Chatterbox, Vol. 205

(Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

The Milwaukee Admirals returned to practice and the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena this morning ahead of Game 3 tomorrow night against the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Admirals are up against the sword right now trailing 2-0 in the best-of-five opening round series and are hoping to fight back on home ice.

Richard-Ribeiro-Gaudreau
White-Kamenev-Kirkland
Perfetto-Smith-Payerl
Florek-Army-Liambas
(Bass-Moy-Trenin)

Pardy-Carrier
Murphy-Granberg
Girard-Dougherty
(O’Brien-Pinkston)

Mazanec
Visentin
(Gunnarsson)

There were quite a few changes in the lines this morning. Tyler Moy appears to be out with Stephen Perfetto checking in. Moy skated the full practice and an additional skate-around long after practice completed alongside Tyler Kelleher who only skated in that session. Kelleher was the lone odd-man out in today’s main session as Andrew O’Brien did a full skate with the team alongside Rick Pinkston.

Above all, what I was hoping to see today I did catch. This Admirals group does not look deflated or downtrodden. They looked loose, revved up, and ready to go. There have been times in the past when I’ve seen an Admirals team look like the life was sucked out of them when going down 2-0. That is not the case right now and their focus is firmly set on a step-by-step basis. That first period tomorrow night should say a lot for how the rest of the game will go. The Admirals are looking to come out hard to set a tone.

After practice was completed I had the opportunity to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason to get his insight into the series and what to expect out of the group tomorrow night. I also chatted with Trevor Smith, Jack Dougherty, Mike Liambas, and Cody Bass to get their thoughts on the games in Grand Rapids and tomorrow’s crucial Game 3.

Comments on the comments? Is this Milwaukee Admirals team capable of coming all the way back from 2-0 down against the Grand Rapids Griffins?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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The Admirals and Mental Warfare

Tyler Bertuzzi is a lightning rod of attention on the ice for all the wrong reasons when he faces the Milwaukee Admirals. And that is how he finds success for the Grand Rapids Griffins time and time again. (Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

Do the Milwaukee Admirals miss the services of Pontus Åberg? No. Do the referees in charge of the series matter? No. Do the calls being made in this series go firmly against the Admirals? No. Do the Admirals trail the Grand Rapids Griffins after the first leg of the best of five series? Yes, and they are one more defeat from a third successive playoff exit by way of sweep and eleven consecutive playoff defeats.

Anyone who has followed this year’s Admirals closely can say that the team is a special one. There is a great balance of quality leadership and great young talent all meshed together. When all pieces to the puzzle come together the Admirals can be a devastating team to play against through their high speed and skill level as well as being physical on defense with great goaltending to support it.

The Admirals are not down 2-0 to the Griffins in this opening round best of five series because of any one specific loss of those great attributes. There have been times when Marek Mazanec has really shouldered the weight in net. There have been smart defensive reads that have been very disruptive against Griffins attacks. And the Admirals offense has shown moments where they can be relentless.

Why the Admirals aren’t making a dent on the Griffins comes down to momentary lapses in all of those great attributes not coming good as well as the Admirals doing the number one thing that they couldn’t allow the Griffins to do in this series in order for them to have success. The Griffins are under the Admirals skin.

With any divisional match-up there are great rivalries founded on the constant battles held throughout a season. While there is great turn-over in the AHL many divisional rivalries can really last out down to how strong the affiliate clubs are for so long. That’s what the Admirals and Griffins has been with the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings both scouting, drafting, and developing so well for so long. In part, this rivalry comes mainly down to sheer dominance and having the say of who is superior. The other part comes from something the Griffins excel in: talking, talking, and more talking.

Whether it be Tyler Bertuzzi, Mitch Callahan, Colin Campbell, Joe Hicketts, or Dylan McIlrath – the Griffins talk a ton after a whistle, in scrums, at face-offs, and around the bench. That nature of their team has been blatant since the 2015-16 season. It worked then. It works now. And the Admirals play up to it by disregarding what it is they do well to play into the Griffins antics.

As all of the talking gets played up what the Griffins get to do is allow their skill players and veterans to dictate and pace the game. The Admirals are fighting a different battle on the ice and losing the most important one. The style in which the Griffins play, to me, is never one that will win a Calder Cup because a far more heads-up and mature team will come in, ignore the talking, and play their own game much like the Lake Erie Monsters did a season ago. The Admirals need to be that team. But they aren’t right now. They are letting the Griffins pull their strings time and time again.

The great news that shouldn’t be lost one bit by how the first two games of the series played out is this: the Admirals host Game 3 on Wednesday night at 7:00 PM CDT. This series isn’t over. The Admirals are still as special of a team as everyone knows that they are and can be. They just need to smooth out a few areas of their game and -most importantly- kill the talking with deafening silence. The Admirals chirp back at the Griffins banter needs to be voiced by the scoreboard and the fans at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.

For the Admirals to put everything together and take Game 3 provides them the exact same atmosphere, ability, and opportunity in Game 4 on home ice. That is when this series sees pressure sway but that can only truly happen if the Admirals let go of the talking, let go of the post-whistle run ins, and stick to their strengths. The Admirals are still alive in this series. It is on them to keep it that way on Wednesday night.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Heated; Ads Lose 5-2 in Game 2

(Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

The Milwaukee Admirals lost 5-2 against the Grand Rapids Griffins on the road at the Van Andel Arena on Sunday afternoon. The Admirals trail the Griffins 2-0 in the best of five opening round series of the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs and are up against the sword needing to win out from this point forward.

This game showed the good, the bad, and the ugly of this Admirals-Griffins rivalry. There were lots of chippy moments and penalties. The Griffins would overwhelm the Admirals in the first two periods. Despite a solid push in the third period for the Admirals they fell for the tenth consecutive time in the playoffs and now face elimination as they return to Milwaukee for Game 3.

It would take the Griffins just twenty-five seconds to score the game’s opening goal. Eric Tangradi let a wrister fly from the high left wing circle that floated past Marek Mazanec stick-side.

Thankfully, the Admirals wouldn’t be caught off guard with the quick strike by the Griffins. The Admirals surged towards the net and Vladislav Kamenev was able to get a second chance opportunity pushed past Jared Coreau to make it a 1-1 game just 1:42 of ice-time after the Griffins tally.

The Griffins would finish the first period up 2-1. Samuel Girard has a puck hop up on his stick as he was looking to move up the right wing out of the Admirals defensive zone. Evgeny Svechnikov was quick to pounce on the mistake and swiftly passed back into the slot where Axel Holmström opened up to one-time the feed and score his second goal since coming over from Sweden to put the Griffins back in front.

In the second period the Griffins would add to their lead. Tyler Bertuzzi exited the penalty box and was quick to start an odd-man rush after serving a goaltender interference minor. He swung out right wing, held a shooting position, and then snapped a shot to the near post that beat Mazanec high glove to make it a 3-1 Griffins lead.

It felt like the majority of the third period was spent in attack for the Admirals. They finally got a reward for all that pressure after a fantastic pass by Mike Ribeiro from the left point found Frédérick Gaudreau above the ring wing circle that would end with a wrister buried high glove on Coreau to make it a 3-2 game on Gaudreau’s third goal of the playoffs.

For all the pressure the Admirals were building they had a chance following a Griffins icing call with 1:34 remaining in regulation. The Admirals used their timeout to draw something up and bring Mazanec to the bench to work with the extra attacker. Ultimately, it would go bust as the Griffins would get a puck to neutral ice and score on the empty net with Bertuzzi to make it a two-goal game. The Admirals would again go empty net only to see Matthew Ford score an empty netter as well to see this game through to its 5-2 final.

The story of today’s game felt very much written by the opening two periods. The Griffins played aggressively and had the Admirals flustered both during the run of play and after whistles had blown. The Griffins are very much under the Admirals skin and the majority of today’s penalties were of the roughing variety. That is the Griffins style of hockey. It isn’t the Admirals style. And the Admirals falling into that trap now has them in an even bigger one with a 2-0 series hole needing to win out to survive.

This series now shifts to Milwaukee. Game 3 takes place on Wednesday night at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena with a 7:00 PM CDT face-off. The Admirals must win-out to advance to Round 2 of the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs. A win on Wednesday night would mean hosting Game 4 in Milwaukee on Friday night at 7:00 PM CDT.

Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals played Game 1 there were no changes made for their roster. The Nashville Predators did find out who their opponent will be in Round 2 of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, however, and it will be an all grown-up Amtrak Rivalry series against the St. Louis Blues. Today’s line combinations for the Admirals were: Richard-Ribeiro-Gaudreau, White-Smith-Moy, Kirkland-Kamenev-Payerl, Florek-Army-Liambas, Pardy-Carrier, Murphy-Granberg, Girard-Dougherty. Today’s scratches for the were: Bass (lower-body injury), Kelleher (undisclosed injury), O’Brien (undisclosed injury), Perfetto (healthy), Pinkston (healthy), Trenin (healthy), and Visentin (healthy).

What were your thoughts about Game 2? Is the Grand Rapids Griffins ability to get under the Milwaukee Admirals skin the difference in this series? What do the Admirals need to do in order to fight off elimination Wednesday night in Milwaukee?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in Game Recaps | 3 Comments

Lessons & Thoughts from Game 1

(Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

The Milwaukee Admirals and Grand Rapids Griffins are very similar teams that always seem to push each other hard. That remained true last night with Game 1 of their opening round playoff series needing overtime. The Griffins would win 4-3 on the night to take a 1-0 lead in the best of five series but there is still plenty to like from what the Admirals did to start the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs.

~Full Strength~

When last night’s game was played at five-on-five it was hard to not like the work rate that the Admirals were delivering against the Griffins. It felt like that was a small rarity in the game when both sides weren’t working a power-play or penalty kill but the Admirals rolling their lines looked to hold their own alongside the Griffins.

The Admirals defense in particular was very good and forced most shots from out wide. The area that the Admirals will want to be aware of, should they continue forcing wide shots, is that the Griffins were smart enough to start putting low shots to the net and fighting for second and third chance opportunities around the net. It generated the best and most successful chaos for the Griffins offense and its on the Admirals to not only defend wide but at their net to clear out both sight lines and the rebound chances the Griffins are looking for.

If we could go back to the penalties for a moment. I’d be shocked if either team liked their games last night almost purely because of the amount of penalty troubles both put themselves into. It didn’t entirely make and break moments in the game – but it really could have should one of those power-plays uncorked more to the net and made the goaltenders work even harder. For the Admirals to give the AHL’s top power-play seven chances is a recipe for disaster. They need to play smart and keep the game at five-on-five.

~The Freddy Gaudreau Show~

Yes, it might hurt not having the Admirals top player in Pontus Åberg around for the Calder Cup Playoffs. I get that. However, Åberg 100% deserves to be where he is now competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Plus, that absence for the Admirals creates competition and forces everyone else on the team to step their game up. The man to do just that last night was the forward scoring step-for-step with Åberg at the end of the regular season, Frédérick Gaudreau.

Since Åberg’s recall to the Nashville Predators his spot on the left wing of the Admirals top power-play unit has been given to Gaudreau with Justin Kirkland slotting in as the net front presence where Gaudreau was. It took the Admirals four seconds of their second power-play opportunity last night to get a Trevor Smith face-off win back to Alex Carrier and a pass off left wing for Gaudreau to swat like a guided missile past Jared Coreau.

(Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

The next two goals that the Admirals scored were great examples of Gaudreau’s best attributes: speed, intelligence, and skill. His ability to skate is fantastic and it put him in positions to fly on both the rush and breakaway for those two goals but what I appreciate so much is him knowing that he had numbers with him to pick out Petter Granberg and also the quickness in reading Joe Hicketts to blaze out from defending on a penalty kill to a shorthanded breakaway. He had the slick skill to get a pass to the tape of Granberg and beat Coreau on his breakaway. Gaudreau had a fantastic night and, rightfully so despite the loss for the Admirals, was named the last night’s First Star.

And, for perspective sake, the Admirals scoring three goals in a playoff game last night was the most that they have scored since 5/8/11 when the Admirals defeated the Houston Aeros 5-4 in overtime. The players who scored points on the opening goal of that game were Ryan Ellis (goal), Roman Josi (primary assist), and Ryan Thang (secondary assist).

Continuing perspective: Gaudreau scoring three points last night meant that he has already scored more points than anyone in last year’s playoff series against the Griffins by two points. Plus, Gaudreau matched the Admirals playoff leading scorer in 2014’s playoff run Bryan Rodney and surpassed 2013’s playoff leading scorer for the Admirals Zach Hamill who played in four games. And Gaudreau also matched 2012’s leading playoff scorer for the Admirals Kyle Wilson. You must go back to that 2011 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs that saw multiple Admirals scoring more than just three points in the playoffs with the help of having a long run.

~The Drought~

Speaking of long runs. This streak that the Admirals have going on right now is a sad one. The last time the Admirals won a playoff game was during the 2013 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs and they accomplished that during Game 2 on 4/27/13 in a 2-0 shutout victory over the Texas Stars. They have now lost every playoff game since which includes being swept out of their previous two playoff entries in 2014 and 2016. The Admirals have lost nine consecutive playoff games.

During this run the Admirals have been outscored 30-11 and shutout twice. You have to go back to just prior to the Admirals last playoff win, Game 1 of their 2013 series against the Stars, to find the last time they were in an overtime game. This run has all come during the reign of Dean Evason as head coach of the Admirals. And that is unfortunate because I know how well respected by the players that he is and you can look no further than the Predators roster right now and see how his influence with the Admirals is so positive.

~Final Ramblings~

The Admirals playoff winless drought, for me, is one of sheer frustration. Many of the games slapped down in the losing streak haven’t been that bad or sloppy. There have been some rough ones, no doubt about that, but last night’s effort just wasn’t one of them. The Admirals last night showed some of the best fight and competitiveness that the Admirals have produced in the Calder Cup Playoffs in quite some time. There was a spark there that just didn’t ignite into an inferno. And both teams can say that.

There is still much to be done in this series. Neither the Admirals nor Griffins played to the best of their ability. Eventually that quality will shine through from one or both teams before this series is done. Game 1 simply planted the groundwork. Now it’s down to who can execute the best from this point forward that really decides the series.

How will Game 2 of this series for the Milwaukee Admirals be different? Do you feel that the Admirals are capable of taking a game in Grand Rapids and, at this stage, would you consider it highly important that they do so rather than having a possible Game 5 at the Van Andel Arena?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in Ramblings | 2 Comments

Admirals Drop Game 1 in Overtime, 4-3

(Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

The Milwaukee Admirals lost 4-3 in overtime against the Grand Rapids Griffins at the Van Andel Arena on Friday night. The Admirals now trail the Griffins 1-0 in the best of five opening round series of the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs.

It likely wasn’t a game that either side could be happy about as far as the discipline was concerned but the effort was certainly there from both teams. Frédérick Gaudreau was terrific on the night for the Admirals but the team lost a 3-2 lead in the third period and would fall in overtime. The Admirals have now lost nine straight playoff games dating back to the 2013 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs.

This series started with some special teams work and it was the Admirals power-play that opened up the scoring. A face-off win from Trevor Smith quickly cycled back to Alex Carrier and then left wing for a hammer shot by Frédérick Gaudreau that flew past Jared Coreau.

The Griffins would answer right back with two goals in a matter of thirteen seconds. A delay of game penalty on Justin Kirkland allowed for a power-play goal by Matthew Ford. The Admirals were unable to clear the zone and Matthew Ford was able to scrap it out around the net to get a puck through on Marek Mazanec’s right pad. This was swiftly followed by a snap shot by Evgeny Svechnikov down the low left wing wall that had enough juice on it to keep motoring through Mazanec and trickle across the goal line and in.

Gaudreau would make sure the first period didn’t end with the Admirals trailing 2-1. On a rush play, Gaudreau had a break down the left wing with numbers joining him and he would tap the brakes on to find Petter Granberg atop the circles. The big Swede cranked a shot first time that appeared to surprise Coreau in net and made it 2-2 just prior to the final minute of the opening frame.

Discipline seemed to go out the window a touch for the second period. There were eight different minor penalties called and much of the frame was spent with the special team groups on the ice.

The lone marker coming in the second period would come shorthanded when a botch job by Joe Hicketts with the puck allowed for a clean break by Gaudreau. The mistake from Hicketts came near his attacking blueline in neutral ice but Gaudreau would be free in space once he entered the attacking zone and snapped a wrister low glove against Coreau to score his second tally and third point of the game.

Past the halfway point in the third period the Griffins would knot things up at 3-3. A puck was skipping by Mazanec and he was about to glove it down but Adam Pardy cut him off to play it away from the crease. The puck hopped up on his stick and fell back into the path of Matt Lorito who had plenty of open net to score the equalizer with 9:15 remaining in regulation.

That tally would force overtime in this series opener. Despite some good looks from both sides in the overtime frame the Griffins would get a sneaky shot by Tomas Nosek from just below the goal line in the low left wing to beat Mazanec and go in for the game-winning goal. The shot by Nosek was eerily similar to the one from Svechnikov earlier in the contest and it meant the Griffins claimed Game 1 while the Admirals search for a playoff victory stretched to nine consecutive defeats.

Game 2 takes place in Grand Rapids on Sunday at 3:00 PM CDT. The series then shifts back to the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena for Game 3 at 7:00 PM CDT on Wednesday night.

Ramblings: Since the end of the 2016-17 AHL Regular Season the Milwaukee Admirals did not make any roster moves. Tonight’s line combinations were: Richard-Ribeiro-Gaudreau, White-Smith-Moy, Kirkland-Kamenev-Payerl, Florek-Trenin-Liambas, Pardy-Carrier, Murphy-Granberg, Girard-Dougherty. Tonight’s scratches for the Admirals were: Army (healthy), Bass (lower-body injury), Kelleher (undisclosed injury), O’Brien (undisclosed injury), Perfetto (healthy), Pinkston (healthy), and Visentin (healthy).

What were your thoughts on Game 1? After this game do you feel the Milwaukee Admirals can learn and adapt to take a road game against the Grand Rapids Griffins to return to Milwaukee with a chance to finish the series? Are you concerned by Marek Mazanec allowing two goals from such bad angles?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in Game Recaps | 2 Comments

Chatterbox, Vol. 204

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Today was Media Day with the Milwaukee Admirals ahead of the start of the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs. It provided a nice glimpse into just what to expect when the team battles the Grand Rapids Griffins in the opening round which begins with Game 1 on Friday night at 6:00 PM CDT at the Van Andel Arena.

Richard-Ribeiro-Gaudreau
White-Smith-Moy
Kirkland-Kamenev-Payerl
Florek-Trenin-Liambas
(+Bass-Perfetto-Army)

Pardy-Carrier
Murphy-Granberg
(Pinkston) Girard-Dougherty

Mazanec
Gunnarsson
Visentin

It was certainly all hands on deck. It feels like there hasn’t been this many bodies around since Training Camp and that isn’t limited to the players, either. The Admirals’ coaching staff was joined by Scott Nichol and Wade Redden of the Nashville Predators.

Prior to practice both Andrew O’Brien and Tyler Kelleher did skate on their own as they work their way back from injury. Jimmy Oligny is back around the team following his season ending surgery to lend support. And Cody Bass is continuing to progress very nicely and practiced with the team today while wearing a red “no contact” jersey. Bass managed to win the the shootout drill to end practice.

Everything else shapes out to look very much as structured as it did in the two games against the Rockford IceHogs last week. There shouldn’t be too many surprises for the lineup when it comes time for puck drop Friday night in Grand Rapids. As for the game itself? There is a load of anticipation to get playoff hockey started.

After practice there were several interviews to be had given that it was Media Day. I had the opportunity to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason as well as Justin Kirkland, Adam Payerl, Samuel Girard, Mike Ribeiro, Adam Pardy, Mark Visentin, and Tyler Moy. Here were all of today’s interviews before the team sets off for Grand Rapids.

Comments on the comments? Do you feel like the Milwaukee Admirals road success could lend well for a good start in this opening round series? What do you think is the key to shutting down the Grand Rapids Griffins in this series?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Round 1: The Battle for Redemption

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

If I really had to pick who the Milwaukee Admirals were to face in the opening round of the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs – it would be the Grand Rapids Griffins. There are so many storylines that can make this five-game series special and you can start exactly a season ago when these two opened up the playoffs against each other on the back of the Admirals winning the Central Division title. That Admirals team was great. Yet, this year’s Admirals team matches up even better against this year’s Griffins and the chance for redemption is available.

~Redemption~

When the Admirals entered last year’s opening round series with the Griffins they entered having gone 3-5-0-0 against them during the 2015-16 regular season. All of their wins came on home ice and -at the time- they hadn’t won on the road in Grand Rapids since 1/31/15. This season, the Admirals are 5-6-1-0 against the Griffins and the majority of their wins have come at the Van Andel Arena. The Admirals won three of six games in Grand Rapids this season.

There are a few standout moments from when these two locked horns last year. They all end up being moments that ended with officials pausing the action only to give the Griffins a boost.

When the Admirals hosted Game 2 last season they were wrongly negated a goal for goaltender interference at a point in the game when they were starting to generate a solid push. The delay stunted that push and disallowed a perfectly good goal for Max Görtz. The Admirals would later get a goal from Vladislav Kamenev but lose on that disallowed goal call.

Game 3 of last year’s playoff series match up almost doesn’t need an introduction. That was the “Replacement Net” game in which a 1-0 Admirals first period lead suddenly vanished as not one but two shots by the Griffins in the second period were judged to have gone through the net for goals. The delay that came from both reviews only could have ever ended in stunting momentum that the Admirals generated and then giving it back to the Griffins to recover and surge – which they did en route to a series sweep.

Needless to say, I hope the officials do a thorough check on both nets for all games against the Griffins at the Van Andel Arena this time around.

~The Road Ahead~

As the Admirals will need to be road warriors in the playoffs everyone should rest in knowing that the Admirals ended the season as the league’s third best road team with a record of 23-11-1-3 (50 points, 0.658 points percentage). That will of course best tested out the gate against the Griffins who tied for eighth best in the league this season with a home record of 25-11-0-2 (52 points, 0.684 points percentage).

Another point of interest for the home-road splits between these two teams will be on special teams. The Admirals had the third best road penalty kill in the AHL this season killing  84.7%. The Griffins home power-play was the second best in the AHL at 26.2% which was marginally less than the best by the San Jose Barracuda (26.5%). The Admirals road power-play stands at 17.2% while the Griffins home penalty kill is 83.9%.

When you flip the two, the Admirals finished the regular season right behind the Griffins with the third best home power-play at 24.6%. The Admirals home penalty kill stood at 82.1%. The Griffins road penalty kill was 82.1% and their road power-play was the best in the entire league at 22.5%.

So, in short, penalties conceded in this series could make or break a game – especially at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. We saw a taste of that in the regular season finale when the Griffins won 5-1 with their power-play going 2/5 and penalty kill working a perfect 7/7. The chances with the man-advantage need to be capitalized upon for the Admirals and they will need to play mistake free hockey in order to lessen trips to the penalty box.

~Less Talk, More Play~

It makes sense for divisional opponents to have some bad blood between them but the Admirals and Griffins rivalry has mainly been contested out of supremacy rather than sheer nastiness on the ice. Earlier in the season Joe Hicketts did deliver a low-bridge check against Harry Zolnierczyk and become a slight lightning rod figure. That seems to have faded over time and things stick more to hard play.

That’s not to say that these two can’t get feisty. The talk I hear from most who play against the Griffins is that they are a team that talk, talk, and talk some more while never being the type to back of their words with a fight. You can get a general sense for some of their gamesmanship when the Admirals face them because they can get under the skin through players such as Tyler Bertuzzi, Mitch Callahan, and Colin Campbell.

If not talk alone, the Griffins do get into very underhanded tactics in an effort to win games despite having the talent to win on talent alone. Last year’s playoffs saw them rip the helmet off of Stefan Elliott and then push a puck at him to earn a helmet violation. As if to remind everyone of that moment – the Griffins did the exact same thing twice during the regular season finale. They ripped Trevor Murphy‘s helmet off and then passed a puck at his skates as he was skating towards the bench to make the necessary change. That wasn’t called -but- when they did it moments later to Mike Liambas – it was. It should go without saying but you’d hope the officials heading into this series are aware of this shady play by the Griffins and start actually calling for roughing when they rip off helmets rather than the secondary helmet violation that follows. This shouldn’t be a thing. The Griffins have somehow made it one.

~Key Contributors~

When you get away from antics and get down to the skill – the Admirals and Griffins are incredibly similar teams. Both can match up in speed, skill, strength, and goaltending. It always feels that the winner when these two meet ends up being the one who maximizes the best use of those qualities on the night.

The Griffins have some real firepower on offense and heads up playmakers. Matt Lorito ended the season as the team’s top scorer by a point ahead of Ben Street. And those two weren’t alone at 50+ points on the season for the Griffins as Evgeny Svechnikov and Martin Frk rounded that list off. Those top three names all had 30 assists or more while it was Frk ending the season as the Griffins top goal scorer with 27.

When looking at the Admirals you’re getting a team entering the playoffs without its best player this season. As rough as it might feel not having Pontus Åberg in the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs with the Admirals one would have a tough time arguing he doesn’t belong with the Nashville Predators during their 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. This entire season has seen Åberg be a dynamic all-around force for the Admirals and he ended the regular season as the team’s top scorer with 52 points (31 goals, 21 assists) in 56 games.  It will be difficult to fully replace his efforts on the ice -but- his absence creates serious opportunities.

Tyler Moy and Yakov Trenin both arrived at the completion of their respective collegiate and junior playing seasons and both have had time to work their way into the Admirals before the playoffs started. Moy and Trenin tallied their first pro goals last week and it was Trenin who made his pro debut this time last season in the opening round of the playoffs against these exact same Griffins. Both are going to be afforded a chance to really take a leap forward early in their pro careers in an intense playoff atmosphere.

Speaking about playoff experience. The Admirals happen to have someone in their lineup who has 67 career games of Stanley Cup Playoffs experience in Mike Ribeiro. It took the first few games for him and his linemates Frédérick Gaudreau and Anthony Richard to get going but all have been outstanding since coming together. That line, as well as the group featuring Kamenev centering Adam Payerl and Justin Kirkland, have been a constant as far as work ethic is concerned. Those groups could be key for this first round series.

~Between the Pipes~

The Griffins have a very good goaltender in Jared Coreau who should be -the guy- for them in this series. That said, he has split work this season alongside 26-year old Eddie Pasquale and it wasn’t Coreau in net for the Griffins during last year’s playoff series. That means things are a little up in the air for them – but both should be serviceable.

Against the Admirals this season Coreau did make more appearances than Pasquale. Coreau went 3-3-0-0 from 6 appearances with a 2.53 goals against average and 0.904 save percentage. Pasquale managed better numbers in his time against the Admirals this season with a 4-1-0-0 record from 5 appearances with a 1.79 goals against average, 0.945 save percentage, and 2 shutouts.

There is far less mystery when it comes to what the Admirals will do in net. Marek Mazanec has been the Admirals anchor for the 2016-17 season and should continue to be for the playoffs.

Mazanec’s numbers this season have been good. He has a record of 27-17-2-1 from 47 appearances with a 2.65 goals against average, 0.912 save percentage, and 3 shutouts. Yet, things get a bit sour for him when specifically looking at how this season has been against the Griffins. He has a 3-4-1-0 record this season against Grand Rapids with a 3.50 goals against average and 0.887 save percentage.

~No Excuses~

While the Admirals top scorer is up with their NHL affiliate in the Stanley Cup Playoffs the Griffins don’t have that issue. The Detroit Red Wings playoff streak of 25-seasons ended this year and that allows for the Griffins to load up. This shouldn’t be an issue to the Admirals though. Above all, the Admirals biggest key to success for this series and the entire 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs should be to focus on their game and the strengths. The first challenge that awaits them is a big one but one that should also put that mindset into perspective. If the Admirals play their brand of hockey they should be good for a long run.

How do you see this opening round series between the Milwaukee Admirals and Grand Rapids Griffins playing out? Who will be the crucial figures for the Admirals that need to step up and deliver against the Griffins? What do the Admirals need to do in order to prevent results such as the regular season finale?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in Feature, Scouting | 1 Comment

Chatterbox, Vol. 203

Tyler Moy has started his pro career by scoring in all three pro games that he has played while contributing a goal and three assists. He could be an important figure for the Milwaukee Admirals in the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs and one that wasn’t in the picture until last week. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The 2016-17 AHL Regular Season has been completed and the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs are now officially set. Perhaps it was meant to be that on the final day of the regular season that the four teams out of the AHL’s Central Division would all be playing against their prospective opening round opponents.

The Milwaukee Admirals lost 5-1 at home to the Grand Rapids Griffins which meant that the Chicago Wolves needed to win their home game against the Charlotte Checkers to take the divisional crown. The Checkers were in the driver’s seat of that game. The Cleveland Monsters needed the Checkers to lose in regulation last night to sneak into the playoff picture. In the end, the Wolves rallied back in the third period by scoring twice to force overtime where they would win 4-3.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

I could talk at good length specifically about the Admirals game last night but I actually feel there isn’t too much that should be said given how the two teams approached the game. The Griffins played like a team that wanted to win the Central Division crown. The Admirals played like a team that was rotating pieces in and trying to be structured and as aggressive as that particular lineup could be. Honestly, the scoreline to me didn’t reflect the way the Admirals played. The Admirals did play a really good game last night. There were just some unfortunate moments and power-play goals allowed while their own power-play met the buzz-saw of Eddie Pasquale and friends. It’s a tough loss as a result. It was a great test for numerous individuals that participated though and that’s a great piece of education for them to have now that these teams know they are matched up in the first round of the playoffs.

The bottom line for me, and something I most want to casually remind fans who view last night’s game and now the opening round playoff series with dread, there is far more to be optimistic about with this current Admirals team right now than there ever was for last season’s opening round series against the Griffins.

What you have right now is an Admirals team that since February has been fine tuning itself for this exact time of the season and getting new pieces to fit in and to look and play the part. Everyone is looking far better now than they were in February and the style of play through March and into April is the brand of hockey that is needed to have playoff success. And, what is exciting, they now know for sure that it is the Griffins standing in their way and they have an opportunity at redemption for last year’s playoffs while also stamping down a tense rivalry that has surfaced throughout this season.

The Admirals and Griffins match-up so well. They’re loaded with depth, skill, speed, and strength. If there is any area that gets me to hesitate or grit my teeth with how this series could go it is the gamesmanship of the Griffins during the run of play or after whistles that gets under the Admirals skin at times and forces them to become flustered. The Admirals need to simply shut that out and shut the Griffins up with their own style of play and focus on their own game. When the Admirals stay within themselves and operate at five-on-five they had the Griffins stride for stride last night with a group of players that won’t all be factoring into the opening round series. The Admirals are in a series that they can very much win and win without an added trip to the Van Andel Arena.

I will have a far more extensive playoff preview in the mid-week as we all get ready for the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs to start up. What you can get down on your calendars right now is this. The Admirals already have their full playoff schedule for the opening round ready.

After last night’s game completed I spoke with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason as well as Frédérick Gaudreau, Jack Dougherty, and Tyler Moy. These were the post-game comments which all came as the Wolves and Checkers were in the second intermission last night and all of us where in the dark as far as who the exact opponent was going to be in the playoffs.

Comments on the comments? How are your nerves after last night’s game? Can the Milwaukee Admirals do what they didn’t last year against the Grand Rapids Griffins in Round 1?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Ads Stumble In Regular Season Finale; Lose 5-1

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Milwaukee Admirals lost 5-1 against the Grand Rapids Griffins at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena on Saturday night.

In the 2016-17 regular season finale things never truly went the Admirals way. Whether it be odd calls or simply a stellar performance in net for Eddie Pasquale – the Admirals couldn’t get a break tonight. It is the fourth straight loss on the regular season finale for the Admirals but the team is still very optimistic heading into the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs.

“You want to finish playing the right way and I though, for the most part, we did,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “I thought we played the right way. [Grand Rapids] caught a couple of breaks, obviously, a couple of power-play goals to put them up a couple of goals. But, five-on-five we thought we did a lot of really good things in the hockey game. We didn’t get the result but we had opportunities to possibly get the result. We worked hard. We played hard the last two nights. We’ll be positive going forward here.”

This game started very sour as Vladislav Kamenev was undercut in neutral ice and sent flying. There was no call on the ice and he took a retaliation penalty which was followed by a bench minor against the Admirals. It gave the Griffins a full two minutes of five-on-three power play to work with and they would break the Admirals penalty kill run of twenty-eight straight kills.

The passing play went Joe Hicketts at the point to Evgeny Svechnikov on the right with to the back post on left wing for Mitch Callahan who beat Jonas Gunnarsson back to the near post to score his sixteenth goal of the season and make it a 1-0 Griffins advantage.

Tyler Moy took matters into his own hands following some more absurd calls against the Admirals in the first period. The Harvard kid picked the pocket of former-Admiral Conor Allen and then turned around, skated in, and roofed a wrister to the glove-side of Eddie Pasquale. It was the first goal of Moy’s professional hockey career and comes in his third career game.

“Fortunate enough to get the puck with some space,” said Moy of his first pro goal. “It felt really good with it being here at home and everything. Great experience and a memory I’ll have for the rest of my life.”

It seemed fitting that the first period end in controversy after all the bizarre moments that were happening. A shot to the net by Filip Hronek was trapped in the left arm of Gunnarsson but a stiff whack by Tyler Bertuzzi knocked the puck through to the net for a goal as the horn sounded to end the opening period. It took video review to confirm that Bertuzzi scored his twelfth goal of the season with 0.6 seconds remaining in the first period.

The Griffins would extend their lead in the second period following a slashing minor against Rick Pinkston. Bertuzzi was very wide down the left wing and managed to work a pass all the way across to his opposite wing where Eric Tangradi was lurking. Gunnarsson over-committed to Bertuzzi and couldn’t recover in time to stop Tangradi’s shot which went in with ease for a power-play goal and his seventeenth of the season.

In the third period, after seeing their seventh power-play come and go, the Admirals saw the Griffins get a breakaway out of the penalty box. Svechnikov had served a bench minor for too many men on the ice and was off to the races once the penalty expired. He finished forehand to backhand with a five-hole shot that beat Gunnarsson for his twentieth goal of the season.

The damage would keep on keeping on in the third period. A howitzer of a slap shot from Colin Campbell flew through net front traffic and rang off the near-side post to beat Gunnarsson stick side for his ninth goal of the season and make it a 5-1 Griffins lead.

The game would finish right there. It was a very solid effort in net for Pasquale who only allowed the tally from Moy against the run of twenty-six shots on goal by the Admirals. The biggest hurt on the evening would be the Admirals getting blanked on seven power-play chances but those chances still generated lots of scoring opportunities. Pasquale was sharp in net tonight.

“He played very well,” said Evason of Pasquale. “They played very well in front of him. But we had good looks. Enough looks to have success, more than one goal. But we’ll find a way. Not a lot of scoring in playoffs.”

The Admirals finish the 2016-17 season with a record of 43-25-4-3 (93 points, 0.612 points percentage). They finish in third place of the Central Division and are set to start the opening round of the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs on the road this coming Friday and Sunday. Their first two home games will be played on Wednesday April 26th at 7:00 PM CDT and -if necessary- Friday April 28th at 7:00 PM CDT.

Following the completion of tonight’s game the Chicago Wolves defeated the Charlotte Checkers 4-3 in overtime at the Allstate Arena to cement the playoff picture. The four teams that played tonight will lock horns in round one as the Wolves battle the Checkers and the Admirals match-up against the Griffins.

Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals played last night there were no roster moves made in the organization but the team did decide to rest several players in the regular season finale tonight. The line combinations were: Richard-Perfetto-Gaudreau, White-Army-Moy, Kirkland-Kamenev-Payerl, Liambas-Trenin-Florek, Pardy-Pinkston, Murphy-Granberg, Girard-Dougherty. Tonight’s scratches included: Bass (lower-body injury), Carrier (healthy), Kelleher (undisclosed injury), Mazanec (healthy), O’Brien (undisclosed injury), Ribeiro (healthy), Smith (healthy). With the Admirals captain Trevor Smith sitting out for rest the team dressed three alternate captains: Mike Liambas, Adam Payerl, and Adam Pardy.

What were your thoughts on tonight’s game? Is this a sign of things to come in the playoffs or is this result unfair to judge because the Admirals rested so many of their players? Do you think it was right of the Admirals to back-off and rest players for the regular season finale?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in Game Recaps | 8 Comments

Griffins: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

Tonight is the 2016-17 regular season finale for the AHL. There are still a few variables yet to be cemented as far as the playoff picture goes and tonight’s game could serve as a minor preview into just what could be the opening round series. The Milwaukee Admirals and Grand Rapids Griffins met last season in the opening round. That ended under very disappointing circumstances. With the right results unfolding tonight the Admirals could get a shot at redemption against the Griffins in the opening round of this year’s playoffs.

What the landscape of the Central Division looks like right now is rather fascinating. The Admirals are the lone team who really has nothing to gain or lose today. It’s the battle for the Central Division crown as well as the fourth and final playoff spot that is up for grabs.

The Cleveland Monsters actually ended their season yesterday and did so getting shutout in a 1-0 game at home against the Manitoba Moose. That could prove to be disastrous as last night the Charlotte Checkers fought back to earn a point in a 3-2 overtime loss on the road against the Griffins. That means that the Monsters need the Checkers to lose in regulation tonight as they face the current Central Division leading Chicago Wolves on the road. If the Checkers were to lose in overtime the tiebreak would favor them based on regulation and overtime wins (ROW). The Monsters will be begging for a Wolves regulation win.

Meanwhile, the Griffins and Wolves are separated by a single point for the Central Division crown on the final day of the regular season. The Wolves have 99 points with 41 ROW while the Griffins have 98 points and 43 ROW. Who wins the Central Division title and who the Admirals will face in the opening round of the playoffs is still very much up in the air. That game in Chicago between the Wolves and Checkers which starts at 7:00 PM CDT is the one that will solidify the playoff picture coming out of the division.

In some respects, I assume yourselves much like myself are wondering where this season has gone for the Griffins as they had been -the- dominant team within the division for the longest time while the Wolves were in chase mode with their high powered offense. Yet, since March 29th, they have gone 3-5-0-1. That spell started with a 3-2 regulation loss at home to the Admirals. They have won their last two games entering tonight but the Griffins won those in a shootout and in overtime against the Checkers in playoff style games. The Griffins have been grinding to the finish line.

Furthering the grind, the Griffins haven’t been -as- dominant over the Admirals as recent years have felt like. The Admirals are 5-5-1-0 against the Griffins this season with the majority of their wins coming at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids. With a win tonight for the Admirals they will have beaten the Griffins as many times this season as they did the previous two seasons combined.

As the on-ice product for today goes: it is a mystery. It truly is. Last night, Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason stated that they would be resting some guys for tonight’s game which makes me believe we’ll be seeing a potential mix that includes: Derek Army, Stephen Perfetto, Rick Pinkston, Andrew O’Brien and Tyler Kelleher if they are healthy enough to play, and Jonas Gunnarsson in net.

If that is what the Admirals are planning in doing, and the Griffins go full assault with their strongest lineup in an effort to win the Central Division title, it doesn’t mean tonight’s game will be -bad- but it does create a heck of a test for players on the Admirals lineup that will be looking to make a bigger case for themselves on the playoff roster in the event that depth choices are required.

The Admirals are the ones tonight with nothing to play for. The Admirals players being rotated into the mix have a lot to play for. There will still a very competitive atmosphere on the ice but I’m expecting a more gritty and grinding style contest than the run and gun goal scoring extravaganza that was cooked up against the Rockford IceHogs last night. If the Admirals can win with their depth against a potential opening round opponent loading up to attempt a division title win? It could be a big confidence crusher for the Griffins and boost for the Admirals if that is in fact the first round series.

What are your expectations for tonight’s game and how the Central Division playoff picture is going to pan out? Do you think that the Milwaukee Admirals are right to rest their starting core that played these last two games and have been building momentum?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in Scouting | 2 Comments