CHICAGO WOLVES (2-0) AT IOWA WILD (0-2)
Way back on March 18, 2018, the Iowa Wild visited Allstate Arena and the Chicago Wolves pulled off a 7-3 victory. Wolves forward Tobias Lindberg scored one goal while forward Stefan Matteau posted one goal and one assist for a two-point afternoon.
Fast-forward to Thursday night’s Game 2 of the Central Division Finals against those same Iowa Wild. At 4:42 of the first period, Matteau dished a perfect pass to Matthew Weis and Weis buried the open shot from the circle to give the Wolves a 2-0 lead. Then, late in the second period, Matteau issued another perfect pass — this time to Lindberg — for another open shot from the circle that held up as the game-winning goal.
Why link these two games? Because Game 2 marked the first time since March 18, 2018, that Lindberg scored a goal for the Wolves and Matteau put up two points for the team. The big contributions by the Wolves’ fourth-liners re-emphasizes how deep head coach Rocky Thompson’s roster happens to be now that Daniel Carr and Brooks Macek have returned to the lineup. Rookie forward Ryan Wagner joined Matteau and Lindberg on that line.
“In our first series, Stef was up on our second line,” Thompson said. “Right now, he’s on our fourth line, but I’ve been able to play that line freely and that line was a difference-maker (Thursday night). Lindy scores the game-winner and that’s so important as a coach — when you have a line like that that you can freely put them out there and it doesn’t matter who the opposition has.”
WHEN THE WOLVES GO UP 2-0…
As everyone expected, this Central Division Finals series has been about as tight as can be. During the first two games — both of them 1-goal wins by the Wolves — the teams have been tied for 66 minutes and 24 seconds of the 138:39 that has been played. The Wolves owned a two-goal lead for 18:28 of Game 2 while the teams have been separated by just one goal for the rest of the time.
This marks the first time since the 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinal against Milwaukee that the Wolves have built a 2-0 lead in a postseason series. During the Wolves’ 25 seasons, it has been hard to view a 2-0 series lead as anything but a good omen.
This series is the 16th time Chicago has owned a 2-0 lead — and the Wolves won the first 15 times after seizing a 2-0 lead. Two of those were best-of-five series sweeps. Of the 13 best-of-seven series victories, four were sweeps, three required five games, four needed six games and two of them went the distance: the aforementioned 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinal against Milwaukee and the 2008 Western Conference Semifinal versus Rockford.
THE SERIES SO FAR
- The Wolves scored twice in the opening 4:42, allowed two goals, scored two more and then held on for the Game 2 victory at Allstate Arena.
- Forwards Brooks Macek, Matthew Weis and Tobias Lindberg (GWG) and defenseman Zach Whitecloud scored goals while Stefan Matteau and Daniel Carr posted two assists apiece
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 22 saves, which included 11 stops in the third period.
- Rookie center Cody Glass scored 18:39 into the first overtime to lift the Wolves to victory in Game 1 of the Central Division Finals at Allstate Arena.
- Forward Brooks Macek and defenseman Nic Hague scored during regulation while forward Daniel Carr handed out two assists and forward Tye McGinn set up Glass’ game-winner.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 26 saves, including 10 during overtime.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: The Wild have allowed just one power-play goal in the postseason, which ranks first among the 16 playoff teams with a 96.4 percent clip as they’ve killed 27 of 28 opponents’ power plays. The only PPG allowed by the Wild occurred late in the second period of Game 5 at Milwaukee while killing off a 5-on-3 Admirals advantage. The Wolves have gone 0-for-5 on the power play in the Central Division Finals.
2: Forwards Daniel Carr and Brooks Macek have made a big impact since returning to the lineup for the Central Division Finals. Carr has racked up four assists and Macek owns two goals and one assist in the two games, so they’ve accounted for seven of the team’s 17 points and played a role in four of Chicago’s seven goals to date. Carr, the AHL MVP, missed 23 games with an upper-body injury while Macek sat out 17 games with a different upper-body injury. With both of them out of the lineup, the Wolves posted a 7-3-1-1 record (.667) to wrap up the regular season and then went 3-2 (.600) against Grand Rapids in the Central Division Semifinals.
4: Left wing Daniel Carr became the fourth Wolves player in the last 13 seasons to earn the AHL’s Most Valuable Player award. He received the honor prior to Game 1 on April 19 and joined Kenny Agostino (2016-17), Jason Krog (2007-08) and Darren Haydar (2006-07) in this exclusive club.
7: Here’s how the other best-of-7 AHL division finals series are going: Toronto, led by 2017-18 Wolves goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, owns a 2-0 North Division series lead over Cleveland as the series shifts to Ohio. Charlotte built a 2-0 lead in the Atlantic Division Finals with a 7-3 win over Hershey Saturday night. In the Pacific Division Finals, where the winner will meet the winner of the Central Division Finals, San Diego upset Bakersfield in Game 1 Friday night during a four-overtime epic that lasted 5 hours, 10 minutes. The Gulls carried that momentum into Saturday’s Game 2 with a 4-1 victory.
20: The last 20 times the Wolves took Game 1 in a postseason series, they went on to take the series. They have won 20 of the 21 series in which they’ve taken a 1-0 lead. The Wolves also own a 15-0 record during series in which they’ve taken a 2-0 lead. The Wolves are 10-5 in Game 3s when they’ve owned a 2-0 series lead.
288: The Wolves’ 30-man roster boasts 288 games of Calder Cup Playoffs experience. Alternate captain Curtis McKenzie leads the way with 59 AHL postseason appearances while forward Tye McGinn owns 35 games and center T.J. Tynan has 27. The roster features 3 games’ worth of Stanley Cup experience (Griffin Reinhart 2, McKenzie 1), 44 games in the DEL (Brooks Macek) and 24 games in the Czech League (Tomas Hyka).
358: If you’ve suited up for the Wolves, chances are better than 50/50 that you’ve also played in the National Hockey League. Of the 623 players who have suited up for the Wolves over 25 seasons, 358 also have competed in the NHL. That 57.5 percent overall success rate is even higher among goaltenders. Of the 55 players who’ve tended the net for the Wolves over the years — starting with original goaltenders Ray LeBlanc and Wendell Young and continuing through current Wolves Max Lagace and Oscar Dansk — 38 boast NHL experience (69.1 percent).
CENTRAL DIVISION FINALS SCHEDULE
|Game 1||Wolves 3, Wild 2 (OT)||Allstate Arena|
|Game 2||Wolves 4, Wild 3||Allstate Arena|
|Game 3||Sunday, May 5||Wells Fargo Arena||3 p.m.||Watch|
|Game 4||Wednesday, May 8||Wells Fargo Arena||7 p.m.||Watch|
|Game 5*||Friday, May 10||Wells Fargo Arena||7 p.m.||Watch|
|Game 6*||Monday, May 13||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Game 7*||Wednesday, May 15||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|