Hello from Chicago where the wolves are about to embark on a five game road trip spanning nearly three weeks. The currently sit in first place in the Midwest Division and third in the Western Conference. Since the last update they split a pair of games in Abbotsford, and then came back to the great state of Illinois, earning 3 points out of a possible 6.
As Abbotsford is in Vancouver’s back yard, or so I’m told, I was able to track down the world famous "THE STANCHION" for an interview based on how he views the wolves performance during the two games in Abbotsford, here’s what he had to say….
ME: First of all, you saw 5 periods of decent hockey from the Wolves, and one terrible one, what is your general impression of the team early on in the season?
THE STANCHION: The team looked really good, except for when they blew their load in the 2nd game and then they looked like an aging Mark Messier lead team. They have an interesting blend of size and skill, it reminded me of NES Hockey, where you could pick small, medium of fat guy as players. Watching small Schroeder and Haydar buzz around the ice only to see Big Zack Kassian on the next shift was fun to watch.
ME: With defensive players like Tanev, Connauton, Joslin, Sauve on the team, did you get the impression that the Wolves will have stretches of absolutely dominant defense this year?
THE STANCHION: Offensively for sure, the defense is going to cause a lot of problems for other teams. Defensively? That might be an adventure. Tanev is always cool and calm, but there were a lot of what I call "Jovanovski Moments" on the ice in the two games I saw. Joslin and Connauton would be so excited at the prospect of rushing the puck down the ice that sometimes they would forget to take the puck with them. Still, watching the pairing of Tanev and Connauton on the ice at the same time was really fun to watch.
ME: Which player do you notice the most improvement on during the offseason?
THE STANCHION: I don't care if it's cliche, but Zack Kassian was an absolute monster in the two games I saw. The first game was by far his best game (game two he lost gas and ended up looking like an old defeated Todd Bertuzzi), but that first game, the Kassassin was without a doubt the best player on the ice. (Thom is screaming something about Baertschi right now isn't he?) Kassian simply overpowered people left and right (except that one play where Baertschi stiff armed him. There you go Drance, there's your kudos for your boy), and was a treat to watch. As others have said, Kassian has under rated playmaking abilities.
The other player I enjoyed watching was Connauton. I know people get on him for his Brent Sopel like miscues, but I have seen him improve leaps in bounds over the couple of years I have seen him play.
ME: Its no secret who your favorite wolves player was last year (MACHO MANcari), who will your Chicago Wolves cult hero be this year?
THE STANCHION: Alexandre "The Hammer" Mallett. That dude is just plain fun to watch. He throws big hits, he can throw down the gloves, and he has some sick hockey hair. What's not to love?
ME: How far away from the NHL do you estimate Eddie Lack to be?
THE STANCHION: I would love for the Wolves to just play the crap out of Eddie this year. Give him a full schedule, grind him into the ground, and see how he holds up. I really hope he doesn't end up being the backup on the Canucks this year, as I think a full year of him just being 100% the man in Chicago would be great for his development. Others have pointed out that Eddie doesn't seem to track the puck as well as others, so hopefully with another year of Melanson's tutoring, Eddie can keep improving. I will say though that Eddie is one of the better breakaway goalies I have seen, as it is hard to make him bite on a deke. Dude is just like a statue in net.
Of course the main reason I want Eddie in Chicago for the year? He needs to rock those kick ass Wolves pads for at least a season. It wouldn't be right otherwise.
ME: The Wolves have only given up one goal this season prior to the 3rd period, did you notice anything in the two games you saw that could be the reason for this? Or is this just one of those odd hockey things?
THE STANCHION: I chalk it to one of those odd hockey things. I would love to give you an in depth, advanced stats breakdown of why this is happening ("You can see they turn at 47 degree angles in the third period, that combined with the lower temperature and the wind change, means their defensive zone pressure drops 2%, thus the reason for more goals."), but yeah, it's early in the season, it's too early for me to try and spot an underlying trend like that. Maybe they drink beers in the 2nd period intermission? Why not, let's run with that.
ME: Alexandre Mallet and Zach Kassian are going to destroy people all year aren't they?
THE STANCHION: The Bash Brothers are going to murder people out there. Then they will high five each other. And then they will murder some more people. The only question is, if they accidentally collide, who survives? (Answer is obviously the Kassassin.)
ME: Nathan Longpre had a look at Canucks camp last summer (2011), was solid for the Wolves last season, and looks to be in great form to start this season, from what you saw, do you think he'll get a look in NHL camp again?
THE STANCHION: I sure hope so. He has bottom 6 potential written all over him. He works really hard and plays a game like Hansen would, which is always a good thing. When a guy like that who gets overlooked keeps getting interest from teams, you know it's because of one thing, and that's working your ass off. If the movie Rudy taught me anything, it's that if you work your ass off, one day you might get to play for 20 seconds, sack a QB, and get carried off the field. Which I guess in hindsight isn't the highest career goal Longpre should aim for, but still, I liked what I saw from him. Mostly because that's how I play, I don't have a ton of talent, but I work my ass off and annoy people because of it.
ME: Who has the more flowing hair, Tim Miller or Alexandre Mallet?
THE STANCHION: Mallet. Hands down. Tim Miller wishes he had the flow of Mallet. Who in turn wishes he had the flow of MANcari. I heard one time MANcari tried getting his hair cut. 67 scissors later, the barber gave up.
ME: 2012/2013 Chicago Wolves will the Calder Cup and/or the AHL equivalent to the president's trophy (True/False)
THE STANCHION: False, nothing compares to the President's Trophy, it's the best god damn trophy in all of sports and I'm kind of insulted you tried comparing it to anything, but true that the Wolves will whatever it is they call it (Safeway Cup I assume?) , and the Calder as well.
Always entertaining from The Stanchion (and sometimes creepy in his love for Mancari. As I’m sure most of you already know he’s running a fake canucks season so follow him on twitter @thestanchion and join in on the fun.
Third Period Woes - After Abbotsford, the wolves visited the Rivermen in Peoria and had yet another rough 3rd period in which they allowed four 3rd period goals to drop the game 4-1 with Matt Climie taking the loss. The very next night the wolves got a crack at the San Antonio Rampage, who eliminated them in last year’s postseason. Usually a matchup of former teammates Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom results in a low scoring affairs, but the Wolves were able to build up a 5-2 lead going into the 3 dreaded 3rd period. 7:08 into the 3rd was all it took for the wolves to surrender the 3 goal lead and if not for a late goal by Jordan Schroeder, they would have been forced into OT. Luckily they pulled it off and Eddie Lack earned his first win against Markstrom.
Through eight games on the year, the wolves have given up five total goals in the first and second period, and a staggering SIXTEEN in the third. While they have been able to win a good majority of these games, averaging two goals a game in the third period is eventually going to catch up to you and create serious issues as the season progresses. As Stanch mentioned above, it’s a little too early, but hopefully adjustments are made and the wolves start to finish these games strong, you can’t be letting the other team think they have a shot late in the game.
In Sunday’s game against Grand Rapids, the Wolves looked like a team playing their 3rd game in three days. They were down 2-1 going into the 3rd when Connauton tied it up at 10:08, however the Wolves went on to drop the game in OT.
Player of the week – The Wolves are getting production from a good majority of the team with at least sixteen players earning a point through the first eight games. But I have to give player of the week to Zach Kassian, I think he could be well on his way to a dominant season in the AHL and I’m excited to see how he develops.
Coming up – The Wolves will travel to Rockford tomorrow night to play the Ice Pigs (Blackhawk Affiliate) and then they’ll travel out to Charlotte to play former division rivals the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Affiliate).
Follow me on twitter @ggooglyboogly for more wolves updates between these updates, I’ll live tweet every game I’m able to watch.