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Milwaukee Musings: All-Star Szn

Believe it or not: there are only 30 games left.

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Milwaukee had a weekend series before the All Star break in which they went 1-1, getting shut out by Iowa on Friday but running wild over Manitoba on Saturday.

The Admirals return to action on Friday with a two-game home series where they will welcome Manitoba and Rockford to Wisconsin.

Headlines & Standings

Central Division Standings - 1/28
theAHL.com
  • On Thursday, Nashville placed defender Anthony Bitetto on waivers. He was claimed by the Minnesota Wild and will not report to Milwaukee.
  • Also on Thursday, Milwaukee loaned defenders Filip Pyrochta and Brian Cooper to Atlanta of the ECHL. Cooper has not played sinced December 19, and Pyrochta has not played since December 29 due to an apparent injury.
  • Finally on Thursday, Milwaukee signed defender Ben Danford from Atlanta to a tryout contract.
  • On Friday, center Tyler Gaudet returned from injury, and Milwaukee sent forward Alex Overhardt back to Atlanta. Frederic Allard, Tanner Jeannot, Phillip Di Giuseppe and Garret Ross remain inactive.

Weekly Game Recap

January 25: Milwaukee Admirals v. Iowa Wild

Box Score - 1/25
theAHL.com

The Admirals’ scoring troubles against Iowa persisted as they were shut out for the third time in five chances by the Wild last Friday. Iowa scored early in the first despite Milwaukee controlling much of the play.

The Wild added a power play goal in the third and an empty netter to render the Admirals 0-4-1 against them this season.

January 26: Milwaukee Admirals v. Manitoba Moose

Box Score - 1/26
theAHL.com

Milwaukee pretty much dominated this one from start to finish, including capitalizing three times on five power play chances. Eeli Tolvanen netted two goals, including one on the power play; Emil Pettersson scored two; Joe Pendenza got his first in his second stint with Milwaukee; and Tyler Gaudet scored in his return from injury.

January 27 & 28: 2019 AHL All Star Classic

On Sunday at the AHL All Star Skills Competition, Troy Grosenick participated in the Rapid Fire contest, the Pass & Score 3-0 challenge, and the Breakaway Relay. Grosenick won the Rapid Fire contest with Iowa goalie Kappo Kahkonen stopping eight on 10 shots from Calle Rosen and Michael Dal Colle.

Matt Donovan participated in the Hardest Shot contest, the Pass & Score challenge, and the Breakaway relay. Donovan finished seventh out of eight with a blast of 96.0 mph.

On Monday night, the Central Division went 1-2-0 in the round robin portion of the AHL All Star Classic. Grosenick gave up three goals on 22 shots in three periods of play, but had a couple of the more impressive saves on the evening:

Matt Donovan scored two goals against the Pacific Division in the round-robin, including the goal of the night:

Trending Up

Eeli Tolvanen: “The offensive breakout we’ve all been waiting for!” cried much of Nashville this weekend when Tolvanen scored two goals against Manitoba on Saturday. I’m not ready to label a two-goal performance in a blowout a “breakout performance,” but he looked good. In fact, he’s looked all right the entire season. He hasn’t dominated the AHL like most hoped, but the tools and skill have not gone anywhere.

If you watch maybe one Nashville power play you will often notice Roman Josi in the position Tolvanen is at the beginning of this clip. The only difference is Josi often refuses to float lower. Great awareness by Tolvanen and an excellent pass from Cole Schneider.

This is a trend that Rachel pointed out to me and described with a word I like a lot: available. Tolvanen has learned to make himself more available on the ice instead of playing stagnant, and it’s showing. Plus, he’s been quietly successful at sustaining pressure along the boards in the offensive zone and winning puck battles below the hash marks.

Trending Down

Filip Pyrochta: As noted above, Pyrochta was assigned to the ECHL late last week in an unsurprising move. Out with a presumed injury since late December, this—on paper—seems like an exaggerated conditioning stint: an opportunity for him to get tough minutes and work back into game shape.

But the organization has botched a few prospect signings this season (Svoboda, Persson, and Moy) with time in Atlanta, and this could potentially go that route too. I think Pyrochta can be a very useful player with an okay ceiling, but we haven’t seen much from him this season and that could be concerning.

Final Thoughts

It seems to be a theme this season that when the Admirals lose their faults are quite noticeable, and when they win it seems like one of those nights where everything goes right—there is often no in-between. This past weekend was that sentence codified in two games.

Against Iowa, the Admirals skated well but their deficiencies were still present. They aren’t exactly a team that can often survive or control play when some of their key pieces are out of the lineup, so it helps to find players like Cole Schneider, who has taken off in Milwaukee. My partner Rachel and I have often taken note of how efficient he can be in front of the net and how much offensive zone passing has improved with him on the ice.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the additions of Vince Pedrie and Scott Savage into the lineup with Pyrochta and Cooper in the ECHL and Allard inactive with injury. They’re both decent puck movers without many glaring issues and Pedrie is an asset on the power play. But for every surprise, there is disappointment. I’ve noted in the past how weak Alexandre Carrier’s skating is; he has a very awkward stride that does him little favors. Rachel and I have both noticed it often this season, and she pointed out how likely it is it gets exposed against lightning-fast teams like the Chicago Wolves.

Following Rachel’s thoughts on Eeli Tolvanen, she pointed out that Anthony Richard can be the same way at times: reliant on line-mates to uncover pucks for him. Richard’s speed can help him be dominant in puck races, and he benefited from playing with Joe Pendenza the past few games.

This team has the pieces to compete. I’m not sure how much they have to go far, but their destiny is in their hands with a plethora of home games, above-average goaltending, and plenty of scorers in the lineup.

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