Pat Nagle must be getting bored.
Like any goaltender, he hates it when his teammates won't let him play with the puck much, and it's been hard for Nagle not to get caught daydreaming during the Fort Wayne Komets-Quad City Mallards' ECHL playoffs series. Sometimes he has to stretch, and luckily, no one can see him yawn behind his mask.
The reason the Mallards are trailing the series 2-0 is because they have no offense. They've tried only 31 shots on Nagle, and realistically, after scoring three times in the first 21 minutes of Friday's Game 1, only a handful of those have been good scoring chances. Since then, the Komets have allowed only 23 shots on Nagle. He's seeing more testers from his teammates during warm-ups.
After getting out-scored by Fort Wayne 50-28 during the 12-game regular-season series, the Mallards can only get offensive chances the Komets allow them, and 31 shots isn't enough to dent the Fort Wayne blue line, let alone change the scoreboard.
Quad City needs to follow the Zamboni into the Fort Wayne zone to somehow get near Nagle because the Komets are building an orange and black wall around their goaltender. Then they are blocking any close shots and daring the Mallards to come up with a way to beat Nagle from long range.
“We really had a lot of guys sacrificing in the slot area,” Komets coach Gary Graham said after Saturday's 3-1 win in Game 2. “They didn't get the type of opportunities that they got the other night, so we cut down on what we call the Grade A chances. They might have had a few more shots, but I thought the quality of shots we gave up were less tonight, and that's the biggest thing we wanted to focus on.”
After trying 13 shots in Game 1, the Mallards came back “hard” with 18 in Game 2.
“I honestly think we can still tighten things up,” Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma said. “We're doing a good job of forcing them to dump and keeping them away from the middle of the ice. In our own zone sometimes we get caught running around, but we do fall back and protect that middle and it makes it tough for them.”
Most of Quad City's scoring chances and their only goal in Game 2 came on the power play. Without the four man advantages, the Mallards probably would have finished with less than 10 shots, and Graham and Schaafsma both talked about the need to eliminate Fort Wayne's silly penalties. If the Komets can stay out the penalty box, Quad City has no chance.
The Mallards simply can't get out of their own zone because the Fort Wayne forecheck has been ferocious, leading to 37 shots each night. Goaltender C.J. Motte must feel tremendous pressure because he can't afford to give up any goals because it's so hard for his teammates to get chances at the other end.
After the Mallards' top forward line of Brady Brassart, Justin Kovacs and Sam Warning combined for three shots in Game 1, they got off only two in Game 2.
Maybe the biggest question heading into Game 3 Wednesday in Moline, Ill., is if the Mallards can somehow score more than three goals in any game.
“I think we're aware of their speed and we're keeping with guys the middle and forcing them outside,” Fort Wayne defenseman Curtis Leonard said. “I think another thing, too, is our third forward is doing a great job of getting back and supporting and getting on top of their center. That forces them to dump it in and puts the puck in our hands.”
It's a winning style, though sometimes a little boring to watch. Just ask Nagle.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Blake Sebring at firstname.lastname@example.org.