The Milwaukee Admirals have been trending in the wrong direction for a long time now. Last night’s 5-2 loss to the San Diego Gulls pretty much sums things up. They were flat. They looked outnumbered at every puck battle. They were outshot through the opening two periods 29-14. It was just sloppy and lifeless – until the third period where the Admirals threw 20 shots on Reto Berra, scored twice, and played with desperation. That energy by them was way too late to have mattered.
It’s hard to really pin point where things have fallen apart for the Admirals. I don’t think it is at all fair to flag when Vladislav Kamenev was traded from the team because the Admirals were 1-3-0-0 in his final 4 games played with the team and similar patterns to what is happening now happened then. The Admirals were outshot 137-74 on those last games with Kamenev and that’s just been the norm. It is forcing the goaltender to be the absolute best player on the ice.
November and December is where a lot of this snowball got rolling. The Admirals have only outshot their opponent in 3 out of 15 games where they’ve won a single of those contests. They have held opponents to less than 30 shots on goal only 5 times and 3 of those times were right at 29 shots. They have allowed 40 shots or more on 4 occasions. And their own offense has only generated 30 shots on goal or more in 6 of 15 games. In this entire run since November started they have been outshot by opponents 505-419. The Admirals have allowed 33.7 shots on goal per game while generating 27.9 shots per game.
When I see what the Admirals are doing I see a team that isn’t struggling to generate offense – I see a team that is struggling to defend properly in order for the offense to even get started in the first place.
This season started with no true veteran on defense. There is no Adam Pardy. There is no Corey Potter. There is no Joe Piskula. And Scott Ford is behind the bench as an assistant coach now. The average age of the Admirals defense right now is 22.4 years of age. The most seasoned and experienced mind and player on the Admirals defense is Petter Granberg: 25-years old, 45 games of NHL experience, 204 games of AHL experience, and 75 games of experience in the SHL. No disrespect to Granberg or the rest of the defensemen on the roster: that’s just flat out not good enough, it was never good enough, and it feels as though the plan to add a veteran defenseman in Milwaukee comes with the hope and prayer that the odd-man out in Nashville once Ryan Ellis returns becomes than guy. The Admirals need help on defense. They need a more established leader on defense. And the sooner than they can solidify the defense the better the rest of the entire team can function. When the Admirals are at their best they play with a defense-first approach, clamp down on their opponent, clear pucks out of their own zone quickly, and attack in transition with their pace and skill thanks to heads-up defending. That isn’t happening. It hasn’t been happening with any sort of consistency since October. And it has been tough to watch.
What can make night such as last night all that more difficult to watch is the fact that Lindbäck was brilliant once again but doesn’t get the support in front of him. Lindbäck stopped 32/36 shots on goal last night. Of the goals that he allowed there was only a single one that wasn’t produced on the doorstep and that came on the rush in a “right, right, right” passing sequence that ended with Eric Fehr picking up a goal. The rest came down to the Gulls winning battles to the front of the net. The Gulls snapped a five-game span for Lindbäck where he limited teams to 2 goals. The Swede still prevented last night’s game from being even worse than it was. He continues to be terrific.
Away from Milwaukee it is worth circling what happened with the Predators last night. Juuse Saros stepped in for the second game in a two-in-two and out on the road against a really explosive Dallas Stars team. The Predators won 5-2 on the night and Saros stopped 43/45 shots on goal to set a career best for himself in saves. Pontus Åberg scored his first goal of his 2017-18 run in the NHL. Frédérick Gaudreau had an assist. And the Predators are now sitting on top of -both- the Central Division and Western Conference. If nothing else that should act as a reminder: Trust The Process.
After last night’s game I spoke with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. I also had the chance to hear from Jimmy Oligny and the returning Derek Army. These were last night’s post-game interviews.
What were your thoughts on last night’s game? What happened to the Milwaukee Admirals that started off so strongly in October? What changes do you think needs to be made right now? Is there any real singular problem area that stands out to you?
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