There are times when I’m left debating whether or not excuses are really worth pasting over a game’s performance. Last night was a game where I watched, watched, and watched as the Milwaukee Admirals looked gassed and debated if fatigue finally caught the better of them. The Admirals lost 4-0 to the Lake Erie Monsters. It was the Admirals seventh game in eleven days. They had a rest day on Monday for some much needed R&R but it didn’t seem to manifest the energy needed to mount any kind of Admirals hockey I’ve become used to seeing this season. They were exhausted. They were lethargic. They were sluggish. And they were beaten. It’s not so much of an excuse as it is a fact.
I fall back to two things with last night’s game. One, was all that you just read up there. Two, for a 4-0 shutout loss I never once felt as if Lake Erie was dominant or overwhelming the Admirals. They were winning puck battles and getting a fair bit of attacking zone time, true, but they didn’t generate a heck of a lot with that.
If the Admirals who played last night faced the Grand Rapids Griffins when they were on that fifteen-game winning streak I wouldn’t have been all that surprised by an 8-0 scoreline. The Admirals were in Mortal Kombat “Finish Him” stance from the opening puck drop and the Monsters sluggishly earned three of their four goals. The best hockey played all last night came when the Monsters were cycling and attacking relentlessly before Dillon Heatherington‘s long range snap shot from the center point beat Juuse Saros bardown. Away from that? Funky bounces. Slow moving board battles. Passes from both teams not connecting. Rough stuff with the Monsters finding answers just enough times to put the Admirals to sleep.
So, there was nothing really good you could say about last night’s game from an Admirals perspective. It’s the type of game that you do video research on and hammer out some mistakes and preventative measures going forward or you could honestly just write the whole game off and focus on playing in Grand Rapids on Friday. I’d take the second option. I also believe what the Admirals plan for the week ahead is a smart one. After last night’s game they are doing a quick team practice today, taking tomorrow off, and then traveling to Grand Rapids.
What’s still actually a big silver lining to all of this is that through the Admirals frantic recent schedule… through the wild roster moves and injuries that have taken place… the Admirals after last night’s loss remain in first place of both the Central Division and Western Conference standings. I’m not saying that makes it alright for the Admirals to every now and then throw out a stinker of a game but it’s eye opening to me that this depleted team is still achieved this many points to sit through a wave like last night’s game and come away from it still pretty clean.
What should excite everyone is when a Cody Bass gets healthy… when a Trevor Murphy, Victor Bartley, or a Taylor Aronson gets healthy… when a Vladislav Kamenev returns after having just finished up a great series of performances at the 2016 IIHF World Juniors. Those are some solid players that are out right now and, despite that, things have been holding very strong. If games like last night piled up with great frequency through all these injuries I’d be repeating much of what was said last season. But it isn’t happening. With how the rest of this month sets up the Admirals will be playing seven games from their next twenty-five days. That sounds much better than the run they were just on playing seven-games from eleven days. There will be more time to recover energy. Time to let bodies that are beaten up right now but fighting through the pain to still get out and play to heal up. And let this team focus itself ahead of the playoff push that’s ahead of them.
After the game I spoke with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason to talk about the game as well as if he saw what happened with Kamenev during the gold medal game at World Juniors. I then spoke with Frédérick Gaudreau and Joe Pendenza. Here is what they had to say following last night’s game.
Comments on the comments? Do you think the best remedy for the Admirals to avoid another game like last night is time off to recharge the batteries or were there serious flaws in the last few games that need adjusting?