So Rock fans, we have good news and we have bad news. The good news is that the offense has finally woken up! 17 goals including 3 by Hellyer and Hickey and 4 by Leblanc, 7 assists from Hellyer and 6 from Doyle, even a couple of transition goals from Brodie Merrill and Rob Marshall. After four games featuring 7 or fewer goals, this was quite welcome.
The bad news is that the fairly solid if unspectactular defense we saw in those four games vanished. When you give up 20 goals, it’s hard not to blame the goaltending and indeed, Rosey didn’t have a great start and Miller wasn’t an awful lot better in relief. But for the most part I didn’t think goaltending was the problem.
Ironically, the Rock offense still didn’t look as good as we hoped. As Colin Doyle said in a post-game interview, they were getting into the middle more and giving themselves better scoring chances, which was good. But just like the previous couple of games, there were a lot of dangerous passes. Many more of them found their intended target than previous weeks (hence the increased scoring), but they were ripe for being picked off, deflected, or missed. I thought the offensive guys were too rushed, continually taking what looked like desperation shots with plenty of time left on the shot clock, and they must have hit MacDonald (or Higgins) square in the chest twenty times. He’s not going to move out of your way, shooters. Shoot it where he ain’t.
Many times, the Rock players held onto the ball too long and ended up getting it stripped away from them. Not everybody can be Mark Steenhuis and hold onto the ball while being triple-teamed – and it’s especially unnecessary when you’re not killing a penalty and there are people you could pass to. It wasn’t just the offense guys, many of the transition plays looked like this as well.
As for the Rock defense and transition teams, they were not on their game either. They were certainly missing Jesse Gamble and Damon Edwards but Swarm forwards found themselves open much more often than they should have. In one case, the Swarm were killing a penalty and Chad Tutton found himself with the ball right in front of Miller, and with no defender anywhere near him. He had an eternity to decide where to shoot and of course, he scored. There’s no way a five-man defense covering four men should allow one of them to be wide open like that.
But I don’t want to put the loss all on the Rock D and discount the excellent play of the Swarm offense. Even if the Rock was playing at their defensive best, they’d have had a tough time on Friday night. The Swarm had five players with 6 or more points (including two in double digits), and that doesn’t count Randy Staats’s four goals. They were passing well, they were shooting well, and like I’ve said before, they really do look like they’re having fun out there.
Another problem for the Rock was penalty trouble. They took three (three!) too many men penalties and Billy Hostrawser had five (five!) minor penalties, though no majors. As a result, the Swarm had five power play goals. Then again, the Rock scored eight (eight!) power play goals. This has been a common complaint (or at least a common comment) about the Rock in past years – they’re not as good five-on-five as many other teams, but they’re deadly on the power play.
But despite my mostly negative comments above, it certainly wasn’t all bad. In particular, the team was in the game all the way to the end. The Rock were actually leading with six minutes left in the fourth, but Brodie MacDonald played really well in the last half of the fourth to keep them from coming back. As for Miller, he made a huge stop on a Randy Staats penalty shot five minutes into the fourth quarter to keep the Swarm from taking a three-goal lead. Such a lead might have been deflating considering the Rock had scored three straight to get back into it at that point, but Miller’s stop helped keep the Rock’s momentum and Toronto scored the next three to take that brief lead. It won’t get him any Money Baller points but it was a clutch play nonetheless, so kudos to Miller and the Rock offense for keeping them in the game.
Colin Doyle summed it up perfectly:
The offence was there tonight. Maybe the defence wasn’t. But we certainly can’t say anything because they were there for us the first four games and we weren’t there for them.
Other game notes:
- No player intros, just “here’s your Toronto Rock!” and the whole team came out. When the team is 0-4, I guess you try anything to shake things up.
- Of the Rock’s five losses, they’ve scored first in four of them, and taken 2-0 leads in three of them.
- This was a game of runs. Starting from 5:17 of the second, Toronto scored four straight in less than five minutes, then Georgia scored seven straight over about 15 minutes, then Toronto scored six in about eight minutes, then Georgia finished up with four in six.
- Dan Lintner scored his first career goal… again. In game 1, Lintner scored a goal but it was called back after a review because his foot was in the crease. In this one, the goal was also reviewed but held up.
- Maybe the game was just so fast that it was inevitable, but the Rock seemed to have a lot of people on the “wrong” end of the floor. A number of times we saw four Rock offensive players passing around the Swarm net and Glen Bryan or Brock Sorensen setting picks, or Kevin Ross trying to get in Shayne Jackson’s way in front of Miller.
- I did not hear the Mission: Impossible theme during the fourth quarter of this one. Maybe someone at the Rock offices read my last game report. Now if they could just get rid of that annoying “Holla Holla” song they play before the game starts.