THE WILD WIRE - FOR ALL THE MARBLESApr 29, 2019
Tonight decides the season.
When the puck drops in Milwaukee at 7:00 p.m. there’s going to be a lot at stake. A win and the Iowa Wild would play the top-seeded Chicago Wolves in the Central Division Finals. A loss, and unfortunately, the season comes to an end.
Certainly, the start to this series was surprising, if not downright shocking.
The Wild took the first two games at home by a combined score of 13-1. After 76 hard-fought, regular season games, the Milwaukee Admirals ranked fifth out of 31 teams in team goals against average. So for the Wild to absolutely light them up in the two contests at Wells Fargo Arena was a little unexpected, but a complete credit to how Iowa played.
Following a 3-1 loss to the Admirals in Game 3 and Milwaukee’s 5-4 overtime triumph in Game 4, the series is all square.
Again, this might not be how anyone drew it up, but ultimately, we’re right where most probably expected us to be….a Game 5 for all the marbles.
Here are a few things to key on in Game 5:
- Goaltending/Special Teams – This isn’t a newsflash by any means, but play between the pipes and special teams execution are critical in a must-win game. Wild goaltender Andrew Hammond wasn’t at his best in Game 4, as twice Admirals winger Phil Di Giuseppe beat him on shot attempts which Hammond would normally stop. The entire organization has a ton of confidence in Hammond, and rightfully so. I expect him to bounce back in Game 5. As for Admirals goaltender Troy Grosenick, he should be riding high confidence-wise after his huge stop on Sam Anas late in Game 4 kept the Admirals alive. On the special teams front, the Wild have tallied six goals (5 PP/1 SH) and the Admirals have just one, their short-handed strike in Game 4. A big focal point tonight – can the Wild once again win the special teams battle?
- Admirals Up Front – Milwaukee center Laurent Dauphin was injured in Game 4 on a crushing, first period hit by Wild winger Mike Liambas. Dauphin eventually left the game and did not return. My guess is Joe Pendenza would replace him if he’s unable to go in Game 5. Pendenza, a veteran forward, played in Games 1 & 2 of the series. (Editor's Note: Dauphin will be replaced by center Thomas Novak for Game 5).
- First Goal Success – The team which has scored first in this series is 4-0. Who knows if that trend will change in Game 5, but so far, jumping out in front has been key. There have been zero lead changes through the first four games and only twice has a team tied the game after falling behind following the first goal – Game 2 when the Admirals tied the contest at 1-1 and Game 4 when the Wild rallied from down 2-0 to pull even.
By the way, I absolutely loved the Wild’s resiliency and effort in Game 4. They trailed 2-0, fell behind 3-2 and 4-3, and yet each time they responded. A deflected point shot in overtime by Admirals defenseman Frederic Allard turned out to be the game-winner. That’s the beauty of playoff hockey. One play, one bounce, one tough break can be the difference.
I expect this Wild team to dig deep and leave it all on the line tonight. Quite frankly, I expect the same from the Admirals.
There’s nothing better than playoff hockey, Wild fans! Hope you can check out the game tonight on 1460 KXNO, AHL TV or at one of the watch parties in the area (Buzzard Billy’s and Buffalo Wild Wings at Jordan Creek and Merle Hay).
- Wild Joe Radio