The marathon month of March came to an end on a very positive note for the Milwaukee Admirals. Their 4-1 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins gave them an extra bit of wiggle room at the top of the Central Division and saw the Admirals extend their current point streak to seven-games. Quite an impressive finish when you consider that this month was tied with December for the most amount of games played within a month this season at fourteen games.
For all the constant movement, travel, and -oh yeah.. games- the Admirals level of consistency during both marathon months were outstanding. In December the Admirals went 9-5-0-0. In March the Admirals went 9-3-0-2. Both featured a point streak of five or more games and certain key individuals really standing out from the group. December was really the Frédérick Gaudreau breaking out party as he produced 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) while operating in the then absent Colton Sissons top center role. When looking at March another name stands out as well.
With fourteen games in March, and two back-to-back weekends of three games in three days, the work load in net for the Admirals was going to be grinding. It’s pivotal that the Admirals goaltending duo works as well as they do because it allows the team to not drive one into the ground during a month as hefty as March was. Both did their part really well. But this might just have been the best month of hockey that young Juuse Saros has put together in his first season of North American pro hockey. And it’s for that reason that he gets my nod for Admiral of the Month for March.
In March, Saros took eight of the Admirals fourteen games in net and responded with a 7-1-0-0 record, 1.61 goals against average, 0.936 save percentage, and 2 shutouts. Every game this month he has looked composed and played so smoothly in net that it calmed a lot of games down. There were games in which he actually played so well that the focus was less on him and more on what was simply going on in front of him. The win over the Griffins that ended the month of March was that type of performance. He was in control at all times. He helped bring the pace of the game in the Admirals favor by making smart plays with the puck – either gloving it down to get the whistle or making stops behind the net. It’s something that might get taken for granted as you’re watching the game play out but, when the final horn sounds, it adds up a lot to where the result came to.
As it stands today, Saros currently leads nearly all major goaltending categories as it pertains to rookie goaltenders in the AHL this season: goals against average (2.22 – which is good for fourth best in the entire league), save percentage (0.920 – which is eighth best in the entire league), and wins (24 – which has him seventh amongst all goaltenders in the league). The lone exception among rookie goaltending stats that alludes Saros comes in the form of Tristan Jarry (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins) who has one more shutout than Saros has. If you want to include “minutes” as one of those, alright fair enough, Saros trails: Eric Comrie (Manitoba Moose), Zachary Fucale (St. John’s IceCaps), Niklas Treutle (Springfield Falcons), Chris Driedger (Binghamton Senators), and Maxime Lagacé (Texas Stars).
There sure were plenty of great performers in front of the net. No doubt about that. But, the more I reviewed a lot of what everyone did I kept thinking back to how solid Saros really was for the Admirals in March. I feel ashamed to admit this but he really did play so smoothly this month that I probably overlooked how well he played – as he played – and just figured he was going to deliver as he had been. That’s just how good Saros has been this past month. He’s been so consistent and sharp that you’re not surprised by him delivering the way that he is.
Admirable Mentions: Kevin Fiala, 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists)… Pontus Åberg, 13 points (5 goals, 8 assists)… Taylor Aronson, 11 points (0 goals, 11 assists)… Max Görtz, 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists)… Matt White, 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists)… Vladislav Kamenev, 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists)… Marek Mazanec, 6 starts (2-2-0-2 record, 2.11 goals against average, 0.918 save percentage)… and a worthy mention to the non-statistically inclined but defensively sound group of the French Fries (Jimmy Oligny, Félix Girard, and Frédérick Gaudreau) and Cody Bass for countless great plays in the defensive zone or on the penalty kill.
~Admiral of the Month Award~
October: Félix Girard
November: Viktor Arvidsson
December: Frédérick Gaudreau
January: Marek Mazanec
February: Colton Sissons
March: Juuse Saros
Who do you feel was the Milwaukee Admirals top performer during the month of March? Was it Juuse Saros, Kevin Fiala, or someone else? Answer in the comment section below.
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