Admirals Stat-urday: March Mistakes

Max Friberg Takes a shot on goal at Scope 2013-2014 Norfolk Admirals - Courtesy John Wright/Norfolk Admirals

So far March hasn't been kind to the Admirals who are currently playing sub .500 hockey and are making October mistakes while fighting for their playoff lives.

1 Norfolk once again leads the AHL in Penalty Killing with an 86.8% efficiency. In 64 games played and 265 times short handed, the Admirals have allowed only 35 Power Play Goals Against.

2 The Admirals were shut out for only second time this season last Saturday by the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins).  It was Norfolk's first loss in Wilkes-Barre Scranton since Feb 26, 2011.

3 Devante Smith-Pelly scored his third short-handed goal of season versus the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa Senators) Friday night in a 5-2 loss.

4 After Friday night's loss to Binghamton, the Admirals are now 1-4 against the Senators.  They play each other three more times before the end of the season.

5 Norfolk lost for just the fifth time in regulation after scoring the first goal of the game.  In 62 games played, the Admirals have scored first 30 times and have won 22 of those games.

6 Chris Wagner maintained his "Weekend" scoring streak for the sixth week in a row, scoring the game's first goal against the Senators Friday night, his eleventh goal of the season.

7 The Admirals dropped this week from Third to Seventh in Eastern Conference, tied with the Sixth Place Albany Devils (New Jersey Devils) in points, both with 76.  They are two points behind Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins) and three behind Binghamton for the Eastern Division Lead.  Norfolk's magic number is 22 with 12 games remaining.

8 Max Sauve picked up his seventh assist versus the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes) on Wednesday night and his eighth against Binghamton Friday.

9 Through nine games in March, the Admirals are 4-5-0-0, with 22 Goals For versus 25 Goals Against.  John Gibson is 3-4, Viktor Fasth 1-0, Brad Thiessen 0-1. 

10 Steven Whitney scored his tenth goal of the season against the Checkers Wednesday night.

--Charlotte was awarded the "Geico Challenge Cup" after Wednesday's game at Scope.  The series was created in the 2011-2012 season to promote a rivalry between Charlotte and Norfolk, two teams that are both geographically located inconveniently for most other East Coast teams.  Charlotte carried the season series 5-3-0-0.

--The recalls of Emerson Etem and Rickard Rakell and the injury to Andre Petersson could have resulted in an offensive drought for the Admirals at a point in the season when every game is essentially a playoff game.  However, Norfolk exploded for five goals against Charlotte Wednesday night, with supporting cast members David Steckel and Steven Whitney chipping in for goals along with Max Friberg and Smith-Pelly with the game winner and an empty-netter.  Charlotte isn't a basement team either, fighting to move from ninth to eighth in the Western Conference, so the five goals they potted Wednesday with the absence of a couple of "big guns" is encouraging, especially at this time of year when Anaheim will not hesitate to bolster their ranks for the play-offs.

--John Gibson is playing horribly.  Yes, I said it.  In the month of March his save percentage has been absolutely sub-par:

1)     CHA @ NOR     2014-03-04     0.903     -
2)     HER @ NOR     2014-03-07     0.875     -
3)     HER @ NOR     2014-03-08     0.958     -
4)     NOR @ WBS     2014-03-15     0.846     (Pulled after 2 periods)-
5)     NOR @ HER     2014-03-16     0.946     -
6)     CHA @ NOR     2014-03-19     0.880     -
7)     BNG @ NOR     2014-03-21     0.846

His March save percentage is .896.  Of course, not everything can be laid that the feet of a goaltender, no matter how good or bad he is, but considering Gibson has at best been "shaky" is an understatement.  Some may call it a "fluke" goal, but the quote from Kevin Freeman from the Lancaster Online says more about his play of late than just an isolated incident:

"Irony then visited the Giant Center with under four minutes to play in the second period. Gibson, who had frustrated the Bears to that point, gave up a goalie's nightmare goal. With the Bears on the penalty kill, Strachan got possession of the puck in the circle to the right of Grubauer. Strachan wristed the puck out of the zone and it headed for Norfolk's net. Gibson went to field the puck with his glove and stick and fumbled it. He spun around, only to watch the puck trickle over the goal line. Strachan's "shot'' went about 160 feet.  "I scored one like that in Midget Triple-A,'' Strachan said. "With that one, I was already on the bench when I knew that it went in.''

He's looked bad in games, not tracking the puck, surprised when pucks hit him, being caught FAR out of position on multiple occasions, just, well, uncomfortable.  What's interesting to me is that when asked after last night's game about splitting more games between Gibson and Thiessen, Coach Yawney replied with "The goalie who is playing better is going to get the starts."  I read that as "If Thiessen is playing well, he'll get the starts."  I don't believe for a second that Gibson will be benched, but after watching Thiessen come in to last Saturday's game in relief and stop 14 shots in the third period (more than Norfolk had the entire game) including almost single-handedly fighting off a 5-on-3 I don't think the coaching staff will be as hard-pressed to "Go with Gibby."  Another comment made by Yawney after Wednesday's game was that the five goals scored meant Gibson didn't have to stand on his head.  With the score being as close as it was, I think Yawney was being nice and really meant "The offense bailed out Gibson."

It's only a small sample but this is definitely not the time in the season for a melt-down.  With only twelve games to go, Gibson needs to find his game soon, especially if the Admirals' strategy of  "grind it out and rely on the goaltending" is expected to get them in the playoffs.

Follow me on Twitter: @VAPuckhead

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