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Admirals Stat-urday: Old Time Hockey in Week One

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The Norfolk Admirals opened their season with two games last weekend, scoring ten goals and giving up eleven. Old Time Hockey at its best--all offense, no defense!

Chris Wanger teeing up his second shorthanded goal of 2014-2015 season opener, Oct 11, 2014.
Chris Wanger teeing up his second shorthanded goal of 2014-2015 season opener, Oct 11, 2014.
Courtesy John Wright/Norfolk Admirals

1 Stefan Noesen scored his first professional goal last night for the game winner against the Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles Kings).  Noesen has two points on the season (1G, 1A).

2 While LW Nicolas Kerdiles has yet to find the back of the net, he has already chipped in two assists in three games this season.

3 The Admirals have seen three different goaltenders between the pipes in their first three games.  Last Friday Jason LaBarbera picked up his first win as an Admiral with a 5-4 win over the Hershey Bears.  Igor Bobkov followed up Saturday night with his first loss of the season 5-2 against the Bears.  Last night recently returned John Gibson prevailed in a 3-2 decision over the Manchester Monarchs, the same team he dispatched in the first round of last year's AHL playoffs. 

4 Chris Wagner had four goals in the Admirals opening weekend, netting a hat trick on Friday night made of two shorthanded goals and a fourth goal Saturday against the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals).

5 The Admirals have five periods with fewer than ten shots on goal, including all three of last night's victory of the Monarchs.

6 Norfolk has already racked up six major penalties in just three games, with one ten minute misconduct and one game misconduct.

7
The Admirals have fired 78 recorded shots on goal, averaging 26 per game.  They are near the bottom of the league in shots against per game, allowing 36.

8 Through three games, the Admirals are 80% on the penalty kill, allowing only three goals in 15 shorthanded situations.

9 Nine combined goals were scored against Norfolk in their opening weekend series against the Hershey Bears, four against Jason LaBarbera on Friday night and five against Igor Bobkov Saturday night.

10 The Admirals have scored ten goals in their first three games of the season--Wagner with four, Matt Bailey with two, and Louis Leblanc, Stefan Noesen, Nathan McIver, and Antoine Laganiere with one goal a piece.

--Welcome back everyone!  Working hard to give you some meaningful statistics and insight just three games in to the season.  Not a great deal to talk about, but I'll try to give these first few reports something worth reading.

--The Admirals have 15 players from last season currently on their roster, a huge plus for first year Head Coach Jarrod Skalde, who is very happy to have vets like David Steckel, John Kurtz, and Chris Wagner in the line-up to lead by example and who are comfortable with his style and personality.

--Max Friberg played just one shift in last Saturday's season opener against Hershey due to a dislocated elbow.  There is no timeline on the return and no news on the extent of the injury, but from what I've read rehab all depends on the severity of the dislocation--could be a month, could be several.  Friberg was a steady presence on the ice for Norfolk last season and his loss is a big blow on both sides of the puck.

--Last Saturday's opening game against Hershey saw four goals scored on two power plays.  How is that possible?  Two words, Chris Wagner.  Wags scored two short-handed goals on two successful Bears' power plays, and added a third goal later in the game to complete the hat trick.  Wagner was only the second AHL Admiral to perform the feat.

--Does Anaheim have a goalie problem?  Not sure if you followed last weekend, but it was atrocious out there between Norfolk's pipes. 

Jason LaBarbera, the "Number 3" goalie on the depth chart, gave up four goals on 37 shots and until John Gibson (who I'll touch on in a minute) came along, had the better save percentage of the two Admirals' goalies (.892).  Igor Bobkov, who played well in limited appearances last season, brought his swiss cheese game to his first of the season this past Monday, giving up five goals on 37 shots for a .864 save percentage.  While the offense bailed out LaBarbera, it could not do the same for Bobkov.  Rust for LaBarbera, who got a period of play in the preseason, and perhaps nerves for Bobkov, but still, not exactly the promising start the organization was looking for I'm sure.  So, about John Gibson....

I've said it all summer long and through the preseason---John Gibson does not belong in the NHL this season.  Please, let me explain my side before you call for my head and hit the close button for the window....

John Gibson is a starter.  Starting goaltenders can not sit on the bench for any length of time and require a steady workload of games to stay sharp.  That unfortunately is not the situation in Anaheim right now as the Ducks already have a capable Number One netminder in Frederik Andersen.  Gibson will be on the roster as the back-up to start the season, and while Bruce Boudreau will surely say all the right things about "splitting time" and "the best goalie will be the starter," the reality is that the net is Andersen's to lose, and based on his play of late (winning three straight) that just doesn't look like it's going to happen.

Gibson, while seeing a few games at the end of the regular season in Anaheim last year, spent most of his time here in Norfolk, where he was the clear Number One and had really good numbers for most of the season (December was not kind to him).  When Andersen got hurt in the playoffs, Gibson was recalled and got in to four games against the LA Kings in the post season, where he started off with a bang and went down hill quickly, shutting out the Kings in his first appearance, then allowing nine goals over the next three games including the final game of the Ducks' postseason.  Gibson replayed those last few games in his first appearance for the Ducks this season, getting blown up for five goals.  Some might say that was also nerves, but if John Gibson is the goaltender everyone says he is, if he is steady under pressure and "elite," nerves should not have mattered one iota.

The playoff meltdown and the first game this season is all the result of pressure, and it isn't fair to Gibson.  He is incredibly talented.  He has the potential to make a great starting goaltender in the NHL.  But goalies mature differently than skaters and need time to develop.  If the Ducks were smart, they'd ride the steady Andersen, call on LaBarbera to give Freddy a rest, and put Gibson in front of as many shots in as many games as possible.

In fact, despite letting in a relatively soft goal last night against Manchester, the Gibson of old made several appearances, including an incredibly sick outstretched leg save that robbed a sure goal, the kind of save that Norfolk fans have come to expect from him and the organization is anxious to see in NHL play.

This weekend is supposed to be an opportunity to get him some game time.  I say let him stay, let him start, and relieve the pressure to be great now.  He's still a kid, and despite how tough and ready he appears, he still needs patience, time, and the opportunity to mature the "right way."

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