With the Milwaukee Admirals 2-1 shootout win over the Rockford IceHogs last night their points streak hit nine-games and the winning streak was extended to eight-games. It’s really remarkable considering how the Admirals looked those first few games. Rather than have the start like last season, winning their first six-games, this group came out of the blocks struggling to so much as connect passes. Ever since, they’ve been able to get better game after game into what we’re all watching now. To think that the Admirals are currently one win away from achieving the highest of highs that they experienced last season, a nine-game winning streak from 1/3/15–1/23/15, is almost mind-blowing.
~Playing and Winning Defensively~
What I think impressed me the most about the Admirals win last night was their defense. It starts with yet another terrific performance in goal and then collectively from the defensemen and forwards. They stifled a solid group in the IceHogs who, prior to losing Wednesday night, had the longest points streak in the division at ten-games. It certainly wasn’t your prototypical Admirals/IceHogs clash of bodies and fists to faces but it still maintained a playoff-like atmosphere. The game was a chess match and the Admirals defense was solid enough to stalemate the IceHogs offense.
With this game falling where it was I had hoped that Marek Mazanec would be reintroduced to the Admirals net. His last time in game-action was about two-weeks ago and included traveling back and fourth with the Nashville Predators after being recalled whilst Carter Hutton spent time on injured reserve. That last game prior to his recall to me was his best performance as a member of the Admirals and there is some fear that such a lay off could have impacted his game. As this is a recap you’ll already know the great news that it didn’t happen. He was just as good as he was two weeks prior and made some huge saves late in the game to give the Admirals a shot at extending the points and winning streak. If that song sounds familiar it’s only because Juuse Saros has been playing that same tune lately as well. If there were perhaps one element that is the basis for everything good taking place during this stretch for the Admirals look no further than what’s happening in the net right now.
Dare we begin to talk about the no goal call that would have given the Admirals the win in regulation? Let me start out by saying, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t mean too much now because the Admirals won anyways. Still, it irked me to see such a poorly botched call from officials that could have impacted the outcome of the game.
In real time I saw a goal light come on, Kirill Gotovets swiping a puck out of his own net, and then finally a whistle. Did the intent to blow this whistle begin around Kevin Fiala‘s shot on goal? The entire notion of “intent to blow the whistle” to me is a cop-out. Did the light come on? Yes. When did the whistle blow? After the goal light came on. There shouldn’t be some sort of interpretation rule disproves and disallows goals or goals that should be challengeable by the coaches.
The way I see it that was the officials way of not wanting the game to be decided on a questionable goal so it was waved off in a fashion where no replay or challenge could be performed. The only reason why it was questionable was that they weren’t in the right positions to call it a goal in the first place. It was a headache to watch -but- hopefully a headache that went away for most after the game saw the Admirals win anyways. …now imagine if the IceHogs get into the playoffs over the Admirals based on points percentage.
~Kevin Fiala Watch 2015-16 Continues~
In walking citizens of Nashville away from the ledge news, good news, Fiala did in fact return to the Admirals lineup last night. While the goal drought for him continues I wouldn’t be alarmed and especially not after the game that he had against the IceHogs. It felt like the first game this season where Fiala had some explosiveness in his game. He was doing plenty of creative things offensively and was battling hard on defense.
Perhaps the best thing of all, and it was something head coach Dean Evason made a point to look at me eye-to-eye when he said it during post-game interviews, Fiala did not take a penalty in that game. I think that’s the major stresser when it comes to Fiala right now is being able to stay as competitive and aggressive as he can be but doing it in a manner that avoids time spent in the penalty box or worse. Him managing to find the right balance to his game that will allow him to play a high tempo and aggressive game, offensively and defensively, I think is the biggest key for him moving forward. Last night’s game was a good first step but an even better response following time missed due to his suspension by the league and an injury. I’d love to see his on-ice response once he finally breaks the duck egg out of the goal scoring column.
Speaking of delivering the goods, there is something pretty special happening right now with Frédérick Gaudreau that has been a lot of fun to kick back and watch develop. He hasn’t really been tasked with being Colton Sissons while the Admirals team captain is up in Nashville but I think he’s been tasked with being himself in Sissons’ role and flourishing. It’s one thing to play a tight and steady game on the lower-lines so that the bigger scorers can get their rest period on the bench. It’s another thing to go from that and then be part of that scoring nucleus. Gaudreau hasn’t looked out of place one bit and his style hasn’t really changed that much.
FYI, there were no pre-game interviews conducted before last night’s game. That meant only doing post-game interviews. I was able to chat with Evason, Gaudreau, Mazanec, and also decided to round-up another member of the French Fries – defenseman Jimmy Oligny – as well for Chatterbox. Here is what they all had to say following the Admirals shootout victory over the IceHogs.
Comments on the comments? What do you think of the idea of video review and the coach’s challenge at the AHL level? Was last night’s game the best of the Admirals season because it showcased they’re able to play a different more defensive style and still find a way to win? Is there any concern thanks to last season that the Admirals, for all this winning-streak fun, are possibly a loss away from going back into a rut?