Off the heels of back-to-back losses to the Chicago Wolves, the Milwaukee Admirals had a chance to rebound to end their October schedule. Instead, they dug their early-season hole even deeper.
In weekend tilts against the Wolves and the Grand Rapids Griffins, Milwaukee lost both, dropping to a 1-4-0 record. It’s their worst start to a season since 2001-02, and their first time losing four or more consecutive games in regulation since early February 2018. Here’s how they got there.
Milwaukee Admirals (2) vs. Chicago Wolves (4)
Entering the weekend, the Admirals were besieged by injury and illness and missed Mathieu Olivier, Cole Schneider, Anthony Richard, and eventually, Michael McCarron. That depleted lineup looked the part, coming out flat against an energized Wolves team that peppered Devin Cooley with 13 shots in period one.
Grant Mismash, who was skating in his first professional game, answered Chicago’s first goal late in the period off a rebound near the crease; Mismash recorded his second of the night on a breakaway to put Milwaukee up 2-1 in the second period. Despite those markers, Mismash looked sluggish, and his pace and advanced stats reflected the team’s poor performance overall. The 2017 second-round pick finished the night with a 30.8% Corsi, 33.3% zone exit success rate, 40.0% zone entry success rate, and just one shot attempt at even strength. His, and the team’s, possession numbers were highlighted in particular by a more than two-minute shift in the first period where Milwaukee could not exit the defensive zone as Chicago recorded nearly a dozen shot attempts and hemmed in the Mismash line.
All night long, Milwaukee struggled to make appropriate in-game changes to respond to the Wolves, and their play was too reactionary to impress on the game.
In the final frame, their fortunes worsened as the Admirals recorded just one more shot on the net (4) than Chicago goals (3) for another divisional loss.
Milwaukee Admirals (1) @ Grand Rapids Griffins (4)
On Saturday night, Milwaukee traveled to Michigan to take on an offensively-stifled Grand Rapids team. Devin Cooley got the night off after facing 33 shots against Chicago, and Avery Peterson—who brought a good bit of energy and bite to the lineup—and Bobo Carpenter played in their second AHL games of the season.
The Admirals scored first—their first time doing so this year—via David Farrance’s first professional marker on the power play, but it was the only small victory the special team units had all weekend. Penalty killers had to be deployed seven times against the Wolves and Griffins, and the power play scored just twice on 12 chances.
Milwaukee failed to sustain its momentum from an early goal, and that’s been a worrying trend this early in the season. The Griffins responded with three even-strength goals in just over three minutes before the first period even ended.
Throughout the night, while generating a decent number of shot attempts, the Admirals’ forwards just weren’t making enough of a difference in the defensive and neutral zones. Defenders couldn’t count on reliable breakouts, and that showed in Farrance’s advanced metrics: 45.0% Corsi, 33.3% zone exit success rate, 60.0% zone entries against success rate, and 8.58 high-danger shots against per 60 minutes of even-strength ice time.
This team is missing a lot of key pieces, but it’s clear that current line combinations aren’t working. Milwaukee could afford to better maximize the speed of players like Zach Solow, Anthony Richard, and Patrick Harper, but they need more reliable transition and neutral zone play.
This weekend, the Admirals will face a tough test with a triple header in front of them. On Friday and Saturday they’ll host Manitoba and Iowa; on Sunday, they’ll travel to Chicago for their third matchup against the Wolves.