When someone as blunt as Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason says things like “we were awful” and “it is the worst we’ve played all year” you tend to get the point. That team knew they had a clunker. It was bad and it comes on a string of less than quality performances from a group that is capable of so much better.
To think about where the Admirals are now versus where they were when they defeated the Texas Stars on the road by a 9-1 scoreline is pretty staggering. It was less than two weeks ago and at that point it felt like the Admirals were about to start steamrolling opponents with an offense that was clicking across four forward lines. The problem is what you feel versus what reality is can often be two different things.
The first game after that Texas sized blowout was a 3-0 shutout loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins on the road. It was the first shutout loss for the Admirals this season. That was followed by an 8-4 loss on the road to the Chicago Wolves. That was the most goals allowed in a game by the Admirals all season. And then, while not as directly obvious as to its stink factor by the 5-2 scoreline, the Admirals losing at home to the Wolves last night was a rougher watch than the previous two. Why? That result was largely a self-manufactured disaster.
The Wolves first goal came from a chip attempt out of the zone up the left wing that failed to get anywhere and ended up right to Brett Sterling for an instant scoring opportunity. Credit to Sterling for measuring up and scoring from the chance. Credit the Admirals for affording him that opportunity in the first place.
Then came that part where the game was actually 1-1 that came thanks to a lapse on the part of the Wolves on a really sloppy line change. The Admirals had a three-on-one rush and Trevor Smith did something that not a heck of a lot of puck carriers did wearing navy blue last night – he had the puck, was in the attacking zone, and shot it towards the goal. It’s weird how such a simple process can actually have the result you’re looking for but time and time again last night the Admirals passed themselves out of scoring chances – and sometimes the entire attacking zone that they just fought to gain entry into. I’ll take a guess that this afternoon’s practice will feature some real “keep it simple, stupid” sort of approaches because it didn’t happen near enough for the Admirals last night. But, when they did keep a level headed approach and put pucks towards the net, it created problems and chances – some of which paid off. When a team gets on a lull such as the Admirals are, and perhaps that 9-1 win plays into this as well, there can be an urgency to do too much. The Admirals are by far a better team this season when the play a very direct game with pucks staying North-South and getting shots to the net and bodies around for second and third chance opportunities. Less is more. The Admirals abandoned that almost completely last night.
That 1-1 scoreline held up almost to the end of the second period. If it did, it may have afforded the Admirals a chance to better regroup and do so on a level playing field. That didn’t happen. What did happen was a Matt White holding penalty followed quickly by a breakdown on penalty kill game planning by the Admirals against the Wolves power-play.
“We do a pre-scout. We do meetings. So many times [Stan Drulia] told us that they on the PP use the middle guy for a shot tip,” said Marek Mazanec. “And even though we know it they still score from it. So there’s got to be something wrong with us to pay more attention to the details and do our job, every guy.”
So, what could have been a 1-1 game entering the final frame of regulation turned into the Admirals needing to fight back once again to get on level terms. Midway through the frame yet another in-zone turnover smacked the Admirals in the face. Jonathan Diaby tried to backhand a puck out of the zone and either didn’t get enough on the clear out that he wanted to or flat out didn’t see Samuel Blais at the center of the blueline cruising around. Either way, the puck went right to him and it was pretty simple from there. It was another rinse and repeat of the first Wolves goal: credit to Blais for scoring off the chance but credit the Admirals for giving it to him in the first place.
That, for me, is essentially the game. There were the empty net theatrics, yes, but at 3-1 the game’s result was set in stone. Two poor turnovers that cannot happen right in front of your goaltender as the group are breaking up ice away from the goaltender and a power-play goal coming from a play that was supposedly scouted heavily and meant to be negated. Execution was desperately lacking. Mistakes were made and punished for being created. Yeah, I think Evason’s assessment was fairly accurate.
I suppose next the obvious question is: what now? Well, today the Admirals are getting a rare luxury that they haven’t been afforded all that much in December which is waking up in their familiar surroundings in Milwaukee. That’s a boost. They then get to practice right on home ice at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena this afternoon. And it all gears up for a quick turn-around against an Iowa Wild team that is actually playing a smidge better in their last ten games than the Admirals, 5-4-1-0 record. There is no time to feel sorry for anything. There is no time to pout or mope around. The Admirals need to clean up their game and get back to some basics – less equals more.
Following the conclusion of last night’s game I did catch up with Evason as well as a few players. Mazanec being one and Jimmy Oligny and Max Görtz being the others. It was nice to catch up with Görtz who seems to be remaining as positive as he can while fighting through an early season slump. I do feel that once a guy like him can start doing some of what he did last year it will be a nice boost for everyone. Here is what Mr. Görtz and company had to say last night.
Thoughts regarding this current losing streak? What are the most glaring issues coming about these last three games or are some of the “we’re resilient” moments from earlier in the season coming back to bite the Admirals now?
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