I believe in the system. Sometimes you’re unlucky.
Friday came around and the Norfolk Admirals were back at Scope after a crushing 6-2 loss at the hands of their Western Conference adversaries, the Charlotte Checkers. Offensive leader Chris Wagner was back with the team after his second recall to the parent Anaheim Ducks. The Portland Pirates were in town, with old friends Mike McKenna and Evan Oberg–who would do them in.
Jarrod Skalde’s team played well for the most part, especially the line of Nic Kerdiles, Brandon Yip, and Wagner. They were a threat to score whenever they were on the ice and appeared to dominate zone time against the Pirates. Combining for 12 shots on goal (including a game-high 6 for Wagner), they only managed to get one past McKenna. It was frustrating, especially for a team that would end the night with a 38-21 shots advantage.
Late in the game, Norfolk would get a couple power play chances, including an abbreviated 5-on-3. They hemmed the Portland penalty killers in the zone, they fired as many towards McKenna as possible. Nothing went past him. When the first power play expired, the clock was winding down to under 2 minutes with the puck in the offensive zone. Yann Danis should have left the net for an extra attacker, he didn’t. Nevertheless, the team would fail to tie the game.
Danis, whom I wanted to see salvage Norfolk’s goaltending mess, was just not good enough. Right now, the average save percentage in the AHL is around .910, according to Josh Weissbock. No Admirals goalie approaches that number this year, except John Gibson with a .902 in two appearances. Danis’ performance tonight dropped his save percentage to .892, very close to his .897 last year with Adirondack. He is not going to win this team games.
Tonight, he just needed to not lose the game. Facing a paltry 21 shots, he let in 2. While this qualifies as a quality start, Danis needed to stop one of those pucks. McKenna, his counterpart, outplayed him in every sense. Portland gave up a whopping 38 shots to the Ads, including 15 for Norfolk in both the second and third periods. McKenna’s team did not deserve to win, but he stole a victory for them in an impressive performance.
Norfolk’s luck fell short, in direct comparison to the past two seasons under Trent Yawney. Thanks to goal-scoring talent like Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly, along with outstanding goaltending from John Gibson and Frederik Andersen, the Ads punched above their weight. Whatever monkey’s paw wish that got Jarrod Skalde this head coaching job (or Yawney back in the NHL) decided to take out the goaltending and shooting talent this year. Beyond Chris Wagner, there isn’t anyone scoring on a reliable basis right now. A lot of that has to do with Max Friberg and Stefan Noesen’s injuries, more consequences of bad luck. The goaltending is a well-discussed mess; it’s not going to change anytime soon.
This edition of the Admirals is the inverse of the Ducks-era affiliation. The system is working, forcing pucks on net, making the goaltender make saves. They’re outshooting the other team, and are slightly better at possession. On the backend, they are giving up goals thanks to below-average netminding. What happens is that a team that might win 3-1, 3-2 thanks to decent goaltending is now losing 4-2 due in part to the same position.
I believe in the system and think it works, if the Admirals don’t face one of the league’s best goalies. I don’t think this team is going to the playoffs until they can get a better netminder and some bodies come back from Anaheim.