It happened. The Milwaukee Admirals finally looked pretty human for a change in last night’s 5-2 loss to the Bakersfield Condors. There were mistakes across the board and, unlike most games in recent memory, those were all badly punished. The result was the Admirals losing in regulation for the first time in over a month to snap a franchise record tying thirteen-game point streak as well as what was a seven-game winning streak.
Perhaps this loss was all just over due but, in the grand scheme of the regular season, it was a blip. I wouldn’t really even classify the game as one of the worst efforts the Admirals have had this season – because it just wasn’t. It was just as you’ll hear Juuse Saros say in more adult language than I feel free to write for a PG reading audience. It happens.
The very first goal allowed by the Admirals last night kind of set the tone, really. A puck miserably wobbled towards the net. It wasn’t a shot. It was a really bad pass that missed sticks and kept going. Saros was forced to play it and play it he did – right to Dillon Simpson. I remember my talks with Magnus Hellberg, or even Marek Mazanec for that matter, in which a big difference from the European game to the North American game as a goalie is where you place your rebounds. That was simply what took place with Saros. He didn’t give much thought on where that puck was going to be smacked away to as long as it wasn’t where he was. That not only went to Simpson’s tape but Saros was then caught in a bit of a scramble given the situation. Simpson aimed low glove and caught Saros out of sorts in the panicked frenzy over a simple mistake.
Mistakes happened a lot last night. Simple as that. The go-ahead goal for the Condors came during a sloppy change from the Admirals in which three different wingers from three different lines all ended up on the ice and left a wide open Philip McRae bash in a rebound. The Condors third goal? Sloppy play that allowed for a quick three-on-two with no forwards back to help defend. The fourth goal as another odd-man rush. And the fifth goal was a power-play goal from the Condors fourth crack at the Admirals penalty kill. See foot. Shoot foot.
All that being said. It wasn’t an all-around awful game from the Admirals. There was still a lot to like. For as bad as the scoreline looks it may have been worse if not for another strong effort in net by Saros to keep the Admirals within arm’s length to the Condors throughout the second half of the contest. Pontus Åberg, once again, is on fire and playing his most confident hockey that I believe I’ve watched of him since he joined the Admirals last season. Åberg has scored 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) over his last twenty-games which includes 5 power-play goals, 3 game-winning goals, and has been held without a point only four-games in that span. The proven line-combination of Kevin Fiala, Vladislav Kamenev, and Adam Payerl once again had a good night as they combined for 10 of the Admirals 35 shots on goal in the game. They simply just weren’t able to get rewarded for their efforts.
So, the Admirals lost last night. It was sort of rough but I say that’s almost more down to how feel good these last few weeks worth of games game been. Even with bad starts the Admirals found ways to correct areas of concern, compete, and get points (mainly wins). That just didn’t happen last night.
The Admirals record is now 48-22-3-2 (101 points, 0.673 points percentage). They won’t become the first Admirals team in AHL history to win 50 games in a season. With the Ontario Reign winning 4-2 on the road against the San Diego Gulls last night the Admirals lost out on winning a Western Conference title. If you asked me I don’t think that winning the Western Conference title would have meant much more than a banner which you’d look at as a participant trophy. The real goal is the Calder Cup trophy. That’s what banner you want raised. And it would be a fun occasion to see a Western Conference Finals in which the Admirals show the Reign exactly why winning that distinction doesn’t matter.
The focus shifts to the here and now for the Admirals. It’s good to have a game shortly following a less than upbeat performance where the team has the chance to immediately correct the faults from the night before, eh? As far as the playoff implications go. The Rockford IceHogs defeated the Grand Rapids Griffins last night 4-0 in Rockford to break out of the third place tie and move into a prime position to earn one point tonight to claim the third seed as their own. Should the IceHogs lose in regulation, and the Griffins beat the Condors in Grand Rapids tonight in any fashion, the IceHogs become the Admirals first round opponent in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. If they stay as is right about now? It will be the Griffins. The Admirals cannot play tonight’s game as a means to dictate who they play in the first round. That more or less fell on the results of last night and what the Griffins do now. Having watched the Admirals get roughed up 3-5-0-0 against the Griffins this season I was pulling for the IceHogs as an opening round opponent. Yet, if you want to win it all, you’re always going to have to beat a solid team. That first round opponent doesn’t matter. All that matters for the Admirals is today.
~Adieu Bradley Center~
If you weren’t one of the 11,827 fans in attendance last night you would have missed seeing a tremendous video package that paid tribute to the Admirals time at the Bradley Center. Fortunately for you that video is available to watch online.
After last night’s game I had the chance to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason as well as Saros, Åberg, and Payerl. I also joined a pre-game media scrum in which Admirals Owner/CEO Harris Turer spoke about the final regular season game in BMO Harris Bradley Center. This is what everyone had to say last night:
Both the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Cyclones opened up their 2016 Playoffs with wins on the road last night. The Predators were able to defeat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2. During that game Viktor Arvidsson, Cody Bass, Anthony Bitetto, and Miikka Salomäki made their debuts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Cyclones also won by a 3-2 scoreline playing on the road against the Fort Wayne Komets. Jonathan Diaby and Garrett Noonan both featured in the contest with the latter notching a primary assist on the power-play for the Cyclones opening goal.
Comments on the comments? Who would you actually rather see in a first round playoff match-up against the Milwaukee Admirals: Grand Rapids or Rockford?
Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.