The Milwaukee Admirals are trending down. The Manitoba Moose have been trending up and towards something special ever since the season started. Last night’s result, a 5-1 loss for the Admirals to the Moose, doesn’t feel out of line given recent form of both. What continues to hurt so much watching the Admirals is their self destructive individual behavior that can stunt positive momentum swings if not outright determines the outcome of games early. It keeps happening. It is grating to watch. And there is no clear path back to a successful run of play until the Admirals fully bleed out this venom.
The Admirals had a really good first period. They were playing with a great pace, were being physical, and more than anything very smart in their stick work defensively in giving the Moose almost nothing clean offensively in that first period. That is until they gave them a breakaway. This was the fourth straight game that the Admirals allowed a breakaway from their own attacking blueline that resulted in a goal
As damaging as that was to see all that hard work get displaced by more of the same: the Admirals showed some good resolve. The second period was fairly even in how the game was going and the Admirals were able to notch a goal with Emil Pettersson finishing up a three-on-one attack. What would follow that is four minor infractions in the span of the final 7:20 of the second period. The Moose would score right after their fourth power-play bid and then did score with their fifth power-play opportunity.
When the Admirals start the third period and give up a goal in a minute of play? That’s when you saw the raw frustrations of Anders Lindbäck seep out into the real world. He has been hung out to dry for far too long: turnovers, breakaways, shorthanded breakaways, repeated and sustained power-play chances against, etc. The moment Lindbäck threw his stick in frustration you saw what this team is going through right now. They all know that they should be better than this. They just can’t stop making mistakes and causing their own misery.
A talking point of last night’s game is that outside element which has also played against the Admirals during this skid. There have been odd bounces, puck luck, you name it. Last night’s oddity was the officiating itself in which the Admirals and Moose were both locked in a game where it wasn’t entirely clear where the line was between penalty and no penalty. This is impacting both teams and -beyond scrums- made for a sloppy game.
What is most frightening about the officiating last night is this situation as explained by Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason:
“We thought there were some indifferent calls. But, there is indifferent calls for both. The third goal is an embarrassment to our league. The face-off goal. They shot the puck over the glass. Didn’t tip. Didn’t hit anything. And we asked the ref, “why is the face-off not outside?” And he said, “the rule is if it’s a shot at the net it goes outside.” And we’re like, “no it’s not.” And we come in and verify with the rulebook and go back out and call him over and said “that’s the rule,” he goes, “yeah, you guys were right.” It’s the third goal. I mean, four referees. Four referees don’t know the rule. It’s an embarrassment to our league.”
Seeing something like this is frightening. When combined with the lack of replay for goaltender interference, another point of contention that has plagued the Admirals over time, this lazy “whatever” attitude of the AHL is becoming something that should frighten NHL teams. This is a developmental league. What is there to learn from other than to get out of the league as fast as possible when it is treated as a joke? This is professional hockey being treated like it is a beer league pick-up game. It’s inexcusable.
And, let’s not get this twisted ether: It’s not the idea of that goal actually making that huge of a difference in the overall outcome of the contest. The Admirals got beat last night. That goal certainly didn’t help them in keeping the game tight but they got beat bad regardless. What matters is the competency of the AHL seems more and more to be degrading to carelessness. It is something all teams, players, and NHL affiliates need to be more worried above as far as the developmental process of their young and up and coming talent are concerned. If some fear the ECHL for stigmas against what that league is? This is a slow trend in the wrong direction into making the AHL a lesser place to play if the rules and integrity of the game don’t fully matter.
Lastly, the Admirals six-game losing streak has been rough but it also isn’t the end of the season, playoff hopes, or should mark the end of any coaching staff. Hockey is a weird, weird sport at times. The last season where the Admirals missed the playoffs was 2014-15 and on that campaign the Admirals had a seven-game losing streak but -also- had a nine-game winning streak. This same frustration I see from fans, on a toxic and vulgar level in regards to players or coaches, it all goes away with a string of a few victories and a reshuffling of the Central Division standings.
There are mistakes being made by young players in a firestorm against teams, especially one on the insane level the Moose have played like all season long, that are really talented. All of these mistakes and defeats are lessons meant to be learned from and improved upon with time. It might not be happening at the rate of progress you, equally so the team itself, would like but the season is still in it’s early stages. We just finished the All-Star break. There are 31 games still to be played and 18 home games to boot. The Admirals are far away from achieving a game in which they played up to their full potential. Sometimes it takes stretches such as this for that huge upswing in form to be unleashed after all the cracks have been smoothed out I still believe this team can be something. They just need to stop overthinking the moment and start playing on instinct. It feels from afar as though the wake-up calls have been frequent. This team is awake. They just need to start working and get comfortable in never letting off the gas pedal.
After the game I did speak with Evason. I also had the chance to speak with Frédérick Gaudreau and Pierre-Cédric Labrie. These were all of last night’s post-game interviews from the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
What were your thoughts on yesterday’s game? What can the Milwaukee Admirals do differently against the Manitoba Moose in order to get a win on Tuesday? Will the addition of Mark McNeill make a significant difference for the Admirals?
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