Chatterbox, Vol. 184

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

You will hear me say as much to Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. It isn’t everyday when you see the Admirals out-worked or out-competed. The Manitoba Moose did that last night and really grinded up the Admirals with physical, smart, and fast paced hockey. The Admirals really didn’t seem like they deserved to earn a point with how well the Moose played. But, once again, that just wasn’t allowed to be.

The opening shift goal allowed bug on home-ice has been bucked as of last night but the past three games at home the Admirals have fallen behind by two goals on four different occasions in those contests only to earn a win. It was 2-0 with the clock ticking down on the third period and then the Admirals found a serious lift. Matt White scores right before a power-play expires and that breakthrough against the fortress that the Moose defense with Eric Comrie in net had laid down appeared to tilt the game until the finish.

There are plenty of talking points from that game. Let me try and run through some of the biggest ones first.

Miikka Salomäki made his return from a lower-body injury last night. He had been out of the lineup since 12/2/16 and it was the first game he had played in full since the season opener with the Nashville Predators. Needless to say, there has been some significant down time and at day’s end the biggest issue that would be facing him was getting his timing back at game-speed.

“Oh, it felt great,” smiled Salomäki. “It’s been awhile since I played last time. I felt pretty good. I felt better and better all the time. I didn’t feel great but it was good. I hope I’m better in the next game and better in every game now. I think I’m getting better all the time.”

The great news for Salomäki is that he now has his legs back under him and his conditioning around that is top notch. Once he is settled back into the rhythm of a game, works the timing down again, and is able to feel comfortable delivering hits as he is well known for – that’s when he once again becomes that player that had him doing great work last season in the NHL.

He wasn’t doing anything all that poorly last night but he’s someone that I’ve had the chance to watch for awhile now and he was playing at about 50% of what I’m used to. It makes sense, though. He’s been hurt for a long time. Yet that still doesn’t mean he wasn’t shy of delivering the flash when called upon. Oddly, I feel as if there was a parallel to how Salomäki needed to settle into the game and work things back out much like the Admirals themselves needed to do against the Moose last night. That comparison is made all the more amusing when give how he ended up being the man to equalize for the team on an astonishingly good breakaway goal.

“I got that breakaway so fast, ” Salomäki laughed. “It surprised me like, “oh wow, how did I get this breakaway?” I’ve done that [move] a couple of times before.”

Lastly on the topic of Salomäki. I incorrectly stated the rules of his conditioning assignment with the Admirals yesterday. Thankfully a person close with the team informed and corrected me that after the NHL’s Trade Deadline that there are alterations in the process.

The duration of Salomäki’s stay with the Admirals can be no longer than three games or six consecutive days. That being the ruling it would be a safe assumption that the Finn would be here for the three games available to him with the Admirals unless the Predators see fit to recall him sooner to join the team in their Californian road trip. That said, their roster is already stacked at forward and Salomäki could badly use the game time to get all the rust off. The next should prove to see if he plays the duration allotted or not.

Mike Ribeiro is the next major talking point and he, to an extent, has been almost in every game since he arrived through the waiver wire process from the Predators. It would be very easy for someone in his position to have taken that poorly, potentially refused AHL assignment, or arrived to the Admirals with a sour attitude. That just hasn’t happened at all.

“He has been phenomenal,” stated Evason of Ribeiro. “I know people have heard different things of Mike Ribeiro. He has been the perfect teammate. He’s worked hard everyday – in practice, games. He has been so good for us. He competes. He’s a hockey player. You don’t play that many hockey games and score that many points for that long in the greatest league in the world and not be good. He is really really good. I’m disappointed he never got a shot at going somewhere else this year, as far as a trade, but if he has to be somewhere in the AHL I’m glad he is with the Milwaukee Admirals.”

I got that sense from Day 1 when he arrived with the Admirals. And if that quote from the Admirals head coach wasn’t enough to sum things up certainly the celebration that followed by the Admirals for Ribeiro should have. You would have thought Ribeiro were a veteran leader of the Admirals roster for awhile now. This team has tremendous respect for Ribeiro the player and person.

“He’s just a great leader,” said Frédérick Gaudreau. “He’s a positive guy. He’s a funny guy. He fits so well on the team. We’ve got to give him a lot of credit for coming here and being that positive energy on the team. You all saw it at the end everybody was so happy for him. And there is a reason for that. Because he is a great guy.”

While the pace to Ribeiro’s game might have never been electric, and it hasn’t gotten better as a now 37-year old, his instincts, passing ability, and skill are every bit as good as they always have been. For him to have come to the Admirals with the right attitude and be lending those skills while passing them on to the younger crop of talent in the pipeline is a big bonus – perhaps even an unexpected one.

I’m sure the “want” to have been dealt elsewhere and still be playing in the NHL was there for Ribeiro at the NHL Trade Deadline. That didn’t happen. But, just because it didn’t, that doesn’t change reality. He’s a member of the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL. And he’s taking that very much in stride while being another veteran presence on a very young roster.

Some other bullet point topics worth getting across: Marek Mazanec was huge for the Admirals still being in a position to win last night. His last two outings on the road trip may have been rough but he was crucial in that game being the win that it turned into. While it didn’t get an immediate response the fight from Adam Payerl was one of the better ones that the Admirals have had this season. Andrew O’Brien, to me, was the best player on the ice for the Admirals last night… and I’m man enough to say right now that I believe it is the Admirals who got the best of the Max Görtz trade now. Pontus Åberg, who has been hot for the Admirals, played one of his roughest games in a long time – but may have been caught out trying to do too much against a Manitoba defense that gave everyone issues last night.

Last night’s post-game interviews were with Evason as well as Ribeiro, Gaudreau, and Salomäki. Here were their comments following the Admirals 3-2 overtime win against the Moose.

Comments on the comments? Specifically here in Milwaukee, have your feelings regarding Mike Ribeiro changed in the time you have had to watch him play as a member of the Milwaukee Admirals?

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