The Milwaukee Admirals month of January started off with such promise. Despite loads of up-down stretches in December there were overtime games and narrow results by month’s end that felt as though the Admirals were slowly turning a corner. January was reflecting that change and the Admirals were able to get a season high four-game winning streak in the process. Yet, ups and downs is the theme that is plaguing the 2017-18 season. It has been the most consistent element of all. And that is why it almost didn’t feel shocking to see the month of January end with a season low in a four-game losing streak which remains active once play resumes after the AHL All-Star break.
In January, the Admirals had a record of 5-6-0-0 (10 points, 0.455 points percentage). They currently find themselves in sixth place in the Central Division and thirteenth in the Western Conference standings. December provided the Admirals a relentless assault of 7 games that went past regulation from a total of 13 games. That changed in January with only a pair of shootout wins coming on the first weekend of the month. Yet, the Admirals from December to January allowed only 3 goals less within regulation and did so while playing 2 games less and having a 27-save shutout from Juuse Saros in a 1-0 game. The bulk of that damage comes right at the end of January with this losing streak where the Admirals have conceded 19 goals in 4 games. Additionally alarming was seeing the Admirals power-play allow 3 shorthanded goals in January alone. There are 7 teams in the AHL who have allowed 3 shorthanded goals or less for the entire season. It has been a frightening trend that has the Admirals on top of the league for shorthanded goals against with 10 already conceded. That is already 2 shorthanded goals more than the Admirals allowed all season. It is double the amount the Admirals allowed in Dean Evason‘s first season as head coach of the team in 2012-13.
How then do we decide The Real Estate Center’s Admiral of the Month Award for January? There were some contributors that stood out but many also toughed it out with the team as the month soured. Nothing this month has really come easy for the Admirals.
Though I keep coming back to one particular player that often made things look easy: Bobby Butler. In a month of so many fluctuations in form for the team and for individuals Butler continued to show such a great killer instinct for the back of the net that his efforts shouldn’t be forgotten about. What Butler has been doing on the ice has been excellent and it is a soon to be void that the Admirals will need to figure out how to fill. The 30-year old will be joining Team USA in PyeongChang for the 2018 Winter Olympics shortly and does so in form that merits our Admiral of the Month.
Butler played in all 11 games in the month of January. He was able to record 8 points (7 goals, 1 assist). His attacking form in January meant he continues to be the Admirals leading scorer on the 2017-18 season: 33 points (20 goals, 13 assists) in 43 games. He is one of seven players in the AHL at the All-Star break to have already scored 20 goals or more.
There are some Admirable Mentions for January. Anders Lindbäck might not have statistically had the greatest of times, 3-5-0-0 record from 8 starts with a 4.22 goals against average and 0.855 save percentage, but it is still hard to fathom what the Admirals are at times without his play in net. Butler wasn’t alone in having 8 points in January. Harry Zolnierczyk (4 goals, 4 assists) and Mark Zengerle (1 goal, 7 assists) were right there with him. Both Anthony Richard and Justin Kirkland had really energetic efforts throughout the month and are starting to show good strides in their sophomore season. On defense, Trevor Murphy continued to do fantastic things but I also can’t help but acknowledge Petter Granberg had some really good moments as well.
The Admirals return to action on Friday night when they travel to face-off against the Chicago Wolves. By that point they will have had time to reunite with family and friends or enjoy a vacation in warm weather. The Admirals were looking like a team that badly needed a physical and mental break from hockey. Perhaps the AHL All-Star break came at the perfect time for the Admirals. The path to reaching a Calder Cup seems distant at the moment but the Admirals focus simply needs to be on the next game. February, without Butler, is going to be a month that should define the Admirals 2017-18 season.
~Admiral of the Month Award~
October: Emil Pettersson
November: Anders Lindbäck
December: Anders Lindbäck
January: Bobby Butler
Who do you feel was the top performer for the Milwaukee Admirals during the month of January? Was it Bobby Butler, Anders Lindbäck, Trevor Murphy, or someone else? Tell me who your Admiral of the Month was in the comment section below.
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