Wild: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Ted Sandeen)
(Photo Credit: Ted Sandeen)

What do you do following a self-proclaimed worst game of the season? You work your butt off that’s what. The Milwaukee Admirals went right back to work yesterday and put in one of the more grinding style practices that I’ve watched up close. It was a back to the basics sort of day but those were a lot of what was lacking on Monday night when the team recorded their third consecutive regulation loss.

Over the past few years, on paper, a match-up such as tonight would seem to be a perfect way for the Admirals to bounce back. That just isn’t the case. The Iowa Wild, despite all of their flaws, have always played the Admirals extremely tight and tend to bust out a solid group performance no matter who is coaching, in the lineup, or in net. This season? The Wild are actually bringing that level of play out on a more consistent basis.

The Wild enter this game with a record of 14-14-2-1 (31 points, 0.500 points percentage). They are currently tied for fifth place in the Central Division with the Manitoba Moose. In the Wild’s last ten games they have gone 5-4-1-0. That overtime loss that they suffered actually sees them holding a point better in the past ten games than the Admirals have endured.

Part of the Wild improvement this season likely comes in the form of the outstanding veteran leadership group that was brought in this season. Pat Cannone, Maxime Fortunus, and Jeff Hoggan have a combined 2,200 games of professional experience spanning the NHL, AHL, ECHL, and DEL. Fortunus and Hoggan have three Calder Cup victories between them.

Right now the Admirals are in second place in the Central Division with a record of 17-8-2-1 (37 points, 0.661 points percentage). They now trail the Grand Rapids Griffins, Tucson Roadrunners, Stockton Heat, and Ontario Reign -in that order- in the Western Conference standings. Only the Charlotte Checkers by a single game have played more road games in the AHL this season than the Admirals who have logged 17 road games.

Teemu Pulkkinen‘s start to the 2016-17 season was a turbulent one as far as swapping organizations is concerned but he seems fully settled into the Wild system now. The “Holy Slapper” is leading the Wild in scoring with 20 points (11 goals, 9 assists) in 21 games this season including 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists) in his last 3 games.

In Pulkkinen’s career against the Admirals, mainly conducted as a member of the Griffins, he has produced 15 points (10 goals, 5 assists) in 17 games. He has been held scoreless in his first 2 games as a member of the Wild against the Admirals – the first such occurrence for Pulkkinen since the start of the 2013-14 season.

Defensively the Wild aren’t too distant from the Admirals. The Wild have allowed 2.84 goals per game compared to the Admirals 2.82 this season. While results might be alluding them both Alex Stalock and Steve Michalek have done well in net.

Stalock has played in 19 games this season with a record of 9-7-2-0, 2.66 goals against average, 0.909 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. Michalek has played in 15 games with a 5-7-0-1 record, 2.85 goals against average, and 0.915 save percentage. Both have played twice against the Admirals this season and the better numbers favor Michalek in this match-up with 2 wins in 2 starts with a 1.50 goals against average and 0.960 save percentage.

Marek Mazanec has yet to play against the Wild this season. Should he make his sixth straight start in net he will be up against an Iowa team that he has a career record of 7-5-2-0 from 14 starts with a 2.13 goals against average, 0.921 save percentage, and 2 shutouts.

Expectations for tonight’s game? Could Monday night’s effort for the Milwaukee Admirals be a welcome slap in the face for the group or will this skid continue? 

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