Zero is the number of points the Admirals earned, goals scored in two of three games, and minutes lead this weekend on their first road trip of the season. Outside of a remarkable 3 goal outburst against Springfield (in a 6-3 loss), Norfolk could not muster a goal. Where did it all go wrong?
Friday night‘s game in Providence can be somewhat attributed to veteran netminder Jeremy Smith. The P-Bruins goalie stopped all 39 shots Norfolk gave him. Impressive. Norfolk allowed 32 shots that game, had turnovers, and left a lot up to goalie Jason LaBarbera. He’s trending down and the fact that an NHL team gave him a contract must speak to a dearth at the position.
Saturday night saw Igor Bobkov in goal. Last year, he displayed signs of improvement in short AHL stints and with his time in the ECHL. Bobkov’s first start wasn’t great. Against Springfield, he wasn’t much better. Neither was the team. Norfolk took part in a penalty-filled affair, amassing 90 PIMs. Four different Ads received 10 minute majors for unsportsmanlike conduct. Norfolk allowed 27 shots while taking 21 themselves. Hard to get shots when you’re on the penalty kill ten times.
Sunday’s game against Hartford might be the most depressing. Norfolk faced a player in his first AHL start ever and Jason LaBarbera was in goal. Once again, they were penalty happy, giving the Wolf Pack 6 power play opportunities. In kind, Norfolk responded with 16 shots. That number is a bit misleading, I’ll admit. Josh Manson, for example, is credited with one shot despite registering several Corsi events in a 4v4 situation. No matter, though. Mackenzie Skapski had to face 16 shots and earned a somewhat easy shutout. To add injury to insult, newly signed defenseman Aaron Rome left the game in his 2nd Admirals appearance.
PDO deserves a mention here. PDO is the combination of a team’s shooting percentage and save percentage, with the mean being 100%. A team that is over 100 tends to be luckier, a team under 100 is unlucky. Norfolk currently stands at a 95.8% rate. Both the save percentage and shooting percentage are under 9 percent. Eventually, the shooting percentage should change with a few more pucks going in.
I don’t think the save percentage will. Igor Bobkov and Jason LaBarbera do not have strong track records. Bobkov’s first season in the AHL was disastrous and LaBarbera is aging. Neither of these is cause for confidence. I don’t want to say this but they may end up losing several games for the Admirals–if scoring ever happens.
Scoring SHOULD happen. Norfolk is not flush with shooting talent like last year when there was Chris Wagner, a healthy Max Friberg, Emerson Etem, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Rickard Rakell. Promising talent Stefan Noesen is once again shut down at the start of the season. Second-year player Antoine Laganiere needs to take a more prominent role. Brendan Bell is trying but has yet to match the firepower of Sami Vatnen or Alex Grant. Nic Kerdiles, perhaps the most promising prospect regularly in the lineup, needs to get a puck in the net.
Speaking of Kerdiles, what the hell is up with him? Kerdiles had more fights (3) this year than goals (0). While he does have 5 assists, he should concentrate on staying in the game and out of the box. Anaheim did not draft him, the University of Wisconsin did not sign him, and USA Hockey did not select him for his fighting. His job is to score goals. Why does he need to fight on a team with Nathan McIver, John Kurtz, Brad Winchester, and Steve MacIntyre?
Zero is the number the team should want to see from the other team. Not the Admirals.
Rumors of an AHL West expansion have been swirling, and the Admirals are of course part of the conversation. With a west coast affiliation, Norfolk’s livelihood is at stake. Unlike other west coast affiliates, Norfolk is not owned by their parent club. Jim Hodges has a report about Ken Young rejecting the sale of the Admirals to the Ducks. Given the structure of the contract, Anaheim could opt out. However, the Admirals could replace the Ducks with another NHL parent club, like they have done in the past. Definitely worth keeping an eye on.