1 - Rod Pelley scored his first goal in over two months last Saturday in a 3-0 shut out victory over the Binghamtom Senators (Ottawa Senators). Pelley has ten points on the season (3G, 7A).
2 - Forward Steven Whitney scored his second and third goals of the season in just his third game with the Admirals on Friday night against the Worcester Sharks (San Jose Sharks).
3 - Frederik Andersen continued his dominance between the pipes last Saturday night, putting up his third shutout of the season and winning for the second straight night against the Senators.
4 - Patrick Maroon, recently honored as the Admirals Player of the Year, is tied for fourth in the AHL in Power Play Goals (12).
5 - Goalies are known more for keeping the puck out of the net and not so much for helping to put it in the net. Andersen is apparently doing his best to help out at both ends of the ice--he picked up his fifth assist on the season last Saturday in a 3-0 shutout against the Senators.
6 - Center Charlie Sarault finally has an even strength point! In six games played with the Admirals, Sarault has four assists, three on the power play and a lone even strength assist in last night's game against the Sharks.
7 - Despite the incredible number of roster changes and streaky play, the Admirals have been consistent in one area--remaining in the top ten in the league in penalty minutes. Norfolk is ranked seventh in the AHL--in 71 games, the Admirals have racked up 1.416 minutes and average 19.94 minutes per game. Believe it or not, this is actually a positive sign as earlier in the season the Admirals were averaging well over 20 minutes in the "sin bin" per game.
8 - Norfolk has taken sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference with last night's win against Worcester and the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) loss to the Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins). There are only five games left in the regular season.
9 - Recently re-energized forward Devante Smith-Pelly has racked up nine points in his last ten games (5G, 4A) including three multi-point games.
10 - Frederik Andersen has started ten straight for the Admirals, going 7-3-0-0 with a .943 Save Percentage and a 1.80 Goals Against Average.
Norfolk Admirals' fans can only watch from afar, and for many, wait until social media is updated and post game stories are written to know the fate of their team and whether they will be defending the Calder Cup Championship or doing check-out interviews. Last Saturday night the Admirals closed out their regular season at home with a decisive shut-out victory over the Binghamton Senators.
Captain Nate Guenin took the ice after the game with a microphone and thanked the fans for doing their part, for getting behind them and cheering them on, and that it was now the player's turn to do their part and get in to the post season. His statements were met with thunderous applause, and why not? Feb. 8 saw the Admirals in last place in the Eastern Conference. Fast forward two months to last weekend and the Admirals were just "tie-breakers" away from suiting up for the playoffs.
The injection of youth from players like Whitney, Sarault, and Kyle Bonis coupled with the resurgence of Smith-Pelly and the down-low domination of Maroon saw the Admirals go on a run that has them in sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference with only five games left in the regular season.
Of even greater note was the emergence of Frederik Andersen. As I went back over the game sheets from the past two months I was hard pressed to find another name listed in the starting goalie slot. Andersen took the opportunity to solidify his spot as the number one and hasn't looked back. He is the single biggest reason the Admirals are in the running for the playoffs and it's become apparent that as Andersen goes, so go the Admirals. Frederik is in the top three in every statistical category that matters for a goaltender and surely gives the Anaheim organization some confidence in their goaltending depth both short term and long-term.
Lastly is Head Coach Trent Yawney. To everyone who ever doubted him this season, I take the utmost pleasure in saying "I told you so." At this point even if the Admirals don't make it in to the playoffs, what Trent has done with this team has been nothing short of amazing.
At least 140 different roster moves (my counting may be off by a few) since the beginning of the season to contend with. Offensive firepower called up with little notice, goalies sent down on conditioning stints, injuries, all of it taken in stride, and all of it used to teach the game of hockey. Fans watched a team with little idea of who it was learn its identity and play up to it. They watched other teams' "problem children" show up here and become leaders. They watched their favorite players get the call up and make a difference with the big club. And all of it under Head Coach Trent Yawney's watchful eye.
He took raw material and made it in to a hard working, hard hitting, blue collar team that learned to believe in itself and found a way to climb out of the basement and, at least for one day, in to a playoff spot. In my mind, even if for only that one day, Coach Yawney is Coach of the Year.
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