Last night’s 6-3 loss for the Milwaukee Admirals was rough to watch. Yes, it’s once again another hard night against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Yes, the Admirals have lost two straight games for the first time this season. But the Admirals didn’t even really look like themselves last night. That’s what concerns me the most. And they have a day to correct that before playing the Rockford IceHogs on Friday night before traveling for a road tilt Sunday afternoon against the Griffins. Adjustments need to be made in a quick amount of time.
What was evident right from the opening few minutes of last night’s game was that the Admirals looked slow, tired, and sloppy in execution. They were stuck in their own half of the ice. Forget creating offense. The Admirals couldn’t defend well enough to get puck battles, maintain possession, and then establish attacking pressure of their own. The Griffins, on the other hand, did all of those things right and would go on to outshoot the Admirals in every single period: 14-5 in the first period, 18-7 in the second period, 11-8 in the third period, and 43-20 in the contest.
It would be easy for me to sit back and feel as though the Admirals are mentally beaten by the Griffins before these games even start based on how the last good few seasons have been head-to-head. Last night, I’m not sure I would entirely say that was the case but the Admirals weren’t themselves instantly. The Griffins were who they were. And that is simply a recipe for disaster.
The game was still somehow only 3-2 Griffins after the second period came to an end. That’s a credit to Anders Lindbäck for hanging in there. But there were also many moments of frustration. Lindbäck was part of the first of those moments. The Admirals come out flat – which is bad. They manage to get the opening goal against the Griffins anyways courtesy of Emil Pettersson – which is great. 2:14 of hockey after the Pettersson goal and Lindbäck is passing a puck from behind his net straight out in front to traffic, to the tape of Matt Puempel, and the game is tied. The Admirals go down 2-1 – which is bad. They then go on the penalty kill and manage to score a shorthanded goal with Alex Carrier netting his first goal of the season – the team and crowd was back into it. The game that the Admirals don’t really feel they should be in shouting distance for a win – they’re tied 2-2. Despite how bad things were the Admirals were good enough to find lightning in a bottle and make it 2-2 – hope was created. 1:24 of hockey after Carrier’s shorthanded goal and the Griffins scored on the power-play with Eric Tangradi winning a net-front battle and getting a redirect. The Admirals weren’t themselves last night but still had flashes of quality to keep a game close, be in the fight to earn a win or at least a point, but shot themselves in the foot all while the Griffins played a relentless game.
This early into a season it can be good to go through a game or even a small stretch such as this. You want to see some flaws or holes so that they can be worked on immediately and to strengthen a team for the long haul. It’s when games such as last night become a frequent occurrence when the panic button should be hit. I wouldn’t do that now. I wouldn’t do that because of the rivalry with the Griffins. But that head-to-head series against them needs to start becoming a serious matter for the Admirals. It’s a hump that they can’t get over and haven’t for a good few seasons now. They get the IceHogs on home ice tomorrow night. They get the Griffins at the Van Andel Arena on Sunday afternoon. This weekend will be a nice early test to push the Admirals hard.
After last night’s defeat I had the opportunity to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. I also interviewed Andrew O’Brien and Anthony Richard to get their reaction and assessment of the performance against the Griffins. These were last night’s post-game interviews.
What do the Milwaukee Admirals need to change heading into Friday night’s game against the Rockford IceHogs? Does having an opponent in the IceHogs, who the Admirals will now have seen four times already, help as far as rebounding the right way? What will it take for the Admirals to mentally get past the Griffins and start bringing their own game to the enemy as the Griffins seem to do time-and-time again?
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