Three games into the AHL season, and the trends out of Milwaukee might have some worried. After a strong opener against Grand Rapids, the Admirals were torn apart last weekend in back-to-back losses against the Chicago Wolves.
Milwaukee Admirals (2) vs. Chicago Wolves (3)
On Friday, Milwaukee was beaten more by Eetu Makiniemi, making his first-ever AHL start, than by the team in front of him. Don’t get me wrong, the Wolves played well and methodically to build up a 3-0 lead over the course of the game, but Makiniemi was stellar, turning aside 41 of the 43 shots he faced.
Karl Taylor demonstrated a steady trust in his top line of Schneider-Glass-Afanasyev this weekend, and Mathieu Olivier drew into the lineup after being activated off of injured reserve. That top line, serving as the top power-play unit too, made things interesting late in the third as Egor Afanasyev scored off of a laser one-time feed from David Farrance.
Matt Tennyson added another power-play goal with just 11 seconds to play—ultimately too late for the Admirals to equalize things.
Despite the loss, Jeremy Davies posted another standout performance: 65.2% Corsi, 60.0% controlled zone exit success rate, four shots on net, and only one high-danger shot against. Both on the man advantage and at even-strength, Davies was often swinging low in the offensive zone, taking his role as a quasi-fourth forward seriously and forcing the Wolves’ defenders to adjust accordingly.
Milwaukee Admirals (1) @ Chicago Wolves (6)
On Saturday, any confidence viewers had in Milwaukee’s game vanished with a 6-1 dismantling by the Wolves.
Devin Cooley started again, and Karl Taylor iced his first 12F-6D lineup of the season with Josh Healey sitting out. The Admirals came out with a decent pace but couldn’t generate many dangerous chances and notched just four shots. Dave Gust opened the scoring for Chicago, firing a weird-angle goal past Cooley, and the Wolves took over from there, ending the first period with two more goals in a 30-second span.
Milwaukee rebounded okay in the second but still couldn’t generate much, while ceding a fourth goal to Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski.
It wasn’t until the final period where the coaching staff began to seriously experiment with line combinations, and Anthony Richard especially took advantage of that, demonstrating his improved two-dimensionality and nose for the puck in all situations. The speedy forward recorded just one shot attempt at even strength, but he was pressing on the forecheck, unlike most others, and recorded a 52.2% Corsi rating.
Despite a late goal from Joe LaBate, the Admirals turned in a lazy, uninspired performance and left Devin Cooley—who was pulled after four goals—out to dry. Parker Gahagen stopped 22 of 24 shots in relief. If Connor Ingram is in Nashville long, Cooley will need to tighten up his positioning, as will the defense in front of him.
Milwaukee relied heavily on a second line of Michael McCarron, LaBate, and Matt Luff through five periods this weekend. While I understand the desire to ice such a physically imposing unit (and they did show decent chemistry), the Admirals could afford to test other combinations to unlock the speed of Richard, Patrick Harper, and Zach Solow and generate more chances off the rush.
Egor Afansyev put in another solid performance coming off his first AHL goal from the night before. He’s not the quickest skater at this level, but he thinks the game several plays ahead and dives into open ice well where he’s able to use his size to win puck battles or his soft hands to pepper shots on net.
Coming up, the Admirals will look to rebound as they close out their October schedule by hosting Chicago on Friday and traveling to Grand Rapids on Saturday.
All statistics are courtesy of theAHL.com.