Where, oh where do we even begin? The Milwaukee Admirals managed to perform yet another third period comeback that resulted in a win. First it was with the Iowa Wild in a 3-2 overtime finish. This time it was the Texas Stars and it went all the way to a 4-3 shootout. On both occasions the Admirals scored with the net empty and the extra attacker on to equalize late. And in only the Admirals first five games of this season they have already matched last season’s total for wins when trailing when entering the third period.
Do yourself a favor and re-read that first paragraph over again, please. Because those are a lot of positives considering the Admirals were in doom and gloom mode with only the one win from four games. It could have just as easily been one win out of five while dropping three home games as well. But it didn’t happen. And the reason why it didn’t happen is another ping on the pulse monitor of the Admirals for this season. As is the offense going head-to-head with an “on paper” more high powered offensive machine and outshooting them 47-28 on the night.
It would be easy to point back on the Admirals comeback win against Iowa and then saying, “but they still didn’t win or look better against Rockford the next game.” The reality is that Iowa game was a real turning point for the Admirals starting to play more like a team and less like individuals. They lost the Rockford game, true, but they still looked way better that the first two games. In fact, the Admirals had the game tied 2-2 and went on to lose off an awkward puck that kicked up off Vladislav Kamenev‘s stick, off Ryan Hartman‘s knee, into the neutral zone, and sent Marko Dano off to the races. That game could have just as easily spilled into overtime and, at the very least, the Ads are looking at earning a point minimum. Last night the Admirals had another bad bounce with the goal for Julius Honka that made it 3-1 in the third period but they proceeded to push and push the Stars into three power-play chances that lead to two power-play goals that sent the game into overtime. The off switch was never hit and the Admirals motor was easily in its best working order this season. This was essentially the same team that put up 41 shots on goal in the first two games and last night that was the amount of saves John Muse had to make to survive the Admirals offense. That’s an incredible turn-around and one that I really hope sets the tone for the team from here on out.
The game, as you can imagine, isn’t without its faults. I think the Admirals simply need to look at their work in the neutral zone as their biggest weakness right now as a team. Passes are at their worst. Players are skating into one-another. And all the mistakes get gobbled up and turned into offense the other way. If the Admirals penalty kill can go from the way it did on opening night to looking as smooth as it did last night – this neutral zone // disaster zone area of the ice can also get cleaned up. The more effective the Admirals can be at moving the puck through neutral the less counter attack hockey they’ll need to worry about defending.
Kamenev’s night was also a real impressive one and was so all from it’s sheer simplicity. He was just about always in the right place at the right time. And that is not a coincidence. Much like how I’ve been impressed by the early work of Félix Girard and Frédérick Gaudreau, what makes Kamenev’s game work so well right now is that he’s not going out when it’s his shift to do anything over the top or to deke through two players at a pop. Rather, he goes about his business, grinds hard on the boards, gets to the front of the net, and takes whatever the defense gives him. The result is 5 points (4 goals, 1 assist) in five games. The moniker “keep it simple, stupid” has never looked so good.
After the game I spoke with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. I also was able to chat with Marek Mazanec, Colton Sissons, and Anthony Bitetto to hear their reactions on the game. Here is what they had to say:
Added Point. I very much love Evason’s response to last night’s attendance. While the crowd wasn’t actually 200 people – it was actually 2058 – Evason’s approach is dead on. Plus, he’s also right. The fans that still showed up despite the schedule change were the diehards. They were still loud. Even better, the ones that didn’t pack up and leave when the Stars made it 3-1 were treated to a comeback win. Diehard fandom pays off and that’s probably why the noise of the crowd when the Admirals equalizes and won were still paid off with a salute to the crowd by the team despite the size of the crowd.