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Milwaukee Musings: Overtime Woes

Overtime to Milwaukee as the power play is to Nashville.

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was another short week for the Admirals with two appearances in Cleveland for a series against the Monsters. You would probably not be shocked to learn that the Admirals dropped both matches - in overtime - in what continues to be a disappointing 2019.

This week is Texas week, with two contests each against the Stars and the San Antonio Rampage. Milwaukee is already a long shot to make the playoffs, but this week could be the final nail in the coffin.

Headlines & Standings

Central Division Standings - 2/27
theAHL.com
  • Before Monday’s trade deadline, forward Nicholas Baptiste was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for future considerations. Those came in the form of forward Emerson Clark, who is on an AHL-only contract.
  • On the same day, defender Matt Donovan earned his first recall to Nashville to replace Dan Hamhuis, who was placed on IR. Donovan played just under four minutes that night against Edmonton. Filip Pyrochta was recalled from Atlanta as a result.
  • On Wednesday, recently acquired forwards Laurent Dauphin and Adam Helewka both received new two-way contracts to stay with Milwaukee for the 2019-20 season. Both were to be restricted free agents this summer.

Weekly Game Recap

February 22: Milwaukee Admirals @ Cleveland Monsters

Box Score - 2/22
theAHL.com

After a 0-0 first period, Milwaukee took control of the game early in the second with goals from Justin Kirkland and Yakov Trenin. The Monsters answered back with markers from Zac Dalpe and Kole Sherwood to tie the game.

In overtime, Dalpe scored his second on a weak backhand that found its way through the five-hole to win things for Cleveland.

February 24: Milwaukee Admirals @ Cleveland Monsters

Box Score - 2/24
theAHL.com

In a higher-paced first period than the last, Dalpe - once again - and Dillon Simpson both scored within two minutes of each other to throw Milwaukee on its heels early in the first. Justin Kirkland responded with his second of the weekend, and Laurent Dauphin tied things up just 40 seconds into the next period.

Disaster struck once more as the Admirals surrendered three straight goals to Cleveland including a short-handed tally. Milwaukee miraculously responded with three of their own as Nicholas Baptiste’s second of the night and Eeli Tolvanen’s goal tied things up with just over two minutes to play.

Unfortunately, Mark Letestu capitalized on some curious defensive play from Tyler Gaudet and Frederic Allard to score another overtime victory.

Trending Up

Laurent Dauphin and Eeli Tolvanen: Well, now that Eeli Tolvanen wasn’t traded at the deadline, we’re stuck with him, right? Kidding, of course. No one has benefited more from the arrival of Dauphin and Helewka than Tolvanen and Blackwell. Both are noticeable each night in a way Emil Pettersson always wasn’t, and Dauphin is a quietly excellent play-maker.

But he’s also brought more dimensions to Tolvanen’s game and presented him with more opportunities to showcase parts of his skill set we don’t always see. Take this pass from Tolvanen below:

Tolvanen finished the weekend with two points and six shots on goal.

Trending Down

Frederic Allard: I know I have been banging the drum on Allard all season long, but now that he’s back from injury there has been some discrepancies I’ve noticed to his defensive game.

Much of this could be said for the defense as a whole, but both Rachel and I have struggled to understand their defensive model since Matt Donovan and Frederic Allard were separated.

As she puts it, and which I think is a perfect explanation:

It’s like they’re transitioning between zone and man-to-man coverage and then forget where they’re supposed to be.

As a Syracuse basketball fan and ardent defender of the 2-3 zone, this makes me laugh. But, in all seriousness, it’s fairly accurate. It doesn’t take a well-staffed scouting team to notice how inefficient the defense has been guarding player movement across the Royal Road.

I’ll give two examples. The first one is man-to-man coverage. Alex Carrier stays with his counterpart regardless of his proximity to the play to rule out a passing option. That’s good! But, Vince Pedrie is caught flat-footed and his man waltzes right around him:

The second example is imperfect because it’s from overtime, but regardless. Tyler Gaudet (who is D2 in this case) guards the net front instead of the man - probably not the best course of action in overtime, but I understand why if you know your foot speed is behind that of your opponent. Frederic Allard then forces a pass off the zone entry but there isn’t great backchecking, so he pulls out of his gap closure to challenge the new puck carrier, but commits to an east-west position that the opponent quickly moves around and finds an open man at the back door:

Final Thoughts

I generally try to stay away from catch-all phrasing about less empirical things, but the Admirals have left me with no choice. As Rachel has reminded me time and time again, this team severely struggles to finish off scoring chances. I’m not certain why, but there are so many instances per game of excellent passing to the slot or clean zone entries that result in an easy takeaway for the opposition.

There are some good pieces to this roster - some really good ones in fact - but I don’t think there has been enough reward for the players who have been overperforming, and offensive inconsistencies from secondary scorers like Justin Kirkland and Nicholas Baptiste have really sunk this team.

It’s been obvious all year how much Tom McCollum has been an issue. As Troy Grosenick goes, so does the team. But, with Grosenick on the injury shelf, this team has no choice but to ride McCollum to a hopeful finish. I try not to watch him too much, because he is a known commodity at this point, but Rachel couldn’t help but reiterate how awful his glove-hand positioning and reaction speed are; that was on full display against Cleveland.

I think we’ve hit the point of the season where games are much more an audition for next year for many new faces on the roster. This team can’t buy a win, and when they do, it’s often in the most arduous fashion possible. I don’t see the playoffs on the horizon, but I think the roster is in better shape than it was the past couple summers.

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