Rather than completely ignore the Milwaukee Admirals first two games (and losses) let’s focus back to the opponents they faced. The Chicago Wolves won at home, 5-1. The Charlotte Checkers won in Milwaukee, 7-2. What happens when those two forces run into one another? A combined total of 14 goals scored. Yes. There were 14 goals scored and the Wolves came out on top of the Checkers 9-5 (video highlights).
What I’m getting at with that introduction is that the Admirals faced two offensively potent teams that will capitalize on mistakes – BIG TIME. Lesson: stop making mistakes, don’t complicate matters, and keep things simple. And this is where our ol’ sparring buddies the Iowa Wild come in.
~Those Gosh Dern Wildlings~
It’s funny to think a team like the Iowa Wild are a team to be afraid of. Last season they were the worst team in the AHL and achieved that feat with ease with a record of 23-49-2-2 (50 points). The next closest team to them were the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Norfolk Admirals, and Rochester Americans who all finished with 14 points more than the Wild.
Where this all stops being funny is that of the Wild’s 23 wins last season they claimed 5 wins directly from 8 games against the Milwaukee Admirals. I could never exactly tell who was playing up to whose competition level, the Admirals or the Wild. Were the Wild playing that much better against the Ads or the complete opposite – were the Ads playing down to the competition and getting beat at the Wild’s own miserable game?
It’s now the 2015-16 season and the Wild have already played 4 games versus the Admirals 2 games. The Wild are 1-2-0-1 (3 points) on the season with the Admirals being blown apart in regulation both times out. About playing up or down to the competition… I think the cliche of a new season meaning slates are wiped clean applies here. Both teams have started off awful. This has less to do with matching up against an opponent and more to do with getting one’s own team playing correctly for a change.
If you’re still in awe of what the Checkers managed to do offensively at the hands of the Admirals and are looking at that high scoring game that the Wild managed to muster up with them – take a closer look. The Wild held a 4-1 lead in that game. As impressive as that is what is even more impressive was their ability to squander it. The Wild’s 4-1 lead vanished in the final nine-minutes of the third period. The comeback started with a hooking call against defenseman and alternate captain Tyson Strachan – who then went on to lose his composure and took a ten-minute misconduct for berating the officials in regards to the call. The Checkers cashed in on the power-play to get the ball rolling and would end up equalizing from another power-play that they’d receive forty-nine seconds after scoring to make it a 4-3 game.
On paper, the Admirals and Wild actually sound a bit alike minus the fact the Wild have a bit more going for them offensively. And when I say they’ve got something going for them offensively it’s a lot like saying myself and Emma Watson have a lot going for us as a couple. The Wild haven’t scored a goal in 101:32 of ice time and counting. That makes the Admirals gap between Vladislav Kamenev‘s shorthander to Miikka Salomäki‘s goal (slash own goal by Jake Chelios) of 55:14 of ice time look decent. So which Wild team will turn up? The current goalless drought version or the one that popped in 4 goals in a little over two periods of play against the Checkers?
~Who Is? Who What?~
There are several familiar names that return from last season’s Wild squad. Names that leap out are: Jordan Schroeder, Zack Mitchell, Marc Hagel, and Michael Keränen. Those four alone combined for 21 points (8 goals, 13 assists) against the Admirals last season.
New to the mix for the Wild this season are some veteran names: Maxime Fortunus and Ruslan Fedotenko. Fortunus has 702 games of AHL experience and has always been an outstanding on and off-ice leader. For those that remember, Fedotenko did actually join the Wild midway through last season and actually took part in a 4-2 Wild win in Milwaukee that saw the ol’ Ukrainian score a pair of goals. The two time Stanley Cup winner is back with Iowa for the full-season this time round and should provide veteran quality on the ice and a whole lot of knowledge and experience to an AHL locker room.
Then there is the story of former Admirals goaltender, Jeremy Smith. After leaving the Nashville Predators system he joined the Columbus Blue Jackets organization for the 2013-14 season. On a fun sidenote, he signed the same day as current Admirals forward Cody Bass with the Blue Jackets. When his time in the Columbus Blue Jackets organization ended he moved to the Boston Bruins. Smith had a phenomenal 2014-15 season with the Providence Bruins in the AHL: 22-11-5-2 record, 2.05 goals against average, 0.933 save percentage, and 3 shutouts. He probably tops his 2011-12 season personal best for wins in a season of 31 if he saw the net more than just 39 times. Why didn’t he? Log jam effect with the Bruins pipeline. Behind Joonas Rask‘s lesser known brother there is Malcolm Subban, Zane McIntyre, Matt Ginn, and -laughing above them all- Jonas Gustavsson. That meant Smith was expendable. That doesn’t explain why the Bruins gave him and extension just to loan him to the Iowa Wild anyways but I’m sure that amongst other transactions the Bruins made this past off-season will work out just fine.
Smith is currently three games into his career with the Wild and in those three appearances he has probably felt a heck of a lot like this:
Smith has faced no less than 42 shots on goal per game – PER GAME: 43 shots on goal vs. Charlotte, 45 shots on goal against Charlotte, and 42 shots on goal against Lake Erie. He has no wins and a highly respectable 0.922 save percentage to show for it. I’m not sure whether this means good things for Smith or good things for the Admirals. After all, the Ads have only managed to put up 41 shots on goal in their first two games. Are the Admirals going to bust out the shots tonight or is Smith-y finally going to get an easier night of work in net?
Expectations? Are the Admirals going to notch their first win of the season tonight? If the Admirals lose by a big margin again tonight – is it time to panic only three-games into the season?