It is performances such as last night’s game where I really force myself to take a step back and evaluate what it was that the Milwaukee Admirals did and didn’t do. The knee jerk reaction would be the obvious: they didn’t score. The not so obvious would be to suggest that, for all that happened, the Admirals really didn’t play that poorly of a game. Yes, the power-play was rough. Yes, the Manitoba Moose earned a 3-0 shutout win on the night. But the Admirals showed a lot more right than wrong and just irritatingly had a few hiccups in the narrative that cast aside what could have been a sweep for the three-game homestand.
There were a few flash point moments in last night’s game. I’d like to squash the one that has stuck with me the most. Right as the game was spiraling to its conclusion the Admirals had an attacking zone face-off in which Eric Comrie appeared to nudge into the post towards his glove-side and knock the net off of its moorings. The play cycled out of the zone. Comrie had run towards the bench as though he had suffered a bad bout of Taco Bell. And play never really was whistled dead. Trevor Smith re-entered the the attacking zone, the net was off, play still wasn’t whistled dead, and he rightfully just flung a shot into the empty net. There are a lot of “what happened” moments to that play but the simple reality is that Comrie isn’t knowingly pushing that net loose. It would come jarred free with relative ease moments later and then see actual on-ice maintenance to make sure the hole for that specific side of the net was dug deep and for the net to be safe and stable. I think the more baffling issue would be why the officials never even noticed the net was knocked loose in the first place or why they negated the Admirals an attacking zone face-off after the fact. There is a lot of confusion on the play. It could have been calmed down that much more if the right call on the ice was made ASAP rather than let Smith walk in, take a shot, and score into the empty net before wondering where the goaltender is or why the net is dislodged.
What follows that is then the question that I hope to see answered in the upcoming road trip: the Admirals power-play – what happened to it? The Admirals in the month of November have a power-play operating at 7/50 (14.0%). Heck, last night wasn’t even the first time this month that they went 0/7 on the power-play in a single game. They did the same against the Grand Rapids Griffins in a 2-1 loss at the Van Andel Arena.
It’s not to be dismissive of the Moose having a good night on the penalty kill. They did do a quality job blocking shots and passing lanes. What becomes troubling is the amount of perimeter passing and allowing the penalty kill to really dictate the puck movement and action rather than playing into the man-advantage itself. There is a lot of passing. And not enough actual pucks being put to the net to take advantage of potential second or third opportunity scoring chances. It has to be better. And last night, going 0/7 on the power-play, it can ultimately be the difference between winning and losing. The Admirals were doing well enough to earn those power-play chances at even strength. They just fell flat at five-on-four.
Where things can really be gripping in a shutout loss such as last night does become those missed opportunities as well as the others out of the power-play. The Admirals hit the post solidly three-times in the first two periods and would even collect a fourth in the third period. They went 0/7 on the power-play and missed out on a fraction of an inch between a puck hitting a post and going in – or it flying back out into play. It just was one of those nights, unfortunately. And that can additionally be summed up by the second period -which was the Admirals strongest by only allowing 4 shots on goal- but they allowed 2 goals at the start and end of the period. Frustrating. That’s the word we can settle on.
Ultimately, you look at the scope of what November has been like for the Admirals and feel the need to throw that first shutout loss under the rug. It shouldn’t lessen a homestand in which the Admirals won two of three. But it should continue to emphasize the need to be better and to keep things simple. This month has been sort of a lull. If it is used the right way, as a learning and coaching tool, it could benefit the Admirals in the long run for the 2017-18 season. If patterns such as the persist? That’s when real problems happen.
After last night’s game I had the chance to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason to get his thoughts on the game as well as to get a medical update on Yakov Trenin and Matt O’Connor. I then heard from Tyler Moy, Andrew O’Brien, and Cody Bass. These were last night’s post-game interviews.
What are your final thoughts on last night’s game? How did you view this three-game homestand for the Milwaukee Admirals? And is the road heavy slate of the upcoming schedule daunting for the Admirals?
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