Wolves: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Ross Dettman)
The last time the Milwaukee Admirals played against the Chicago Wolves on the road – the other guys looked pretty happy. (Photo Credit: Ross Dettman)

Oh, these guys again. In fact, I almost feel as if seeing the Chicago Wolves as often as the Milwaukee Admirals have in recent weeks and are about to in the month ahead should mean changing up the style in which we run the pre-game scout. Let’s do a dummy run today then, eh?

When last we met these Wolves it was the Admirals self-described worst played game of the season. It was the spanking of the team’s own doing and came after losing 8-4 to the Wolves in the previous game and 3-0 to the Grand Rapids Griffins before that. It was the first home game after a four-game road trip which could be considered taxing, sure, but everyone is going through the motions of constantly battling game-to-game. That 5-2 loss for the Admirals on home ice was self-destructive and pretty much sloppy for all but Marek Mazanec.

Following that loss on Monday night the group needed to be held accountable and get back on their feet fast. They had an Iowa Wild team coming in that always seems to punch above their weight against the Admirals. And, if there were ever a night or time for that to have happened again, it should have been Wednesday night. The great news was that the Admirals did rebound. The 3-0 shutout win that they had came on the back of very smart, crisp, and no nonsense play. The group got their basics done right and minimized bad penalties. They weren’t their worst enemy on the night. And that saw them get the job done, collectively, en route to Jonas Gunnarsson and the Admirals earning a shutout.

What happens next is something Nashville Predators fans have gone through far too often this season. Is that win for the Admirals a flash in the pan or can they continue the course set by that performance and keep winning? I believe the Admirals did a lot Wednesday night in simplifying their game and seeing the rewards that it provides. The focus on self can be reduced that little bit and it can go back towards solving the Wolves who are 3-1-1-1 against the Admirals this season while outscoring them 18-8 from three-games in the month of December.

How do you slow down the offense of the Wolves? Fear not, Admirals fans, because this question isn’t particular to your team right now. The Wolves in the month of December (12 games played) have managed to score an average of 4.0 goals per game. That’s pretty darn good. Yet, there was a familiar foe to the Admirals who found a way to get work done against them: the Griffins won 7-1 in Chicago back on 12/15/16. Let’s roll the tape.

Could it be that it was a School Day 11:00 AM start time? Perhaps it was the Monster Energy Motocross uniforms? I’m sure those are excuses that could be floated around for the Wolves but the reality is that they were worked over by a Griffins that morning.

What the Griffins did extremely well was driving numbers to the net, battling low, forcing the Wolves defense to react to that traffic, and creating a disruptive high-low game in the attacking zone. If the Admirals do what they did Wednesday, being smart and simple on defense while staying out of the penalty box, they could get bodies forward and make life hard for the Wolves defensively.

Another key area that can be seen from that footage is an element to the Admirals style of play that they often love to do: attacking on the rush. Perhaps that aspect of the Admirals game happens a bit too often and it becomes a point of emphasis on the Wolves side to prevent by jamming up the neutral zone but the Admirals speed in transition from defense to offense can be a real strength when the defense is clicking. If the Admirals can keep play in front of them in their defensive half of the ice and not see defenders getting turned inside-out it could mean seeing reflections of those rush style goals that the Griffins managed to create.

If I had to make one big key to the Admirals clamping down on the Wolves tonight it would be to play a simple and smart game. If anything, it might pay to play tight defensively as the Admirals did when they first saw the Cleveland Monsters this season. It wasn’t pretty or highlight reel worthy but they won both games in Cleveland despite seeing an average of 33 shots on goal over those two games. Why didn’t that comeback to hurt? The group effort was there as well as timely goaltending and special teams performances. Repeat that. And the Admirals can go from three game losing streak to a winning streak.

A last note. Unlike the Admirals this isn’t going to be the last game of the weekend and 2016 side of the calendar for the Wolves. They’re facing the Wild tomorrow night on New Year’s Eve at 3:00 PM CST. That’s a fast turn-around for both of those teams. Yet, it is something the Admirals don’t have to be concerned about at all. The Admirals can waste their gas tanks tonight before kicking back to celebrate New Year’s Eve and the Wolves will need to keep the Wild in mind. Watch for the late game tempo for both the Admirals and the Wolves. It could be telling.

Expectations for tonight’s Amtrak Rivalry game? What do the Milwaukee Admirals need to do to make sure that Wednesday’s win wasn’t a blip on the radar of a possibly lengthy losing spell? Did Jonas Gunnarsson earn himself an instant return to the net by recording a shutout?

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