There’s a couple of ways to look at the Rochester Americans 2-1 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday night but the first way to look at it was that they won the game and Drew MacIntyre made 43 saves. It almost doesn’t sound right to say they played a good defensive game considering they gave up 44 shots but they stayed in the game and didn’t allow the Griffins to wear them down.
For the first time all season one of the Amerks goaltenders started consecutive games breaking the rotation. Drew MacIntyre earned the opportunity with a great performance on Friday night and with this play tonight he proved he can be that #1 goalie. He made 78 saves on 80 shots in a 27 hour time frame.
Early in the game there was a mixup in front of the Amerks net and Nick Crawford ended up inside of the net and MacIntyre was down just outside of it. The Griffins tried to poke away at the puck but with Crawford on the ice and missing a glove he managed to keep the puck from crossing the line.
The Griffins controlled the first half of the first period (and eventually the whole game) but one fast break got the Amerks on the scoreboard first. Colin Stuart took the puck from the Amerks blue line, through center ice, past two Griffins players and got a shot off on net. The rebound came out and in front of the net and Stuart was able to kick it towards rookie Zack Kassian who scored his seventh goal of the season.
About six minutes later Brian Lashoff of the Griffins made a similar play going end to end except instead he easily backhanded the puck through the five hole of Drew MacIntyre. It was as if MacIntyre was expecting more of a shot or a pass but he didn’t commit to the shooter at all.
Late in the second period Joe Finley looked like a WWE wrestler when he shoved Brendan Smith of the Griffins into the goal post as if it was a ring post. The net went flying and Finley went to the box for roughing. A strong physical defenseman not afraid to move bodies in front of the net, a type of player that has been missing for years around here.
The game winning goal scored at 18:36 of the second period was the best pressure the Amerks had put on the Griffins all night. The play started when Zack Kassian brought the puck into the Griffins zone but he wasn’t paying attention and had the puck stolen off of his stick. It appeared as if the Griffins would turn back the other way but they battled for the puck and it ended up on the stick of Joe Finley. Finley was on the other side of the ice circling around and fed a pass to Colin Stuart who was falling to the ice and buried it into the net past Griffins goalie Tom McCollum.
Joe Finley has worked his way up from being the extra man out on defense to playing the top pairing tonight along with Shaone Morrisonn. He certainly earned the spot assisting on a goal and defensively limiting the scoring opportunities for the Griffins.
Now, the other way to look at the game is that the Amerks played horrible. Yes they won. Yes the goalie was good. Yes the defense worked hard but you can’t allow an opposing team to take 44 shots against your goalie on home ice. The offense did just enough to keep the team ahead on the scoreboard but there was rarely continued pressure on the Griffins. A win is a win and it’s better to learn from a tough win than a horrible loss.
It was also surprising to see referee Jamie Koharski only call four penalties the whole game. When it was announced he’d be the referee a lot of people groaned expecting a poorly called game but he let them play.
Amerks are off to Buffalo to practice on Monday to visit the Buffalo Sabres staff to test their bodies and make sure they aren’t eating too many garbage plates or overpriced Wegmans chinese food. They’re back on the ice Wednesday night against the Syracuse Crunch at 7:05pm.
(sorry for the lack of pictures or video tonight, I forgot my camera for the first time in about four seasons)