Hungry like the Wolves: 3 Games in 3 Nights

Hungry like the Wolves is an ongoing feature on Pass it to Bulis during the lockout, wherein we keep an eye on the Canucks prospects and property currently playing for the Wolves as it’s the closest thing we’re going to get to Canucks hockey for quite some time.

The Chicago Wolves started off the season with four straight victories, but with three of those wins coming far too close for comfort, only sealing the victory in overtime or the shootout. That bubble had to burst eventually and it did so in their fifth game of the year as the Abbotsford Heat won in convincing fashion, 4-1.

That’s when the Wolves hit one of the brutal quirks in AHL scheduling, playing three games in three straight nights against the Peoria Rivermen, San Antonio Rampage, and Grand Rapids Griffins. Because AHL teams play most of their games on the weekend, it’s not unusual for teams to play on back-to-back nights and, in order to fit in all the regular season games, back-to-back-to-back nights. It’s the first of five times this season the Wolves will face this quirk in the schedule.

Unsurprisingly, things didn’t go too well for the Wolves, although they did manage to pick up 3 out of a possible 6 points for the weekend. Even when they won, however, things got hairy, particularly in the third period where the team has struggled to start the season.

October 26: Wolves 1 – 4 Rivermen

CBS Chicago

The Wolves’ lone goal came 2:57 into the second period. Center Steve Pinizzotto forced a turnover at the Peoria blue line and sent a pass to right wing Darren Haydar in the near circle who deked a Rivermen defenseman and slipped the puck to Schroeder, who beat goaltender Jake Allen, top-shelf.

Canucks Army

Andrew Ebbett and Zack Kassian continued to show great chemistry tonight, with their best opportunity coming on a well-executed give-and-go. They too were a few bounces away from putting their stamp on the score sheet.

-7: If you don’t believe that +/- is a relatively useless stat, take a look at tonight’s box score. The line of Ebbett-Kassian-Sterling were a combined -7. But how could that be, when they were clearly the best line on the ice for most of the game? Quite the mystery.

3: Was the number of scoring chances for Billy Sweatt, who was probably the best individual skater for the Wolves tonight. He took a seat in Saturday night’s loss against Abbotsford, and clearly got the message. For those scoring at home, the leader in chances for the Wolves was actually Andrew Gordon with 4. Kassian and Schroeder each had 2.

October 27: Wolves 6 – 5 Rampage

Chicago Tribune

The Wolves have been outscored 16-5 in the third period this season, including 10-1 during the last three games. Schroeder’s goal — his second in as many nights — helped the Wolves overcome allowing four power-play goals in 10 short-handed situations.

Zack Kassian scored only 38 seconds into the game, his team-leading fourth of the season. He has opened the scoring in four of the Wolves’ last five games.

Canucks Army

Later on, Kassian had a beautiful sequence where he took the puck off the half board, and used a spin move to get position on the defender as he took the puck to the net. Every time I watch him play, I’m reminded more and more of Todd Bertuzzi. And it’s scaring me.

Anton Rodin, my goodness. He absolutely lit up one of the opposing players, with a clean shoulder check. So far this season we have been pumping the fact that Rodin has looked much stronger so far this season, and it’s showing. There is no way he would have been able to do that last season.

4: The number of power play goals the Wolves surrendered. They were a man short 10 times on the night, including a stretch in the second period where they committed six straight infractions. They won’t win too many games following that formula.

October 28: Wolves 2 – 3 Griffins (OT)

Chicago Tribune

The Wolves trailed 2-1 heading into the third period, a period that has been troublesome for them this season. But the Wolves kept the Griffins from scoring, the first time since the season opener they didn’t allow a goal in the final period.

Kevin Connauton snapped a long power-play drought with a goal at 10:18 of the third to force overtime. That ended an 0-for-19 stretch with the man advantage.

Canucks Army

We’ve raved about Zack Kassian’s game so far this season, but this was probably his weakest effort of the season. He did manage three scoring chances of his own, but was invisible for much of the game. He started the game on a line with BIll Sweatt and Jordan Schroeder but Darren Haydar was skating in his place by the latter stages of the second period. Very little of his power game was in evidence and no one from Grand Rapids challenged him at all physically.

Alex Friesen picked up an assist on Kevin Connauton’s second period power play marker. It was Friesen’s best game as a pro and he picked up ice time as the game progressed. His appearance on the power play was no fluke. It’s the kind of game that will keep him in the lineup, especially in the current 27-man squad.

Defensively, the Wolves had a hard time getting up to speed, yielding seven chances in the game’s first five minutes. This was one of Kevin Connauton’s weaker defensive efforts of the season – paired with Zack Miskovic, it may have been a case of unfamiliarity as much as anything.

Hungry like the Notes:

  • Some of the saves Eddie Lack is making in the above highlight videos are simply unreal. His agility is impressive for such a tall goaltender. The more I see from him, the more excited I get, although I am glad he’s getting more time in the AHL instead of being forced into a backup role in the NHL. He wasn’t in net for the 4-1 loss to the Rivermen and 4 of the 5 goals against in the game against the Rampage were powerplay goals.
  • Lack finally debuted his awesome new pads against the Rampage. As expected, they look fantastic in action.
  • Jordan Schroeder struggled to start the year, picking up just 1 point – an assist – in the first 5 games. He finally got things going this weekend, scoring 2 goals, including the gamewinner against the Rampage. The passing on his goal against the Rivermen was sublime, the puck zipping from Pinizzotto to Haydar to Schroeder in no time flat, at which point Luongo offered to inflate it.
  • Kevin Connauton also scored his first two goals of the season this season and his second was incredibly lucky, bouncing off the boards, then hitting the back of the goaltender’s pad and into the net. Connauton does lead the Wolves in shots, however, and more goals are sure to come once they sort out their awful powerplay.
  • Goodness gracious, can Bill Sweatt skate. On his first goal of the season, he caught a Rampage defenceman flat-footed and took off for the races, creating enough space to wind up a slapshot, burying the puck past the goaltender. Sweatt also lead the Wolves in shots against the Rivermen with 4 and had another 4 shots in the game against the Griffins.
  • Zack Kassian leads the Wolves in scoring, but still has only 5 points in 8 games. Brett Sterling also has 5 points, with his coming in just 6 games. Although he has been impressive, using his size and speed to create scoring chances, Kassian has yet to score more than a single point in a game this season.
  • If the Canucks were hoping to see Chris Tanev develop his offensive game in the AHL this season, the results haven’t come for the young defenceman yet, with no points in 6 games. He is shooting the puck a bit more, with 10 shots after getting just 36 shots in 34 games in the AHL last season. He still has just 1 goal in his AHL career, coming in his first season with the Manitoba Moose.
  • The guys over at Canucks Army have been making much of Anton Rodin’s improved physical play, including a crushing hit he threw against the Rampage, but the Swedish winger has no points through 7 games. As much as Rodin needed to get stronger after last season, he needs to start picking up points if he wants to catch the attention of Canucks brass.
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