Last night could well have been a night perfectly placed to make the Milwaukee Admirals fall. They had a good amount of time between games and the Texas Stars are an opponent that has really worked them hard with pace and quality defending this season. It started sluggish but turned into a small slugfest for both power-play groups. The Admirals tightened up enough at even strength to secure a 5-3 win and keep their playoff lives very much alive.
The Rockford IceHogs were stationary last night. The Iowa Wild were not and got thrashed once again. The Wild lost 6-4 to the Tucson Roadrunners to extend their winless run to seven-games (0-6-0-1).
The Admirals win last night moved them past the Wild and into fifth place of the Central Division. The gap to that fourth and final playoff spot is down to 5 points. And here is a fun nugget: the Admirals still have a game in-hand over the IceHogs. This fight is still incredibly tight and both teams are playing their best hockey of the season to get into the playoffs.
I think last night was a small example of why the Admirals are playing at their best right now. Things weren’t entirely perfect out of the gate, or in the second period, but they did enough to really stick in the game and find a way to win.
The Admirals are amusingly becoming a “quality over quantity shots” team here and there. Last night was one of those. The Admirals were outshot by the Stars 8-4 in the first period but went into the intermission tied 1-1. The Admirals were outshot 20-9 in the second period but went into the second intermission in the lead 3-2. The chances were difficult to generate on a very game Stars team with a good defensive make-up with all that speed. The Admirals just made the most of the clean chances they were able to generate and it made all the difference.
I think it was extremely fitting that’s last night’s lone even-strength goal came from the line of Tyler Gaudet, Mark McNeill, and Yakov Trenin. All of those guys had a terrific night. I felt as though the first half of that game was a bit of a scramble by the Admirals. Yet, that line played such a simple and direct game on the ice that it seemed they were due. That’s really all the Admirals need to be doing to generate in attack is good hard plays to the net. McNeill helped on the opening power-play goal by Harry Zolnierczyk by going right down at the net. Trenin went hard to the net and was nearly rewarded but the follow up saw him help get Gaudet his first goal as an Admiral.
Of course, any lull stretch from the Admirals instantly falls back into the lap of their goaltender. It has been a stellar season for Anders Lindbäck. He has been this season’s MVP from the beginning and now he is starting to generate some historical ramifications for how well he has played.
Lindbäck last night became the eighth goaltender in Milwaukee Admirals history to win thirty games in a single season. He is the first to reach that mark since Jeremy Smith hit the mark during the 2011-12 season.
It’s amusing to think that Lindbäck was part of that 2011-12 squad. He played twice for the Admirals that season. It was his last stop in Milwaukee until he returned this season where he has now made fifty-two starts. He has been a model of consistency in a season of numerous inconsistencies for a young Admirals team that has made mistakes and learned from them repeatedly in front of him. He has been the foundation for the Admirals all season. There might be other goaltenders in the AHL this season with flashier numbers but I very much doubt few have meant more to their team than Lindbäck to the Admirals.
After last night’s game I had the chance to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. I then caught up with McNeill, Gaudet, and Lindbäck to get their thoughts on last night’s win against the Stars. These were all of last night’s interviews from the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
What were your thoughts on last night’s game? How impressed have you been with the way the Milwaukee Admirals have performed ever since the NHL Trade Deadline? Do you think the Admirals are going to make the 2018 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs or has this late run come too late?
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.