Alas, they did just enough to keep it close after coming out hard and fast, scoring, and then letting off the gas. Kinda getting used to that.
Yeo said after the game that their goal was to put up 40 shots. They put up 39, but it was in fits and starts of bad play and good play. I asked if he felt like guys were second guessing their decisions with the puck, and you can see his quote below, but you could almost see the gears turning: "Don't be cute, take the shot" when there's a linemate open with a clear shot. But then they were getting in the zone without anybody around the net, so shots were just hitting the goalie and corralled safely. I could have stopped a lot of those shots and I suck.
So then they get back to making some passes, even when there's a clear shooting lane. And there you have your turnover after turnover. And it's just a cycle of changing approaches until they get back to putting it on the net and have some really solid chances in the final minutes. Imagine if they'd been doing that all game...
It just felt to me like their instincts were on Pause and they were thinking too much. The game's too fast and fluid for that. You just have to read and react and hope the work done in practice shows in those reactions. Then again, maybe that's just how goalies work. :)
Anyway, here's some quotes from Yeo after the game.
On the good start and then let-up:
Even the latter part of the first period, I wasn’t real thrilled with, but the second period for sure was just, again, a lack of urgency. You have to expect the other team to come out and you have to be ready to kick it up a notch and I thought, one on one battles were not good. Two goals scored directly coming off a one-on-one, just getting beat one on one. So again it’s just continuing trying to build something here. It’s not quite who we are yet, and when it’s not there, it’s frustrating because you know what you’re capable of when it is there. At the same time, we do have to have a little bit of patience that this is not who we are, but [we know] who we will be. We just want it to happen now, so it’s frustrating.On execution and scoring chances:
You play with fire enough times and that’s what happens. They’re gonna hang on, and they were fighting hard tonight. Give them a lot of credit. There was a lot of desperation in their game, they felt this was a must-win game and they got the 2 points. But at the same time, even in the third period, I thought there some chances, but execution-wise as far as playing our game, I thought there were still some turnovers and some poor decisions made with the puck, trying to force things that aren’t there instead of just sticking to the plan. The execution again wasn’t quite where I want it to be. We gave ourselves some chances and we fought hard but we put ourselves in a deep hole that we couldn’t get out of.
On offensive zone time:
I think the amount of zone time that we’ve had in the offensive zone in the last 2 games hasn’t been enough and that’s because we’re getting away from what we’re trying to do. We start to go east-west, and we start to make cute plays, and we’re turning pucks over and we’re back checking, instead of going in straight lines and putting pucks where we’ve got guys skating into it, being committed to playing in the offensive zone.
And once you get there you gotta be a) strong on the puck, which we haven’t been. If you get the puck back and somebody comes in and just taps your stick and you lose the puck and you’re back checking again. You gotta be strong on the puck. But b) you’ve gotta be committed to getting that cycle game going, to have the movement, to making sure you’re making plays where guys are skating into position, where you can grind a team down, and as they get tired that’s when things are going to open up. That’s where you’re going to catch a guy out of position and attack a seam that maybe wasn’t there earlier.On whether players were second guessing decisions with the puck:
We talked about this before the game and felt that we had to get over 40 shots tonight and we had 39. After the first period, I expected us to keep doing it because we were getting rewarded for it. There were rebounds there and we’ve got guys going to the net and we want to put pucks on the net to create those rebound opportunities. And then after that it was like our last resort was to shoot the puck. We were looking to make plays first, and when we did shoot it, then we didn’t have guys going to the net. And then it was easy for him to control his rebounds.
It’s a much different story like on the first goal if we’ve got a guy in the middle lane driving and the goalies got to try and deal with a puck that’s coming in soft into his pad. It’s a tough save for that goalie, but when there’s nobody around the net, it’s much easier for him.
As Andrew and I were walking through the concourse down to interview post-game, a guy walked by us and said, "Tonya Harding showed more heart." We had a good laugh at that, but felt like it wasn't a fair assessment at all.
I've seen lack of heart plenty and that's not the feeling I got. As I said, and Yeo confirmed, the team only has the slipperiest grip on the playing style that works best for them: Get in the zone. Get to the net. Put pucks on the net. Get the goalie moving. Get a stick on those rebounds.
This team has the talent in spots to create some pretty goals, but offensive skill doesn't run very deep. What the team is deep in is guys who are willing to sacrifice, go to the net, get dirty, battle.
One thing they didn't do well last night at important times was hold the zone. They'd get there, but sloppy passes to the point by the forwards killed momentum several times.
Anyway, enough grinding on the unfortunate stuff.
A few good things:
I loved Palmer sticking up for the hit on Wellman. Palmer isn't exactly a fighter, but when guys stand up like that, it says great things about the character of a team. You can sign "character guys" all day but until they do stuff like that, I don't even listen to it. That behavior is what you can hang your hat on.
Also, remember how Brent Burns used to be a forward and they turned him into a defenseman? I have to wonder if the organization has considered that for Gillies. I absolutely love that kid, but he's not doing it for me in his current role. He's big, he's mean, he's got a long reach, he's got some wheels, he plays hard every shift, but he's just got no offensive touch at all. Is the team really getting the most out of his gifts as a grinder?
Finally, props to the music folks for playing "Nah Nah Nah Hey Hey Goodbye" when an Aeros player (Kalus) was sent off on a penalty. That was rich.