Admirals Stat-urday: We Band of Brothers

John Kurtz Making Friends and Playing Well With Others 13-14 Norfolk Admirals - John Wright / Courtesy Norfolk Admirals

72 of the 75 majors the Admirals have been assessed have been fights, second in the AHL. Every game they go to battle knowing the guy next to them will protect them, stand up for them, fight for them. It's a quality coaches encourage, fans love, and bonds teams.

1 The Admirals allowed just one Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning) shot on goal in the second period Friday night at Scope.  Few shots on goal are not a new sight for Norfolk fans, however more often times than not it's the Admirals who fail to put any pucks on net.

2 Defenseman Kevin Gagne scored his second goal of the season last Saturday night against the Hartford Wolf Pack (New York Rangers), the game's only goal in a 3-1 loss.

3 Rickard Rakell scored his third game winning goal of the season against the Crunch Friday, his first after missing eight games due to injury.  Rakell is tied with Emerson Etem for the team lead in points with 11G, 19A and 30 points.

4 Enforcer Zack Stortini fought Crunch heavy-weight Eric Neilsen for the forth time this season in a chippy game Friday night that would see four fights and 64 penalty minutes between the two teams.

5 Goaltender John Gibson leads AHL in shut-out wins, easily grabbing his fifth of the season Friday night over Syracuse.

6
John Kurtz, currently ranked sixth in the AHL in fights with 14, was the first to get to Crunch defenseman J.P. Cote Friday night after Cote launched himself at Jesse Blacker's head in the second period.  The fight was incredibly one-sided and a quick left-right-left combination sent Cote to the ice.  The fight was Kurtz's third of the month.

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Despite picking up points in eight of the last ten games, the Norfolk Admirals have now slipped to fourth in the East Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference.  The playoff race is tight with only three points separating the fourth through the ninth spots in conference.  While the Admirals and the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) are tied in points, the Bears have one more win for the tie breaker, a prime example of why although points are good, wins are better.

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The Admirals received their eighth regulation loss at home last Saturday when Hartford took the second of back-to-back games.  This season, Norfolk is 12-8-0-4 at Scope.

9 Norfolk is ninth in the AHL in Penalty Minutes.  In 49 games the Admirals have amassed 1007 minutes and 75 majors.  Norfolk has fought 72 times and is now just  six shy of last season's total of 78 with 26 games still left to play.

10 Of Devante Smtih-Pelly's 27 points this season, only ten are assists, with the most recent coming along with his 17th goal of the season versus Syracuse Saturday night.  Smith-Pelly is just five points shy of last season's points total of 32 (14G, 18A) which took him 65 games to accumulate as opposed to this season needing only 36 games.

--No word yet on defenseman Jesse Blacker other than he's definitely not going to play in tonight's game.  I saw Blacker walking out of the locker room last night post-game, and though he was fully dressed and walking on his own, he had what I can only describe as a "tired" look about him.  Hopefully he returns soon, no matter what team a player is on I hate to see injuries like that.  For a look at the hit and John Kurtz's fight a few minutes after, go to the :58 second mark of Wavy Ten's video report here.

JP Cote received a 5 game suspension from the league for the hit....

--Message received?  Last weekend the Admirals' played like they were in a pre-season game, letting Hartford, the basement dweller of the Eastern Conference, put on the kind of show you'd expect when an NHL team played an under-18 team.  Norfolk was lucky to get out of Friday night with a win, and looked like they were already three days in to the All-Star Break on Saturday night.  Fans booed through most of the game and afterwards the players were called out by Coach Yawney saying the players deserved more booing, considered a controversial move by some fans but in my opinion spot on.  At their level, the players shouldn't need another grown man getting them "psych'd" up for a game, all they should need is the game plan and the line-up.  After that, it's up to them to get fired up, fire each other up, and play like they want to win--you know, that thing they are getting paid to do.  (Just to be clear, if I had to ask my boss to get me excited to come to work or else I'd just stay home, I don't think I'd be working for very long).  Friday's game was about the most complete 60-minute effort the Admirals put together in awhile, so it would seem, at least for last night, that the players got the message and took it to heart.  We'll see if the message carries over in to Saturday.  They are certainly proud men who don't consciously choose to go out and play poorly, but now more than ever their focus needs to stay strong to avoid slipping further in the standings.

--Speaking of slipping...For the past few weeks I've gone on about how many points Norfolk had picked up in the string of ten games leading up to that Saturday.  A few wins here, an shoot-out loss there, but points all the same.  As I mentioned above however, all those points lost in extra periods is finally starting to come back and bite the Admirals in the standings.  Hershey, who were at the bottom of the East Division for the first part of the season, have come on strongly of late and leaped over the Admirals to take possession of third place in the division and sixth in the conference despite having the same number of points in the same number of games.  It comes down to wins and wins in regulation.

Norfolk currently leads the league in overtime games played with 18.  They've won 2 in overtime, 8 in shoot-outs, but lost 1 overtime and 7 in the shoot-out as well.  18 times the Admirals gave their opponents a point and left seven points out there they could have picked up.  Already one team has taken advantage of the "tie-breaker" rule, and while there are still 26 games left to play, the race is so tight Norfolk can't afford to leave those points on the table any more.

Follow me on Twitter: @VAPuckhead

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