Tag: Jonathon Blum

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?

Preds Switch Lindback for Dekanich; Blum Recalled

Tuesday, February 22 proved to be a eventful morning in the Music City.

The Nashville Predators made a pair of in house transactions before most team employees had finished their morning coffee, first swapping goaltenders by recalling Mark Dekanich from Milwaukee to replace Anders Lindback, who was sent down to the Admirals.  This will be Lindback’s first assignment to the AHL, while Dekanich will be making his fourth trip up to the NHL this season.

From December 4 through December 17, Lindback was the hottest goaltender in the NHL, winning six of seven starts, including two shutouts, and allowing three or more goals just once.  However the Gavle, Sweden native has went cold of late in his limited action, losing four of his last five decisions, and getting lit up for six goals by the Chicago Blackhawks on January 16.

This will definitely be a conditioning assignment for Lindback, who needs some in-game action to re-find his talents.  He should get plenty of opportunities as the Admirals face a four game in five night stretch starting tonight in Houston.

On the other hand, Dekanich will be looking to expand on his one game of NHL experience and auditioning for a new contract next season.

Meanwhile, Jonathon Blum will be making his first career trip to the National Hockey League, confirming the rumors that were swirling around the internet yesterday.  Blum, who is tied for second in the Admirals in scoring, will try to help out a Nashville blueline that has been hit hard by injuries as of late, including Ryan Suter.  Suter, who logs around 25 minutes of ice time per game (second only to Shea Weber on the Predators), has been declared out for tonight’s game against Columbus.

This is a great opportunity for the 22-year old Blum to show something at the National Hockey League level, but I for one am surprised that Nashville chose him over Aaron Johnson, a player with an extensive NHL resume to his credit.  The Predators are in the midst of a dogfight in the Western Conference for a playoff spot, sitting in fifth with 70 points, but Nashville is just two points ahead of 11th place Chicago.

The AHL race is nearly as tight, with Milwaukee sitting in the top spot in the West Division with 71 points, but the Admirals are just four points in front of sixth place Oklahoma City.

So Roundtable, what is your reaction to these transactions?  Are you excited to see Lindback in the Admirals uniform, and how do you think Blum will fare up in Nashville?

Geoffrion Named AHL Player of the Week

Congratulations are in order for Milwaukee Admirals forward Blake Geoffrion, who earned this week’s Reebok/AHL Player of the Week Award.  The Brentwood, Tennessee native is fully deserving the honor having piled up six points (three goals and three assists) in this past weekend’s games.

After a slow start adjusting to the speed of the AHL and dealing with some lingering injury issues, Geoffrion’s play has really taken off in recent weeks.   The rookie is now up to third on the team in scoring with 25 points, trailing just Jonathon Blum and Linus Klasen.

The award could not have come at a better time for Geoffrion as the Admirals are unveiling a big night in his honor Friday against the Rockford Ice Hogs.  Milwaukee is wearing Red/White Badger-like jerseys for the contest, complete with the angled script.

That’s not to mention the Blake Geoffrion bobble head that will be passed out to fans.

I wonder what Blake prefers?  A bobble head in his honor, or the little glass trophy from the AHL that he will get to skate off with Friday evening?

Admirals All-Star Snubs

At the All-Star break, Milwaukee sits in the top spot in the AHL’s Western Conference with 60 points in 47 games played.  (I do realize that San Antonio and Houston each have 60 points as well, but they’ve played 49 and 51 games respectively).

Yet the Admirals have just two players competing in the AHL All-Star festivities, forward Linus Klasen and goaltender Mark Dekanich.  I don’t want to take anything away from those two players earning such honors, but isn’t it strange that Milwaukee didn’t send one single defenseman to Hershey, Pennsylvania?

So what if the Admirals have allowed just 116 goals, best in the West Division and even lower than super stingy and boring Peoria at 122 (Got to love how much that 8-1 win Friday paid off in the AHL stat book).

So what if Jonathon Blum is 11th in the AHL in scoring for defensemen with 28 points?  (Snub)

So what if recently red hot Aaron Johnson has seven goals and a 225-game NHL pedigree?  (Snub)

So what if Roman Josi is one of the best young defenseman in the AHL, even though he missed seven games with an injury?  (Snub)

So what if Teemu Laakso has 16 points, is a plus 11 and spent significant time up with Nashville? (Snub)

Pretty ridiculous in my humble opinion.  What does coach Lane Lambert think?

“There are only so many players that can go off a team,” Lambert said.  “I do think there were some other guys that were deserving to go as well, but that’s the way it goes.”

Clearly, Lambert decided to take the high road.

My hope is that the Roundtable won’t.

Which Admirals players do think deserve to be lacing up their skates in Hershey this evening?

Fixing the Admirals Power Play, Three Solutions

Through 42 games the Milwaukee Admirals sit in the second spot in the Western Conference, having accumulated 24 wins and 54 points.  Therefore all is well in Milwaukee, right?  When the Admirals skate five aside life is good, but the special teams remain a glaring issue as Milwaukee currently owns a seven goal deficit during special teams play.

“Five-on-five were pretty good, (but) its an ongoing process to try to get our special teams better,” Admirals coach Lane Lambert said. “We have to look at both the power play and the penalty kill.”

Lets start with the power play, which sits in 19th place in the AHL.  Milwaukee is effective 15.8% of the time, scoring 27 goals on 171 chances while allowing six shorthanded goals against.

What can the Admirals do to improve the power play?

“I think we just need to keep working on it,” Milwaukee defenseman Scott Ford said.  “We don’t a lot of guys other than Linus Klasen and Chris Mueller, who is up with Nashville, that put up big offensive numbers so we have to score by committee on the power play.  If we do the right things, the puck will start finding the back of the net.”

Here are my three solutions to improve the power play:

1) More movement out of everyone on the power play.  Whenever a power play goes south scoring-wise, this is usually the number one culprit.  All players on Milwaukee need to move their feet more to create more shooting and passing lanes.  More open lanes means more shots on goal and more scoring opportunities.

2) Stop watching Linus Klasen.  With a player like Linus Klasen out on the power play, it is easy to get caught watching him and not moving to get open for him.  Klasen is an amazing special teams weapon, but he needs help.  Klasen can draw opposing defenses to him creating openings for other options.

3) Blast more point shots.  The Admirals best weapon is the talent of their defensemen, and Roman Josi, Aaron Johnson, Jonathon Blum and Teemu Laakso are all potential scoring weapons.  By moving more on the power play, shooting lanes for the points open up, creating opportunities for Milwaukee’s garbage goal hunters to find rebounds and tips around the net.  Another way to create offense from the point is to have a good cycle down low that pulls the opposing defense lower in the zone, opening up plays and shots from up high.

Next week…I will tackle the Penalty Kill.  Stay tuned.

So Roundtable, What are your Power Play Solutions?

How Do the Virtual Milwaukee Admirals Stack Up?

A few years ago video game manufacturer EA Sports added the AHL to its options of teams you can use for their NHL video game.  I am not a frequent “gamer,” but I like to dabble from time to time, and I’ve found the addition of the AHL teams to be a pretty neat thing.  Imagine matching your hometown club against the best in the NHL in an exhibition match, or playing a showdown between an NHL team and its top AHL affiliate.

Having recently purchased “NHL ’11” as a early Christmas gift for a friend, I figured it would be a lot of fun taking the virtual Admirals for a spin.  Now my friend is a far better “gamer” than I am (my glory days on the Sega Genesis have long since passed me by), but I managed to go 1-2-0 against him, using Milwaukee vs. Lake Erie twice and Wilkes-Barre Scranton once.

Here are some of my observations about the virtual Admirals:

1) Mark Santorelli is amazing.  It was really fun using both Santorellis on the same line last year on “NHL ’10,” but virtual Mark continues to be a dynamite player on the game for the Admirals.  My best play was a 2-on-1 one-timer which Santorelli usually finished for a goal.

2) Linus Klasen is an unknown.  I never could quite get a handle on how best to utilize Klasen on the offensive attack, even on the power play.  Most likely that’s because I don’t know how to use all the special player moves, but virtual Klasen proved a touch maddening.  Zero points in three games.

3) Brett Palin, Teemu Laakso, Jonathon Blum and Scott Ford were all dependable.  Despite my poor record, every game was low scoring.  My virtual Admirals defense blocked an amazing amount of shots.   I was especially impressed with virtual Palin, who hit everything that moved.

4) Chet Pickard played like Chet Pickard has so far.  The rosters we used for the game must have had Mark Dekanich called up with Nashville, because my only options were Jeremy Smith and Chet Pickard in net.  I couldn’t manage a big save from virtual Pickard when I needed it, and I couple of goals I wanted back big time.

So Roundtable, when/if you play video game hockey, do you choose to play with the Milwaukee Admirals?  If you do, then what are some of your observations?  Do some of the virtual Admirals surprise or disappoint you?  Who is your favorite virtual Admirals player?

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?