The last few games from the Quad-City Mallards have raised a concern.
Over the past four games, the team defense has really struggled, and it's put a lot of pressure on the goaltenders, especially on C.J. Motte, whose 45 saves Saturday still weren't enough in a 3-2 loss to Wheeling.
Shots are sometimes a misleading stat, as a high volume doesn't necessarily equal a high level of quality. However, especially Saturday night, the Mallards were allowing a plethora of both, as Wheeling had several great chances to score but were turned away from Motte.
This was a concern after opening weekend, but looked to be rectified over the last month. In the last few games, however, it looks like the Mallards' defensive woes are back again.
One thing that was obvious from this game was the Mallards were too often getting puck focused, not paying attention to their assignment and allowing some good looks. There were some good things, namely clearing out some big rebounds from Motte, but too often than not, Motte was forced to make a big save on a quality chance.
This has to be fixed if the Mallards wish to compete for a playoff spot in what looks to be a very difficult division.
One thing that has to be a factor for the defensive issues is the rotation head coach Terry Ruskowski has the defensemen on. With eight defensemen currently on the team, Ruskowski has been rotating defensive pairings in and out of the lineup, trying to give everyone playing time and keep everyone fresh and in game shape.
It's a good policy, because Guillaume Gelinas will be getting called up at some point again this season, but it could be hurting the Mallards in the short term. Rotating pairings hinders chances for cohesiveness, especially the sort of cohesiveness we were seeing from the team during the strong start to the season.
All the players on the team are certainly capable, but all bring different styles to the game. Tonight, the team seemed to be a little offensive-minded, getting caught flatfooted on Wheeling rushes too often and letting Nailer players get behind them.
Besides deciding to just bench two defensemen indefinitely, there is not much Ruskowski can do. All his defensemen are capable, and he wants to keep them all fresh.
I think this is something that can right itself over the next week or two, but the Mallards can't let it take too much more time, or they could be looking up at a playoff spot in a division full with playoff caliber teams.