I always feel it’s important for myself to wait before getting to the written portion of Chatterbox. I can give a solid think about what happened in the game while not letting the emotions of the moment mask what actually happened. With the Milwaukee Admirals 3-1 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins in Game One of the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs I can’t help but feel a sense of here we go again. It was there after the Griffins first goal. It was there after the second period. It was there when the final horn sounded. And it was there after my drive back home from the rink. It’s simply inescapable.
There was always a level of concern on my part that the Griffins could be the opening round opponent. Knowing their capacity to play so well it’s boggling how they dropped like a stone at the end of the season. Factoring in last night’s result the Griffins are now a solid 6-3-0-0 against the Admirals in 2015-16. Their win means that they can eliminate the Admirals by winning both games in Grand Rapids during Game Three and Game Four. They haven’t lost to the Admirals in Grand Rapids once this season. In fact, the Griffins beaten the Admirals in Grand Rapids in seven straight games. The last Admirals win in Grand Rapids came on 1/31/15 in a 4-0 shutout with Magnus Hellberg in net.
That is one element of “here we go again” that, by game’s end last night, had me feeling like I was firmly punched in the middle of my back. The other comes purely from the Admirals recent history in the playoffs. Since Dean Evason took over as head coach in the 2012-13 season the Admirals have a record of 1-7. The season prior to Evason saw the Admirals get swept in three-games by the Abbotsford Heat in the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs. And the year prior to that was the last time the Admirals advanced out of the opening round. The Admirals have only advanced out of the opening round of the Calder Cup Playoffs three times in the last ten-years.
A loss to open up there series with a team that you’ve not beaten on the road in seven straight attempts with a playoff history of six straight losses. Here we go again.
What I do make up for in divvying up past history is my relentless optimism which I would like to hand out to all of you that just read all that. Everything written above, including last night’s result, is part of the past. It’s gone. It’s over. It’s done with. What the Admirals focus simply needs to be on is today. Not yesterday. Not those two games in Grand Rapids. Today. That’s all that matters because it’s the challenge that awaits them. A win tonight makes it a 1-1 series. Who is to say the Admirals can’t take a 1-1 series lead and shut up a Grand Rapids crowd in Game Three? History? History doesn’t matter because today is what matters. That should be the Admirals philosophy.
Yes, last night’s game was rocky and could have gone much better but there were also lots of missed opportunities on the Admirals part mixed with a few good bounces that fell the Griffins way. Juuse Saros was great in net and should likely see action once more in tonight’s Game Two. That instantly provides a great platform for the Admirals to build from. All that’s needed now is having a rethink about five-on-five play which went pretty much the Griffins way last night. The Griffins do a tremendous job at getting the Admirals offense to stay along the boards and take long range perimeter shots that either get blocked or easily saved. The Admirals have worked wonders either during the season or in-game at making adjustments. I feel that trait is actually their strongest asset in these playoffs because, when you see the same opponent again and again, eventually you’re going to solve that puzzle. The Admirals have roughed up the Griffins on home ice in the late stages of their season series so a breakout game could be on the horizon with the right adjustments made from last night’s experience.
After last night’s game I did catch up with the Milwaukee Admirals head coach, Mr. Evason, as well as getting to talk with a handful of players: Max Reinhart, Anthony Richard, Adam Payerl, and Félix Girard. Here is what they all had to say following last night’s game.
Comments on the comments? What was the single biggest element that needs to change for the Milwaukee Admirals to gain an edge over the Grand Rapids Griffins at even strength? When the Admirals were on the power-play did you feel that the Griffins did a good job applying pressure with their penalty kill or were the Admirals putting to much pressure on themselves to pass or shoot into areas that were obstructed?
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