The difference in the play of the Milwaukee Admirals from Game 2 to Game 3 against Houston was a dramatic as night and day. The Admirals were better in every facit of the game and it paid off in a huge victory that ensures at least one more home game before the Aeros could win the series.
Yet with a 2-1 lead a team sits in roughly the same position as they do after winning the first game of a series. A win in the next game is great, but a loss isn’t catastrophic. It can be a recipe for disaster and complacent hockey–much like the type of efforts the Admirals showed in Game 2 against Texas and Game 2 against Houston.
So how can Lane Lambert coax his young team to avoid a let down game tonight in Game 4 at the Toyota Center?
1) Play tonight like you lost Game 3. Though it is a not a perfect formula, playing a desperate style of play can lead to success for a team that over matched in the talent department. Milwaukee wins games through grit, determination and out working its opponents. The Admirals have also won a lot of games after losing the previous night. The key tonight for Milwaukee is to show the same kind resilient effort that was apparent in the Game 3 win, where the Admirals were eager to show that Game 2 in Milwaukee was a fluke.
2) Find production from other sources. Though Milwaukee’s top two forwards of Chris Mueller and Gabriel Bourque have provided plenty of offense in the playoffs, the Admirals are at their best when they get production from additional sources. I thought Steve Begin played his best game of the year to date in Game 3, and he can be a difference maker when he plays that kind of game. Playing against lesser lines of an opponent, Begin and other Admirals should get a chance to shine.
3) Follow the lead of Ryan Thang. Though I was riding high on the Gabriel Bourque bandwagon to start the playoffs, Ryan Thang has taken over as Milwaukee’s playoff MVP in my estimation. Thang’s effective play night in and night out has allowed Lambert to play around with his lines while attempting to spark energy in his team. If he needs to get a player going, he just gives them a few shifts with Thang.
4) If all else fails, have Jeremy Smith steal a game. Admirals goaltender Jeremy Smith has taken his game to another level in the playoffs. Smith has come close to stealing a game for Milwaukee when his team offered poor efforts in front of him. It seems like Smith is overdue to bring home a win on his own. If the Admirals let down again, tonight might be the night.
So Roundtable: What does Milwaukee need to do to avoid a let down in Game 4?