Why? Why, time after time after time after time, is it always the Grand Rapids Griffins? The only evidence that I have at this point are the results over time -but- I firmly believe the Milwaukee Admirals mentally get shutdown within these games as they happen. There will be some good spurts. They might even win some regular season games. But when the chips are down and it is time to deliver with everything on the line – nothing.
The Admirals archenemy in Grand Rapids swept them out of the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs the last two straight seasons. They might have just solidly struck a nail in the Admirals 2017-18 coffin with last night’s 6-2 blowout. The Rockford IceHogs found the strength to rally back in the third period and beat the San Jose Barracuda. The Admirals could not do the same against the Griffins. The gap has widened and time isn’t on the Admirals side one bit for games like last night.
Here is where some real frustration can kick in. The Admirals started this game with a sense of urgency and purpose the likes of which gave the Griffins some real problems. In fact, the Griffins might have been fortunate the game was only 1-0 after the first period.
In the game’s opening 11:31 of hockey the Admirals were up 1-0 and ahead in shots 11-3. They dictated where that game was going with savvy defending and a crisp and direct offensive approach. The Frédérick Gaudreau goal was a great example, and came 1:59 in, of using speed, on the tape passing, and going hard to the net. It sounds so easy. But sometimes that simple of an approach pays off – and it already was doing so as evidenced on Friday night when the Admirals beat the Texas Stars 5-3.
Where this all seems to fall apart is when the Admirals don’t see the results they were getting, don’t get the time or space to pass, and start pressing harder and harder until the real damage comes from their own mistakes. The Admirals when they switch off and play instinctively can probably beat any team in the AHL. When they are stuck in their own heads and reacting – everything snowballs. That was the case last night in the second and third period. And the Admirals shot their foot clean off.
Now, I don’t want that to purely sound like all of the blame last night should just go on the Admirals – because, time and time again, credit has to be given to the Griffins for their skill and relentlessness. It’s never just one thing. Even Anders Lindbäck attempting a hard clearance away from his net directly at Axel Holmström that lead to the sixth and final unanswered goal from the Griffins – you must give credit to Holmström for racing in that hard, that late in the game when there are less than three-minutes to play, and forcing the Admirals to work harder than they need to. It creates mistakes. The Griffins feasted on Admirals mistakes last night. And they never stopped hunting to generate more.
I know full well that this is a crazy sport and a lot can change. The IceHogs have six-games remaining in their regular season schedule and the Admirals have a game in-hand over them as well.
The IceHogs only play a single home game for the rest of the regular season and will face -as of now- one team (Iowa Wild) that is out of the playoff picture. The Admirals have four more home games to be played and will only see one team from their final seven-games be a group that’s playoff bound. They will see the Chicago Wolves, who lead the Central Division, three-times. And they will also face the likes of the Wild and the bottom dwelling Cleveland Monsters.
The difference right now is 7 points to make-up between the Admirals in fifth place chasing down that fourth and final playoff spot from the Central Division. It is still a possibility. What sours the belief in that possibility is a result and performance such as last night from the Admirals against a playoff style opponent in a playoff style atmosphere. There just isn’t time for a clunker against any opponent. Last night was a clunker against an opponent that has often times acted the part of a bully, that should have been knocked down to make a statement, and instead simply gave out the prototypical atomic wedgie anyways. It can’t happen. That Admirals locker room knows it can’t happen. And the accountability from now until the finish will be all the difference in the world whether or not the Admirals do their part to give themselves a chance at playoff hockey this season.
After last night’s game myself and Nicholas Hatch had the chance to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. We then were able to hear from defensemen Jack Dougherty and Jimmy Oligny following the defeat. These were last night’s post-game interviews from the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
What were your thought’s on last night’s game? With how results panned out do you think it is going to take a Rockford IceHogs collapse for the Milwaukee Admirals to have a chance at reaching the Calder Cup Playoffs? How important is it that the Admirals have a short window to get back on the ice, play on Tuesday night, and get back on track immediately?
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