Game Report: Minnesota 20 @ Toronto 11

With no traffic, I can drive from my house to the ACC in about 45 minutes. Because this is Toronto and traffic is unpredictable, I normally leave for a game at least an hour and a half before game time. On Sunday, I left home at 1:10pm for a 3:00pm start. We arrived at our seats just before half-time. The last hour and a half of the drive took place within 5 km of the ACC. By the time we got to the game, it was almost three hours after we left home. But once I got there and started watching the game, I realized that being stuck in traffic wasn’t all that bad compared to what was going on down on the floor.

Anyone who thinks I’m a total Rock homer or that the Rock pay me to write positive Rock articles while pretending to be impartial (hey Jamie, great idea, huh? Whaddaya think?), read on.

I thought about skipping this whole article and just doing my game report as a tweet:

Minnesota @ Toronto game report: Wow, did that ever suck.

That pretty much sums it up. The Rock offense was terrible. It looked like the first game of the season – balls were dropped, passes were missed, shots missed the net by a foot or two or hit the goalie full in the chest, rebounds were given up on, it was bad. Colin Doyle was working his ass off, but nobody else seemed to be. Leblanc was invisible. Manning looked old. I don’t even remember seeing Beirnes, who’s one of my favourite players. I do remember seeing Sanderson digging around in the corners once or twice but other times he was invisible too. Even Billings looked like he didn’t know what to do, so he just kept shooting from bad angles or with a defender right in front of him.

Most of the Swarm defense is freaking huge – and even the ones that aren’t huge seemed to be. They had the Rock completely covered all game long, and I’m sure there were Rock players who didn’t know who was in net for Minnesota since they could never see him, let alone the net itself. To those Rock players: it was Tyler Carlson, who was amazing.

Toronto’s transition has been much better this year than previous years, but they were making some bad decisions as well. The transition player would speed up the floor with the ball, and regardless of whether he had a lane to the net, he’d go in anyway and take a low-percentage shot instead of circling around and waiting for the forwards to come out. If he did wait for the forwards, it took so long to get set up that by the time there were five forwards on the floor, there were only 10 seconds left on the shot clock.

Nick Rose wasn’t terrible, despite what the final score might tell you. He wasn’t great, make no mistake, I wouldn’t even say he was good. But as bad as the Rock offense was, the defense was worse. Swarm forwards seemed able to just run around defenders at will, and get a few seconds all by themselves to decide where to shoot on Rose. Sometimes it almost looked like the Rock defenders got out of the way of the Swarm forwards.

Of course, the fact that they were killing penalties for most of the second half certainly didn’t help. The Rock were so undisciplined out there that I thought we were watching the Bandits. (Too soon, Bandits fans? Sorry.) The worst one came early in the fourth quarter. Someone (don’t know who) hit Patrick Merrill with what seemed to me to be a completely legal, if bone-crunching, hit. Scott Evans took exception to the hit and went after the offender, while Jesse Gamble went after someone else at the same time. Gamble was given two for facemasking (though I think he was just trying to get the guy’s helmet off so he could fight him) and two for roughing. Evans was given two for checking from behind, two for instigating, five for fighting, and a game misconduct. When all was said and done, the Rock were on a nine-minute penalty kill, two minutes of which was 5-on-3. Luckily Minnesota took a penalty shortly afterwards to even it up a little, but still – all four goals the Swarm scored after that were on the power play.

This is the second straight year I’ve had to write about a stupid penalty that handcuffed the Rock during a playoff game. The score at this point was 16-8. The comeback was definitely a long shot, but they had almost an entire quarter to do it. Now we’re down one forward and are killing penalties for 2/3 of the rest of the game. Why? Partially to get revenge for a legal hit, but mainly because the Rock were frustrated. Frustrated that their offense couldn’t get anything going, frustrated that when they did get a decent shot Carlson was there to stop it, and frustrated that the Swarm forwards were running roughshod over the Rock defense.

I don’t want to take anything away from the Swarm by implying that they won because the Rock played badly. Not true – the Swarm won because they played very well. Five different Swarm players had hat-tricks, and Tyler Carlson was almost unbeatable. I’m not a big believer in the whole “they wanted it more” thing, but that’s really what it looked like. In the fourth quarter, the Rock players looked like they just wanted it to be over ASAP. And you can’t really blame them.

So the Rock are done for the year, the Raptors are out of the playoffs, the Blue Jays aren’t nearly what everyone thought they were going to be (though it’s still pretty early in the season), and the Argo season doesn’t start for six weeks. It’s come to this. Toronto sports fans now have to hang their hopes on the Maple Leafs.

God help us.


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