John Gibson was stellar! In Anaheim. Norfolk tried to pick up the pieces…
I’m at a loss as to where to start this review of game 3. In short, the Admirals played their worst game of the postseason and couldn’t quite figure out how to rebound without John Gibson. I guess to start there, in net. After Frederik Andersen went down awkwardly in game 3 of the Ducks/Kings series, a recall was likely. Igor Bobkov was on hand in Anaheim, but Bruce Boudreau felt that he had a better opportunity with Gibson on the roster. It paid off tonight, as John Gibson posted a 28-save shutout in the Ducks’ 2-0 game 4 win.
Veteran Brad Thiessen was penciled in as the Admirals’ game 3 starter. Thiessen was incredibly important down the stretch for Norfolk, helping them secure a postseason berth. As great as he was late in the season, the truth is that Thiessen just isn’t John Gibson. That said, it’s not as if the team was in a giant hole. The bigger problem has been the team failing to put shots of any kind on the opposition’s net.
St. John’s got on the board first thanks to the game’s first power play. Eric O’Dell would find the back of the net and once again Norfolk was in a hole. Somehow, they found some resiliency. A healthy Stefan Noesen would fire a shot at IceCaps goalie Michael Hutchinson, and Max Friberg would follow it up to tie the game. Just over a minute later, Emerson Etem would drive into the zone, place a between his legs, and Jesse Blacker would shoot it to make it 2-1 Norfolk. At the end of the period, the Admirals had somehow outshot St. John’s and had the lead.
An eventful yet scoreless second followed. Zach Redmond whiffed on a power play shot and his stick broke. Then, he threw it at an Admiral on the rush back and it went to 4v4. Nothing came of any of these man advantages. Shots and opportunities were never earned when the Admirals were a man up. It was incredibly disappointing. The worst part of the period came when Nic Kerdiles was trying to turn up ice and was hit in the head by IceCap Adam Lowry. Kerdiles would get helped off the ice and then return to the ice in the third.
The third period is when it all went downhill. Still nursing a 2-1 lead, Trent Yawney was probably thinking “defense”, however he interprets the term. What the Admirals needed to do was attack. They didn’t. Yawney decided to start his 4th line of Kevin Gagne, Maxime Sauve, and Zack Stortini. John Kurtz, who has been a key contributor on the 4th line on all season, did not dress. In an earlier recap, I was complementary of Stortini and his play this postseason. I should have know he was going to regress and his luck would run out. His line immediately conceded zone time to the IceCaps to start the second and the visitors tied it up.
In a postseason full of new heroes, the Admirals thought they might have found one on Saturday night. Norfolk scrambled around Michael Hutchinson’s net and eventually got the goalie down and out of position. Defenseman Josh Manson would find a loose puck and put it home to tie it up. Now, if you’re Norfolk, you’ve got to keep attacking. They couldn’t hold on for a minute.
A defensive breakdown in front of the net would lead to an easy opportunity for the IceCaps and Jerome Samson would make it 4-3. It was the game-winning goal. Norfolk would try to get some zone time and eventually pull Brad Thiessen. It was for naught and St. John’s would add an empty-netter to seal the game.
Brad Thiessen did not have a good game tonight. He stopped 26/30 shots, which does not qualify him for a quality start. Sometimes, good goalies have very bad games. The key is how the team in front of them responds. Norfolk couldn’t quite find the sustained pressure that they needed. At the beginning of the game, St. John’s was controlling zone time and outshooting the Ads at about 15 to 4 . It’s not a great strategy.
Whatever Trent Yawney is doing or has been doing all year isn’t quite working. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that this team doesn’t make the playoffs if John Gibson isn’t the goalie. Yawney’s lineup choices are perplexing such as the Kurtz scratch and continuing to play Stortini over healthy players like Steven Whitney and Charlie Sarault. The power play, whoever is in charge of that, needs to change somehow. Something has to change. Game 4 is on Monday.