During the Milwaukee Admirals three-game losing streak it wasn’t that they were playing poorly. What was happening was their offense was stuck in neutral most of the time. The opponent last night was the Rockford IceHogs who had previously held the Admirals to twelve shots on goal inside of regulation in consecutive games. It was starting to feel like last night’s game was falling ever so slightly slat again. And then Anthony Richard scored twenty-five seconds before the end of the second period. It was the jolt the Admirals needed.
The scoreline last night certainly pops at you. The Admirals won 5-2 at the BMO Harris Bank Center – but there were a pair of empty net goals. It was essentially a 3-2 game but it is those goals scored prior to the empty netters which were big time goals.
Richard’s goal late in the second period was a shot of adrenaline to an Admirals team that could very well be on the cusp of “here we go again” syndrome. They really weren’t doing anything poor last night. Even offensively they were generating chances – they just weren’t beating Jeff Glass.
The Admirals kept pushing and eventually were able to generate some pace, thread some passes past stick checks, and shoot through a narrow gap on Glass. 1-1. It leveled terms and set the stage for an epic third period in which both teams needed to come out swinging hard – and only one did.
The Admirals, who could only generate twelve shots on goal in both of their last two games inside of regulation against the IceHogs, outshot the IceHogs 18-8 in last night’s third period. They generated thirty-eight shots across the entire game. That’s more than triple the amount of shots on goal than was painfully becoming a trend against Rockford.
You could see that surge from the Admirals immediately as the third period started. They played desperate when they needed to play desperate. It took 3:28 of the third period before they quickly got rewarded for it as pressure by their forecheck generated a turnover to the tape of Yakov Trenin and was subsequently finished off on a rebound goal for Mark McNeill.
Now think about this a bit further. The Admirals went from looking flat in a 1-0 game to leading 2-1, with tons of momentum behind them, in the span of 3:53 of ice time. The IceHogs had just come out of a second period where they generated twenty shots on goal and skated away with nothing.
In fact, the period before that, the Admirals were lucky that the game was only at 1-0. It took video review to determine that Mark Zengerle had cleared a puck rolling a quarter past the goal line, but not 100% across, that waved a goal off and kept Henrik Samuelsson away from a #HatTrickWatch as early as the opening minutes of the first period. Right after that video review the IceHogs raced down and had about four high grade chances to score again and again and they still didn’t get anything.
This is when you look at Anders Lindbäck, who this season has become a Milwaukee folk hero, and you say, “Thank You.” A lot of the Admirals successes this season have come by way of being able to weather harsh storms, re-focus and adjust, and Lindbäck affording the rest of the team to stay in striking range once everything falls back into place. That was last night’s game. The Admirals started out tense and slightly flustered but finished the game with urgency and skill. The game was 1-0. Lindbäck had stopped 29/30 shots on goal as Richard scored to make it 1-1.
Then, as to make a bad transition, Lindbäck did have one he would like to have back. Still, some credit to Lance Bouma, he hit a howitzer of a slap shot. It made the game 2-2 and it could have simply been that the shot rocketed on Lindbäck faster that he anticipated.
Then, as to make a better transition, the Admirals responded faster than anyone had anticipated. It took the Admirals forty-eight seconds to reclaim the lead at 3-2. And, who else, Bobby Butler – the man that scored his twenty-first goal of the season the night he would pack up and head for PyeongChang, the man that did not score a point for Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics, the man that missed the final shootout attempt when Team USA was eliminated by the Czech Republic, and then man who hadn’t scored a goal in ten straight games since returning to the Admirals from his time as an Olympian.
Let’s do ourselves a favor and re-read that last paragraph again.
It has been an odyssey of a season for Butler. The mission was very much to represent Team USA and be an Olympian. That happened. The end-result perhaps wasn’t what Butler or anyone on the Team USA Men’s Hockey Team wanted it to be but no one can ever take that away from them that they were Olympians.
I have to believe, when it was all done and they had to return to their respective teams, there is a certain dump of emotions – and fatigue. The goalless drought for Butler with the Admirals had felt like a hangover effect that he couldn’t shake – until last night.
It was a terrific play from Alex Carrier to hop up from the point down the right wing and cutting slightly in at the net that drew everyone around to him. No one really seemed to pick up Butler on the backdoor waiting for a pass across from Carrier. The pass was perfect. The shot was sweet. And you could visibly see relief by Butler in his goal celebration.
That guy is a goal scorer. Butler doesn’t typically go through goal droughts that last that long and you have to really look through his NHL career to find equal levels of that rough of a stretch. He never stopped working. Perhaps he just needed that -one- to get the feeling back, to ease the grip up off his stick, and lower the shoulders. If the Admirals can get that Butler back to end the season? It will mean a ton.
Looking past -the man- who scored that goal. What a response by the Admirals between the ears to not be flustered by a shock goal by Bouma and to immediately find a response within a minute. I always find that that’s when you see what a team is made of mentally. There wasn’t any panic. Again, the “here we go again” syndrome wasn’t happening. The Admirals kept to how well they were working and stuck to their work.
If you could make any serious criticism of the Admirals last night you could perhaps wish the entire game were played with that mindset of desperation, drive, and well-rounded quality that they delivered in the third period – but the IceHogs are so much better than their record suggests. It is still shocking to me when these two teams play that the IceHogs are as low in the Central Division as they are. The 2017-18 season series against them is now complete and the Admirals went 8-2-0-0 against them with a 5-0-0-0 mark against them in their own building. It’s as if the Admirals are to the IceHogs as the Griffins have been to the Admirals. It’s weird.
Lastly, because I couldn’t go away from that game without saying it, that might have been the best game I’ve seen out of Joonas Lyytinen. It seemed like he did darn near everything right last night and he was everywhere. Lyytinen still has yet to show that offensive touch that he was known for in Finland but this season he has been working so hard on limiting mistakes and being savvy on defense before he can explode forward up the ice. Last night he put it all together in all three-zones of the ice and probably deserved a goal for his efforts. This has been a lengthy run for Lyytinen in the Admirals lineup: six straight games. He’s really started to impress.
After last night’s game in Rockford wrapped up I was able to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason as well as Richard and Butler. Here were last night’s post-game interviews from outside the Admirals visiting locker room at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
What were your final thoughts regarding last night’s game? Was that the game that the Milwaukee Admirals needed to get the offense fired back up? After losing last night at home against the Grand Rapids Griffins it appears that the Iowa Wild might end up being that fourth placed team that everyone needs to chase down. The Milwaukee Admirals will play them four times to finish the season. Can they get the job done or will you need Sunday’s head-to-head to get a better idea?
Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along on Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.