For much of last night’s game I was confused. Both the Milwaukee Admirals and Grand Rapids Griffins were stumbling around, sputtering, crashing into themselves, and having issues connecting passes. It looked an awful lot like a pre-season game more than it did two teams towards the end of a regular season with playoff implications hanging in the air. And then the Griffins scored. And scored again.
The Admirals were flat at a time when they couldn’t be. The Admirals lost 2-1. They are now 6 points back from the final playoff spot and even then would still need to inch above where the Griffins are based on regulation wins. There are 11 games remaining in the 2017-18 season for the Admirals. They’re running out of time for lag, lulls, and an inept offense.
What can be strangely still be said for the Admirals: they are playing good hockey. If you really plunge into what the Admirals have been doing during this three-game losing streak you can hardly say they played bad. The goaltending has been good, the defense has been good, and the penalty kill has been great. Best of all, the Admirals really have been doing a fantastic job eliminating mistakes that would earlier in the season snowball in-game and be calamitous for the eventual outcome.
What can effortlessly be said for the Admirals right now though: the killer instinct in attack is gone.
In the month of March, the Admirals have averaged 2.1 goals per game inside of regulation and their power-play is at a mark of 11.4% which includes a current run of 1/31 across their last 8 games. The culture change that came at the NHL Trade Deadline shook up the Admirals and grounded them defensively but appears to have stuck them in neutral offensively. This has been an offense that can certainly be streaky but the Admirals simply can’t afford to fall asleep at the wheel now. You can look at the likes of Bobby Butler, who scored 21 goals in 46 games but has failed to score a goal in 10 games since returning from the Winter Olympics where he failed to score a point, as some sign of where this team is at right now.
Where I can continue to be optimistic though is that the Admirals only play a single non-Central Division opponent from these final 11 games of the 2017-18 regular season. What does that mean? That means seeing potential point swings that can make or break the Admirals playoff chances. When they’re matched up against teams ahead of them in the Central Division it is a huge chance to climb back into reach of that fourth and final spot. That’s why last night hurt. But the Admirals still see the Griffins one more time, they will be playing against the Rockford IceHogs one final time, and have several games against the Chicago Wolves and Iowa Wild. Those games will be the difference in a climb back up into contention or an early off-season.
Should the Admirals offense get back on track. Should the Admirals power-play get on a groove. And all as the defense and goaltending keep at the current high level that it has been performing at. That’s the team that gets the Admirals on a late surge that might vault them into that final playoff spot. But these are all hypotheticals. The Admirals, even if pieces fall into place, will likely require results from within their division to play out in their favor. What is important now is today. That’s where the Admirals focus needs to be. They need to correct and control what they can in order for anything else to come good.
After last night’s game myself and Nicholas Hatch spoke with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason as well as John Ramage and Harry Zolnierczyk. These were last night’s post-game interviews from the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
What were your final thoughts on last night’s game? Will the Milwaukee Admirals make the 2018 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs? What happened to the Admirals power-play and offensive push in general?
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