The Rochester Knighthawks pretty much got dominated by the Buffalo Bandits over the weekend, losing 10-6. Six goals were all the Knighthawks offense could muster in 60 minutes of play - their worst performance of the season thus far. Matt Vinc had another good game, he stopped 41 shots, but Rochester just couldn't score.
Just when fans thought the Knighthawks might have "figured it out" with two impressive wins over the Philadelphia Wings and the Buffalo Bandits, Rochester reverted back to the team people saw the first couple weeks of the season. Maybe even worse. So what happened? Why can't this offense find the back of the net?
There is no nice way of putting this so I'm going to come right out and say it: the Knighthawks look like they have no idea what they are doing. First of all, when you have star players like Cody Jamieson, Dan Dawson, and Casey Powell (who was scratched from last weekend's game by the way), why does it feel like Joe Walters is running the offense?
Walters seems to have the ball way too often, and he does the same series of moves every time. He gets the ball near the restraining line, takes a few steps to the right before getting cut off by a defender, then he does a little swim move to the left, takes a few steps before getting cut off again. Then Walters either passes the ball to someone else or sometimes takes an outside shot. He never beats the defender (he never gets a pick either, but more on that later). It's no wonder Rochester can't score when all they do is float around the outside.
The Knighthawks rarely have anybody cutting toward the net. Everybody is just moving around the outside. Players like Walters should be the guys cutting in to receive a pass, set up a pick, or getting a rebound. They shouldn't be the guy with the ball trying to beat the defender in the first place. It is almost as if Joe Walters is doing his best John Grant Jr. impersonation, and then failing. I hate to sound so tough on him because Walters can be a great player when utilized in the right role. He proved this with 13 points in the playoffs last season. But he simply is not playing the role he should be, and it's hurting the offense as a whole.
Another problem with Rochester's offense is that nobody moves without the ball. Everybody stands still like their feet are cemented to the floor. You don't see people setting up picks at all. As already mentioned, nobody is cutting through the defense. Maybe they have someone standing in front of the net, but that's all he's doing. Standing there. When one player has the ball, everybody else on the offense needs to be constantly on the move and working to get open.
Rochester also needs to stop taking so many outside shots. At first glance, it looks like Bandit goalie Anthony Cosmo had an amazing game. He stopped 54 of 60 shots on, after all. But in reality, all he really had to do was stand there. Many of Rochester's shots hit him square in the chest from way downtown.
This really becomes a problem on the power play. I have seen Rochester run out of time on the shot clock when they had the man advantage. That is absurd! It's like the Knighthawks keep trying to set up the perfect play and it never comes. They pass to a guy who is standing right on Cosmo's doorstep but since Cosmo would still have even somewhat of a chance to stop his shot, that guy then passes it back across the net to someone who inevitably misses the pass, whiffs on the shot, or gets lit up by a defender. Then the scoring opportunity is gone. Too many passes!
You could look at Cody Jamieson's 22 shots or Craig Point's 15 shots from last game and wonder how there can be too much passing. These stats are misleading because hardly any of those shots were good scoring chances. Many were just long range shots as time on the shot clock wound down.
Rochester next face the Philadelphia Wings at the Blue Cross Arena on February 23rd. They already beat Philly once this year so Rochester could end up getting a win but even so, the Knighthawks clearly need to work on how their offense operates if they want to be competitive come playoff time.