The 2016-17 AHL Regular Season has been completed and the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs are now officially set. Perhaps it was meant to be that on the final day of the regular season that the four teams out of the AHL’s Central Division would all be playing against their prospective opening round opponents.
The Milwaukee Admirals lost 5-1 at home to the Grand Rapids Griffins which meant that the Chicago Wolves needed to win their home game against the Charlotte Checkers to take the divisional crown. The Checkers were in the driver’s seat of that game. The Cleveland Monsters needed the Checkers to lose in regulation last night to sneak into the playoff picture. In the end, the Wolves rallied back in the third period by scoring twice to force overtime where they would win 4-3.
I could talk at good length specifically about the Admirals game last night but I actually feel there isn’t too much that should be said given how the two teams approached the game. The Griffins played like a team that wanted to win the Central Division crown. The Admirals played like a team that was rotating pieces in and trying to be structured and as aggressive as that particular lineup could be. Honestly, the scoreline to me didn’t reflect the way the Admirals played. The Admirals did play a really good game last night. There were just some unfortunate moments and power-play goals allowed while their own power-play met the buzz-saw of Eddie Pasquale and friends. It’s a tough loss as a result. It was a great test for numerous individuals that participated though and that’s a great piece of education for them to have now that these teams know they are matched up in the first round of the playoffs.
The bottom line for me, and something I most want to casually remind fans who view last night’s game and now the opening round playoff series with dread, there is far more to be optimistic about with this current Admirals team right now than there ever was for last season’s opening round series against the Griffins.
What you have right now is an Admirals team that since February has been fine tuning itself for this exact time of the season and getting new pieces to fit in and to look and play the part. Everyone is looking far better now than they were in February and the style of play through March and into April is the brand of hockey that is needed to have playoff success. And, what is exciting, they now know for sure that it is the Griffins standing in their way and they have an opportunity at redemption for last year’s playoffs while also stamping down a tense rivalry that has surfaced throughout this season.
The Admirals and Griffins match-up so well. They’re loaded with depth, skill, speed, and strength. If there is any area that gets me to hesitate or grit my teeth with how this series could go it is the gamesmanship of the Griffins during the run of play or after whistles that gets under the Admirals skin at times and forces them to become flustered. The Admirals need to simply shut that out and shut the Griffins up with their own style of play and focus on their own game. When the Admirals stay within themselves and operate at five-on-five they had the Griffins stride for stride last night with a group of players that won’t all be factoring into the opening round series. The Admirals are in a series that they can very much win and win without an added trip to the Van Andel Arena.
I will have a far more extensive playoff preview in the mid-week as we all get ready for the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs to start up. What you can get down on your calendars right now is this. The Admirals already have their full playoff schedule for the opening round ready.
After last night’s game completed I spoke with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason as well as Frédérick Gaudreau, Jack Dougherty, and Tyler Moy. These were the post-game comments which all came as the Wolves and Checkers were in the second intermission last night and all of us where in the dark as far as who the exact opponent was going to be in the playoffs.
Comments on the comments? How are your nerves after last night’s game? Can the Milwaukee Admirals do what they didn’t last year against the Grand Rapids Griffins in Round 1?
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