Wolves: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)
Jordan Binnington has been scary good against the Milwaukee Admirals this season. Should he start in net can the Admirals finally hang a loss to his name in this year’s Amtrak Rivalry? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

It has come down to this. Tonight is the Milwaukee Admirals 2014-15 season finale. Sad, but I don’t think the mentality of the team is down in the dumps about it. If anything, there should be a big fat chip on everyone’s shoulders in regards to how the season faded away and how last night’s game summed it all up.

The Amtrak Rivalry has already been decided. The Chicago Wolves won the Amtrak Trophy with a 7-2-2-0 record against the Admirals this season. That doesn’t mean there isn’t something to play for though. These two teams have exchanged plenty of barbs from start to finish and I don’t anticipate this contest to be any different. The Wolves want to enter the playoffs on a high note. The Admirals want to end the season with a win to take some of the bitterness away from how things have spiraled. There shouldn’t be any easing up from either of these two teams.

~Short & Sweet~

The Wolves enter tonight’s game with a record of 39-28-6-1 (85 points). They currently have the exact same record as the Toronto Marlies but hold the seventh seed over the Canadian side courtesy of regulation/overtime wins. That all goes away should the Wolves drop points with the surging Marlies bagging more though.

Speaking of dropping points, last night the Wolves lost on the road to the Rockford IceHogs by the final score of 4-3. You know how in Chatterbox I mentioned how nice it would be to have that two-goal cushion? That is precisely what the IceHogs had last night, twice in fact, to help them get past the Wolves.

Should the current standings in the Western Conference hold the Wolves would be in an opening round match-up with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Those Griffins are currently on a run of 8-2-0-0 in their last ten games. Though, I can’t say the alternative as the eighth seed is any better. In the Utica Comets last ten games they’ve gone 7-1-1-1.

~Jake Allen 2.0~

There was a guy named Jake Allen who it felt like could do no wrong against the Milwaukee Admirals last season. Remember him? He went  7-0-0-2 against the Admirals in 2013-14 with a  1.51 goals against average, 0.939 save percentage, and 2 shutouts. There’s probably a reason why he won last year’s Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award and is starting in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs for the St. Louis Blues. I just can’t quite put my finger on it though.

This season there has been this kid named Jordan Binnington who has stepped up to fill that Allen void and all he has done in the Amtrak Rivalry is win every single one of his six starts in net while sporting a 1.81 goals against average and 0.931 save percentage. Interestingly enough, despite how dominant he has been, he hasn’t managed to shutout the Admirals. He has held the Admirals to a lone goal three times this season including the last time he squared off while stopping 39/40 shots on goal.

If last night’s game and this season’s head-to-head are anything to go on I feel as if Binnington is a lock to start in net tonight. Not only does he have the Admirals number but Matt Climie, who was yanked from net after stopping 16/19 shots on goal last night in Rockford, has never done all that well against the Admirals historically. For the Admirals to solve Binnington they’ll need to do just about exactly the same as they did last time they faced him. Get pucks to the net and make him work. He could be brilliant as he was that night but you’d never know if you don’t test him and try for rebounds.

~Moving Pieces~

There are some shake-ups to the Wolves since the Admirals last saw them. Ty Rattie is currently up with the Blues during their playoff run and that has brought in not so like-minded replacement Cody Beach from the Alaska Aces of the ECHL. Rattie is third on the Wolves in scoring and second in goals: 42 points (21 goals, 21 assists). Beach, on the other hand, has 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists) and a whopping 203 penalty minutes. Think that sounds like a lot of penalty minutes? Amusingly enough, Beach isn’t even in the league’s top five for penalty minutes this season.

The Blues first round selection of the 2014 NHL Draft, Robby Fabbri, has also recently joined the Wolves. He had just finished up his junior playing season with the Guelph Storm of the OHL. This past season he tallied 51 points (25 goals, 26 assists) in 30 games. He was fourth on the team in scoring but, with less games on his ledger, had the best points per game on the entire team with a 1.70. The next closest in points per game on Guelph’s team this season was team scoring leader Tyler Bertuzzi with 1.44 points per game.

Expectations for the Milwaukee Admirals season finale? Are there certain players who you feel need to put one last stamp down before the season ends? Who could be playing their last game as a member of the Admirals tonight?

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