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Admirals Stat-urday: Beating the best not good enough

Admirals' Coach Yawney's explanation for back-to-back losses after soundly beating the AHL's best team twice last week was simply "It's as if they forget their identity, they forgot who they were."

Andre Petersson makes his Admirals' debut at Scope March 7, 2014
Andre Petersson makes his Admirals' debut at Scope March 7, 2014
John Wright / Norfolk Admirals

1 Friday night marked the first game for forward Andre Petersson, recently acquired from the Ottawa Senators for defenseman Alex Grant.  Petersson got right in to the game, picking up his first point as an Admiral with an assist on Devante Smith-Pelly's first period goal against the visiting Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals).

2 The Admirals have now lost two in a row after putting together an impressive four game winning streak.  Friday night's loss was the second straight game in which they missed a chance to take possession of first place in the East Division.

3 Devante Smith-Pelly put together his third three-point game of the season last Saturday against the Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles Kings), assisting on three of the four goals scored in a 4-1 Norfolk win.

4 Norfolk is ranked fourth in the AHL in Penalty Killing.  In 58 games played, Norfolk has been shorthanded 237 times, allowing only 32 power play goals and killing off penalties with an 86.5% efficiency rating.  Also of note, the Admirals have slipped out of the top-ten in the league in penalties, a sign perhaps that the days of stupid penalties are behind them?

Goaltender Viktor Fasth ended his second stint with the Admirals last Saturday with a 4-1 win over Manchester.  In five games this season, Fast is 3-2-0-0  with 11 Goals Against, a 2.40 Goals Against Average, and a .922 Save Percentage.  Fasth was traded this week to Edmonton for draft picks, returning the Ducks' goaltending chart to symmetry with four netminders on the books.

6 Antoine Laganiere scored his eightth goal added his sixth assist of the season against the Monarchs last Saturday.  It was Laganiere's third two-point game of the season.

7 Center David Steckel picked up his sixth goal and 12th assist last Saturday against Manchester, added his seventh goal of the season in a 3-2 loss on Tuesday against the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes).

8 Captain Garnet Exelby leads Norfolk defensemen in plus/minus with a plus-8, while Kevin Gagne is hanging out on the other side of the pendulum with a minus-8

9 Chris Wagner scored his ninth of the season vs Manchester Saturday, keeping his "goal-per-weekend" streak alive.

10 Norfolk is now 6-4-0-0 in their last ten games.

--Sami Vatanen is still listed as being on the Norfolk roster but was injured last Saturday and flown back to Anaheim to be evaluated.  No "official" word yet, but the hit he suffered looked like it hurt his knee.  Jesse Blacker, who was out of action after taking a vicious shot to the head a few weeks ago, returned to action Tuesday night.

--The Admirals went toe-to-toe last weekend against the best team in the AHL, the Manchester Monarchs, and quite simply beat them senseless.  Norfolk controlled every aspect of the game and it was probably the best 60 minutes of hockey the Admirals put together all season.  The team wanted to show they could run with the big dogs and they proved it heartily.  Which is why fans are extremely frustrated this week with the 3-2 loss to Charlotte Tuesday and the 3-2 loss to Hershey last night.

Charlotte, a team currently sitting only two games above .500 and 11 points behind the Admirals, were able to rally from behind and score two goals in the game's final five minutes, the last with just a minute to play, to seal the win.

Hershey, coming in with six straight losses, were "finally" going to see an Admirals team that wasn't riding in at 3 a.m. to play a third in three nights, but instead were going to see a well-rested, well-prepared Norfolk team hungry for points and wanting to put the Charlotte game behind them.  Instead, the Hershey Bears came in to Scope, complete with their Booster Club, and OWNED the game.  To say the score is much more flattering than the level of play would be an understatement.

Norfolk got on the board first with a nifty dangle by Smtih-Pelly, but that would be the only Admirals' highlight as the rest of the game saw the team trying to play catch-up.  It was as if the Admirals' were playing in quick-sand while the Bears had jet-packs strapped to their backs.  At one point almost a full minute went by on a delayed-penalty sequence where the Bears, being up a man with their goalie pulled, moved the puck around the Admirals' zone like it was tied to a string.  11 players and a goalie, all playing within a 75' x 85' piece of ice, and for an entire shift no Norfolk player could get possession of the puck.  That sequence pretty much summed up the entire game, and Max Friberg's last second goal was more of just a personal statistic than a team achievement.

I have mixed feelings about the week.  Norfolk didn't really "slip" in the standings with two straight losses, but as I've mentioned over the past the points race in the Eastern Conference is extremely tight and only seven points now separate second through ninth.  In the East Division, home of both the Admirals and the Bears, only three points separate first through fourth.  Going in to Friday, Norfolk had a five point lead over Hershey but handed them two critical standings points.  Saturday's schedule almost assuredly gives two of the four other divisional rivals two more points, and in the event of another Norfolk loss, they would slip to third in the division and down to the final playoff spot.

The take-away from all the "what-ifs" I just mentioned, is that Norfolk went in to the week with the opportunity to take sole posession of first in the division, fourth in the conference, and could end up at the end of the week dropping all the way to eighth.  The race is just that tight.

There are 18 games remaining (8 home, 10 away).  The Admirals' magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 34.

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