TORONTO – Rochester scored one goal on just six shots in the first period last night, and two on 10 in the third. While those numbers are going to make your shooting percentage look impressive, Amerks forward Derek Whitmore knows they need to jack up their shot totals in a hurry heading into Saturday’s Game Two against the Toronto Marlies.
“We’ve just gotta shoot. You can’t score goals if you don’t shoot the puck. I think what happens is sometimes our forwards overthink a little bit. In the playoffs, any shot is a good shot,” Whitmore said following today’s practice at Ricoh Coliseum. “Not everything is going to be tic-tac-toe, backdoor on the goalie. Us as a forward group, we just need to simplify a little bit and get more pucks to the net. We didn’t really test (Marlies goaltender Ben Scrivens) a whole lot until the third period, and we ended up scoring two. We need to make that initiative to get more pucks from everywhere.”
Getting pucks deep on the Marlies is the obvious way to get more shots, but head coach Ron Rolston said Toronto made it difficult to maintain any sustained pressure throughout the game.
“We’ve got to spend more time in their zone. They spent a lot of time in our zone. We knew that was going to happen because they have a lot of good hockey players, to be quite honest with you. We’ve gotta do a better job with our guys getting over pucks and winning some of those battles down low.
“Toronto was very good in their defensive transition; they always had three guys back so they made it very difficult for us to even get pucks down there. We’ve gotta do a better job on the rush and in the offensive zone to get pucks to the net. I think every team probably says the same thing, and you hope in Game Two that that’s the case.”
Rolston agrees with Whitmore’s assessment that any shot is a good shot, but realizes it’s not breaking news for coaches at any level of professional hockey.
“Every coach has that same issue. You hear NHL teams saying the same things, game in and game out. It’s just passing up opportunities to shoot pucks, look for one more pass to maybe get a better opportunity. That’s definitely something we have to a better job at.”
Travis Turnbull was limping noticeably while leaving the arena last night after blocking a shot with his foot in the first period, however Rolston said he’ll be good to go on Saturday. Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn is still out of the lineup, and Rolston said it’s possible he could return at some point this series. Morrisonn didn’t travel to Toronto with the team, after being forced out of last Friday’s game with what is suspected to be an arm injury. He had missed the previous two games, and didn’t play in the regular season finale in Cleveland.
Rookie blueliner Ryan Grimshaw has stepped in during Morrisonn’s absence, and Rolston has liked what’s he’s seen out of the 22-year-old hometown kid who was signed to an ATO just two weeks ago after a four-year collegiate career at Harvard.
“Grimshaw has done a good job for us. It’s hard to step in for a guy with the experience of Morrisonn, and how well he’s played for us all year in a shutdown role. It certainly hurts our lineup to have him out,” said Rolston. “But Grimshaw has done a great job of coming in and just being steady back there; moving pucks and just being difficult to play against. We’ve really liked the way he’s played and that’s why he’s in there.”