Let’s take a gander at the Milwaukee Admirals recent three-game homestand, shall we? They defeated the Rockford IceHogs in a comeback thrill ride that ended 4-3 in overtime. They shutout the Iowa Wild in a slow and grinding game that ended in a 2-0 final. Then, last night, they took care of business in a similarly played contest to the one previous and earned a 3-0 shutout of the Charlotte Checkers.
These games haven’t been flashy. They haven’t featured a high powered offense that is blowing people away. They’ve been playing what I consider to be playoff style hockey and really digging in deep to yield great results. These last three-games have all physically demanding, high pressure, grinding, chess-match like defensive battles that have all come up with the same result: the Admirals win.
Since the Nashville Predators swapped out Victor Bartley and Conor Allen for Stefan Elliott and Patrick Mullen the Admirals have gone 8-1-1-0 and have four shutouts. …sorry Marek Mazanec, splice-y splice-y some audio, but I do think that has made a heck of a difference.
Since January 15th, when the last trade to bring in Elliott went down and Mullen made his Admirals debut, the team has held their opponents to an average of 24.0 shots on goal per game. They’ve only been outshot by their opposition once and have only allowed 30 shots on goal once. Both of those instances came when they beat Rockford in OT (2/12/16). They have twice held their opponents to less than 20 shots on goal: at San Antonio (1/15/16) and at Lake Erie (1/23/16). The penalty kill of the Admirals has gone a dominant 31/33 for a 0.939 penalty kill percentage.
In short, while what’s happening in the net has been outstanding what is happening in front of the net lately is even better. Both Mazanec and his pal Juuse Saros are doing great. They have been all season. When you adjust the way the Admirals defense operates with three left-shooting defensemen and three right-shooting defensemen it makes for quicker exits on defense and the goaltenders have been benefiting from limited attacking zone time as a result. The less shots you face the lesser the chances will be that a high quality scoring chance gets produced. The less high quality scoring chances that get produced, well, just look at the Admirals last two results because that’s essentially what happens. Get some quality from the forwards, as Matt White and Max Görtz were able to link up twice and do last night, and it’s a recipe for success. Defense – to offense. The Admirals are on fire with that formula right now.
After the game, I joined Mr. Dave Boehler (he has a blog) to interview Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. We then chatted with Saros, White, and Görtz for their thoughts on the game. Here is what they had to say after the shutout of the Checkers all just moments before hitting up the bus and getting to Grand Rapids for tonight’s game.
Comments on the comments? How important was it for the Admirals to shift towards a clean split of three right shots and three left shots on defense? Will the Admirals be gassed for tonight’s game against the Griffins in Grand Rapids?