Saturday, May 12 | 7:00 p.m. | Allstate Arena | Central Division Finals 3-1 Grand Rapids
MAMA SAID KNOCK YOU OUT
Saturday’s Game 5 of the Central Division Finals could be the Chicago Wolves’ swan song of the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs. However, Chicago will look to stave off elimination in the best-of-seven series and keep its postseason rolling. The contest will mark the Wolves’ third elimination game of the 2017 playoffs. During Round 1 — the Central Division Semifinals — against the Charlotte Checkers, Chicago won back-to-back tilts at Allstate Arena to rally from a 2-1 series deficit, take the best-of-five series and move on to the current matchup with the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Wolves’ record when facing elimination is 2-0 this season and 17-9 all-time. However, they are 3-3 when facing elimination against the Griffins.
Conversely, the Griffins have yet to face elimination during their 2017 playoff campaign as they swept their Central Division Semifinals opponent, the Milwaukee Admirals, and are leading the Wolves three games to one. Since the beginning of the 2013 playoff run that resulted in the club’s first and only Calder Cup, the Griffins have won five consecutive games in which their opponent faced elimination. The club is also 4-0 on the road in this situation games and boasts a 10-4 all-time road record when their opponent is facing elimination.
GET PUCKS ON NET
Through the first four games of the best-of-seven Central Division Finals, the Grand Rapids Griffins have only outscored the Wolves 17-13 but have outshot them 144-115. The Griffins have put no fewer than 31 shots on goal during each game and posted a 40-shot effort in Game 3 that was the most the Wolves have given up against an opponent during the 2017 postseason. Chicago has played nine games and has given up 305 shot, the second most among Calder Cup teams. The Wolves and the San Diego Gulls are the only clubs to give up more than 300 shots on net. The Wolves are allowing 33.9 shots per game, which ranks them 13th among AHL playoff teams. Conversely, Chicago has yet to put more than 31 shots on the Griffins’ net and averaged just 29.33 shots in its nine playoff games, the 11th-most among 16 postseason clubs.
The only active teams with lower shot percentages than the Wolves are San Diego and the Hershey Bears. The Gulls rank 14th with a 27.56 average while the Bears are 16th with 22.33. Both clubs have played nine games, but Hershey is deadlocked in their division final series 2-2 with the Providence Bruins while San Diego is trailing the San Jose Barracuda 3-1 in their division final matchup.
By the Numbers
- 1: Chicago Wolves captain Chris Butler has led by example all year. During the 2017 postseason, the 30-year-old has quietly led the Wolves blue line with a goal and five assists for six points. Those totals also place him third among all skaters in Wolves team scoring, as well as seventh among all American Hockey League postseason defenders. The 2017 playoffs is just Butler’s second at the AHL level. He last skated in the AHL postseason during 2009 with the Portland Pirates. Though he appeared in four games, he did not register a point but had 10 shots on net and logged a -1 plus/minus rating.
- 6: In Monday’s game, AHL MVP Kenny Agostino served as an alternate captain for the Chicago Wolves. Due to NHL callups and injuries, Agostino became the sixth player this season to don an “A” for the Wolves. However, the Wolves have been fortunate this year to have a strong team mentality and a locker room filled with leaders, letter or not. To start the 2016-17 season, seasoned pros Jordan Caron, Morgan Ellis, Landon Ferraro and Brad Hunt were named alternates. But in early December, Ferraro went down with a long-term injury and, in early January, Hunt disappeared on the NHL waiver wire. In that same span, center Wade Megan was bestowed an “A” and rotated game duties with Caron and Ellis. Since the start of the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs, the Wolves have been trying to fend off injuries, but Megan has been in and out of the lineup due to injury issues. So Agostino, another natural leader, has been selected to formally represent the team’s leadership during games. The 25-year-old Agostino has had a career year — breaking all his previous career offense records — that was capped with the AHL Most Valuable Player award and the John B. Sollenberger Trophy that goes to the league’s regular-season scoring leader.
- 7: While Samuel Blais’ production has declined during the second round of the playoffs — in large part due to the pestering of Tyler Bertuzzi and Mitch Callahan — he is still third among all league rookies in postseason scoring with two goals and five assists for seven points. The only plebes with more points are Grand Rapids Griffins rookie Evgeny Svechnikov (2-6–8) and Providence Bruins novice Danton Heinen (4-5–9). The 20-year-old Blais is second among all Chicago Wolves skaters in postseason scoring — behind only Kenny Agostino (5-5–10) — and was an integral piece of the Wolves Round 1 success. Between roster additions and injuries, Blais has bounced around the lineup but has skated on the club’s top line with Agostino and Andrew Agozzino for the past few games. Through four Central Division Finals games, Blais has a goal and an assist.
- 9: The Chicago Wolves have participated in nine games during the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs, which is tied for the most in the league. The Wolves were one of five teams to go the distance and play all five games in the division semifinals round. Conversely, their Central Division Finals opponent, the Grand Rapids Griffins, have skated in two fewer games — seven — and were the only club to post a sweep in the best-of-five first round series. During Round 2, the Wolves avoided being Grand Rapids’ second sweep of the postseason with a 7-3 victory on May 5 at Allstate Arena. However, the Griffins are still the top team in the playoffs with a 6-1 record.
- 10: Left wing Kenny Agostino has posted five goals and five assists for 10 points through 9 games of the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs. That total places him second — just three points behind the San Jose Barracuda’s Ryan Carpenter — for the American Hockey League postseason scoring lead. In his first AHL playoffs, Agostino has four multi-point games and a five-game, eight-point (3G, 5A) scoring streak. The 25-year- old, who had a career year during the regular season and earned the league’s MVP and scoring titles, has been held scoreless three times during the postseason.
Calder Cup Weekend:
- Grand Rapids took the second of back-to-back games at Van Andel Arena to grab a 3-1 Central Division Finals series lead over Chicago.
- Left wing Kenny Agostino netted a pair of goals for his third multi-point playoff outing.
- Rookie Tage Thompson collected Chicago’s third tally.
- Goalkeeper Ville Husso stopped 32 of 37 shots.
- The Griffins gained a 2-1 Central Division Finals lead over the Wolves. Matthew Ford, Ben Street and Tyler Bertuzzi all scored in the first period to give Grand Rapids a 3-0 lead in the opening 11 minutes.
- Captain Chris Butler and rookie Mackenzie MacEachern both scored early in the third period to get Chicago within a goal.
- Goaltender Ville Husso gave up three goals on nine shots to earn the loss and was replaced by Jordan Binnington, who stopped 30 of 31 shots.