Wild: Scouting the Enemy

The last time the Milwaukee Admirals met the Iowa Wild – Corbin Baldwin made himself a lightning rod of hate. Mike Liambas (twice) and Scott Ford (once) were up to the task of putting him soundly in his place alongside a 9-1 beatdown on the scoreboard. (Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

Remember the last time we played these chums? It was just about the most clinical game of the entire season for the Milwaukee Admirals. They won by a final score of 9-1 and, for all intensive purposes, the game wasn’t even remotely close.

So what happened in that game that worked so well for the Admirals and allowed for them to finally break out of that five-game winless streak? Was the Pekka Rinne effect all it took? Bah, nonsense. His night was rather tame. Plus, he didn’t score a single goal! In truth – you can tell much from something as easy as that highlight reel from that game.

Hannu Toivonen may have been thrown into the fire far too quickly, having signed a PTO deal with the Wild a mere two-days prior to the game, but it was his defense in front of him that left him completely helpless.

Goal #1. The opener from Colton Sissons may have come from a power-play – but watch the four-man penalty kill box in front of the net the moment the puck falls to Vinny Saponari. Every single player in green is locked into the puck carrier and no one else (a theme that will repeat itself a fair bit). Sissons was standing directly on the door step and only needed a pass to a tap in.

Goal #2. Very similar play to the opening goal – save for the fact this one was on even strength. Taylor Beck receives a pass behind the goal line, scoots behind the cage, and -once again- all green jerseys are fixated on the puck carrier. How else could the noted goal scorer Joonas Jarvinen get so wide open in the circles? It wasn’t until that puck left Beck’s stick when Brett Bulmer even realized Jarvinen was all alone and charging down the slot.

Goal #3. You won’t be able to see him do it on the video – but I was watching Bryan “Thunderdome” Rodney as he set this play up. There were four Wild players trapped deep beyond the right wing face off circle with one man standing guard in the slot. All players were trying to trap Patrick Cehlin into an empty space. What they forgot was that other players were on the ice, with skates, and brains – and Rodney swooped around the zone from his typical right defensive spot all the way over to the left wing. He was all alone. He just needed the pass. He got the pass. And again the Wild burnt themselves by focusing too much on the puck carrier.

Goal #4. This was the first true goal scored in the game where you might be able to wag the finger at poor ol’ Hannu. It was a massive rebound to give up on the Miikka Salomaki shot – much worse where he kicked it out to – and who he kicked it out to. Still, when you look at those boys in green again, there were three jerseys giving up the slot for Austin Watson to be in the perfect place for just such a rebound: one behind the net – two hugging the sides of the net – and two far too deep from the action to deny Watson time and space. I believe the technical term used to describe such a play is called fubar.

Goal #5. Alrighty, this was one where you can let up on all parties involved. Sissons wins the face off. Joe Piskula corrals the puck… waits… shoots… and the puck wires through plenty of traffic. Was there anything more that the Wild could have done on this play besides win the face off?

Goal #6. This came from a four-on-four scenario and again featured Jarvinen doing something a little left field. With the extra space on the ice Jarvinen moved from the point, attacked Zack Phillips, held backhander, and the Wild gave him the slot to skate down. Just prior to the shot – Zach Miskovic abandons Watson in front of the goal to challenge him to shoot. By doing that he screened Toivonen’s sight to the puck as Jarvinen elevated it on the backhand. Toivonen never left the ice on the shot.

Goal #7. This was one where you could probably pin the damage on Toivonen who, at this point, was in a mad scramble to attack any and all shooters racing down the zone – probably because he felt exposed in net. On Scott Valentine‘s first goal of the season – Toivonen aggressively tried to close an angle towards the near post. Valentine had plenty of room to shoot at to the far post – but it still meant shooting against the grain, lefty shot from the far right wing, to beat him to that post. And, well, he did.

Goal #8. This was a combination of the opening goal from Sissons, scored on the power-play, and the Watson goal. A pass attempt from Saponari hit the skate of Carson McMillan. As it hits off of him most Wild players are looking up ice – and then nearly all of the spin around backwards. Tyler Cuma was just about the lone Wild player on the ice who followed where he went. His problem was his spinning tap away of the puck… directly to Mark Van Guilder in front of the net. Fubar.

Goal #9. The final goal of the game was a shorthanded variety for Joonas Rask with a massive assist to Charles-Olivier Roussel. I don’t know where the full blame can be pinned on from this play. Shorthanded goals should never happen if you ask me. When they do – typically the numbers being used on the extra skater are being used too aggressively. Add that with a crafty lead pass by Roussel that found Rask in a battle for ice with Jonathon Blum (insert punchline here) – and you have the breakaway from an Admiral penalty kill. I still find that no celebration gesture by Rask – classy.

So what does all of this mean – you might ask. Well, clearly the Wild are firmly aware of these exact same breakdowns. They have been in Milwaukee for two days ahead of this game. There is undoubtedly a sense of redemption in mind with this game and I expect them to come out strong in the first period.

Sound familiar? Try the follow up game in Rockford for the Admirals where they used their opponent’s aggression against them en route to yet another rout.

This one also has a spark to it in the form of a complete and utter pesk by the name of Corbin Baldwin. He tried to do several dirty things to the Admirals during that contest which caught the eyes of Mike Liambas (twice) and Scott Ford. There is a chance we could well see some fires reignited in that regard later tonight.

For added information on what we can expect from the Milwaukee Admirals, including the newbie Francis Wathier, I suggest hitting up yesterday’s edition of The Chatterbox which included a full-wrap up from morning skate – including some line combinations I expect we should see tonight (substitute Zach Budish for Cehlin who is not going to participate in tonight’s game despite taking part in practice).

Thoughts on tonight’s game? Will the Admirals winning streak reach five-games? What sort of fireworks could we expect from this contest as it related to the last time they played?

3 thoughts on “Wild: Scouting the Enemy”

  1. Well, you know you’ve “made it” with your blog when you start getting comment spammers :)

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