Chatterbox, Vol. 180

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)
(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

It’s been awhile since the Milwaukee Admirals put together a solid sixty-minutes of hockey such as they did last night against the San Antonio Rampage. Sure, the opening minute could have gone a little bit better but the final fifty-nine minutes showed great defensive work and then a third period eruption of offense that came on the back of an extended five-on-three penalty kill.

I want to say the true standout moment for me in last night’s 5-1 win was the Admirals defensemen. Everyone had a great night and the mistakes were extremely minimal on their part. Sunday’s road game against the Rockford IceHogs saw plenty of the same high quality defensive work but not enough of it translating from defense into offense. That changed last night as much of the work down low by defensemen seemed to quickly manifest into clearances and attacks. It all helped see a quick blip on the radar in the opening minute of the game seem like a distant memory.

Where things opened up seemed to be after the Admirals managed to kill a five-on-three power-play for the Rampage. The penalty kill needed to get through forty-seven seconds with Vladislav Kamenev and Andrew O’Brien in the box. And they did so brilliantly. The tone was set quickly on the by Trevor Smith winning the first face-off back to Jimmy Oligny to clear deep. The Rampage effectively amounted nothing from that five-on-three power-play chance. The game was tied 1-1. And then the Admirals burst for four third period goals.

It feels like that offensive eruption had been built up. The last time the Admirals produced that many goals in a game came back on the first game of 2017 when they won 5-2 over the IceHogs. There have been 18 games played between those two games in which the Admirals offense really fired up another gear. When the defense plays as it did, and the offense can work to the net and get the goals like last night, this team can be one of the best teams in the AHL. Their problem just comes down to consistency and sustaining nights such as last night. The biggest challenge awaits for them matching or continuing their work rate Friday and Sunday against the Charlotte Checkers.

I do feel that if that offense is to continue on its path they are in a good place right now. The Predators are finally healthy. The Admirals are, pretty much, healthy. It makes for a packed and deep core of players. Pontus Åberg might have been reassigned to start the Predators break but, with healthy scratches coming in the form of (Colton Sissons, Anthony Bitetto, and Brad Hunt), it is likely he remains down with the Admirals alongside Kevin Fiala and Mike Ribeiro unless the Predators shake someone else loose. It’s a good problem to have too much depth. The Predators this season have simply tapped into it way beyond recent years. Now you hope both the Predators and Admirals can benefit from having roster stability for a change.

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)
(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

If last night was to be Juuse Saros last game in net as a member of the Admirals it was a fairly fitting send off. He was locked in, composed, and proceeded to shut the door after an early goal popped past him. He brings such a calming influence to the rest of his teammates when he is in the net. And it wouldn’t surprise me if the presence he brings in goal to the rest of his team is the reason why he’s picked up 42 wins from 53 starts in the AHL. He has been phenomenal from the first day that he has arrived. He is mature beyond his years with a tireless work ethic. Him stopping 25/26 shots on goal last night after yet another up and down travel time between Nashville and Milwaukee screams to all of those attributes.

Saros is expected to return to the Predators following that start last night. Should he already be closing the books on an Admirals career in the AHL he leaves behind an incredible -all be it short- legacy. He played 53 games, had a record of 42-10-0-0 for a winning percentage of 79.2%, 2.13 goals against average, 0.924 save percentage, and 5 shutouts. Saros turns 22-years old in mid-April. He is still very much in the early stages of his pro hockey career and learning to improve. He is who is now because of how hard he competes whether he is on or off the ice. The Nashville Predators have their heir to the throne. And he might be ready faster than they ever could have dreamed.

After last night’s game I had the chance to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason as well as Saros and Åberg. I then waited a good while for the chance to catch up with our ol’ pal Félix Girard who did get to have a very good post-game chat with his old teammates. He was kind enough to then stop by and give a quick interview before joining back up with his Rampage squad. Here were last night’s post-game interviews.

Comments on the comments? What did you think ended up seeing the Milwaukee Admirals offense take off the way that it did in last night’s third period? Can the Admirals, with a healthy and padded roster as it is now, sustain a winning run off of last night’s result?

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