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Milwaukee Musings: All These Roster Moves Set Us Back a Couple Weeks

Six games; six average results.

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s been a minute since our last Milwaukee update, and, for that, I apologize. I had planned to do a full scouting report of the game against Hershey last week but life got in the way. So, we’re playing catch-up!

The Admirals are six games into the New Year and have gone 3-2-1 in that stretch, opening with three straight wins and answering with three straight losses—including one to division-worst Manitoba on Monday night.

This week Milwaukee is on a three-game road swing, hitting the Moose again tonight, Grand Rapids on Saturday, and Chicago on Sunday, before returning home to face San Antonio next Tuesday.

Headlines & Standings

Central Division Standings as of 1/15
theAHL.com
  • Defender Matt Donovan was selected to represent Milwaukee at the 2019 AHL All-Star Classic in Springfield, MA. Donovan is 19th among all defenders in scoring this season with 21 points.
  • Colin Blackwell returned from injury this past weekend, scoring two goals against the San Diego Gulls. Blackwell is a premier offensive producer in the AHL, and his return from a 17-game absence will help bolster the lineup.
  • Eeli Tolvanen is currently nursing a shoulder injury suffered around his return from the World Junior Championships. He has not returned to the lineup since the gold-medal game.
  • Jared VanWormer and Desmond Bergin were released from their tryout contracts as the Admirals get back to full health. Both Joe Pendenza and Scott Savage remain with the team on tryout contracts.
  • Phillip Di Giuseppe was assigned to the Admirals on Tuesday after clearing waivers.

Weekly Game Recap

January 2: Milwaukee Admirals @ Rockford IceHogs

Box Score - 1/2
theAHL.com

The Admirals pretty much controlled this one from start to finish and had excellent execution on the penalty kill. Yakov Trenin and Connor Brickley added marks for Milwaukee to open the new year with a win.

January 5: Milwaukee Admirals @ Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins

The Penguins got on the board early with a power play goal from Anthony Angello, but the Admirals answered with three straight in the second period from Pettersson on a breakaway, Baptiste on a rebound, and Tinordi on a rebound.

In the third, Tanner Jeannot added one more on the power play before the Penguins pulled within one a couple minutes later. Emil Pettersson scored his second of the night to ice things with 14 minutes to play.

Box Score - 1/5
theAHL.com

January 6: Milwaukee Admirals @ Hershey Bears

The Bears kicked things off scoring-wise, but Anthony Richard answered with a power play marker from the point with a minute to go in the first.

Zach Magwood and Jarred Tinordi—off a beautiful pass from Allard—added two more in the second to put things away early in Hershey.

Box Score - 1/6
theAHL.com

January 9: Milwaukee Admirals v. Grand Rapids Griffins

The Griffins opened the scoring not even a minute into the game off a weak rebound chance, but Justin Kirkland answered with a nice shot from the slot eight minutes later.

The Griffins added another late in the period and held steady throughout the night before icing things with an empty-net marker.

Box Score - 1/9
theAHL.com

January 12: Milwaukee Admirals v. San Diego Gulls

Colin Blackwell and Tyler Gaudet returned from injury and immediately set the tone of the night, with Blackwell converting on a breakaway to open the scoring. Troy Terry and Sam Carrick answered for the Gulls in the first, but Blackwell added another power play marker to tie things up midway through the second.

The Gulls responded with three quick goals in the span of five or so minutes to put things away before they even hit the third period.

Box Score - 1/12
theAHL.com

January 14: Milwaukee Admirals @ Manitoba Moose

The first period was pretty bland aside from a nice scoring chance by Frédéric Allard, but Colin Blackwell—once again—opened the scoring with a wraparound goal in the second. The Moose answered off a defensive breakdown on the penalty kill, but Tanner Jeannot would answer late in the period.

The Moose tied things up off another defensive breakdown midway through the third and closed things off quickly in overtime despite the Admirals controlling almost all of the play. Eric Comrie had an incredible sequence in net for the Moose early in overtime.

Box Score - 1/14
theAHL.com

Trending Up

Emil Pettersson: If you blinked at all recently, you might not notice that Emil Pettersson now leads the Admirals with 26 points in 40 games. After a slow start to his sophomore season—including two 5+ game pointless streaks—Pettersson has points in nine of his last 13 games, and he has looked fantastic in all situations (power play, penalty kill, and even strength).

Offensive Production: With the renaissance of Pettersson, the return of Blackwell, and the additions of Cole Schneider and Phil Di Giuseppe, this team has little to no excuse to improve upon their sixth-worst 105 goals for. You can check out more on the Schneider addition here.

Trending Down

Filip Pyrochta: Pyrochta’s last shift ended with 18:35 to go in the first period on December 29 at the Iowa Wild. It was his first shift of the game, and he took a pretty hard hit into the boards behind the net but finished the remaining 25 seconds of the shift. I wonder if this is a concussion-related or shoulder-related absence.

Connor Brickley: I think this one is pretty cut-and-dry. 11 points in 39 games for someone who was an NHL regular last season doesn’t cut it. I was skeptical of Brickley from the start and am impressed by this move for the Admirals.

Final Thoughts

It was a testy couple of weeks for the Admirals who have been dealing with their own rash of injuries and key players being absent. It seems rather clear—hopefully—that Rocco Grimaldi won’t be returning to this team the rest of the season, so there is an opportunity here for the Admirals to re-define a few things in the second half of the season.

They’ve got two new scoring injections in Cole Schneider and Phil Di Giuseppe—and, frankly, Colin Blackwell returning has been essentially like adding a new player—and they have players down the lineup that are filling into more appropriate roles.

Rachel pointed out how excellent Mathieu Olivier has been on the penalty kill this season, and that has been a huge bright spot for this Admirals team. Additionally, Joe Pendenza has returned for his second tour with the Admirals on a tryout deal and has really pushed the play for the bottom-six and brought back his infamous net-front abilities, as Rachel astutely noticed.

Frédéric Allard has stepped up to play this seasonas a top defender in the AHL and has proven to do so regardless of his partner. You can read more on him in my statistical analysis of him and Carrier found here. Speaking of Alexandre Carrier, Allard’s versatility in the lineup has helped him, as both Rachel and I agree Carrier plays his best minutes when paired with Matt Donovan.

But this team is still riddled with flaws. I was complaining to Rachel about this squad’s lack of consistency. If they make the playoffs, I cannot imagine them winning a round for the first time in eight years. A few persistent issues were on display the past couple weeks, and Rachel gladly pointed them out: too much perimeter shooting, not enough low-to-high puck movement, and coverage breakdowns in the defensive zone.

The Admirals actually have a really interesting power play strategy which attempts to rectify some of these issues (and I will highlight it sometime soon in an article or on Twitter), but more often then not there is not much pre-shot interaction between the point and the forwards below the hash-marks. I think Schneider and Blackwell will help with this, and Allard has the ability to be more of a rover down low in the zone when he needs to. But there have also been plenty of miscues on the other end, too. The Moose’s first goal on Monday night is an excellent example, as Tyler Gaudet doubles up coverage on a penalty kill, leaving his man wide open in the slot.

There have been several moments this season where I thought this club was turning a corner, and it hasn’t happened. Their division is very tight so the urgency to dominate isn’t there, but with a more complete roster, now would be the time to start tightening things up down the stretch.

All statistics are courtesy of theAHL.com and eliteprospects.com.