The window for the Milwaukee Admirals to make the 2018 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs narrowed to an extreme last night. The Rockford IceHogs earned a 3-2 shootout victory on the road against the Texas Stars. That result, paired with a 3-0 shutout defeat from the Grand Rapids Griffins on the road to the Tucson Roadrunners, pushed the IceHogs into third place based on head-to-head record against the Griffins.
The IceHogs and Griffins magic number to clinch a spot is down to 3. If both win tonight and the Admirals lose – the Admirals will be officially eliminated from playoff contention.
With the IceHogs win last night we have reached the point where that fourth placed team can’t win for the rest of the season while the Admirals must run the table. The Admirals will never be able to take the first tiebreak scenario or regulation/overtime wins (ROW) so a loss of any kind tonight with wins from both – that will be enough. The Admirals need to win out and receive huge amounts of help to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Chicago Wolves will look to play spoiler tonight. They remain in the lead of the Central Division with a record of 38-22-7-4 (87 points, 0.613 points percentage) but were smoked 7-3 last night on the road against the Iowa Wild. The Wolves have a game in-hand on the second placed Manitoba Moose (0.611) but further slip ups could cost them a successive Central Division title.
I think it is safe to assume last night was “one of those games” for the Wolves. Oscar Dansk, who was named CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month for his efforts in March, made the start and stopped 1/3 shots on goal before being given the boot 10:12 into the contest. I don’t think it mattered much that Maxime Lagacé entered. The Wolves conceded 5 goals in the first period. They came out of the gate flat and were punished -big time- for doing so.
This sets up then for a huge first period tonight. And, hey, wasn’t that the story on Tuesday night when the Admirals and Wolves scored a combined 6 goals? The pace and desperation from both in that game was next level and I’m expecting more of the same tonight. Things certainly tightened up defensively after that first period, going all the way to a shootout for a result, but this should again have a playoff atmosphere to it.
The Wolves should be playing angry after last night and they’re playing to win the Central Division. The Admirals -need- to keep winning games if they can even hope to miracle a way into the playoffs this season.
Tonight’s game plan should be to keep things simple and -most importantly- stay out of the box. The Wolves power-play hasn’t entirely been explosive overall (17.7%) or at home (17.0%) but they pack five different players above the 50 points plateau: Teemu Pulkkinen, T.J. Tynan, Beau Bennett, and Brandon Pirri. To give them better opportunities to be creative and generate clean scoring chances could be a deathstroke on the game and season.
Just as well, if the Admirals can dictate the pace well enough, it might be time for the Admirals power-play to deliver against the Wolves. The Admirals power-play has gone 3/36 (8.3%) in 10 games against the Wolves this season. That last power-play goal was scored by Emil Pettersson back on 11/24/17. They have been on a run of 0/17 in the 6 games that followed. When taking a peak at the Wolves last night? Going to the penalty box and getting roughed up for it was an issue. In last night’s contest the Wolves penalty kill only went 2/5. It might be time for the Admirals to power up and push.
What are your expectations for tonight’s game? Can the Milwaukee Admirals possibly hope to survive this season and make it into the playoffs? Do you think the Rockford IceHogs or Grand Rapids Griffins have any chances of slipping up that severely? Should the Admirals be eliminated this weekend how do you see the team shaking up and playing for the rest of the season?
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