BLOG: Two Games Isn't a Season, but...
After two games, the Admirals are one of two teams to have a 2-0 record.
After two games, the Admirals are the second-highest scoring team in the AHL.
Now, two games does not a season make. But, it certainly has been a good start for the team.
Momentum-grabbing goals have been huge. Both have been scored by Austin Watson. Teams don't want to give up goals at any time, obviously, but they're especially demoralizing in the first and/or last minutes of a period. Watson scored what proved to be the game-winner on opening night just 22 seconds into the third period. He scored the game-tying goal at 21 seconds of the second period Saturday in Rockford.
The scoring has been balanced. Milwaukee has played the same lineup in both games. Nineteen players, including goalie Marek Mazanec have stepped on the ice for the Admirals. Fourteen of those 19 have points (73.7%). As of this writing, 16 AHL teams have played two or more games. Bridgeport has had 14 players of the 22 they've dressed record a point (63.6%). Charlotte has had 13 of 22 score (59.1%). Lake Erie has had 11 of 20 (55%). Rochester, the only team to score more goals so far than Milwaukee (10-9) has had 12 different players record a point out of 20 who have dressed (60%). No other teams are over 50%. Consider that one of the players yet to record a point for Milwaukee is last year's goal-scoring leader, Colton Sissons.
The guys in front of Mazanec have been good. There have been a few missteps, but the number of players getting into good position to block shots, both forwards and defensemen, is encouraging. One of my biggest pet peeves in hockey is watching a defender slide in an attempt to block a shot. I would guess more than half-the-time the shooter just lets that player slide by and then gets the shot, or a good pass, through. Players need to be in good position, not sliding wildly. Johan Alm, Triston Grant, Watson and the others have been able to do just that.
The coaches don't like the labels of "First Line, Second Line, etc.", so I will point out that the line of Frederick Gaudreau, Zach Budish and Joe Pendenza has been magnificent. It's not your typical "Fourth Line" (sorry for the label). There is nobody there to drop the gloves, really. But, they have been counted on to shift momentum with their puck pursuit and tenacity. Budish played what many in the organization feel was his best game on opening night. Pendenza scored his first professional goal, the game-winner, Saturday in Rockford. Gaudreau has been terrific. On an AHL contract, Gaudreau had the longest goal-scoring streak in the QMJHL last season with 13 goals over nine games. He also went to the penalty box for, get this, TWO MINUTES. In 63 games, he was whistled for just one minor penalty all year. He's a smart player who has proven to be an early-season standout.
There are some things to work on. The power play wasn't good at Rockford on Saturday. That needs to get better.
The other challenge is getting the team to play this way game-after-game. There are going to be some lulls, definitely, but minimizing those lulls is a key for every team's success.
We have just 74 games to go. We'll see if the Admirals can keep it up.