Brace yourselves, Smashville. He’s en route. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)
The initial plan was for Pekka Rinne to make starts on Friday and Sunday as part of his conditioning assignment. It turns out that’s all that he will need. He is headed to the airport shortly after his second consecutive win for the Admirals and should be sleeping in the comforts of Nashville later tonight.
In his return to Milwaukee he made two starts, won both games, stopped thirty-three of thirty-five shots on goal, had a 0.99 GAA, and a 0.943 SV%. It was his first taste of game action since missing four-months due to an infection related to his off-season hip surgery. In my opinion, he wasn’t tested all that often – but his game today definitely had him moving around and working hard on tracking loose pucks due to several blocked shots. He also looked incredibly confident in skating around and playing pucks.
It might not have been long. But it was long enough. I feel his conditioning for a full length game went over alright on Friday but even more so when tasked with a defensive-minded overtime game today. He seems more than physically ready to return. And that’s precisely why his conditioning assignment should end here and now.
The Nashville Predators next game is on Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They also have the St. Louis Blues (Thursday), and Blue Jackets (Saturday) all coming into Nashville.
What are your thoughts from Pekka Rinne’s conditioning assignment? How did he look? Should he have played one more game before heading back to the NHL or was this enough? Where do the Admirals go from here with their netminders? Remember, Magnus Hellberg is close to returning as well.
Noted “Good Guy” Charles-Olivier Roussel had himself a day to remember. He scored the Admirals lone goals, including the game-winner in overtime, against the Rochester Americans. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)
The Admirals won 2-1 in overtime against the Rochester Americans Sunday afternoon.
Pekka Rinne wasn’t tested too much from this game, stopping seventeen of eighteen shots, but exerted himself past regulation and seemed no worse for the wear.
Charles-Olivier Roussel goes down as today’s hero. He entered today’s game having only scored one goal all season. He scored twice today – including a backhander for the game-winner in overtime.
It took the Rochester Americans more than six-minutes to register a shot on Pekka Rinne and their opening ten minutes were rather slow. It wasn’t until 14:14 when they had sustained pressure and that was due to a five-on-three power-play that lasted 0:33 seconds. Mark Van Guilder made a fantastic individual play, while laying down on the ice, to deny a shot and then clear the zone – effectively killing the two-man advantage.
The latter half of that power-play for the Americans was their best play of the period and required the most amount of work from Rinne that he had in the opening frame. It was less about setting up chances and throwing pucks to the net and Rinne held his own. He would finish the first period with six saves – most of which came late in the period.
The second period cruised by with some penalties here and there but neither team could find the back of the net. That came mainly due to an incredible defensive effort put up by both sides making blocked shot after blocked shot. The shots in the period were only 8-5 in the favor of the Admirals.
The Americans did do plenty of good things offensively, lots of plays tight to the front of Rinne’s net, but just couldn’t get their shots on target. Block. Block. Block. It felt a lot like that during the second period.
The deadlock was finally broken in the third period by one of the most ludicrous goals of the season. Charles-Olivier Roussel flew down the right wing wall, tossed a puck on net, was all the way to the end boards by the Wisconsin Vision graphic, threw his rebound off of Nathan Lieuwen and in for his second goal of the season.
During the thrill of that moment the Americans won the faceoff, flew a pass through neutral, found Jamie Tardif, and scored a full seven-seconds after the Admirals goal. There were no defensemen back off the faceoff loss. Tardif’s goal went underneath Rinne for his seventeenth goal of the season.
The game would haul into overtime – the Admirals arch nemesis this season. Rochester had a golden opportunity to bury the game after a rare Rinne fumble behind his net. Having lost the handle on a puck, Rinne was left sprinting back to the front of his cage only to see a puck ping of far post and fly out. Luke Adam had an entire net to shoot at and he missed the winner by just that much.
When it comes to goal scoring – these last two games have been phenomenal for Ads defenseman. Having scored once already in the game, Roussel put the finishing touches on the game after a great pass from Austin Watson turned him loose directly in front of Lieuwen. He whipped a backhander out of the bag and picked up his third goal of the season – second of the game – and gave the Admirals two wins under the Pekka Rinne microscope.
Thoughts from today’s game? What have you made of the Admirals defense in these last two games? Is this level of play something we can expect from the Admirals moving forward? Who starts in net from this point?
Pekka Rinne greatly enjoyed the fan response for his return to Milwaukee and game action on Friday night. I expect the noise levels to continue today. (Photo Credit: Porscha Kae)
First off, I highly expect a bunch of website views from North Korea and much much more thanks to the lovely title for today’s scouting report (cringe, sigh, repeat).
The Admirals are freshly removed from a 9-1 thrashing of the Iowa Wild that ended their season long five-game winless streak. Pekka Rinne was heavily under the microscope in that game and he will be again today. He didn’t have too much strenuous work against the Wild on Friday. He’ll be playing against a team today in the Rochester Americans that has scored 2+ goals in six-consecutive games. In that stretch they’ve averaged 29.7 shots on goal per game. Rinne had his game length conditioning test Friday. He’ll have a much bigger work out today.
It begs asking. Can the Ads possibly comeback today with an offensive performance remotely close to Friday’s outburst? I’m not talking same scoreline… that would be silly… but the last time they scored 4+ goals in back-to-back games was 1/12/14 vs. Lake Erie and 1/16/14 @ San Antonio. Before that? 12/6/13 vs. Oklahoma City and 12/12/13 vs. Oklahoma City. In short, they tend to not sustain their offense that often. If Friday was the beginning of the Ads playoff push – it desperately needs that kind of an offense that can deliver so accurately from their chances.
Right now the Admirals have a record of 24-19-6-6 (60 points) and sit in fourth place of the Midwest Division – as well as the bubble spot, eighth place, of the Western Conference. They trail the Rockford IceHogs in the division by six-points – but have four-games in the bag to play with compared to the IceHogs. Today they’ll be playing against the team that sits above them in the conference, Rochester. They trail them by three-points and, shockingly, Rochester is one of only seven teams to have played less games than the Ads have this season. Perhaps the Ads schedule has finally caught up with the rest of the league?
The Rochester Americans record entering this afternoon’s game is 28-19-3-4 (63 points). They comfortably sit in second place of the North division trailing the Toronto Marlies by five-points and sit ahead of the Hamilton Bulldogs by eight-points. In the Americans last ten-games they have gone 6-3-0-1 (13 points). Good run, but they were roughed up by the Amtrak Rivals on Friday by a score of 6-2. It’ll be interesting to watch, for both teams, who we’re watching on the ice off of up and down Friday performances.
The ‘Mericans are led in scoring by Phil Varone who has played in 47 games and produced 43 points (12 goals, 31 assists). He earned his first career NHL call up during this season and played 9 games with the Buffalo Sabres where he scored 2 points (1 goal, 1 assist).
Leading the ‘Muricans in goal scoring is AHL All Star from this season, Luke Adam. He has 24 goals this season for Rochester. The next closest to him in that department is Jamie Tardif with 16 goals.
With Pekka Rinne added to the season stats for the Admirals – they have now had five different goaltenders play for them this season. That is the most since the 2010-11 season when they had the likes of Mark Dekanich, Jeremy Smith, Atte Engren, Anders Lindback, and Chet Pickard. I say this because Rochester has comfortably rotated a two-man battery the entire season.
Matt Hackett has had the majority of games this season: 31 games, 13 wins, 2.89 GAA, and 0.904 SV%. Nathan Lieuwen, playing in his first full professional season, has played in 26 games, won 15 games, 2.39 GAA, 0.920 SV%, and has 2 shutouts to his name. The rookie has had the better numbers this season. With Hackett taking the loss on Friday, conceding 6 goals from 37 shots by the Chicago Wolves, I anticipate a match up of Lieuwen against Rinne. Lieuwen has won his last two-starts – but has also allowed 2+ goals in his previous seven games.
What should we expect from today’s game? Will we see a drastic drop off from the Admirals today or can they carry Friday’s momentum? What do you anticipate from Pekka Rinne in his second rehab start? Will this be Rinne’s last appearance on conditioning assignment?
From his time in Milwaukee, Nashville, and Sochi – Simon Moser now adds his first career NHL goal to to a list of great memories from an already banner first year in North America. (Photo Credit: John Russell)
The Nashville Predators played this afternoon against the Winnipeg Jets. While they did go on to lose at home by the final of 3-1 there was a silver lining for fans of the organization – Simon Moser picked up his first career NHL goal.
Moser was set up in front of Ondrej Pavelec and battling defenseman Mark Stuart for net-front positioning. Michael Del Zotto whipped a puck from the left-wing wall towards the net and Moser just got a piece of it as the shot traveled through to goal. You can watch the highlight of his first career goal right here.
With this happening and his great Olympic tournament for Team Switzerland – safe to say we’ve seen the last of Moser in Milwaukee? Where do you see his career in the NHL going?
Dear Corbin Baldwin: If you’re going to talk smack and play dirty the whole night – we have our own Sheriff. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)
The Admirals game last night may have been the most fun I had around a hockey rink – period. They won soundly by the tune of 9-1 over the Iowa Wild. Pekka Rinne made his highly anticipated return to game action – and the city of Milwaukee (for that matter). And the fans last night only added to what was a brilliant game, start to finish, by the Ads as they broke out of their five-game winless skid emphatically.
Having spent my whole day around the Bradley Center yesterday – the most I could tell you about that team going into the game was they looked looser than I’ve seen in a long time. During the pre-game skate, I noticed so many players smiling, laughing, and joking around. The last few games during this run it has looked all business, serious, and stressed out. But, yesterday, they were back to having fun again – and I feel it translated directly into the game.
For Pekka Rinne, he may not have had the most action packed of nights but that isn’t the worst thing either. Had he been in Hannu Toivonen‘s place we might be talking about the game that re-broke Nashville’s starting goaltender… I believe that would have made this the “Oops Edition” of the Chatterbox had that happened. I think the fact that he took a little run into by the Wild on their first shot of the game really helped to get him over any sort of return to the game jitters. He wasn’t forced to do much. But looked good when he had to make a stop. I doubt we get a game as run and gun for the Admirals as this one was on Sunday. It should be a much bigger test for Rinne.
After the game, I had the chance to interview Dean Evason, Pekka Rinne, Joonas Jarvinen, Mike Liambas, and Joe Piskula. Here is what they all had to say following their massive 9-1 victory against Iowa. And you know what – we’re going with full interviews for this one!
Joonas Jarvinen (and a massive interview bomb from Joonas Rask, Miikka Salomaki, and Taylor Beck – who borrowed my phone to conduct this interview briefly):
Comments from the comments? Anything stand out to you? What do you make of Pekka Rinne’s dialogue on Mike Liambas? (classic)
Pekka Rinne was the man in the spotlight – but it was the Admirals offense that stole the show in a 9-1 thrashing of the Iowa Wild. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)
The Admirals won 9-1 against the Iowa Wild Friday night. Read that scoreline again a few times. I know I sure did.
“We sensed it yesterday,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason regarding the team’s excitement level for this game. “Lots obviously built around Pekka being here. But yesterday our practice was real good. We really were passionate. We really practiced hard. Competed. Were intense. And I think that carried over.”
In Pekka Rinne’s return to Milwaukee he stopped sixteen of seventeen shots – only allowing a goal after a poor change after the team survived a five-minute penalty kill from a Mike Liambas boarding major.
“I’ll take that,” Pekka Rinne said of his game. “It’s a good way to come back. Guys really made it easy for me. I can’t remember when I’ve been in a game like that. It was a crazy game. A little bit of everything. There’s obviously a lot of goals, lot of scoring, and then the physical element that you don’t really see every day in the NHL. I had a good seat for that. Lot of chances to get a good fight.”
Without question, the real highlight tonight was the offense. In their previous four games the Admirals had only scored four goals. They managed to score four goals in back-to-back periods tonight. It was a shocking display from a team that, entering tonight, was also on a five game winless streak.
The fans were cheering on Pekka Rinne when he led the team out of the tunnel for the pre-game skate. They were loud when he led them out for pre-game introductions. And even louder when he was introduced as your man between the pipes. The building was rocking before the puck had dropped.
“That felt great,” said Rinne of the fan response. “I really appreciate it and, for sure, it made me feel welcome. Made me feel great. I had three good years here and I always thought that I had a good relationship with the fans. And I really appreciate their response.”
Before I go anywhere with the first period it is probably worth noting that the Admirals had only scored four goals in their last four games. So, what do they do with the house rocking? Score four goals in 17:17 of the first period.
After a delay of game penalty taken by Brett Bulmer, the Admirals and their woeful power-play took to the ice and did something that they haven’t done in two games: score with the man-advantage. A very patient play behind the net by Vinny Saponari led to a pass from behind Hannu Toivonen out to Colton Sissons. The result was a quick shot taken first time that found a hole through the recently released former Admiral netminder. It was Sissons twentieth goal of the season.
Then the domino started to fall with two very similar goals scored by Admirals defenseman. Joonas Jarvinen found himself all alone in the slot and took a slick feed from Taylor Beck and smashed it by Toivonen for his third goal of the season. Then Bryan Rodney managed to loop around the Wild, skate wide open on the left wing, and took a Miikka Salomaki pass first time for an easy tap in – his fourth goal of the season.
This was Toivonen’s first game in net for the Iowa Wild since joining them on a PTO contract that he signed shortly after his release from Milwaukee. He never looked settled in net and, more than three times, found himself flat on his back scrambling while the Ads circled the zone.
The fourth goal of the period for the Admirals came from a loose puck that fell before Toivonen. Austin Watson was Johnny-on-the-spot to tag it through for his fourteenth goal of the season – and a season high for goals scored in a period by the Admirals this season.
Season high for goals in a period with four goals in the first? Better match it. And the Admirals actually did. Having set that season high they equaled it in the second period to make it a bananers 8-0 hockey game through two frames.
After a faceoff win by Sissons, the puck traveled back to Joe Piskula whose wrist shot flew through massive amounts of traffic and in. I can’t imagine Toivonen ever saw the shot taken by Piskula – who scored his second goal of the season.
Then the first of many rough goings in the second period. Patrick Cehlin and former Admiral Jon Blum. The result of this fight led to Cehlin’s dismissal from the game due to his fight strap not being tied down – and his jersey coming off in the fight. According to Cehlin on Twitter following the game – it was a wardrobe malfunction. According to his coach, this should have been a no-brainer to the officials on the ice.
“There is no way that Patrick Cehlin cuts his tie-down,” exclaimed Evason. “He’s never been in a fight. They say that it came off too easy. Which is indication that they feel that we doctored it in some way. I don’t understand it.”
With the game set on a four-on-four, Jarvinen decided to match his season total for goals in a game with his second of the night. The typically “hanging back” defenseman held the puck to the backhand as he moved down the slot. He flipped that backhander on net – and Toivonen couldn’t get to it.
Scott Valentine was listed as a healthy scratch in favor of Anthony Bitetto last game. Tonight they decided to flip the two d-men and Valentine responded with his first goal of the season. The part-time winger, part-time defenseman swung down the right wing and whistled a shot to shelf to the far side post and in to make it a 7-0 game.
The game became less about hockey for the Wild from this point forward and more a matter of pride. Corbin Baldwin was an absolute pest for the Wild in this game. He had a booming hit on Saponari and began locking horns with anyone willing to do it. After getting after Jarvinen with a roughing call – Mike Liambas took exception and looked to step it up a notch against Baldwin with a fight. It wouldn’t be the last for Baldwin either – he fought Scott Ford later in the game as well.
The Admirals would finish up the second period by scoring their second power-play goal of the game. It was another juicy rebound off of a scrambling Toivonen that allowed Mark Van Guilder to deposit his tenth goal of the season.
Four goals in the first period. Four goals in the second period. Hannu Toivonen, allowing eight goals from twenty-five Admirals shots, needed a serious hug… and a new PTO for a different team. He was mercifully replaced prior to the start of the third period in favor of usual starter for the Wild, Johan Gustafsson.
A flashpoint took place in the third period when Liambas took a five-minute major for boarding after a massive hit in front of the Ads bench. There was a long delay to sort out all the penalties. Before you knew it, you guessed it, the Admirals scored another goal! No joke. Joonas Rask blazed down neutral ice and beat Gustafsson to the five hole for his second goal of the season and the Admirals ninth of the game.
The Ads survived the five-minute major for boarding with a shorthanded goal of their own but, just as it had expired, the Wild finally ended the shutout bid after 55:35 of play. The newly acquired Zach Miskovic fluttered a puck from the point that found a lane through traffic to beat Rinne. It’s Miskovic’s first goal of the season.
“It’s my fault on that,” said Evason. “We had seven forwards on our bench and we tried to wait to put a guy in the box. But, it’s totally my fault. After we scored – we tried to stop the play before they dropped the puck. Too late. It’s 100% my mistake. We should have had a guy out there.”
Pekka Rinne wasn’t tested all that often in this game, making sixteen saves from seventeen shots on goal, but because of that it may have been that much more impressive. When the puck is spinning around in the opposite zone for so long – the concentration levels and focus he displayed with some great saves when finally called upon were fantastic. After the game he said that he felt tired in the early goings of the game despite the minimal chances he faced. He settled back down. Allowed the lone goal during a bad change following the major penalty – and that was it.
Thoughts on tonight’s game? Where did this offense come from? How do you feel Pekka Rinne handled himself during limited pressure from the Iowa Wild? Can the Ads maintain this sort of effort heading into Sunday’s game or perhaps even longer?
Tonight will be the return of Pekka Rinne in game action. I’m guessing he’s not the only one who is excited.
This morning I had the chance to watch morning skate. In fact, I arrived just in time to say “hello” to Pekka Rinne as he left the Admirals locker room before taking the ice. The Ads morning practice today was optional. As Dean Evason pointed out – no one decided to take the day off.
Rinne spent the first half hour of the practice taking shots and working through some rush drills from the group. Mike Liambas managed to be the first Ads skater to wire a shot past Rinne, blocker-side post and in, and a few others had some good shots in on him as well. Rinne may have been just a little off to start the practice but really looked the part as the practice trucked along. He also seemed genuinely excited to see familiar faces from his time in Milwaukee – such as Admirals owner Harris Turer. It’s a whirlwind for him right now. But it sure seems like he is having a blast.
Another highlight from today’s morning skate came in the form of Magnus Hellberg back on the ice. He may have sat out the first half of practice while Rinne, as well as Marek Mazanec, held both nets in practice – but he got some solid work in at the end of the session. It’s nice to see that he has gotten to that point in his comeback from a lower-body injury.
The media scrum for Pekka Rinne consisted of more than just myself and Dave Boehler for a change. We had folks from Nashville actually drive down to be here, Aaron Sims was on-hand, and even *gasp* Fox-6 News. Here’s the audio from the likes of Pekka Rinne, Dean Evason, and Magnus Hellberg from this morning.
Pekka Rinne discusses his health:
Rinne speaks about preparations for game action tonight:
Rinne’s expectations going into tonight:
Rinne on returning to Milwaukee:
Rinne on his development in Milwaukee:
Rinne’s thoughts of shots he faced from the Admirals in practice:
Rinne’s focus for tonight:
Rinne talks about Marek Mazanec and Magnus Hellberg:
Rinne on getting back in time for the Predators playoff push:
Rinne prepared for a great reception from Milwaukee fans tonight:
Dean Evason’s expectations for Pekka Rinne tonight:
Evason on the benefits of Admirals players being around Rinne:
Evason talking about the Ads gearing up for an optional skate today:
Evason’s thoughts on changing preparations for the offense:
Evason’s opinion of what he has seen from Filip Forsberg so far:
Evason talks about Forsberg’s attitude with the Admirals:
Evason speaks towards Forsberg’s future:
Evason believes Rinne is an example of how important AHL development can be:
Evason chats about Magnus Hellberg’s potential return to the fold:
Magnus Hellberg provides his own update:
Hellberg talks about pain tolerance from today’s practice:
Hellberg on the difficulty of being out injured:
Hellberg jokes that the media scrum was for him today:
Hellberg’s thoughts of having Rinne around the team:
Hellberg and I chat about how many goalies there will be once everyone gets healthy:
Hellberg discusses his bobblehead:
“I feel great. I’m excited to be back in Milwaukee. It’s obviously been a long road back but, right now, I’m just really happy to be back on the ice. I’ve been skating the last three weeks. And with the team since the end of the Olympic break. Now it is one step closer to getting back on the ice with Nashville. At the same time, this is a good opportunity for me to come back to Milwaukee and see everybody here.” Pekka Rinne
“I’ve done everything that you can possibly do just to re-create any kind of situations you could possibly face in a game – but, obviously, nothing is going to compare to actual games. We haven’t done any scrimmaging or anything like that. So this is my first game action in quite some time and, yeah, obviously really excited about it.” Pekka Rinne
“I spent three-years over here and everybody was so good to me. This was my first taste of USA kind of. I landed here and this was my home for three-years. In that way, absolutely it’s nice to be back. See all the fans. I’m pretty excited about that. We still have the same owners and all that. It’s really exciting for me. You kind of get to come here and feel comfortable right away. I don’t feel like a stranger. So, it’s a nice feeling. I’m pretty excited about playing here.” Pekka Rinne
“[Playing with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL] plays a big factor in my career. I always look back at this when reflecting back. Those three-years they were really big for me. On the ice – getting used to this North American hockey. Especially off the ice – I think that’s a really big part of the way you feel comfortable, the way you fit in, and all that kind of stuff. I think that was a huge deal. Getting comfortable with the language. Learning a new language. Taking care of yourself – paying the bills. This was the first place to do that and I got a lot of help if I ever needed any kind of help off the ice. Milwaukee has a big factor in my career.” Pekka Rinne
“In the beginning of the practice I didn’t feel super sharp. But, as the practice went along, I got more comfortable and started to feel like myself again. They’re really good prospects. Really good players. I faced them in the training camp before. Good players, so obviously they’re going to shoot well. It’s not a huge difference when you compare shots between AHL and NHL if you take Shea Weber away.” Pekka Rinne
“I’m really happy to just get back on the ice. It’s been tough watching games and not knowing when you’re going to be back. That’s been probably the toughest thing handling. Really happy to be back and hopefully, after these few games, I’m ready and able to help the [Predators].” Pekka Rinne
“I’m really happy. I mean, I thought that I always had a really good relationship with the fans [of Milwaukee]. It means a lot to me if that’s the case. I don’t really know what to expect. I’m sure that there’s going to be some fans here that were here also when I used to play here. So, I’m looking forward to that and for sure I remember a lot of the fans here.” Pekka Rinne
Comments from the comments? Bought your tickets for tonight yet? How do you think the team will do tonight with Pekka Rinne in net? What does his return, as well as the potential return of Magnus Hellberg, mean for the organization in terms of the amount of goalies they will have?
He’s waited months to return to game action. Tonight, Pekka Rinne makes that return in the familiar setting of Milwaukee where his North American professional hockey career started.
The Admirals are enduring their longest losing streak of the season, 5 games. While the problem has been a bit more to do with a lack of offense the spark they’ll be getting tonight comes in the form of Pekka Rinne starting between the pipes.
There is going to be such an intense focus on Rinne’s return tonight and with great reason. (1) He is Pekka Rinne. (2) He is returning to the ice for the first time in four months after complications of an infection related to his off-season hip surgery. (3) This is his first time back in Milwaukee since 2008. (4) How will he play in his return to game action?
While I’m certainly going to be hitting on all those bullet points throughout the day, I’m literally going to live at the Bradley Center all day today, I don’t want to take away the main focus which is tonight’s game against the Iowa Wild. In fact, while many might be wagging the finger at Rinne’s return as a source of turning this losing streak around – I actually feel the best thing that will happen tonight for the Admirals is that they are playing the Wild in the first place.
The Iowa Wild enter tonight’s game with a record of 22-22-6-4 (54 points) and sit 4 points beneath the Admirals at the bottom of the Midwest Division. In their last 10 games they have stumbled around much like the Ads have: 3-6-1-0 record (7 points). They are currently on a losing streak of their own, 3-games. Someone will go slump-busters tonight.
Winchester has quietly had a very productive season as a member of the IceHogs: 55 games, 30 points (16 goals, 14 assists), plus/minus of -8, and 85 penalty minutes. We saw what he meant to the Admirals when he joined last season. For a team that has sputtered around all season long – perhaps a guy like Winchester is an acquisition that can really boost the Wild’s season. Time will tell. In 7 games with the IceHogs against the Ads this season he had produced 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist), plus/minus of -2, and has taken 8 penalty minutes.
Another transaction that the Wild made involved bringing in Hannu goaltender. Eh? Eh? That’s right. Fresh off of his release from the Admirals on a PTO contract – Hannu Toivonen found himself Hannu PTO deal with the Wild. He fills the spot of John Curry who was recently called up to Minnesota.
I anticipate Johan Gustafsson in net over the likes of Hannu, BUT, the Wild and Gustafsson played last night against the Rochester Americans. They were taken down in Iowa by a final score of 4-2 and Gustafsson allowed 3 goals from 34 shots on goal. I can see him playing two-in-two. Should we see Hannu in net so soon after being released… awkward.
Will tonight be the night that the Admirals breakout of this losing streak? How do you feel Pekka Rinne will perform in his return? Does the offense snap out of their own funk with a game against a team like the Iowa Wild? Will last night’s game hurt or help the Wild entering tonight?
“I wonder if Daniel Lavender is regretting publishing that feature story on me the day that I get reassigned,” pondered Scott Darling. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)
The Milwaukee Admirals are receiving a bloke named Pekka Rinne soon. Combine that with the roster all getting healthy and you get this news. Today the Admirals have reassigned Scott Darling and Zach Budish to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL.
In retrospect, perhaps my feature story on Darling could have waited a few days. Though, as we discussed, he didn’t know whether or not the team would make a move like this or simply healthy scratch a goalie as Rinne comes to camp. It turns out the team would much rather send Darling out to Cincinnati to play in games rather than sit out – either on the bench or as a scratch.
For Budish this is his first reassignment the entire season. He spent most of last season finishing up his time with the University of Minnesota before joining the Admirals late in the campaign. He’s been on the cuff most of the season – sometimes being a healthy scratch and other times working his way into the fourth line. I put him down as one of my Underrated All Stars not too long ago. I feel this stint in Cincinnati could be highly beneficial for him because he should be logging more playing time than he has all season. That means more game situations, more chances to get his offense going, and time to also sharpen up his gritty defense – which has been good for the Admirals this season.
The short way to view this: Pekka Rinne moves in. Scott Darling moves out. Joonas Rask moves in. Zach Budish moves out. The Darling move should be temporary. The Budish move might be a little while before he works his way back – barring any injuries that is.
Thoughts on the move? Was it the right decision to send Scott Darling to the ECHL rather than healthy scratch him while Pekka Rinne is with the Admirals? How do you feel this move works for Zach Budish?
In his fourth professional season of hockey, goaltender Scott Darling has found a home with his seventh pro-team – the Milwaukee Admirals. (Photo Credit: Mark Newman)
Prior to this season, 25-year old goaltender Scott Darling had only ever played one game at the American Hockey League (AHL) level. During a spell of injuries within the Nashville Predators system he has had the opportunity to play with the Milwaukee Admirals. Ever since his call up from the Cincinnati Cyclones of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), on October 24, 2013, he has quickly taken this opportunity at the AHL level and polished up his resume in the process.
“It’s been going well,” said Scott Darling. “This year it’s been crazy with injuries, goalie movements, Nashville, and everything. So, every time I get to play I’m just happy to play. That’s really all I can do. Trying to make the most of my time in the net.”
Darling was born in raised not too far from where he currently plays. He is from Lemont, Illinois where his family and friends are only a two-hour drive away from Milwaukee. According to him, this is the closest he has been to home in ten-years since moving out in the seventh grade to pursue a dream of playing professional hockey.
“I could go home any day that I want,” smiled Darling. “My mom, my grandparents, aunts, and cousins they come to almost all home games. And the games in Chicago, too. It has been a treat for my whole family.”
His career between the pipes started at the age of 5-years old while playing youth hockey. The team he played for would trade off who played in net and cycled through the skaters in every game. This meant a new goalie would play in every game. After performing far better in net than as a forward – the coaches kept him in goal. That would turn out to be a very natural fit for Scott Darling considering the role that his father played for his love of the sport.
“My dad was a hockey player,” said Darling. “He played goalie. So when I was a little kid I watched him play men’s league. He played college, club, men’s league my whole childhood. That’s how I got started.”
The road began with time between the North Iowa Outlaws of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) and the Capital District Selects of the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL). It was after this time when he had done enough to catch the attention of the National Hockey League (NHL) and was drafted in the sixth round of the 2007 NHL Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. The next step was a productive stint with the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League (USHL) where he played more games in a season, 42, than he ever did previously.
Darling was then able to play for the highly successful University of Maine hockey program. In two-seasons he played 54 games, won 25 games, had a 2.93 GAA, and a 0.895 SV%. The reason why he didn’t stick around their program for the full four-years comes with a negative reputation the he was slowly building for himself.
“I was a bit of a wild child when I was in my late teens and early-twenties,” Darling said. “That’s kind of what caused me to leave Maine after my sophomore year instead of going for four-years. Then Phoenix sent me to their [ECHL] team which, at the time, was in Las Vegas. Which, for a guy who likes to have fun, Las Vegas is not a good place to be.”
It was during this spell, in his professional playing career, that he had played for six different teams, in four different leagues, over three-seasons.
“I used to like to go out to bars, liked to party, and do everything a normal 21-year old likes do do,” cited Darling. “It wasn’t good for my hockey career. I got in trouble a few times. When you get labeled as a wild card people don’t want to pay you money to be a hockey player. You’re a liability. So that definitely slowed down the start of my career.”
Then came the summer of 2013 where he was given the opportunity to work with Nashville Predators goaltending coach Mitch Korn. Darling was working on his own training program in Boston prior to the Predators development camp. With a month between his own training regimen and the start of camp, Korn offered Darling an opportunity to join him in Nashville ahead of the camp where he would be able to work with him. In that time he was able to train with the likes of Carter Hutton – as well as current Admiral teammate Vinny Saponari – and Matt Hendricks and Kevin Klein. Never having had the luxury of a full-time goaltending coach during the course of the season, this was the beginning of a new era for Darling having the likes of Mitch Korn and Ben Vanderklok around to monitor and assist him on a daily basis.
“[Ben Vanderklok] is great,” smiled Darling. “I really like to talk goaltending so it is nice to have someone to talk goaltending with. He is very knowledgeable. I know he follows the game a lot just like I do. I’m a big goalie geek. I could tell you every goalie for every team in every league and how they’re doing and where they played. And he is kind of the same way.”
The next big day for Darling came in the form of a pre-season contest for the Predators against the Florida Panthers. The game finished 6-3 in the Panthers favor but the larger picture there was that he had accomplished, even if it were an exhibition game, a taste of life in the NHL for the first time in his career.
His next stop within the Predators organization was a brief one. He was with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL for one game, an 18-save 4-2 win over his former Wheeling Nailers, before getting called up to the Milwaukee Admirals five days later. With the injuries within Nashville’s organization causing a shuffle around from top to bottom – the chance for Darling to play in extended amounts at the AHL level for the first time was there. It was a chance he took and took instantly.
In his second start with the Admirals he recorded a 32-save shutout over the Iowa Wild. In the month of December he took the bulk of games in net and continued to earn himself more playing time in net. He took home CCM/AHL Player of the Week honors for the final week of December but, one-better, took home CCM/AHL Goalie of the Month honors for his efforts: 8 games played, 6 wins, 1.12 GAA, 0.964 SV%, and 2 shutouts.
“He has come a long way,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “We signed him as our fifth guy to play in Cincinnati – which is where he started. Obviously, he caught a break with injuries and made the best of it. He was great for us early. Gave us opportunities to win. Won the Player of the Month. He just did everything that we’ve asked of him. He is very professional. Has a ton of skill. Competes in practice. Competes in games. And he has given us an opportunity to win. Not a lot of times when your top goalie, or top two goalies on your hockey team, gets hurt do you have a guy to fill in as good as he has. He’s been very impressive to us.”
Sadly following his AHL award winning month of December, Darling picked up a lower-body injury in January that sidelined him for a month. In that time he stayed close to the team, worked out, and continued his development at the AHL level. After three games with the Cyclones of the ECHL, where he won two of his three starts, he was brought back up to the Admirals where he was instantly plugged back into the net. In the weekend back with the team he made two starts, three appearances in net, didn’t get a win, registered a 1.67 GAA, and 0.938 SV%. He also earned a 29-save shutout in a shootout defeat against the Grand Rapids Griffins where he was on equal footing with Petr Mrazek the entire game.
One wonders, with him clearly trending upward at the age of 25-years old, what the future has in store for Scott Darling?
“I’ve been playing pro for four-years this is, I think, my fourteenth pro team,” joked Darling. “So it’s like I expect everything to happen. Plan for the best. Prepare for the worst. And just see what happens.”
It’s clear that in his first season getting guidance from the likes of Korn and Vanderklok that Darling has made major strides this season. He has never competed at this level of professional hockey for this long before in his career. Rather than be overwhelmed by the pace or competition factor that the AHL could present – he has stepped up from the word go and continues to be one of the better surprises to the Admirals during the 2013-14 season. Only time will tell where his story takes him next – and if he’ll be the man in net this season as the Admirals look to enter the playoffs for a twelfth consecutive season.
Full Interview (2/25/14), myself and Scott Darling:
What have you thought of Scott Darling this season? What has impressed you the most?