The Norfolk Admirals fought their way back to .500 over the weekend. Thanks in part to Igor Bobkov's strong goaltending and finally seeing the real Emerson Etem offense take over and win a game.
Coming off a tough week where the Admirals got shutout in Hershey and then had two physical contests against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers the Norfolk Admirals ended this week doing something they haven't done since mid-November. The team finally hit .500 in the win loss column and made the standings a bit closer 5th to 13th place in the conference is only separated by 5 points, Admirals are in 12th place.
This past week, the Admirals had two weekend games against the always tough Albany Devils. Both games were defensive battles as was expected. The Devils play lots of trap hockey and it can be boring sometimes. In both games one team carried a shutout into the third period only to have a goal against scored in the final minute. Friday night, Admirals goalie Igor Bobkov didn't allow a goal until there were 26 seconds left in the game. On Saturday Albany goalie Keith Kinkaid lost his shutout with 33 seconds left in the game.
Bobkov has looked nearly flawless in his starts since Frederik Andersen went down. He really struggled in November but his December has been amazing. Last month he had a 5.29 GAA through six games and a terrible .849 save percentage. Through 4 games in December, he has a 1.96 GAA and a .938 SV%. If he keeps it up through the difficult weekend ahead, I will be the first one on the 'Bobkov for goalie of the month' train.
This week was another good one for Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly. Smith-Pelly had a power play goal on Friday night for his fifth of the season. Etem single-handedly beat the Devils on Saturday night, scoring the game tying goal and the game winning goal just six second into the overtime period. He now has eight goals on the season.
Patrick Maroon also threw in a power play goal on Friday. Kyle Palmieri had no points but had five shots on goal. As of late he has been assigned to the third line with Corey Elkins and John Kurtz. Etem's play has earned him top line duty with Peter Holland and Maroon.
The special teams did amazing in the two games killing all 14 penalties, including some lengthy 5-on-3 situations. The penalty kill is ranked seventh as of Wednesday killing 85.9% of the penalties. The power play had an explosive night on Friday, which is impressive considering that Albany is the fourth best PK in the league. Overall the power play is still bad, ranked 25th in the league.
The next three games coming up for the Admirals may one of the toughest strings of games played this season. They take on the number one team in the conference on Friday up in Syracuse, hop on a bus to Springfield for the number two team in the conference, and then bus down to Wilkes-Barre to take on a pretty big rival for this organization. I would be more than pleased to get three out of the six points out of this tough weekend.
Time for the only real negative. Hampus Lindholm was assigned to the Swedish juniors team for the WJC. He has been cut from the roster with a concussion. There are two things to note here, he was rumored to be out with a concussion in Norfolk after a big, illegal hit and this could be his second concussion in a short period of time. Not good.