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Admirals Stat-urday: There Ain't No Mumps On Me

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If only there were, at least then the Admirals might have an explanation for blowing a 4-1 lead last weekend in the third period and allowing four more unanswered goals last night in a 5-2 loss.

Igor Bobkov skates out during pre-game introductions 2014-2015 Norfolk Admirals
Igor Bobkov skates out during pre-game introductions 2014-2015 Norfolk Admirals
Courtesy John Wright/Norfolk Admirals

1 Right wing David Pacan scored his first AHL career goal Friday night against the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa Senators).  Pacan is a "veteran" of just 18 AHL games in three years.

2 Shea Theodore played the fifth and final game of his conditioning assignment last Sunday against the Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning), scoring two goals, both on the power play.  All told, Theodore played in five games and picked up five points (3G, 2A).

3 Forward Louis Leblanc scored his third goal of the season Friday night against the Sens.  Leblanc has six points in twelve games (3G, 3A) and is currently on a three game point streak (2G, 1A)

4 Center Brad Winchester potted his fourth goal and added an assist against the Crunch last Sunday.  In twelve games Winchester has nine points and is second on the team in scoring (4G, 5A).    Unfortunately he is also out for two weeks.

5 Defenseman Brendan Bell notched his fifth helper of the season Friday against the Sens.  Bell has five points, all assists, in 13 games this season.

6 The Admirals have pretty much perfected the art of playing from behind, but haven't been able to pull out a win if they trail their opponent after two periods.  Norfolk has lost all six games in which they trailed entering the third period.

7 Norfolk has only managed to score seven power play goals on 49 attempts (including the two Shea Theodore popped in last weekend) for a 14.3% success rate and have allowed nine power play goals against on 60 attempts, killing off 85% man advantage opportunities.

8 Igor Bobkov.  I'll talk about him below, but for now- Five games, 1-4 record, allowed 22 goals.  He's got a 4.41 goals against average and a .854 save percentage.  And oh yeah, he's the Admirals' starter and the next call-up if Frederik Andersen or Jason LaBarbera get hurt.  Let that sink in for a few minutes.

9 Norfolk has managed to score nine goals in both the first and third periods of their 13 games this season.  They've also allowed 19 goals against in first periods and 17 goals against in third periods.  The Admirals have been outscored 31-47 in 13 games.

10 Charlie Sarault picked up two assists versus Syracuse last Sunday and one more against Binghamton last night.  In eight games, Sarault has no goals, three assists, and ten penalty minutes.

--Chris Wagner was recalled no doubt thanks to Anaheim's decision to hide...err, um, put Dany Heatley on the IR list.  My nagging groin injury has kept me from playing hockey too---can I get paid anyway?  Wagner is expected to be returned once Kyle Palmieri finishes his conditioning assignment with Norfolk.  Brad Winchester, the second leading points scorer for the Admirals, is out at least two weeks with a shoulder injury.

--Waiting for the other shoe to drop when Anaheim loans the next player to Norfolk and a "mysterious illness" hits the locker room.  Seriously, the mumps?  I guess if someone is going to get sick, may as well do it in a uncommon way....

--Igor Bobkov, the number one goalie for the Admirals due to attrition rather than skill, is a hot mess.  Never mind that Norfolk had a 4-1 lead against Syracuse last Sunday going in to the third period and allowed four unanswered goals to lose 5-4.  Last night the Admirals had two one-goal leads (1-0, 2-1) and ended up losing 5-2.  I will point the finger at sloppy defensive play and execution that resulted in multiple odd man rushes, but three of those five goals were essentially shots from the face-off dots to the right and left of Bobkov that he should have saved.  The goals came from lower percentage shots, from angles that Bobkov had plenty of time to square to, and even with a defensive player pressuring the Senators' forwards.

When asked about Bobkov's performance last night, Coach Jarrod Skalde's very quick and short answer was  "He has to make a save."  Not "We need him to play better," or "He needs to make some more crucial saves."  No, it was just make A save.  One.  Hockey is a team sport, and it takes all five skaters and the goalie to win a game.  However, when the goalie can't make the simple saves, it sure makes things hard for the rest of the team to win, doesn't it?

--33 year old Yann Danis was signed to a Professional Tryout Contract earlier this week to "back-up" Bobkov (management's statement, not mine).  Danis appeared in 53 NHL games but has bounced between the NHL and AHL since 2011-12. Last year he played 31 games (9-11-4) with the Adirondack Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers) and finished with a 3.01 GAA and .897 SV%. No doubt Danis and his agent have been watching the AHL with increased interest after he spent the summer rehabbing a bad hip.  I don't think it took a genius to figure out what was happening in the Anaheim organization, particularly with goalie depth.  Danis reached out to the Ducks and offered his services and Norfolk happily accepted.

So here's how it is folks.  Norfolk signed a 33 year old almost NHL goaltender with a bad hip because their only other option was Bobkov.  I can't make this up.  Danis will get the start tonight against Binghamton, a fact made known VERY quickly last night by Coach Skalde.

--The same guys doing the same things, making the same mistakes.  This was Coach Skalde's summation of last Sunday's and last night's games.  Newly appointed Captain Dave Steckel called it "redundant."  I asked about what the team can do to "fix" those mistakes, and the short answer was "show video and work on it in practice."  A sobering fact for the coach, the organization, and the fans, is that there is no one sitting around waiting to get ice time that is a better alternative to the offenders.  The players have nothing else but their own motivation and desire to get better to push themselves, because no matter how poorly they play, no matter the mistakes they make, Skalde can't take them out of the line-up as punishment.  Right now no one is fighting for a roster spot, so the course correction is going to have to come from within.  I even brought up the idea of a "bag skate" as a potential way to get the point across, and while Coach Skalde grinned, he explained that those types of practices are saved for when the effort isn't there.  He proposed that the effort was there, but the mental focus wasn't.

While I would give up quite a bit to be the head coach of a professional hockey team, I certainly don't envy Skalde's current position.  He has no depth from which to insert players in to the line-up, no real way to punish poor play, and is essentially stuck with repetitive video review as his only form of discipline.  One of the other reporters last night asked Skalde what the team learned from last Sunday's loss.  His response, "I don't know what we learned."  I would offer the answer as nothing and last night's game as Exhibit A.  The Admirals' will need to figure things out quickly as there is a nine point difference already from 1st to 15th in the Eastern Conference and a nine point difference between first place Wilkes Barre-Scranton (Pittsburgh Penguins) and the fifth place Admirals in the East Division.  Those divides can be overcome as the season is still early, but the other teams aren't going to wait around for Norfolk to finally figure it out, whatever "it" is.

Redundancy.

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