Tag: Jeremy Smith

Beyond the Bradley Center: Admirals Look to Overcome Slow Start, Score More

2012-2013 Milwaukee Admirals: 9 G.P., 4-5-0-0–8 pts., 21 goals scored, 24 goals allowed, 12th place in the Western Conference. Leading scorer: Taylor Beck (1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points).

Best Recent Win: Oct. 31 5-4 over Charlotte. Worst Recent Loss: Oct 20 1-0 at San Antonio. Key Upcoming Matchup: Nov. 10 at Rockford.

On a historic political night in the state of Wisconsin, I thought I would take time to chime in on the Milwaukee Admirals season for the first time this season. Its great to be back. Hopefully we will be hearing the same rhetoric soon from the NHL.

Obviously, 4-5-0-0 was not the start Milwaukee was looking for coming off the fast finish of the 2011-2012 campaign. However, considering how few goals the Admirals scored so far (just 21, 7th worst in the AHL), things could be much worse. After Milwaukee suffered through a disastrous Texas road trip, the Admirals responded with two big wins in a three game stretch.

But I felt growing pains were to be expected in Milwaukee this season, especially early. Other than a few key veterans in familiar roles (Chris Mueller, Jonathon Blum, Jeremy Smith), the Admirals again sport a young roster full of fresh faces. Milwaukee is also being guided by its fourth head coach in a little over two years, and it can argued that its third philosophical change. Lastly, in a league rich with top NHL prospects due to the lockout, two of the Admirals’ key potential Predators, Ryan Ellis and Gabriel Bourque, have only made a limited impact due to injuries.

The biggest issue so far for Milwaukee has been a lack of consistent goal scoring. Too many nights sustained offensive pressure hasn’t been there leaving Jeremy Smith left to bail the team out (a job he’s quite capable of).  There have been a couple of major bright spots, notably the offensive efforts of rookies Patrick Cehlin and Mattias Ekholm, plus timely goals from Mark Van Guilder.

Honestly, I can’t help but be excited about the Admirals despite the slow start. Though lacking the major weapons of a team like Oklahoma City, the Admirals are deep with quality players. Defensively, Milwaukee has displayed a nice balance between offensive/transition blue liners and solid stay at home defenders.

This weekend Milwaukee plays Rockford for the first time this season. After last year’s terrible showing versus the IceHogs, Milwaukee will looking to take an early leg up on the season series.

So Roundtable . . . What did you think of Milwaukee’s start? Were you hoping for more? Are you seeing the positive signs I am seeing? Is Game 1 against Rockford a measuring stick game?

Admirals Sweep the Shootout, Outlast Oklahoma City 4-3

With a chance to retake first place in the West Division, Milwaukee’s normally dormant shootout skills caught fire Tuesday night, going a perfect four-for-four against Oklahoma City to deliver a 4-3 home win.

Admirals shooters Mark Santorelli, Mark Van Guilder, Gabriel Bourque and Ryan Thang all converted, while goaltender Jeremy Smith stopped two of three Oklahoma City attempts to preserve the victory.

With the two points, Milwaukee moves back into first place at 89 points.  The Admirals now sit one point clear of Houston, which lost 3-0 to Texas tonight.

Riding a fast start, Milwaukee opened the scoring 14:34 into the hockey game.  Off a transition pass from Teemu Laakso, Ryan Thang’s bad angle shot from the bottom of the right face off dot caught goaltender Jeff Deslauriers sliding and squeezed through the five-hole.

“It was quick little regroup play,” said Thang at the first intermission. “I beat their defense back up the ice, but I got a little lucky with the shot.”

In the final minute of the first period, Oklahoma City countered after Thang took a slashing penalty.  On their fourth rebound opportunity, Anthony Aiello scored into a wide-open Milwaukee net.

The Admirals regained a one-goal advantage seven minutes into the second period on a brilliant play from Roman Josi and Chris Mueller.   Off a breakout Josi found Mueller at center ice with a step on Aiello.  With a tape-to-tape 100-foot stretch pass, Josi sprung Mueller on a breakaway.  Mueller finished off the play with a brilliant deke.

Seven minutes later the Barons again tied the game, this time with a deflection goal by Andrew Lord.  Lord, who dressed for a pair of games with Milwaukee earlier this season, had his first AHL goal of 2010-2011 find twine off of goaltender Jeremy Smith’s mask.

Milwaukee countered yet again at the 17:38 mark of the second period, this time on the power play.  After Josi busted his stick, Andreas Thuresson found Kelsey Wilson alone in front of Deslauriers.  Wilson tucked a backhand shot through his legs, through Deslauriers’ wickets and across the goal line for a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.

Pressing in the third period, Oklahoma City peppered Smith, finally scoring on a five-on-three power play in the last four minutes.  Mark Arcobello scored the tying goal on one-timer off of a cross-crease pass from Brad Moran.

Overtime saw bizarre string of four minor penalties in quick succession, resulting in an extended period of four-on-three and five-on-three power play time for Milwaukee, but the Admirals only managed a couple of marginal chances to leave the game tied at three after 65 minutes.

Despite allowing three goals on 38 shots, Smith was superb.  But the Admirals netminder saved his best save for the overtime, stretching across for a highlight reel right leg stop on a three-on-one in the first minute of overtime.

Smith now has 12 wins this season and sports a record of 12-6-2.

“The win felt really good for our team,” Smith said.  “We really stuck with it and played well tonight, but were not thinking of anything else other than finishing in first place.”

With Nashville’s 3-1 win over Edmonton tonight, the Predators organization went 2-0 against the Oilers organization on Tuesday.  Thanks to the one point gained, the Barons move up to 82 on the year to take over solo possession of fourth place in the West Division.

Milwaukee continues the home stand Friday night with their final regular season meeting with Chicago.

Tonight’s Admirals lineup (starters in ALL-CAPS):

Goaltender:  JEREMY SMITH

Defense:  AARON JOHNSON-BRETT PALIN

Roman Josi-Teemu Laakso

Grant Lewis-Scott Ford

Forwards:  KELSEY WILSON-MARK VAN GUILDER-ANDREAS THURESSON

Dylan Hunter-Mike Bartlett-Ryan Flynn

Gabriel Bourque-Chris Mueller-Ryan Thang

Brock McBride-Connor Shields-Mark Santorelli

Injury updates:  Forward Steve Begin is getting close to returning according to coach Lane Lambert.  Both Mark Dekanich and Linus Klasen remain a long distance away from returning.

Some questions for discussion:

1) With 10 games to play in the regular season, has Milwaukee finally found some playoff security with win 38 of the year?

2) Would Oklahoma City be a favorable match up for Milwaukee in the first round of the AHL playoffs?

3) Tonight was an on/off night for the Milwaukee power play.  Are some of the missing go-to scorers, Jonathon Blum, Blake Geoffrion and Linus Klasen, holding the special teams back?


Three Things Milwaukee is Doing Well, Three Things the Admirals Need to Work on.

Three things Milwaukee is doing well:

1)  The play of Mark Dekanich.

Off to a blazing start, goaltender Mark Dekanich is clearly the MVP of the Admirals in the early going this season.  In 11 games of action, Dekanich has allowed just 16 goals, while racking up eight wins against just two losses.  His statistics are staggering, headlined by a goals against average of 1.48 and a save percentage of 94.5, which are far and away the best in the AHL.  The only issue between the pipes that Milwaukee has faced so far is that Dekanich can’t play every night.

2) Turning defense into offense.

Prior to season Milwaukee’s strength appeared to be its defense.  Through the first 15 games this season the Admirals blueline has been stout, limiting quality scoring chances against.  But the Admirals defense is also keying an impressive transition game.  Jonathon Blum, Roman Josi, and Teemu Laakso represent three of the best two-way defenders in the AHL, and all three are off to great starts.

3) Balanced Scoring.

Sporting a balanced offensive attack is pivotal to success in hockey, especially at the AHL level.  Teams that feature only one scoring line usually go haywire in the middle of the season when NHL teams are forced to make significant injury call ups.   So far Milwaukee has found a nice balance on the score sheet, getting offensive contributions from each of its first three lines.  Linus Klasen remains the focal point with eight goals and 14 points, but Milwaukee features 12 players with five points or more through the first 15 games of the season, making the Admirals a tough team to matchup against.

Three things the Admirals need to work on:

1) Improve special teams.

Through 15 games, Milwaukee stands tied for fifth overall in league points, sporting an impressive 9-3-3 record.  But the special teams have lagged behind during the Admirals fast start.  Milwaukee owns a decent power play, ranked 14th and clicking at a 17.6% clip.  But strangely the penalty kill has lagged behind.  The Admirals rank just 17th overall, successful at killing penalties 82% of the time.  In order to remain among the league’s elite teams, Milwaukee must improve on its special teams play.

2) Find a solid No. 2 in net.

It seems inevitable that Mark Dekanich will get a well-deserved NHL shot, whether with Nashville or via a transaction to another team.  But even if Dekanich stays in the AHL all season, Milwaukee still faces seven more occasions of three games in three nights, including two on the upcoming Texas swing.  With a win in his first start this season with Milwaukee, maybe Jeremy Smith can be the solution to the Admirals backup goaltender quagmire.

3) Get Blake Geoffrion on the scoreboard.

No player in Milwaukee faces a microscope quite like Blake Geoffrion, who got off to a slow start.  But Geoffrion showed signs of figuring things out prior to getting knocked out of Milwaukee’s 4-1 win against Chicago on November 7 (Geoffrion hasn’t been back in game action since).  When he does comeback, getting that first goal should spark a surge in Geoffrion’s offensive game.

So Roundtable, what do you think are Milwaukee’s strengths and weaknesses in the early going?