I’m not sure I would say last night’s 7-3 win for the Milwaukee Admirals over the Grand Rapids Griffins was the team’s best performance of this season – but it might certainly go down as one of the more important ones when this season ends and everyone reflects.
The Griffins have been dominating the Admirals most of this season. Their goaltender Jared Coreau has especially had the Admirals number and has so for his entire career. Remember what I wrote in Scouting the Enemy yesterday about his career numbers against the Admirals?
In net against the Admirals Coreau has played in nine-games, made eight starts, holds a record of 7-1-0-0, has three career shutouts, and stopped 203/212 shots on goal for a career save percentage of 0.958 to go along with a 0.99 career goals against average.
Yeah. That’s domination. That’s Admirals Killer status. It made perfect sense why the Griffins went with Tom McCollum in net Friday night when they matched-up against the Toronto Marlies. They were saving Coreau for the Admirals in a two-in-two. The Marlies are the hottest team in the AHL. Why burn up your tried and true formula of Coreau against the Admirals the night before in a grinder?
Hard cut to present day where that scenario for the Griffins didn’t work out at all. Coreau lasted 25:33 of ice time, was bombarded with shots unlike the Admirals have ever thrown on him before, and ended the night stopping 19/23 shots on goal. Think about that for a moment. 23 shots on goal from 25:33 of work. Coreau’s first game in net against the Admirals he faced 22 shots and stopped them all. Coreau’s fourth start against the Admirals this season he faced 23 shots on goal and stopped them all. Last night the Admirals smacked 23 shots on goal in under half a game and sent Coreau packing.
~Liev Schreiber’s Stunt Double~
Cody Hodgson has been terrific since he has joined the Milwaukee Admirals. He absolutely has been. The weight of being sent on waivers by an NHL team can’t sit well on the mind nor should the idea, on a contract as affordable as Hodgson’s, that no other NHL is willing to claim you. Mentally that is a defeated position to be in… but it doesn’t have to be.
With a demotion to the AHL at Hodgson’s age, 25-years old, there is an opportunity to learn, improve, and use this time with the Admirals as a launch pad. Last season saw two such examples of waiver talents from Nashville make it to Milwaukee and both had their own way of handling themselves. Rich Clune was, well, Rich Clune and provided his grinding style to the ice and endearing locker room personality that kept things loose. Viktor Stålberg had bright spots here and there for the Admirals but it was clear that his focus was less in the now and more in the summer. When Hodgson fell through waivers was he going to be as locker room oriented and team first as, say, a Victor Bartley when he turned up this season? Was he going to be shellshocked by getting dropped by the Predators and struggle to find the inspiration to finish out his contract within the organization? Honestly, I believe that could all have been answered in his first game in Admirals blue.
From the first moment he suited up in San Antonio wearing the #21 to last night in Milwaukee when he was wearing #19 Hodgson has been visibly working his butt off. He plays with great pace and precision on both sides of the puck and has been a point per game player through five-games with the Admirals: 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists). He has averaged a crisp 4.0 shots on goal per game. And, above all, has been acting the part of a pro behind the scenes.
“[Cody Hodgson] has been unbelievable,” praised Evason. “I don’t know what’s said of him what’s talked about him as a player in Nashville or the NHL. He has been a leader. He has been great offensively. He has done all the right things defensively. He has done everything off the ice correctly. We love him here. I don’t think he’s going to be here long. People are going to see what he’s doing here. He’s just been a pleasure.”
“I’m trying to enjoy the game again,” said Cody Hodgson of his time with the Admirals. “Being creative and trying to make plays with the guys. That’s hockey. As a kid you don’t play for the glory that kind of stuff you play for being able to try to do things on the ice and push yourself. That’s what I’m trying to do here. Trying to get better but, at the same time, try and enjoy the game.”
~One and Done~
There’s a reason why Kevin Fiala was sent to the Admirals recently. It’s the NHL All-Star break and two things slash questions that I’m sure the Nashville brass thought up: (1) Why not have him play a game for the Admirals rather than sit out during the break? (2) Why pay him NHL money to do nothing when he could make AHL money for five-days instead? If that sounds brutal that’s sadly just the way it is. Though, I do wonder why Cody Bass wasn’t given the similar payday shaft. I digress…
How was Fiala going to look after his stint in the NHL? How was he going to react being back in Milwaukee? Well, brilliantly. Fiala played with such an incredible pace in last night’s game and his goal pointed to just that. McCollum was cold in net after replacing Coreau. Fiala used his speed and quick hands to beat McCollum on the wrap-around. Not only that but the speed of his passes was noticeable – his quick reads to create plays. The Hodgson goal last night was a prime example. Fiala put some trust in Taylor Aronson to handle his defensive assignment and connect an outlet pass from the defensive zone to hit him in stride after he cheated up ice to create a two-on-one between himself and Hodgson with Robbie Russo last man back for the Griffins. And Fiala zipped ahead to Hodgson the instant he took Aronson’s pass. It was how that goal could happen thanks to the high pace of the transition from defense to offense.
It should be no surprise when Tuesday morning comes and news hits that Fiala has been recalled by the Predators once again. Seeing him play as loose, as quick, and enjoying his hockey as much as he was last night is simply why. After a rough start it looks like Fiala is having fun again. A little spell in the NHL for the teenager can’t hurt the confidence, either. Nor did his game last night when he returns to Nashville. He looked great.
After the game I had the chance to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. I also caught up with last night’s first star of the game, Hodgson. Yesterday’s headline maker, Matt White. And, because I was curious how badly that shot caught him in the third period, Marek Mazanec – giant welt on his collarbone and all. Here is what they all had to say following last night’s football score win in a hockey game.
Comments on the comments? Do you feel like Cody Hodgson will play himself back into the Nashville scene or will his play in Milwaukee attract a lower-end trade that the Predators could make? How important was it for the Admirals to finally switch to three right-shooting defensemen to balance out their defensive group?