The Chicago Wolves are the on the brink of elimination.
Down two games to none in the best-of-five Calder Cup Central Division Semifinals, the Wolves need to take Game 3 to keep championship hopes alive.
While Chicago has its sights set on another Cup, the team knows it needs to crawl before it can walk – get a win before it can dream of the chalice.
The Wolves also know they need to do three things on Thursday:
- Keep their emotions in check
- Get special teams back on track
- Play their game
KEEP ‘EM IN CHECK
Game 3 will be emotional because the stakes are high – it’s do or die for Chicago. It has to win to keep the season going, so it’s in the team’s best interest to keep emotions at bay.
Since the Wolves are only human, that task will be easier said than done. However, the team should be up for the task as it has had the previous 78 games to prepare.
Through Chicago’s first two Calder Cup games, it averaged 13 minutes in penalties. While not terrible, it’s not great. It has also allowed its opponent, the Rockford IceHogs, 12 power-play opportunities and five – yes, five – power-play goals. Nearly 72 percent of Rockford’s series scoring has been on the man-advantage.
Bottom Line: Chicago needs to approach the game with clarity and a level head to stay out of the penalty box.
The Wolves’ penalty kill appears to be in free-fall as it allowed five goals in 12 attempts for just a 58.3 kill rate – last in the league during the postseason. That’s also a far cry from the No. 12-ranked unit Chicago had in the regular season.
In Game 2, the Wolves penalty kill began the game looking light-years ahead of what it displayed in Game 1. One of its first kills included a short-handed breakaway as well as forcing Rockford to ice the puck.
But that aggressive execution was short-lived once Rockford put Chicago on its heels and finished the game with three power-play goals.
Bottom Line: Wolves need to return to their high-energy, aggressive penalty kill. Although high-risk, the puck possession that comes with it means less shots on Oscar Dansk and more time for Chicago to create scoring chances.
STICK TO YOUR GAME
In the first two games of the Central Division Semifinals, Chicago came out of the gate buzzing – it played its usual high-tempo, aggressive style that often includes defensemen jumping up on the play and has led to Zac Leslie leading the team in scoring.
However, the IceHogs have been successful because they have taken away time, space and forced the Wolves to play physicality first. For Chicago’s smaller, speedier skilled players – Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Hyka for examples – that game is not conducive to their offensive production and it shows. The pair owns one point in the postseason – a Pulkkinen goal.
Bottom Line: Chicago needs to dictate the momentum from first puck drop to the final buzzer to stick to its guns – and game – to get the W.