Moose: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

Happy Family Day – in Canada. The Milwaukee Admirals begin the first of two games on the road against the Manitoba Moose this afternoon at 2:00 PM CST. The Admirals had their five-game point streak come to an end on Saturday afternoon with a 1-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Texas Stars. What the Admirals now actually have is a two-game winless skid that rolls into the Bell MTS Place against a team that has been dominating the Western Conference almost from the start of the 2017-18 season. This will be a slugfest brought to you by the Moose. The Admirals desperately need to answer the bell from start to finish today and Wednesday if they are to manage points out of the first of this four-game road trip.

The Moose have a record of 32-13-4-3 (71 points, 0.683 points percentage) and lead the Central Division and Western Conference standings. The next closest team to them within the division are the Grand Rapids Griffins (0.594) who are currently on an eleven-game point streak (9-0-0-2) which includes back-to-back shutouts from Jared Coreau ahead of these games between the Moose and Admirals. The last time the Moose scored a goal was on 2/11/18 on the road against the Cleveland Monsters in the second period of a game that ended in a 3-2 overtime loss. That is a goal drought that spans 144:39 of ice time across three-games and remains active.

This is where I get hesitant in saying that the Admirals might be catching the Moose at the right time. The Admirals have been trending up, despite the two recent setbacks, and the Moose have been trending back to some semblance of normalcy after what has been a crazy season. That said, the Moose still possess one of the most potent offenses in the entire league. They have scored the third most goals in the AHL (180) and trail only the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (189) and Charlotte Checkers (186). The Moose have the league’s second best power-play (22.4%). And have rookie Mason Appleton who is tied for third in the league’s scoring race with 46 points (16 goals, 30 assists) in 52 games.

Why am I hesitant to say that this is the right time to play the Moose? Because Appleton and the Moose are now a team that is desperate and angry to get an offense reignited. What sits in front of them is an Admirals team that they have gone 3-0-0-2 on the season against while averaging 3.8 goals forced. The Admirals defense -has- to be as sharp as it was against the Stars on Saturday if they are to keep the Moose from surging as they have against them this season.

Beyond Appleton, as you might expect when your team is dropping in 180 goals over 52 games, there are still numerous threats that the Admirals have to worry about. Sami Niku is the leading scorer for the Moose against the Admirals this season with 5 points (1 goal, 4 assists) in 5 games – and he is a defenseman.

Buddy Robinson across this season has 40 points (21 goals, 19 assists) in 50 games and is the team’s leading goal scorer. In that department he is followed closely by the captain of the Moose Patrice Cormier who has scored 19 goals in 51 games. That is already a career best for Cormier in his AHL career and comes with 24 games still to play in his eighth AHL season.

The Admirals, who are also going to be desperate to get on the board after a shutout, will have to do it against a goaltending tandem of Jamie Phillips and Austin Lotz. You could assume that it is great that the Admirals wouldn’t see Eric Comrie or Michael Hutchinson -but- Phillips was in net against the Admirals in Manitoba back on 12/10/17 when he stopped 32/33 shots on goal. This season Phillips has a record of 2-3-1-0 from 7 appearances in the AHL with the Moose to go with a 2.58 goals against average and 0.931 save percentage. He is coming off of start on Saturday in which he allowed 5 goals against the Griffins from 42 shots.

What are your expectations for these two games against the Manitoba Moose? Are the Milwaukee Admirals setup for a fall after the last game and now these two tilts against the Central Division leaders or will the best bring out the best in the Admirals?

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