A very happy hello and welcome back to the Manitoba Moose. When the Milwaukee Admirals last played the Moose it was 3/5/11. The Admirals lost that game at home 4-2. Mark Dekanich started in net for the Admirals against the Moose’s Tyler Weiman – as Eddie Läck sat on the bench. Your goal scorers on the night were: Sergei Shirokov, Grant Lewis, Yann Sauvé, Guillaume Desbiens, Ryan Flynn, and Cody Hodgson. The only returning name that played in that game is Scott Ford – who is now an assistant coach for the Admirals.
The Admirals never played the Moose under the past banner as the St. John’s IceCaps. You’d expect that from the matter of different conferences and what not. About the only connection you could make, going mad scientist here, is that the Moose became the IceCaps and that both Colton Sissons and Pontus Åberg played in St. John’s barn for the 2014 AHL All Star Classic. They actually played against one-another that night. So, the Moose housed that… sort of.. not really.
The Moose enter tonight’s game with a record of 0-4-1-1 (2 points) and last played on Saturday night when they were shutout by the Lake Erie Monsters, 2-0. Are you feeling better about the Admirals situation now?
If there is any offense in the AHL struggling more than the Moose I’d hate to watch the game footage. The stats do not lie. The Moose have produced a league low 7 goals from 6 games. Frank Vatrano of the Providence Bruins and Devin Shore of the Texas Stars each, as individuals, have scored more goals than the Moose have as a team. Heck, even Vladislav Kamenev on an Admirals offense that is slowly getting it going has scored 4 goals in 5 games.
With such a stagnant offense it’s no surprise that the team leaders in that category aren’t blowing anyone away. Defenseman Brenden Kichton leads the Moose in scoring with 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) while fellow defenseman Jay Harrison leads the team in goal scoring with a hefty 2 goals on this season. And it’s not as if they don’t have the players to produce, either. Matt Halischuk, Matt Fraser, Thomas Raffl, Patrice Cormier, John Albert, and Chase De Leo are all on the roster. It’s kind of head scratching. Like, first two games of the Admirals season itchy scalp levels of “what’s going on here?”
What can get overlooked in the Moose’s record and lack of offense so far is how good both Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie have performed in net. Hellebuyck was a rock for the IceCaps last season as a first-year pro: 58 games, 28-22-5-1 record, 2.58 goals against average, 0.921 save percentage, and 6 shutouts. This season he has a 2.48 goals against average and 0.927 save percentage from 4 starts – which includes a heartbreaking overtime loss that saw him lose a shutout bid while carrying 44 saves with only 21 seconds remaining. His batterymate Comrie is experiencing his first full-season of pro hockey this year and, in 2 starts, he has impressed: 1.94 goals against average, 0.945 save percentage, and -like Hellebuyck- was a tough luck loser in overtime with an impressive amount of saves (39) on the night.
I suppose what this game can boil down to is that both offenses aren’t entirely where they want to be right now. The plus side for Manitoba: their goaltending has been incredibly good. The plus side for the Admirals: their offense unloaded with shots on target last game and might just be set to bury some of those chances. The Admirals are also starting to string together some consistent games. By that I mean, the schedule is actually mapping out great for them so they can carry the momentum of last game’s comeback effort -rest up yesterday- and take on the next opponent immediately. The Moose have been stationary from being shutout since Saturday night at home. They’ve made the trek from Manitoba to Milwaukee and could have a bit more lag in their style of play in the opening waves of play than the Admirals will show. This could setup to be a continuation of events for the Admirals finish from last time out but it really does depend on if that Moose offense wakes up or not. It’s that aspect that will make this game.
Expectations for tonight’s game? It’s been such a long time since we’ve seen the Manitoba Moose: do you happen to have any fond memories of an Admirals/Moose game? Would you reward Marek Mazanec with a start tonight for his efforts on Tuesday? Would you really be at all surprised if the Admirals roll out the exact same lineup that played Tuesday or would you make a change with Trevor Murphy or Jamie Devane coming back in for someone else?