Tag: Linus Klasen

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?

Five Observations from this Weekend’s Games

1) Blake Geoffrion spoiled two Badger homecomings.

This weekend’s games at the Bradley Center represented a Badger state reunion for two ex-University of Wisconsin defensemen, Josh Engel of the Toronto Marlies and Kyle Klubertanz of the Hamilton Bulldogs.  Engel who hails from Rice Lake and Sun Prairie native Klubertanz each had significant cheering sections in Milwaukee.

But both player’s homecomings got overshadowed by the play of their former UW teammate, Admirals forward Blake Geoffrion.  All Geoffrion did this weekend was score a shorthanded, game-winning goal against Hamilton and deliver one of the checks of the year against Toronto forward Nazem Kadri.

(Extra Note:  I hate to say this but I was quite impressed by Josh Engel on Saturday night.  I never really thought much of him as a player with Wisconsin, but he has developed into a pretty solid contributor with the Marlies)

2) Good things happen when you go to the net.

Less than 24 hours after getting shutout through 65 minutes of hockey against the Marlies, Milwaukee played a much more aggressive offensive game against Hamilton, making life difficult on NHL veteran goaltender Curtis Sanford.  The Admirals got rewarded with a pair of redirection goals in the first period.  Sanford saw heavy traffic in front of the net throughout the contest as Milwaukee worked to take away his eyes.

3) The Admirals power play remains a work in progress.

Even with Linus Klasen back in the lineup this weekend at the Bradley Center, Milwaukee’s power play left little to be desired.  During a minute of five-on-three advantage in the third period Saturday night, Klasen saw a pair of passes hop over his stick.  Against Hamilton, the Admirals had trouble just getting the puck into the zone on their first couple of opportunities.  Expect plenty of special teams work in practice for Lambert’s crew this week.

4) Jamie Lundmark will be missed, but not for long.

Along with the unexpected call up of Andreas Thuresson, this weekend the Admirals faced the surprising departure of Jamie Lundmark.  Lundmark quit on Milwaukee in order to pursue playing options in Europe.  The veteran of 295 NHL games, Lundmark accumulated 18 points with the Admirals this season.  Milwaukee struggled without his offensive presence on Saturday night, but with a few days of practice upcoming this week, the Admirals should move on a little easier without him by the weekend.

5) It wasn’t pretty, but Milwaukee racked up some big league points.

Saturday and Sunday might not have been the prettiest two games Milwaukee played, but in hockey the results are all that matter.  Two wins over two strong Canadian clubs, Toronto and North Division leading Hamilton, gives the Admirals 52 points through their first 40 games.  52 more in the second half could earn Milwaukee a West Division title and the Western Conference’s top overall seed.

So Roundtable, How many more points in the second half of the season do you think Milwaukee needs to win the West Division and/or the Western Conference?  Are you content with the Admirals just making the AHL playoffs, or with the team’s strong first half, have your expectations for Milwaukee changed?

Klasen Reassigned…Again

Looks like more tough love from the Nashville Predators for Linus Klasen.

Just an hour after I ranted about how Klasen should have played in southern California instead of Wade Belak, the Admirals goal scoring spark plug got a return trip to Wisconsin.

When I interviewed Klasen after the Predators morning skate on Wednesday, he seemed to know this move was inevitable.  More seasoning in the AHL is what Barry Trotz and Nashville are calling for as the Predators top scorers slowly return to the line up.

Klasen did get an average of nearly 13 minutes of ice time in the three games he appeared in for the Predators, though he registered no points.

On the bright side, this is a nice perk for those of us making the trek to the Bradley Center this weekend, getting to see Klasen again lace up for the Admirals.  If he dresses Saturday night, there will be an awesome match up of highly skilled, developing players, with Nazem Kadri playing for the Toronto Marlies and Klasen skating for Milwaukee.

So Roundtable, Are you excited or disappointed to see Linus Klasen back in Milwaukee?

Big League Observations from the Press Box

A short vacation/work trip to southern California to take in the Rose Bowl afforded me the chance to spectate the Milwaukee Admirals’ parent club, the Nashville Predators, as they competed in Anaheim one night prior to my return voyage back to frosty Wisconsin.

Here are four of my observations from the Predators 4-1 victory over the Ducks.

1) Chris Mueller fits right in with Nashville.

Though Chris Mueller finished the night with just 8:28 of playing time (the second fewest minutes of any Predators forward) he played a strong two-way game, registering two shots on goal and contributing to several sustained Nashville shifts in the offensive zone.  Though Mueller is slightly undersized by NHL standards, the work ethic he showed all year in Milwaukee was evident at the Honda Center.  In three games of NHL action through Thursday, Mueller has yet to score, but I have a feeling that will change in the near future.

2) Wade Belak over Linus Klasen?  Seriously, Why?

I have seen enough of Wade Belak’s career to really wonder why he has an NHL job in the first place.  Against Anaheim, Belak played a whole 1:55, picking up an entertaining scrap with veteran NHL goon George Parros.  Belak was in the lineup against the Ducks simply to match up against Anaheim’s size, but everyone else seemed to be doing just fine, including the 5’10” Mueller.  Instead of Belak, I wanted to watch Linus Klasen skate alongside Mueller to give Nashville another potential scoring option.

With a back-to-back game in Los Angeles on Thursday, I certainly would have plugged Klasen into the lineup against the more up-tempo Kings.  Belak was a complete non-factor, getting less than four minutes of ice time in this game.  I have to think that Klasen would have made a more positive impression than Belak, especially as a player hungry to get into the line up.  Still, Nashville dominated for a 5-2 come from behind win.

3) Jerred Smithson and Nick Spaling made big impressions.

Jerred Smithson might not be the most exciting player on the Predators, but the former Admiral plays with a ton of heart.  Smithson worked his tail off the whole game, and got rewarded with fluky goal that only he knew was in.  Playing on the same line as Smithson, Nick Spaling played what I thought was his best game so far with Nashville.  He logged over 17 minutes of ice time, assisted on Smithson’s goal and was all over the place on the Predators relentless forecheck.

4) Sheldon Brookbank is stuck as the odd man out in Anaheim.

The remembrance of Brian Burke’s general manager days in Anaheim remains obvious in the team’s defensive corps.  Despite losing Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer over the past two years, there are few precious open slots on the Ducks blueline.  With all eight rostered defensemen currently healthy, former Admiral Sheldon Brookbank is finding a hard time getting into the line up, much like fellow veteran Paul Mara.  From watching him during the pregame skate, Brookbank looked like he was itching to get back to competing rather than spectating.

Taking a Look at Milwaukee Alums who are playing/have played with the Nashville Predators in 2010-2011

With Nick Spaling finally getting over the hump and scoring his first NHL goal, I thought it would be worth taking a look at the progress of some of the Admirals who have played with Nashville so far this season, but also who have spent time in Milwaukee.

Spaling hasn’t had much puck luck in the NHL, as it took 50 games to get over the hump against the New York Islanders.  On a 5-on-3 power play Spaling setup on the right side of the net.  A couple of nice passes later and Spaling had himself a gaping net.

“It was a pretty nice play and they set me up pretty good there,” Spaling said.  “It was a wide open and I just had to put it in.  I was pretty lucky to get that one.”

(Check out the rest of his post game conversation here)

It is now going on two weeks and Mark Dekanich has yet to get a start with Nashville during his second stint with the club in 2010-2011.  The problem has been the unbelievable play of goaltender Anders Lindback.   Lindback has two shut outs in a row, and those starts weren’t even his best so far.  Last Wednesday Lindback shut down Detroit for a 3-2 Nashville win, making 15 saves in a third period dominated by the Red Wings.

Dekanich looks likely to get in goal for his first NHL game sometime this week as Nashville faces three games in four nights starting tonight at home against San Jose.

Fellow Scandinavians, Teemu Laakso and Linus Klasen, have each played in one game a piece with the Predators and both have yet to record a goal.

Of the other players who skated with Milwaukee in 2009-2010 and are currently with Nashville, Cal O’Reilly has six goals and 18 points, Colin Wilson has six goals and 12 points, Cody Franson is off to a great start with 4 goals so far and Alexander Sulzer has yet to score in 12 games of NHL action.

Stay tuned later this week for my feature on the relationship between Nashville and Milwaukee in the Predators organization, and in January for my piece on the success of Milwaukee developing NHL talent.

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?

Grading the Admirals Through the First Quarter of the Season

Offense (B-): Clearly, coach Lane Lambert has some work to do with Milwaukee in making the Admirals a more dangerous offensive hockey team.  Other than Linus Klasen and a few other players, Milwaukee isn’t blessed with an abundance of firepower.  Therefore the offense has to come by way of committee effort–a Nashville trademark.  Prior to the road trip, the Admirals got goals from players on their top three lines, but that dried up some in Texas and Oklahoma.  Milwaukee averages 2.55 goals per game, which is not going to cut it long term.

Defense (B+): This might have been the hardest grade for me to judge. 90% of time Milwaukee has really impressed me in their own end, preventing their opponent from getting quality scoring chances against.  Allowing just 2.36 goals against per game is a testament to the Admirals efforts in the defensive zone.  However, lapses at bad times have proved punishing for Milwaukee.

Goaltending (A-): If this only had to do with the performance of Mark Dekanich, I would state it as an A or A+, but No. 2 slot has hardly been reliable so far for Milwaukee.  It’s nice to see Jeremy Smith picking up some much needed wins for the Admirals, but Milwaukee really needs Chet Pickard to elevate his game to the higher level he seems more than capable of reaching, but for some reason hasn’t found yet.

Special Teams (C-): Carrying a power play ranked 20th in the AHL at 15.8% and penalty kill ranked 18th working at an 82.1% efficiency just isn’t going to cut it long term.  The power play in particular went cold as the Admirals headed south on the road.  For a team that struggles at times to score goals, special teams could prove to be a decisive weapon for Milwaukee competing against more offensively gifted clubs.

Final Grade (A-): Milwaukee has far exceeded my expectations through the first quarter of the season, which is a credit to Lambert efforts and the efforts of the team as a whole.  The Admirals were a young and unproven club to start the year, but prior the extended road trip the club was starting to form solid identity as a tough team to play against.  But don’t mistake young and unproven for a lack of talent.  There is plenty of talent in Milwaukee to build a winning hockey club, and so far Lambert has the Admirals heading in the right direction toward to a berth in the AHL playoffs.

So Roundtable, What are your grades for the Admirals so far?

Five Things I’m Thankful For

1) The Admirals Team Speed.  During my preseason chats, a one word description from defenseman Scott Ford on his early impressions of Milwaukee really stood out.  The 2010-2011 Admirals would be–Dynamic.  It was a surprising thought, but watching Milwaukee play that is exactly the description I have for team so far.  The youthful Admirals play an up tempo, high speed game that is a joy to watch when it is all on the same page.  Sure Milwaukee suffered through plenty of growing pains in the early going, but when everything is clicking, the Admirals pack a high octane punch.

2) Mark Dekanich’s Goaltending.  There has something in Mark Dekanich’s eye this season, a look of determination that says the puck just isn’t getting by him.  At 24-years old the maturing goaltender is off to a fantastic start, allowing just 21 goals against in his first 13 games of action.  Even more impressive is the work load Dekanich has taken on.  Playing nearly every night in Milwaukee, Dekanich has been between the pipes in all but one of his team’s wins.  If Dekanich continues at numbers in the ballpark of his current pace, expect interested calls from NHL teams to start raining in Milwaukee’s ears.

3) The Wow Factor of Linus Klasen. On opening night it didn’t take long for me take notice of Linus Klasen on the ice—about one shift.  From that point, Klasen has been joy to watch and follow.  Every time the puck is on his stick, it seems like some electric is about to happen.  Perhaps Klasen in Swedish means instant offense, because that is exactly what the 24-year old has provided for Milwaukee this season.

4) The Candor and Color of Coach Lane Lambert.  If there is one person qualified to be annoyed with me this season, it would have to be Lane Lambert.  But credit to the Admirals coach, he has put up with my questions no matter what mood he is in, including the days where Milwaukee’s practices were driving him crazy.  All kidding aside, I really appreciate how generous Lambert and all of the Admirals players have been with their time and their comments.

5) Admirals Fans. Through the first quarter of the season, Milwaukee’s faithful supporters have been a pleasure to interact with.  I love seeing your comments, your thoughts and your critical assessments.  It makes churning out my weekly posts that much easier.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Round Table faithful.

So Roundtable, Regarding the Milwaukee Admirals, what are you most thankful for?