Firstly, I would like to apologize for the delay in getting post-game interviews and Chatterbox up in a quicker fashion. I just felt that the Milwaukee Admirals 5-2 loss against the Chicago Wolves on home ice was the sort of game where I really wanted to chew on it before really forcing it down. There were some positives within the night but it all got fogged out by numerous sloppy plays. The short and sweet of it: these last two games just haven’t been the Admirals of this season so far.
What I mainly read in reader comments or Twitter responses were related to what happened to the Admirals after that first period. There is an extremely concise explanation to that. They went on five penalty kills in the second period and never recovered. Energy was going to be a focal point to that game and the Admirals wasted so much of it stuck on the penalty kill that once things opened back up there wasn’t much of a spark to be had to push back.
I do wonder how much of the lengthy road trip for the Admirals did trickled into the weekend set. The Admirals went from Milwaukee to Cleveland to Iowa to Chicago in order to get to Grand Rapids quicker and then back home to Milwaukee… all in the course of ten-days from start to finish. While the Admirals aren’t playing every other day in that time they still played four road games in that span with loads of travel and stiff competition. It can be exhausting. The game on Friday night in which the Admirals lost in Grand Rapids 3-1 looked like that sort of a team. They looked out of sorts and out of gas.
What the Admirals did do correctly to counter that effort against the Grand Rapids Griffins was successfully get out to a hot start. You can’t deny that they didn’t do that. They registered a season high twenty shots on goal in the first period against the Wolves and notched the opening goal and then were able to get the scoreline back to a 2-1 advantage.
But.. what happened after that sort of set the tone for the rest of the game. The Wolves had a power-play, scored, made it 2-2, and by the horn to sound the end of the first period had yet another power-play coming their way to start the second period. From that moment on it felt like the Admirals either were literally shorthanded or looked to be playing as if they were shorthanded. It was a slop show. Nothing worked when it came to transitioning from defense to offense and clearing pucks out of their own half of the ice seemed to be a battle they lost again and again. And you know what? That is an extremely taxing way to play hockey and the Admirals already weren’t a team coming in fresh and ready to run through walls.
I feel I could easily start wagging my finger at the way in which the defense has looked in recent games but, with so many bodies up with the Nashville Predators right now, what more can the Admirals really do? If anything this shows a weakness in the defensive depth under organizational duress the likes of which the forwards have held up well enough when the Predators come calling in dire need. Defensively? It has been hard and it has especially been hard this weekend when it felt like the Admirals were rolling out two defensive pairings for an entire two-in-two stretch with all the travelling heaped on top of it.
We could all get in arm-chair GM mode and discuss whether or not more moves to bring in more established defensemen would be the way to go over providing someone such as Jonathan Diaby a chance to find his way in the AHL. We could. But I’d rather dodge the hypotheticals and focus more on today.
Today the Admirals have a record of 14-5-2-1 (31 points, 0.705 points percentage). That is still the best record in the Central Division and the Western Conference. What they aren’t anymore is the best team by record in the AHL. That title now belongs to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 15-5-3-0 (33 points, 0.717 points percentage). The Admirals are second to them in that respect.
So, for all that lethargic and sloppy play that took place for the Admirals on Friday and Saturday – they are still in a great spot. No doubt having the incredible start and month of November that they did have can afford them a dip such as this weekend. What must be avoided though is allowing a lull to snowball into a skid. The Admirals snowballed success a month ago. They need to learn how to get through games such as Grand Rapids and Chicago in order to let it be a blip on the radar. All solid teams throughout the course of a season have their share of clunkers here and there. Some have losing stretches and moments that make you question reality but the true mark of a good team is learning how to overcome adversity and battling through rough stretches of games, form, travel, fatigue, fitness, or players coming in and out of the lineup. The Admirals have featured massive amounts of resiliency in their games this season. Now they need to display that on Monday night over the course of a three game stretch to show the previous two games were learned from.
The Admirals have a terrific leadership group in the locker room. That group holds themselves very accountable. What comes next is a matter of not allowing people to hang their heads down and get caught up in losing two consecutive games in regulation. Learn from the mistakes. Move on. There is a game on Monday night against the San Antonio Rampage at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena to be played. It can be a quick reset before going right back out on the road for twelve of their next seventeen games. A marathon is ahead of the Admirals. They need to start conditioning for it.
After last night’s game I spoke with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. I also had the chance to speak with Jonas Gunnarsson, Blake Kessel, and Cody Bass. Here is what they all had to say following the Admirals defeat at home to the Amtrak Rivals.
Comments on the comments? Is this a lull or are the Milwaukee Admirals starting to get hit with some of those bullets that they were dodging?
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