It wasn’t that long ago since we faced the Hamilton Bulldogs. Upon entering that game the Milwaukee Admirals were on a four game losing streak. They claimed a 4-1 win and would proceed to go on a four game winning streak that storms into Hamilton’s barn tonight.
Rather than simply re-hash another scout on the Bulldogs lets actually take a gander at just what happened in the game that kick started the Admirals win streak. What was it that the Bulldogs didn’t do? What was that the Admirals did do?
The first thing to note is the simple approach to the game: Defend. Limit high quality scoring chances. Maintain puck control. Be smart when on the puck. Put pucks to the net. Crash the net for rebounds or to establish screens in front of the goaltender. This is all part of “playing the right way” that we’re starting to become accustomed to.
So, what was the result of that approach? The Admirals outshot the Bulldogs in each and every period in the game: 8-5, 10-6, 13-5. Simply put, the Admirals exhausted the Bulldogs in the way the maintained and defended pucks in that game.
The first goal of that game came from a power-play. In some ways, this was a shoulder dropping moment for the team and for fans alike. It was the first power-play goal scored in thirty-two previous chances on home ice. The way it worked? Two forwards, Austin Watson and Joe Pendenza, crashed the net and were looking for a loose puck if Joey MacDonald spilled a rebound out in front of them. Viktor Arvidsson‘s shot hit a post and spilled kindly for Pendenza. Right place. Right time. And he reacts to the rebound faster than defenseman Joe Finley was able to. Goal. Bonus points for knocking the Gatorade off the top of the cage.
Now come a pair of daggers. The Admirals scored twice in the span of 2:04 of ice time to start the second period off.
The first chance was a quickfire two-on-one after Brendan Leipsic stole a puck off of Davis Drewiske and then alluded his diving poke check that sent him off to the races with Arvidsson to his opposite with Greg Pateryn between them. The saucer pass by Leipsic may have been late getting over to Arvidsson but that’s part of why MacDonald was overly committed to Leipsic to his glove-side. The pass popped over Pateryn’s stick and Arvidsson stayed square enough to the feed to push the puck into an open net with MacDonald unable to go post-to-post with his pads fast enough.
Leipsic’s work along the wall helped set up a Taylor Aronson wrister moments later for the second goal in two minutes and the game’s second goal scored by crashing the net. Aronson pulled his best T.J. Brennan impression by skating up off the blue line and into the left wing faceoff circle to wire a shot on goal. The shot got to its intended target. The fact that Aronson shot so quickly, with traffic buzzing around the net, caused MacDonald to fumble a puck in and out of his catching glove and right to the net front pressence of Frédérick Gaudreau. Simple play. Effective play.
The Admirals final goal scored in the contest boils down to two things. One: Mark Van Guilder establishing a perfect screen in front of MacDonald in net. Two: Zach Budish putting in an even more perfect shot to the near post top shelf.
Funnily enough, if you look at the replay, even if the shot gets spilled out to the front of the net the Admirals are still organized for a goal. Rich Clune was unmarked on a drive down the center of the ice. The closest Bulldogs defensemen, Pateryn, never saw him as he skated in from neutral ice as his attention was firmly focus on the puck. The Bulldogs committed three red shirts to Budish on the right wing. The Admirals had their numbers right where that puck was either going or kicking out to.
Hamilton did managed to get a goal of their own from that game. They had a power-play midway through the third period and caught the Admirals penalty kill frozen at their own blue line. The speedy Drayson Bowman was able to get a huge step on Clune as he entered off the left wing. Ian White was no match for the pace. Despite even being the nearest d-man on that wing Anthony Bitetto did a better job getting tight to the shooting angle against Bowman. It didn’t detour what he wanted to do, though. Marek Mazanec was perfectly squared to him but Bowman beat him low and wide blocker side on a wrist shot.
The Bulldogs enter this game with a record of 16-16-6-0 (38 points) which has them fourth in the North Division. They have the same points total as the Toronto Marlies but their Ontario counter-parts have a game in hand at the moment.
In their last ten games the Bulldogs are a woeful 3-6-1-0 (7 points). They are entering this game having lost their last two games – both of which were on home ice. They fell 2-1 against the Lake Erie Monsters in backbreaking fashion before getting shutout 3-0 by the Oklahoma City Barons and CCM/AHL Player of the Week Richard Bachman.
The Bulldogs haven’t scored a goal in 72:06 of ice time. The Admirals are entering this game with a shutout streak of 129:59 of ice time and counting.
If you were thinking about any one match-up to look out for from last game that would spill into this game it would be that of Triston Grant versus the man he blew kisses to, Finley. Grant appeared to get under Finley’s skin from the opening puck drop all the way to the end of the game. It wouldn’t shock me if these two find each other on the ice yet again tonight.
Another interesting thing to watch out for tonight would be whether or not we see the return of Leipsic to the Admirals lineup. He was a healthy scratch the last two games and was done so in a manner quite similar to that of Pontus Åberg not too long ago. He needed to learn how to, you guessed it, play the right way. Well, the last time Leipsic played against these Bulldogs he scored three assists. It could be the right time to reintroduce the Winnipeg native back into the Admirals lineup.
Expectations? Will the Admirals be able to maintain the success they found last weekend into this three-game road trip? Who would you like to see start in net tonight? Can the Admirals achieve three-straight shutouts?