Coming off a strong showing in November, the Chicago Wolves are finally starting to find their groove. Head coach John Anderson sat down after practice Thursday to break down the highs and lows of the month gone by and looks ahead to Oklahoma City.
That was a pretty spirited practice just now! Lots of energy from the guys.
It was great. When you coach, every day is based on what you did the game before. It was disappointing to lose to Rockford on Saturday, especially after coming off a 7-1 win the night before. We knew Rockford was going to be raring to go, but we just weren’t ready to start that game.
Did it affect the guys negatively to have that long wait after Kyle Beach’s first goal while the crew cleared the teddy bears off the ice?
I was hoping that would slow them down. I was like ‘geez, I’m glad that happened.’ We went back out there and took control of the puck, and we took it right down into their zone, and then our third guy has to do a ‘soft lock’ and didn’t do it. When it happens in their zone where we make a little mistake, and they’re able to bring it right back into our zone and score, that can’t happen. It was just going to be one of those games. One thing I really like though is that we didn’t quit. We came back from being down 4-1, and we had a chance to tie it there in the third period, we just couldn’t.
What did you say to the players after the win Friday to try and keep them on their toes for Saturday?
I have this thing.; it’s called ‘78.6.’ I write it on the wall and say that whenever you play teams back to back, the team who wins the first game usually loses the second game 78.6% of the time. That’s a made up stat. But I put it up there to get them aware. Apparently it didn’t work this time, but there’s not a lot you can do about those situations. We knew they were going to be coming hard, so we had to be prepared to attack and to put the puck deep in their zone and we didn’t execute well.
On the circus road trip the team executed well for the most part though.
We’re bringing the circus back just because of how well we did! Or I wish we could. But when we won five in a row, we won those two tight games in Charlotte and it gave us a lot of confidence that we could be doing the right things and hang in there in games, especially since they had just spanked us 5-0 at home earlier in the month. I just think it made our character grow and made us believe in ourselves. You can still see that, because even though we’ve lost a couple since the streak, we’re playing much better. It was a great awakening. We need another awakening, and hopefully it happens soon.
What is the biggest improvement you’ve seen over the last month?
Our passing has gotten way better. It’s not where it should be, not just in giving passes but also in receiving passes on your backhand. That can lead to a breakaway sometimes. The other thing is puck possession. When our defense gets the puck, I don’t want them to always just quickly throw it up. I want to see them hold onto it until we can get someone open. We’re doing that more and more and I want to see us have more confidence in our play too. Puck possession has been awesome though lately.
How would you assess the defense’s play so far in terms of being more offense-minded?
I think we’re getting better, but we’re not where we need to be. I think us having the puck for longer, and having more control over the pucks, means we have to defend less. You don’t have to defend when you have the puck. That’s why our shot totals have gone completely down. As a result, our record has gotten better. That’s a really good indication. I think we are getting better defensively, but we’re still not close to where I want us to be. I’m not talking about fighting tooth and nail, but just being on top of pucks when we don’t have possession and going where you’re supposed to be in our scheme. We have had two or three different schemes, so when we’re in the neutral zone, we want to be able to switch between schemes. That’s getting better, but it’s not where it needs to be.
Much has been made of Jake Allen’s play. Have you been happy with the goaltending thus far?
I think our goaltending hasn’t been a problem. Jake has had one shaky game and Matt (Climie) has had one shaky game. Out of 20-odd games, that’s not too bad. When I say shaky, I mean when there are two goals in the game that they should have had, that’s shaky. When you can say your goalies haven’t had many shaky games, as a coach, that’s great. Jake and Matt are both good people and they work hard in practice and that helps a lot.
You’ve got back-to-back games against Oklahoma City this weekend. Last time that happened, at the beginning of November, the Wolves took the first game and the Barons dominated the second.
76.8 right? They spanked us that second game (on Nov. 2). But, you can’t win both if you don’t win the first one first. They’re going to be sharp, and we have to hang in there for the first few minutes and then try and take over. We have to be on our guard right away.