Sign in with your NHL account:
  • Submit
  • Or
  • Sign in with Google
Tampa Bay Lightning

Admirals/Whale Gameday Notebook

Friday, 05.11.2012 / 2:34 PM / Bolts Report
By Dan Marrazza
X
Share with your Friends


Admirals\/Whale Gameday Notebook

May 11, 2012


For the Norfolk Admirals, the complexion of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series with the Connecticut Whale has completely changed in 48 hours.

On Wednesday morning, the Admirals were tied at two wins apiece with the Whale, going into a road game that came on the heels of a 4-1 Connecticut win in Game 4, in what was probably Norfolk’s worst effort of the playoffs.

On Friday morning, the Admirals have a 3-2 series advantage on the Whale and now have two chances to eliminate Connecticut in Norfolk, while coming off a 4-0 win in Game 5 that was probably the Admirals’ best effort of the playoffs.

MORE COVERAGE

LISTEN LIVE: NHL Home Ice on Sirius 207 and XM 92

Admirals Forward Lines

Cory Conacher-Trevor Smith-Brandon Segal
Ondrej Palat-Mike Angelidis-Richard Panik
Pierre-Cedric Labrie-Alexandre Picard-Alex Killorn
Philip-Michael Devos-Mike Angelidis
Extras: Michel Ouellet, Jon Kalinski, Alex Hutchings
Injured: Eric Neilson

Admirals Defensive Pairs
Scott Jackson-Radko Gudas
Evan Oberg-Mark Barberio
Jean-Philippe Cote-Mike Kostka
Keith Aulie
Extras: Jeff Dimmen
Injured: Richard Petiot

Admirals Goaltenders
Jaroslav Janus
Dustin Tokarski
Jaroslav Janus

“We worked hard on Wednesday,” said center Tyler Johnson. “I still think there are some areas for us to improve, but the last game was probably as good as we’ve been in the playoffs.”

The keys to Norfolk’s Game 5 win were the clutch play of center Alexandre Picard and a surprise goaltending performance from Jaroslav Janus, who pitched a 22-save shutout in his first start since Game 2 of the Admirals’ first-round series against the Manchester Monarchs.

“Janus has the talent and the drive, and he’s really learning to play the position,” said Admirals head coach Jon Cooper after Wednesday’s game. “We have two goalies that we know can play and I thought changing it up could change the series’ momentum.”

Not only did Cooper’s coaching decision help propel the Admirals to taking back the momentum in a back-and-forth series; but so did Picard’s second two-goal performance of the playoffs.

Picard’s two goals tied him for both the AHL’s playoff goal-scoring lead (6) and the AHL’s playoff point-scoring lead (12).

“He’s (Picard) probably been our most effective player throughout the playoffs,” said Cooper. “The kid has been unbelievable for us. He’s been around the block and has put a lot of work in, and he deserves this.”

But while Norfolk’s top-notch performance on Wednesday made Connecticut look like a very beatable team, the Whale can by no means be underestimated or counted out.

Connecticut, the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference’s playoff field, has fought back from setbacks all season. In fact, the Whale lost out on the Northeast Division title to their top rival, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, by suffering through a disastrous month of Jan. when they didn’t win a single game.

However, the Whale responded to their 11-game winless streak—the longest winless streak by an AHL team this season—by going 17-10-3-2 down the stretch and avenging their loss of a division title by sweeping the Sound Tigers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

“I think we have a resilient bunch of guys in our dressing room,” said Whale assistant coach J.J. Daigneault. “We’re very dissatisfied with our effort in Game 5. We think it was our worst game of the series, while it was Norfolk’s best effort. We respect them, but we still think if we can bring our own ‘A’ game tonight, that we have a good chance to get back in the series.”



May 9, 2012


In many ways, through four games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Norfolk Admirals and Connecticut Whale are in the same spots they were in when the series started.

The series is tied at two wins apiece, each team has scored 11 goals and both teams have claimed one of their wins at home and one of their wins on the road.

MORE COVERAGE

Admirals Forward Lines
Cory Conacher-Trevor Smith-Brandon Segal
Ondrej Palat-Mike Angelidis-Richard Panik
Pierre-Cedric Labrie-Alexandre Picard-Alex Killorn
Michel Ouellet-Philip-Michael Devos
Extras: Jon Kalinski, Alex Hutchings
Injured: Tyler Johnson, Eric Neilson Admirals

Defensive Pairs
Scott Jackson-Radko Gudas
Evan Oberg-Mark Barberio
Jean-Philippe Cote-Mike Kostka
Keith Aulie
Extras: Jeff Dimmen
Injured: Richard Petiot

Admirals Goaltenders
Dustin Tokarski
Jaroslav Janus

In Game 5 tonight, one team will take a 3-2 series edge and move to within one win of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. For the Admirals to be that team, forward Brandon Segal points to his team’s ability to establish a net-front presence in front of Whale goalie Cam Talbot as mission number one in tonight’s game.

“We have to get to the blue paint,” Segal said. “That’s where we’ve scored our goals from so far. Those are the tough areas to go to on the ice, but we’re going to have to battle through to get there.”

During Norfolk’s last win in Game 3, three of the Admirals’ four goals came with traffic in front of Talbot, while Connecticut’s defensemen denied Norfolk’s forwards net-mouth access throughout Game 4, which went to the Whale by a score of 4-1.

“We came out flat in the last game,” added Segal. “They took the play to us. Last game, they got to the net more than we did and that’s where they scored their goals from. We just have to regroup because the series is a best-of-three now.”

Another developing storyline which will affect which team claims the series advantage is Tyler Johnson’s health.

Johnson was scratched in Game 4 on Monday night with an undisclosed injury. The 2012 AHL All-Rookie center missed three games earlier in these playoffs with an upper-body injury and while Admirals head coach Jon Cooper wouldn’t confirm this morning if Johnson would be in the lineup tonight, the former Memorial Cup champion with the Spokane Chiefs was a participant in the morning skate, indicating that he’ll be a gametime decision for Game 5.

In Johnson’s absence in Game 4, Mike Angelidis stepped up to center the line flanked by Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik, while Philip-Michael Devos was inserted into the lineup after having been scratched in the series’ first three matches.

The other possible lineup change for Game 5 could be in the Admirals’ crease. While no official announcement has been made, Dustin Tokarski, Norfolk’s starting goalie in its last six games, had an extended morning skate on Wednesday, which seemingly hints that Jaroslav Janus could be getting the nod in goal.

Janus hasn’t seen action since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Manchester, when he had his personal 16-game winning streak snapped and took the loss which broke the Admirals’ professional-hockey record 29-game winning streak.

STAT PACK:

Tonight’s Game 5 will be played in a neutral-site venue in Bridgeport, CT, but will count as a Whale home game. Connecticut’s usual home arena, XL Center in Hartford, is hosting the circus this week, forcing its hockey tenant to play its last home game of the series in the rink of its top rival, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, whom the Whale swept in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Game 6 of this series will be played in Norfolk on Friday night, while the possible Game 7 would be played in Norfolk on Sunday.



May 7, 2012


In the playoffs, whether it's in the National Hockey League or the American Hockey League, games, and often times series are decided by the slightest of margins.

After all, when the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup last season, three of their four series were decided in a Game 7. Meanwhile, four opening-round series in this year's Calder Cup Playoffs were clinched with overtime-winning goals.

In the Admirals' 4-3 win over the Whale last night, Connecticut actually outplayed Norfolk for extended periods of time early in the game. However, over the course of the 60-minute game, an absolutely dominant seven-minute stretch by the Admirals in the second period resulted in three Norfolk goals and changed the game's outcome in favor of the visitors.

"Once we tied it up, I thought we built up a lot of momentum last night," said Admirals assistant coach Mike Flanagan. "We have to get off to a better start and try not to fall behind tonight. If we can continue our momentum from the second period yesterday, we'll be in good shape tonight."

And what a difference those seven minutes of Game 3 have made in the series. Instead of trailing in the series and having its back against the wall on Monday night, Norfolk has a chance to grow its series lead to 3-1 in in Game 4 and take a stranglehold on its Eastern Conference Semifinals series.

"The first 10 minutes is going to be huge," added Smith. "We didn't get off to the type of start we wanted last night and haven't been getting off to the starts we've wanted in the last few games. I feel like if we can just get ahead early tonight, that we have the team to be able to hold them off."

The event in Sunday's game that set up the Admirals' late second-period surge was when Norfolk's forwards began executing its coaches' often-told message of putting much more traffic in front of Whale goalie Cam Talbot.

"We need to keep getting net-front traffic," said Flanagan. "We need to establish our forecheck and be relentless. We still passed up a few too many shooting opportunities last night and have to concentrate on getting more pucks to the net tonight. When you shoot the puck, shoot the puck and shoot the puck; you'd be surprised what can happen."

But while the Admirals have taken the lead in the series, the Whale are far from a defeated opponent, as a Connecticut win in Game 4 would knot the teams' series at two wins apiece and set up a crucial Game 5 on Wednesday in Connecticut. And, as mentioned, the Whale did hold a territorial advantage for large portions of Game 3, which has Connecticut believing that all it has to do to reverse last night's outcome is to make a few minor tweaks to its game.

"We had that little hiccup in the second period," said Whale assistant coach J.J. Daigneault. "Their PP also hurt us. They finished second on the PP during the season behind Hershey, so we need to be a little more disciplined. I think our PK has a done a good job of limiting their chances for the most part, but they still got one on us last night. We have to tighten up tonight because they're a talented team."

However, while the Admirals' explosive offense was what reversed Norfolk's fortunes on Sunday, the performance of the team's goaltender can't be ignored either. Since having his 15-game winning streak snapped with a Game 1 loss to the Whale, Dustin Tokarski has won each of his last two starts and made 54 saves on 58 shots.



May 6, 2012


Coming off a 4-1 win in Game 2 on Friday, the Norfolk Admirals took to the ice for their morning skate on Sunday in Hartford to prepare for the third game in an Eastern Conference Semifinals series which has developed a decidedly "old-time hockey" type of feel to it.

After all, the Whale's home arena, XL Center, was formerly known as the Hartford Civic Center and housed the NHL's Hartford Whalers from 1979-1997.

However, despite the friendly acoustics of the "Brass Bonanza" which will serenade the Whale as the home team enters the arena this evening, the Admirals are expecting anything but a friendly Game 3 tonight.

"I honestly don't think there's a team tougher than we have," said AHL goal-scoring champion Cory Conacher. "We have guys who can hold their own and if cheap shots happen, we have guys who can step up and fight. It's important to have guys like that in the playoffs that can help scare other teams off."

In the last game, the Admirals and Whale combined for 84 penalty minutes, which didn't even always include the ever-present, post-whistle scrums which seemed to immediately follow every stoppage of play during the third period.

"It's two teams playing with a lot of passion that really want to win," said Admirals head coach Jon Cooper. "Game 1 was decided by one goal in overtime, so the teams were playing for the game until the very end. In the last game, we had them down by three with five minutes to go and that's when the extra stuff really started to happen. Emotions tend to run high at this time of the playoffs."

A player that the Whale inserted into the lineup for Game 2 was Dylan McIlrath, a defenseman who was scratched in Game 1 after joining Connecticut from the Western Hockey League's Moose Jaw Warriors last week. McIlrath, selected by the New York Rangers four picks after the Lightning drafted Brett Connolly in 2010, has often been compared to a young Derian Hatcher and earned the nickname of "The Undertaker" during his junior days for his tendency to "bury" opponents with devastating body checks.

The Admiral that seems best suited to counter McIlrath's rabble-rousing ways, who has his own unique nickname, is Radko Gudas. Gudas, a defenseman compared to a younger Darius Kasparaitis, is often referred to by his teammates as "Bamm Bamm," after the fictional son of Barney and Betty Rubble on The Flinstones.

"Bamm Bamm" Gudas was given his nickname because he, similar to his cartoon namesake, seems to possess superhuman, caveman-like strength, despite not being the biggest guy on the block (6-foot, 200 pounds).

The only main difference between the Admirals' "Bamm Bamm" and the cartoon "Bamm Bamm" is that the defenseman is much more articulate. In fact, while the cartoon Bamm Bamm could only speak the words "bamm bamm," the defenseman is fluent in English, German, Swedish and his native Czech.

Other colorful nicknames amongst Norfolk skaters include Pierre-Cedric "Nacho" Labrie and Cory "The Honey Badger" Conacher.

Conacher, the AHL's reigning MVP and rookie of the year, was given his "Honey Badger" nickname midway through this season, due to his willingness to fearlessly mix it up with opponents who are much taller and heavier than he is.

After all, "the honey badger just don't care" if he is smaller than the other members of the animal kingdom, and neither does Conacher care if he's one of the smaller players on the ice.

"People have been calling me 'fearless' and 'The Honey Badger' all year, explained Conacher. "I just try to be the type of guy who doesn't shy away from getting hit or making a hit. I'm the type of guy who can stir it up if I can get in there on the forecheck and force the other team to take penalties, which is something I try to do."

Admirals Forward Lines
Cory Conacher-Trevor Smith-Brandon Segal
Ondrej Palat-Tyler Johnson-Richard Panik
Pierre-Cedric Labrie-Alexandre Picard-Alex Killorn
Michel Ouellet-Mike Angelidis

Extras: Philip-Michael Devos, Jon Kalinski, Alex Hutchings
Injured: Eric Neilson

Admirals Defensive Pairs
Scott Jackson-Radko Gudas
Evan Oberg-Mark Barberio
Jean-Philippe Cote-Mike Kostka
Keith Aulie

Extras: Jeff Dimmen
Injured: Richard Petiot

Admirals Goalies
Dustin Tokarski
Jaroslav Janus