The Milwaukee Admirals 3-1 victory over the Lake Erie Monsters felt like a different kind of game and a different kind of win. What I mean by that is this. I think the Admirals stole one last night. And doesn’t that feel nice?
From the start of the second period the game shifted to a more rugged defensive battle after a first period felt more open, the offenses both were cycling and moving around well, and generated power-play goals. But what about that third period? The Admirals were holding on for dear life to a 2-1 lead in that period and were allowing shot after shot after quality shot after rebound chance after point shot after… you get it. The shots were 14-4 in favor of Lake Erie in the third period when there was 2:41 remaining in regulation. At 2:06 remaining they went empty net and extra attacker. With fourteen seconds remaining Jamie Devane scored into the empty net. And at the end of the game, for those last 2:41 of build up, pressure, and extra attacker hockey, the Monsters didn’t register a single shot on goal.
I suppose you can look at it two different ways. Either the Admirals stole one or the simply survived. Either choice selected results in the Admirals taking home another regulation win. They have 47 points through 34 games this season and have started to build a gap within their divisional race. Which brings me to the fun part. They can widen that gap over second place with a win on the road over the Rockford IceHogs later this afternoon. How lovely!
Who is the Admirals number one goaltender right now? My answer: who cares? The production coming out of the net by Admirals goaltending has been the foundation of this outstanding run during all the injury woes and roster changes and we were all witness to another example of a netminder answering the bell big time.
Juuse Saros‘ game last night might not have been a shutout, such as the one he had earlier in the season against the Iowa Wild, but I challenge you to find a better game from him this season. He was every bit the reason why the Admirals won last night and he stopped everything thrown at him. It took an awful bounce off of Jimmy Oligny‘s trailing leg on what was meant to be a wing to wing pass by Ryan Craig to fool Saros in net and catch him by surprise. Take that bad bounce away and he probably gets the shutout outright over Lake Erie. For everything they rained down on net in the third period Saros was on point. He never looked flustered at all. He was calm. He was composed. And I feel as if that confidence spread into the Admirals defending as the period grinded to a close.
Here in Milwaukee, we’ve been so used to seeing some great goaltenders over the years and it’s high time we start acknowledging what is starting to unfold with Saros this season as an AHL rookie. Let me direct your attention to precisely what I’m getting at.
Pekka Rinne won 30 games in net from 51 appearances as an AHL rookie. Mark Dekanich won 15 games in net from 30 appearances as an AHL rookie. Chet Pickard won 14 games in net from 36 appearances as an AHL rookie. Jeremy Smith won 16 games in net from 28 appearances as an AHL rookie. Atte Engren won 8 games in net from 23 appearances as an AHL rookie. Magnus Hellberg won 22 games in net from 39 appearances as an AHL rookie. Marek Mazanec won 18 games in net from 31 appearances as an AHL rookie. Scott Darling won 13 games in net from 26 appearances as an AHL rookie.
Saros has won 14 games in net from 17 appearances as an AHL rookie. The Admirals haven’t even hit the official halfway point of the regular season. There are still 42 games to be played yet. What Saros is doing as a first year professional to North American hockey is incredible.
~That Other Swede~
Have you heard about this Viktor Arvidsson kid? Me too. Well, since he and his outrageous 1.21 points per game left Milwaukee for Nashville there was always going to be this void on offense that either one or more individuals were going to need to fill for the Admirals to be as well-rounded as they were with Arvidsson around.
Who was going to fill that void? If you answered first-year North American pro Max Görtz you would be correct. I had high hopes for what having Görtz in Milwaukee would be like this season. Knowing how rough some transitions can be from Europe to North America my bar was set for an average season with him slowly coming to grips with a faster more physically demanding league. His first two months sort of reflected that. This last month has been nothing short of staggering.
From the start of December to yesterday’s 2016 curtain jerker Görtz has scored 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists) from his last fourteen games. Where did Arvidsson’s damage come from goal scoring? On the left wing faceoff dot looking to one-time bomb a right-handed shooting slap shot. What role was Görtz handed on the Admirals power-play? Arvidsson’s. What has Görtz done? Scored 6 power-play goals from his 9 overall goals scored this season. Görtz on assuming Arvidsson’s role in general lately seems to be a case of Challenge Accepted.
After the game, I had the chance to catch up with a few players that are currently banged up (either close to returning, coming off injury, or playing through injury). Those three guys were Trevor Murphy, Jonathan Diaby, and Félix Girard. All were in great spirits. All conversations weren’t recorded but just casual banter. And I’ll share with you some of what I now know.
Murphy, who we all know took an illegal check to the head from Ryan Hartman, told me that he has been doing very well. He also stated that he’ll be back to skating today. That’s a great first step for anyone dealing with a head injury. With bodies in camp for the time being it also means the Admirals can afford, as well they should, to go slow in Murphy’s recovery process as he can return to the team 100% refreshed. Hey, the last time they did that with him he scored a goal in four-straight games. Can’t hurt right?
That end line might have been unfortunate given the story Diaby told me last night. Because, there is no escaping it, this was a painful story to listen to. I didn’t know what happened to Diaby that sidelined him with the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL) so I simply asked what happened. As it turns out, Diaby took a skate blade near his groin that cut deep enough into his leg that it was an inch away from cutting his femoral artery. He required initial surgery to patch it up and a secondary surgery to deal with an infection due to internal bleeding that was occurring due to the deep wound left by the skate blade. Take that knowledge and re-apply it to the game Diaby had last night and give that man a standing ovation ASAP.
Up next, it was almost like a literal line of players I kept running into with this, was Mr. Girard. If you remember the Admirals game on New Year’s Eve it was a scary one because it appeared that Girard took a wrist shot to the mouth during the second period. He left the ice in a panic and didn’t return to the game. He was suited up for game action last night but was so wearing a full cage to protect his face. Notice his face? That shot he took to the face caught him square on the cheekbone and his face is showing the effects of just that. Girard being the tough guy that he is simply laughed it off, played on, and told me it looks worse than it is. … I’ll believe him.
Last night I spoke with Milwaukee Admirals head Dean Evason about not only the game but if he was able to catch Vladislav Kamenev‘s incredible game-tying and game-winning goals to push Russia into the Semi-Finals of the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships (video highlights). I also chatted with last night’s top two stars, Görtz and Saros. Here is what they had to say following the 3-1 win over the Lake Erie Monsters.
Comments from the comments? What are you taking away from last night’s game? What do the Admirals need to do today in order to thwart the Rockford IceHogs?