We are one month into the season, and the Rochester Americans look a lot like what they advertised to be. Exciting, offensive and proving that can start a good comeback on any given night when falling behind.
This team is definitely exciting. The top two lines that the Amerks run out there night after night, provide most of the scoring and quality scoring chances. Hodgson and Foligno have not missed a beat after Corey Tropp went down in the home opener against Syracuse. This was after Tropp showed great chemistry with these forwards, scoring two goals on two shots in the game. Bryan Flynn was placed into that spot starting in game two. He has not provided the “pop” that Tropp can, however that line is still producing on a nightly basis.
As of October 28th, the Americans had three players tied atop the AHL in scoring in Marcus Foligno (5G, 5A), T.J. Brennan (4G, 6A), and Cody Hodgson (1G, 9A). Rounding out the top 20, is Marc Mancari (3G, 5A) tied for third. The four players make up what is becoming a potent power play unit, peppering opposing goaltenders with hard shots from point, bodies in front of the net, and providing soft hands for the pass to the open shooter. Overall, the Amerks have scored 12 power play goals to this point.
Mancari once again has shown that is booming slap shot is something to be reckoned with, while Brennan has showed a continuation of a strong finish to last season after coming back from a late concussion. His shot from the point is much improved, and seems to be getting shots through to the net with more frequency. Foligno is providing the toughness and physical presence in front of the net. Hodgson is a great passer, and something the Sabres must be salivating at watching him. I am sure they would like to see more shots on goal by the Center, but making the plays that put the puck in the net are also important.
After these four at the top of the scoring sheet for the Amerks, there really is shaping up to be a good balance of scoring from the later lines. Captain Kevin Porter has been a welcome offensive weapon so far this season. His best season in the AHL was back in 2009-10 with the San Antonio Rampage. Porter scored 40 points (15G, 25A) that season, and is on pace to better that season at just under a point per game. Evan Rankin (3G, 3A) continues to show improvement, after a strong finish to last season.
Luke Adam has put up five points (2G, 3A) in 8 games, and seems to still be struggling. Listening to the games, it seems as though there is no consistency from Adam, the second year forward. He is either trying too hard and overplaying the puck, or not putting enough effort in to make the play happen on his own. Coach Ron Rolston is obviously still showing confidence in center/winger, as he still gets a good amount of minutes on the ice. the 2011-12 Leading scorer for Rochester, Phil Varone, has had a tough start. With only three points in the first eight games (1G, 2A), he has started slow just as he did last season. Playing behind the likes of Foligno and Hodgson does not help, however Varone needs to find his place soon, and provide the Amerks with another scoring threat as he became last season.
Defensively, they need to be better. The Amerks are being outshot on most nights, and making difficult times for David Leggio. While Rochester leads the league in goals for with 32, they also lead the AHL in goals against with 29. They need to play better defense in front of Leggio, and limit the shots. Blocking shooting lanes, playing the puck carrier tight, and clearing rebounds will result in better results on the scoreboard, and also keep David Leggio from burning out to early this year. The Americans are giving up nearly 35 shots on average per game, and that will wear on a goaltender over the course of a 76 game season. If anything, this should show coach Rolston that he needs to place come confidence in backup Connor Knapp, who has not seen any ice time this regular season. Rolston needs to see what he has in Knapp soon, even if not only just to see if he can handle shooters at this level.
A few quick notes:
- Nick Tarnasky has clearly shown he is going to be the enforcer. He leads the team in PIMs with 37, and has not backed down from throwing punches with some large combatants. He currently has four fighting majors in the first eight games.
- Buffalo Sabres second first round pick Zemgus Girgensons has had a slow start to his professional career with the Amerks. He does show flashes of the player in camp that is willing to hit anyone on the ice, however not enough consistency on the score sheet with only two assists. The Sabres signed him to a pro contract early in camp, as he exhibited a desire to play hard. It is still very early, so hopes are still high on Girgensons.
- With an overabundance of quality defensemen on the roster, there are a few players finding it hard to crack the lineup. Nick Crawford who had a good 2011-12 campaign, has only appeared in 1 game. Drew Schiestel started three games, and showed no desire to be on the ice for Rochester, giving way to Alex Biega playing the next 5. Biega may have secured the spot, showing some puck awareness with 4 assists already.
It should be an entertaining month of November, with five home games on Friday nights at Blue Cross Arena. See you there to Rock the Barn!