crunch didn’t let these early chances set the tone. The Crunch turned up the pressure and never backed off.
To be fair, the Amerks were in the game through two periods of play. Dumont put the Crunch on the board first. Redmond answered back less than a minute later, scoring with a shot from the point. McBain made it 2-1 Crunch halfway through the 1st. Criscuolo evened up the score with a goal in the final minute of the 1st period after tearing down the right side. The game was tied at 2 heading into the first intermission. Crunch’s Masin scored the lone goal in the 2nd period. The Amerks trailed by just 1 entering the 3rd period. The Crunch guaranteed a win with 3 unanswered goals in the 3rd. Bradley scored the 1st goal of the 3rd period a little more than 8 minutes in. Dumont completed a hat trick by scoring 2 goals in the 3rd period—his third being an empty net goal with 52 seconds remaining in regulation.
While the game was close on the scoreboard through 2 periods, the Crunch pretty much dominated the Amerks through the last 40 minutes of hockey. By the time Masin put the Crunch up in the 2nd, the Amerks looked tired and confused. The breakout was a disaster all night. Bad passing and poor decisions gave the Crunch an opportunity nearly every time the Amerks attempted to exit their zone. The Amerks were playing a different style of hockey than they’ve played all season. Rather than executing a methodical breakout they were trying a run and gun style—attempting to gain a step on the Crunch. As the Amerks offense vacated the defensive zone looking for a pass, the Crunch applied an overwhelming forecheck. Rather than getting a jump on the Crunch, the Crunch pinned the Amerks down and often forced a turnover. The Amerks made picking off the puck easy with some of the worst passing they’ve displayed all season. As the Crunch applied more pressure, the decision making got worse. Ullmark was even responsible for 3 (atrocious) turnovers as he tried to accelerate the Amerks breakout. Ullmark only managed to keep the puck out the net on two of those turnovers by sheer luck.
There were some bright spots in last night’s loss. Bailey was working hard down low and he stepped up his physical play. Redmond made big plays all over the ice and developed some of the Amerks best scoring opportunities. Redmond was the only Amerk to finish the game positive, earning a +1. Criscuolo showed he still has that scoring touch. Griffith earned some chances for himself and assisted on both of the Amerks goals. MacWilliam made some veteran defensive plays and used his size to negate Crunch physicality. Tennyson gave his best effort of the season.
A few players stood out for all the wrong reasons. Baptiste was merely going through the motions. He was consistently a step behind, he kept himself out of danger along the boards, and he avoided the corners. When he skated back to the bench he did so with all the speed of a sloth. He’s clearly more concerned about saving his body for the NHL than leading the Amerks to a championship. Fedun had a rough night. He took a stick to the face early in the game. After getting patched up he spent the rest of the night scrambling. Guhle had a hard time reconciling his offensive-slanted style of play with the very real need for an aggressive defense.
Ultimately the Amerks were outplayed. The breakout was sloppy and defensive coverage was loose. Consistent failure on the breakout led to demoralizing pressure by the Crunch, which in turn led to lots of Crunch scoring chances. The Amerks spent more time pinned down in their own zone than in any other game this season. If the Amerks are going to turn things around, it all starts with an improved breakout.
The Amerks face the Syracuse Crunch in game 2 of the series tonight at 7pm in Syracuse.