[Ed. Note: Written prior to Saturday's 4-1 loss to Binghamton. -CK]
1 Norfolk goaltender Frederik Andersen picked up his first shut-out of the season. In two games Andersen has a .971 Save Percentage and a .96 Goals Against Average.
2 Devante Smith-Pelly has netted two short-handed goals in three games and currently leads the league in that category.
3 Rookie Center Charlie Sarault had 3 assists in Friday's game against Binghamton, getting the primary assist on all three Alex Grant goals.
4 Defenseman Alex Grant picked up four points (3G, 1A) in Friday night's game against the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa Senators). His hat trick was only the second hat trick by an Admirals' defenseman, last accomplished on Feb 18, 2005.
5 The Admirals have picked up five points in their first three games of the season.
6 Norfolk is ranked sixth in Goals For per Game. In three games, the Admirals have scored 11 goals.
7 The Admirals are ranked seventh in Goals Against per Game. In three games, the Admirals have allowed 6 goals.
8 Despite their success on the 5-on-3 man advantages, the Admirals were unable to capitalize on eight out of twelve power plays against the Senators Friday.
9 In one appearance this season, rookie goalie John Gibson has one win and a .923 Save Percentage
10 The Admirals rank first in the AHL with 10 Major penalties.
Points are adding up, but are they really indicative of the type of team the Norfolk Admirals really have? One could casually look at Friday night's game against the Binghamton Senators, point to the five goal first period and final 5-0 score and say "See there? This is a great team!" However, I would be remiss in my commitment to bring the true story to light if I didn't point out what really happened, and how the remaining two periods from last night were very similar to the game play thus far this season.
Devante Smith-Pelly cashed in on a misplayed puck in the slot and netted his second short-handed goal of the season, and the team's third in three games. Putting that one goal aside however, the Admirals didn't have to work very hard to get the next four, all of which came on the 5-on-3 man-advantage. Teams are EXPECTED to score in this situation, and in looking at last night's game, the Senators seemed to play over half the first period down two men. What isn't obvious is the fact that Norfolk failed to capitalize on the other EIGHT power plays they were given. In fact, in three games this season, the Admirals have had the man-advantage 26 times and have only capitalized on 6.
After out shooting Binghamton in the first period 14-10, the Admirals only managed to put a combined 10 shots on the net during the remaining two periods, four in the second and six in the third. In the third period last weekend against the Hartford Wolfpack (New York Rangers) the Admirals again only mustered six shots on goal and allowed two goals in the period. Players and coaches both admitted to sloppy play in Friday's game, saying they let off the pressure and allowed the Senators to get back in to the game. I've often heard the saying that "a two goal lead is the worst lead in hockey" because teams often fall back in to a defensive strategy instead of keeping the pressure up. Admirals' fans witnessed this first hand last season and it was very obvious Friday night.
The performance that should have been awarded the first star Friday night belonged to Frederik Andersen. He stood on his head and covered up for a great deal of mistakes by the team in front of him, stopping a 2-on-0 breakaway, several giveaways in the defensive zone, and fighting off several short-handed efforts generated by sloppy play with the man-advantage. Thus far he's shown he's retained his form from last season, and while there is competition between the pipes this season, a shoot-out win and a shut-out in the first three games of the season goes a long way.
Last season the Admirals' started off 4-0, only to spiral down to the bottom of the league. Coach Yawney said last season that winning covers up for a lot of mistakes. So, contrary to popular belief, I'm not ready to call this Admirals' team a playoff contender. Norfolk has scored only one goal at even strength so far, and 5-on-3 power plays are not indicative of how a power play unit really works. Three games are in the books, but there is a long road ahead. I'm going to sit back and see where the leadership on this team takes them.
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