Chatterbox, Vol. 267

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Last night, the Iowa Wild made the trek up from Des Moines after having battled Friday and Saturday against the Grand Rapids Griffins. No one in our area enjoys using the term “tired” as an excuse but it is one I feel the Wild can easily be afforded without shame. The Milwaukee Admirals pounded them 7-2 and did so taking advantage of some serious mental lapses on the part of the Wild and otherwise just burning them with added energy and pace.

Mind you, something I especially kept thinking about and appreciating about last night’s game: the Admirals pushed. It’s one thing to have a tired opponent it is another thing to force them to keep up with your game and not get stuck in the mud with them. The Admirals had a break early with a two-on-one the all started with Brennan Menell falling down. Bobby Butler didn’t pass across and instead labeled a wrister top shelf on Niklas Svedberg – whose nightmare had just begun.

That, my friends, was sixteen seconds into the contest. It might have been one or two shifts later that the Admirals instantly had another goal.

What happened was yet another mistake from the Wild. This one looked like an early sign of mental fatigue. The Wild were attempting to clear out an Admirals dump-in from behind their net. Viktor Lööv was skating in against Yakov Trenin, won the race, and chipped back to defensive partner Louis Belpedio. He looked up, saw Justin Kloos near the net front, passed right into his skates, the puck rolled into the slot, Kloos didn’t know where the puck went, and Tyler Gaudet and Mark McNeill were the ones that were white-eyed bagging a goal at 1:31 of the first period.

The first period misery for the Wild continued. Zach Palmquist was being pressured by Anthony Richard and Jack Dougherty near the wall between both benches. Palmquist must have been desperate to find a teammate to pass to, spotted Kloos breaking down the right wing, but must just not have seen Admirals captain Trevor Smith at center ice playing cornerback set for a pick-six. That happened. Smith made the jump, got the turnover, had the breakaway, and cranked a slap shot before Alex Grant could close him down.

That first period saw pretty much every major mistake made by the Wild punished by the Admirals. All three goals scored in that first period were a direct result of some form of a blunder. Also, hey, that was the first time since the opening School Day Game of the 2017-18 season back on 11/8/17 that the Admirals scored three-goals in the first period.

It’s not often, especially lately, that this year’s Admirals have had to work with a multi-goal lead. And that’s where it felt a new test would be had on the Admirals part regardless of fatigue from the Wild. How do the Admirals respond to having a cushion? Do they slam the throttle down and look for more or get more relaxed in attack and try to stay compact defensively? All that I saw was “more of the same please” and the Admirals playing smart, playing with pace, and taking the necessary forward steps when they were given to them. The Admirals last night allowed the Wild to create their own problems and added to them by making them pay for almost all mistakes.

There were really a lot of players that all deserve some serious mention after last night.

It’s almost not dawning on myself until this late into the season that Richard has really shown no serious sophomore slump. Instead, he is having a ridiculously good season and is starting to find a better control for all that ludicrous speed he possesses. Who else on the Admirals roster could really generate two breakaways on a single shift? Richard did that last night, hit a shot off the crossbar, came back around, and made better use on a clearer breakaway bid. Richard now has more goals (17) this season than he did points (16) last season. He has been terrific.

You then have Richard’s mentor, if you will, in Frédérick Gaudreau. He had been on such a hot stretch through the month of February but then, like the team really, cooled down. Gaudreau was on a goal drought of six-games. The Admirals power-play had been going through easily its worst run of the season. And, wouldn’t you know it, the Admirals got a power-play goal from Freddy. It was a slick piece of passing that opened things. Smith was able to guide Gaudreau from behind the net into the left wing circle and he caught and snapped it fast.

Gaudreau was then just about unfair with his next goal. The quick flick of the puck by Gaudreau on zone entry at the blue line gave Emil Pettersson a lane at speed for a shot. Svedberg had that shot but swatted the puck right to the following Gaudreau who had an empty netter. That play in many ways summed up last night. The Admirals had the pace, the skill, and the positioning all as the Wild shot their own foot off.

It has been a tough season for Trenin. He had a slightly slow start but was getting on a higher gear just as he was injured badly in Cleveland back in the middle of November. It’s been a long process even after that. He had started getting healthy scratched out of him needing to play “the right way” on a more regular basis. Since Justin Kirkland‘s injury Trenin was reintroduced to the lineup and last night may have been his best effort all season. He was everywhere and deserved that late third period goal for all he did. It hasn’t been an easy time for Trenin, no doubt, but I’m hoping some lessons are being learned and we’re starting to see signs of that progress being made.

Is it right to still give Anders Lindbäck some credit in a game that ended with that sort of a scoreline? Because I still feel it is. I feel both goals are ones he’d prefer to have back but -again- the consistency in net from him has been incredible. The Wild had a bad first period -but- they are a good group who came fired up to right some wrongs in that second period. The Wild did get a goal but by outshooting the Admirals 15-6 in the frame and getting a crack on the power-play: it could have been worse. Lindbäck did his thing again.

I showed up to the rink last night and got the news that the Milwaukee Admirals had signed both defenseman Nolan Valleau and forward Ryan Penny to professional try-out (PTO) contracts. Joonas Lyytinen had been hurt late in the contest Friday. Fred Allard is very slowly working his way back from a lower-body injury. Then at forward you have Kirkland out as well as Cody Bass and Trevor Mingoia all dinged up. They needed some bodies in for the time being.

Valleau was the lone man that did end up playing and I couldn’t have been more impressed for a guy entering a new situation, in a must-win atmosphere, and playing with a good amount of pace to his play as he did. Valleau isn’t a stranger to the AHL nor the Central Division. He has now played 119 games in his AHL career and done so with the Rockford IceHogs and Chicago Wolves. This season he has mainly been in the ECHL with the Orlando Solar Bears but showed up and played a really inspired game. Sometimes PTO types, playing a simple game, can really shine and that’s quite a way to do a pressure oriented job interview – as you’d think it would also be treated as.

Unfortunately, both Valleau and Penny were released of those PTO contracts following last night’s game. I would hope both surfacing in Milwaukee and in the AHL is a small sign that we might yet see them again because both are intriguing players with a lot to give at this level. Both are on ECHL teams that should factor into the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs. With no ECHL affiliate for the organization this season it might be worth checking in on their process as the season goes towards the finish.

Following the Admirals win against the Wild it was the Rockford IceHogs that jumped into that fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division standings. All three teams have now played 67 games this season. The IceHogs have a 0.567 points percentage while the Wild are now plummeting on a current five-game winless drought and are on a 0.560 points percentage.

Both the IceHogs and Wild have 29 regulation/overtime wins. The Admirals have improved this weekend to a 0.545 points percentage but still have a lowly 19 regulation/overtime wins total. The Admirals might be three points back of the IceHogs but they are going to need to leap them by way of points. They have no more games against the IceHogs but did themselves plenty of favors going 8-2-0-0 against them this season. The Admirals just need to focus on “the next one” until the regular season closes out.

After last night’s game myself and Nicholas Hatch were able to hear from Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. I then caught up with Lindbäck, Gaudreau, and Richard to get their thoughts on the team’s explosive performance. These were last night’s post-game interviews from the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.

What were your thoughts on last night’s game? How impressed were you with how the Milwaukee Admirals went about business yesterday? Is it safe to say that the Bobby Butler of ‘ol back? Are there any concerns that this lengthy down time will hurt the Admirals more than help them stay rested given this weekend’s performances?

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