Thursday, April 26 | 7:00 p.m. | Allstate Arena | CW50 | Facebook
THE FULL CIRCLE
The postseason does not come without adversity, and champions aren’t crowned without scars of battle. For the Chicago Wolves, Thursday will either mark the end of a too-short Calder Cup run or the beginning of greatness borne from the lowest point. The current two-game elimination deficit the Wolves are in against their in-state rival, the Rockford IceHogs, isn’t the first time the team has been here. Last time the Wolves and IceHogs met in the Calder Cup Playoffs — a decade ago — Chicago was the No. 1 seed in the Western Division Final and had to overcome a 3-2 brink-of-elimination deficit to move on to the conference final and eventually claim their fourth championship in 11 seasons. Captain Paul Thompson & Co. will look to slay their largest dragon of the season.
MADE FOR THIS
The 2017-18 version of the Chicago Wolves have been here. This team began its season with an abysmal 6-12-4-1 record that included losing five of eight games in October. November was not much better as the Wolves suffered through an eight-game losing streak from Nov. 8-24. However, in December, the team took a long, hard look in the mirror and everyone began rowing the same direction to produce a 36-11-3-3 record since Dec. 9. The mark carried them from dead-last in the league to the top of the Central Division for the franchise’s ninth division title. In the postseason, the Wolves again are looking in the mirror and finding the adjustments necessary to row the boat forward.
Although rare, it is not unheard of for the Chicago Wolves to be swept in the postseason. However, for the Wolves be to swept in the opening round of competition is almost non-existent. The only time Chicago has gone winless in Round 1 of the postseason was its inaugural season (1994-95) when the Kalamazoo Wings outscored the Wolves 16-9 in three games. In 24 seasons, the Wolves have only been swept four times — once in the International Hockey League (Kalamazoo) and three times (2003, 2005, 2014) in the American Hockey League. In AHL competition, Chicago hasn’t faced an 0-2 deficit in a Calder Cup Playoff series since the 2014 Western Conference Semifinals. That’s when John Anderson’s crew fell behind against the Toronto Marlies and wound up getting swept 4-0. The only other time Chicago was swept 4-0 was in the 2005 Calder Cup Final. After barreling through the first three rounds of competition with a 12-2 record that included sweeping the Manitoba Moose in the conference final, the Wolves ran into a buzzsaw and were shredded by the Philadelphia Phantoms in four games.
FIVE ON IT
Prior to their most recent sweep four years ago in the best-of-seven set against the Toronto Marlies, the Chicago Wolves haven’t faced an 0-2 deficit in a best-of-five series since the 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals. That’s when Craig MacTavish’s squad dropped the first two at the San Antonio Rampage before coming home and claiming the next two. In the winner-take-all Game 5, the Rampage scored in the second overtime at Allstate Arena to advance to the next round. The only time the Wolves have been swept in a best-of-five set was in 1995 by the Kalamazoo Wings.
By the Numbers:
- 1: With an assist on defenseman Zac Leslie’s last-second first-period goal on Sunday, goaltender Oscar Dansk has recorded more points than 14 Chicago Wolves skaters that have played in the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs. Dansk also owns the same amount of points as three skaters: Jason Garrison, Wade Megan and Teemu Pulkkinen. The assist is Dansk’s third this year, which includes two he collected during the regular season.
- 3: Through two Calder Cup Playoff games, the Chicago Wolves have only netted three goals. The team’s collective shooting percentage is 4.8 percent — less than half of the team’s regular-season 10.2 percent average that allowed them to collect 244 goals and finish with the sixth-most goals in the American Hockey League. Right now, the Wolves are averaging just 1.50 goals per game that shares last place with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton among the 16 postseason teams. Additionally, the Wolves are giving up 3.50 goals per game. Only two teams — the Rochester American, who were swept by the Syracuse Crunch, and the San Jose Barracuda — are giving up more than 3.50 goals per game.
- 13: The Chicago Wolves are averaging 13 penalty minutes per game through two Calder Cup Playoff games. That total is actually just 2.16 more than their regular-season average of 11.16 PIM per game. That 11.16 penalty-minutes-per-game average made the Wolves one of the league’s six-least penalized teams out of 30 squads. However, in the playoffs, their 13-ish minutes in penalties in two games makes them one of the six-most penalized teams among the league’s 16 postseason competitors. Additionally, those penalty minutes have led to their opponent, the Rockford IceHogs, averaging six power plays per game.
- 31: One thing the Chicago Wolves have maintained going into their third Calder Cup Playoff game of the 2018 campaign is their 31 shots per game average. Through 76 regular- season contests, the Wolves checked in with a 31.03 shots per game average — not a shabby total as it ranked as the eighth-most in the American Hockey League. In the posteason, the team is a perfect 31.00 that ranks them seventh among postseason competitors. However, the Wolves need to find a way to convert on more of their shots. Chicago’s team shooting percentage is down 5.4 percent for a meager 4.8 percent through two Calder Cup contests. In the regular season, the Wolves converted on 10.2 percent of their shots.
- 58.3: The Chicago Wolves postseason penalty kill is less than impressive with a 58.3 percent kill rate — it’s down more than 25 percentage points compared to the regular season. Averaging 13 minutes in penalties per game, the Wolves have allowed the Rockford IceHogs one dozen power plays through two games. Rockford’s power play, which ranked 25th in the league with a 15.6 percent conversion rate, has found life and stands as the top-performing unit among 16 Calder Cup Playoff competitors with five goals for a 41.7 percent success rate.
- 260: The Rockford IceHogs entered this series with 15 players who appeared in a combined 316 NHL games this season. The Wolves, on the other hand, entered this series with nine players who appeared in a combined 56 NHL games this season. That’s a gap of 260 games. Rockford’s roster features four players — Lance Bouma, John Hayden, David Kampf and Gustav Forsling — who participated in at least half of the Chicago Blackhawks’ games. The Wolves’ leader in NHL appearances this season was goaltender Max Lagace with 16 games — and Lagace has yet to appear in the Central Division Semifinals.
Central Division Semifinals
2018 Calder Cup Playoffs
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April 22, 2018
2017-18 Regular-Season Series
6-6-0-0 Rockford | 6-2-3-1 Chicago
|11/19/2017||BMO Harris Bank Center||SOL, 3-4|
|11/25/2017||Allstate Arena||W, 4-3|
|12/01/2017||BMO Harris Bank Center||OTL, 3-4|
|12/12/2017||BMO Harris Bank Center||W, 2-1|
|12/22/2017||BMO Harris Bank Center||OTL, 2-3|
|12/30/2017||Allstate Arena||W, 6-2|
|02/03/2017||Allstate Arena||W, 7-4|
|03/11/2018||Allstate Arena||OTL, 1-2|
|03/17/2018||Allstate Arena||L, 2-3|
|03/24/2017||BMO Harris Bank Center||L, 3-5|
|04/13/2018||BMO Harris Bank Center||W, 6-4|
|04/14/2018||Allstate Arena||W, 5-4|
|04/21/2018||Allstate Arena||L, 2-1|
|04/22/2018||BMO Harris Bank Center||L, 5-2|