Norfolk played the second of their preseason set with the Checkers. Some thoughts.
Igor Bobkov is better, but by how much?
When Igor Bobkov first played for the Admirals, he was a mess. Rebounds everywhere, a giant five hole, and just generally not very good. He spent most of the season as Frederik Andersen’s backup and was mercurial at best. With some depth last year at goal, Bobkov got sent to ECHL Utah. It may have been the best thing for him. He put up his best season as a professional.
Andersen and John Gibson are now set to be the goalkeeping tandem in Anaheim, freeing up Bobkov as the #1 goalie in Norfolk. He’ll need to be on his game, every time. Tonight was a very good showing from the Russian netminder. He stopped 24 of 25 shots in the game, securing the win. The only blemish came on a 5-on-3 penalty kill situation in which there was a bit of bad coverage. Bobkov was particularly sharp stopping a Charlotte breakway and a following rebound opportunity.
I’m still not one hundred percent confident in Bobkov. Maybe it’s past performance but I still think he’ll let in more than his share of bad goals. I don’t want this to happen, of course. What’s important is that the team in front of him performed at a high level. Norfolk controlled zone time and put up 35 shots to Charlotte’s 25. Keeping the puck in the other end will help any goalie.
special teams play
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned the score yet. It’s a preseason game and somewhat irrelevant. In the interest of full disclosure, the final score was 4-1 Norfolk. Three of the Admirals had at least two of four goals come on the power play. Forgive my terrible notes (it’s preseason!). The first goal, power play or no, came when Dave Steckel tucked in a Josh Manson shot to give the Ads the early lead. It was then answered by that 5-on-3 goal.
On a power play, the Admirals had a similar play where Brendan Bell fired towards the net and it was tucked in by Antoine “Giraffe” Laganiere for a 2-1 lead. Getting close to the net is great. The third goal was along the same lines. Max Friberg skated down the left and towards the net, making a smart pass to a waiting Brad Winchester at the goal line, who knocked it in.
The design of the power play was one that existed at the end of last season. It’s four forwards with one defenseman up near the blue line. Typically Kevin Gagne (who registered 2 points) or Brendan Bell will be at this position. Success on the power play is great but it’s hard to replicate this type of success. If they can manage to generate a lot of shots-which they did in this game-it will hopefully work more than it fails.
The final goal, an even strength one, was the prettiest. Louis Leblanc found a trailing Matt Bailey on the right side, who went in to the slot and just ripped it top left over Daniel Altshuller.
Jarrod Skalde’s team sure will be fun to watch if they keep this up. They’re a fast paced team that moves up and down and manages to keep the puck in the offensive zone. They tended to have few defensive zone lapses. When there was one, a teammate was there to pick up the slack. Kevin Gagne and Brendan Bell seemed to initiate zone entry by getting to the neutral zone and then hitting a forward, who would carry it in.
I like watching this team, and hope some variation shows up every night. Will it? Probably not, because you can’t predict every game.
Tonight’s lines were pretty strong, especially a top line of Kerdiles-Sarault-Noesen, and a very impressive Winchester-Wagner-Friberg line. As much as I like Charlie Sarault, that line is going to be so much fun to watch with the skilled William Karlsson. I hope they score several goals.
Defense was interesting as the pairs were Gagne-Clark, Bell-Manson, and AOB-McIver. The top-4 will likely stay the same and the bottom pairing, I’m not completely sure. They were on the ice so little that I barely noticed them doing much of anything. I think they might stay together. Jesse Blacker’s name is somewhat absent but I’m not surprised. If he’s supposed to be an offensive threat, he may have stagnated. Gagne still has time to develop and Bell is proven as a professional. The Peter Holland trade now looks like an offloading of assets more than anything. I’m trying to pay special attention to Mat Clark and Josh Manson this year, by the way. Manson seems to be willing to play a bit more offense and move the puck, whereas Mat Clark is a known quantity.
Steve MacIntrye played tonight and he…got a penalty. He didn’t fight, which is nice, but he didn’t really contribute either. If he’s going to play, I guess I’ll take a net neutral effort.
I’m excited to see what the team has to offer.
Norfolk will not start the year with a captain, again. Instead there are three alternates, which are not surprising. Dave Steckel, Mat Clark, and Max Friberg were all chosen to wear As tonight. Okay, some might not understand Max Friberg over Chris Wagner. I think that was probably a close to decision. Friberg plays all three phases and loves the Norfolk Admirals, so I think it’s pretty good. Placing my money on Steckel for Captain.
New players mean new numbers. Here’s a list:
William Karlsson wore 22 last year and Emerson Etem wore 16 so those are available.
slogan this year is “This Is Admirals Country” because “This Is Birdland” was taken…first game is next Saturday versus Hershey!