Hungry like the Wolves is an ongoing feature on Pass it to Bulis during the lockout, wherein we keep an eye on the Canucks prospects and property currently playing for the Wolves as it’s the closest thing we’re going to get to Canucks hockey for quite some time.
The Chicago Wolves got their season off to a great start, winning their first four games. Since then, they have struggled mightily. The Wolves have lost four of their last five games and haven’t won consecutive games since that early four-game winning streak. While it’s still early in the season, the Wolves have now fallen to eighth in the Western Conference and need to find a way to turn things around.
The Wolves’ powerplay is atrocious, converting at a paltry 9.9%, which is 27th in the league. Their penalty kill is even worse, as they have killed off just 76.5% of their penalties, placing them dead last in the AHL. Fortunately, they’re also the second-least penalized team in the league, slightly mitigating their terrible penalty kill.
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. Several Canucks prospects are starting to put up points. Zack Kassian, after a brief scoring drought, has points in 3 straight games. Anton Rodin scored his first of the season on Friday, after a three-assist game a couple nights prior. Jordan Schroeder is now tied for the team-lead in goals with 6. Even Chris Tanev has 2 goals on the season.
Sure, some prospects are struggling a little, like Kevin Connauton who has just 5 points in 17 games in a season where he was hoping to build upon his 33 points from last year. But then there’s Darren Archibald, who was called up to the Wolves after scoring 6 goals and 7 assists in 18 games with the Kalamazoo Wings. Archibald played 20 games for the Wolves last season, but only managed 1 goal. He’s certainly hoping for better results this time around, as are the Canucks.
Over the weekend, Canucks prospects scored 4 goals and added 5 assists, but it wasn’t enough to win either of their two games. Eddie Lack made 54 saves on 61 shots; he too needs to be better in order for the Wolves to improve their fortunes.
November 23rd: Wolves 3 – 4 Griffins
The Wolves fought from behind until center Alex Friesen had a penalty shot opportunity to even the score midway through the second frame, but a shot right on Mrazek was turned away.
Their lead wouldn’t last into the third period though, with the Wolves storming back on a Chris Tanev strike that bounced off Mrazek’s goal post and into the net at the 17:37 mark of the period.
Mark Matheson, Chris Tanev and Anton Rodin lit the lamp for the Wolves (8-6-2-0), who were tied with the Griffins for first place in the American Hockey League’s Midwest Division when the night began.
November 24th: Wolves 3 – 4 Admirals (SO)
Wolves right wing Zack Kassian has never had his skills called into question. At times he can be among the most dominant players in the AHL. The knock on the 21-year-old is that the dominant player hasn’t always shown up.
But Saturday when they hosted the Milwaukee Admirals at Allstate Arena, the Wolves were lucky Kassian was at his best. He was the reason the Wolves were able to salvage a point in a 4-3 shootout loss.
“Bounces have to be on your side, and linemates have a lot to do with it,’’ Kassian said. ‘‘Those guys played great tonight. Last couple games, we’ve been getting scoring chances, and tonight the bounces just went in.’’
Kassian…extended his point streak to three games. This after a four-game scoreless streak.
Forwards Jordan Schroeder and Zack Kassian and defenseman Brad Hunt lit the lamp in regulation for Chicago, which dropped its fifth decision in its last six outings.
“Two nights in a row we have given up a goal the shift after we score,” said Wolves head coach Scott Arniel. “I guess these are some lessons we are going to have to learn the hard way.”
Hungry like the Notes:
- Poor Alex Friesen. The Canucks’ 6th round pick from the 2010 draft has yet to score a goal in his rookie professional year and when he finally gets a breakaway he gets hauled down. He completely missed the net on his subsequent penalty shot, leaving him with just his 2 assists in 10 games on the season.
- Mark Matheson is a career AHLer, but he’s having a great start to the season with the Wolves. He had a goal and an assist on Friday against the Griffins and is currently tied with Chris Tanev for the team-lead in scoring from a defenceman with 7 points. Matheson has never signed an NHL contract and, at 28, is unlikely to ever do so. Check out his turnover at the 1:20 mark of the second highlight video for one reason why.
- Speaking of Tanev, his goal against the Griffins was more gorgeous than a concert in George, Washington. He wound up for a slap shot that was bound to be useless before noticing that he had acres of space in front of him. So he smartly skated in to the right faceoff circle and used his far more impressive wrist shot, putting it off the far post and in. Like a red-headed slut, it was a delicious shot.
- Zack Kassian capped off his three-game scoring streak with a two-point effort against the Admirals on Saturday. His assist on Brad Hunt’s opening goal was lovely and demonstrated his superb vision and underrated playmaking ability. A better assist than that one, however, was Darren Haydar’s baseball bat swing that got the puck to Kassian in front for his goal. What a ridiculous “pass.”
- Judging from the highlight video, Admirals goaltender Magnus Hellberg (awesome name) was unreal on Saturday. Chris Tanev, Steve Pinizzotto, and Jordan Schroeder all should have had goals. Schroeder was particularly robbed by Hellberg’s glove. Incidentally, Robbed by Hellberg’s Glove is the name of my prog-rock concept album about the adventures of a villainous gauntlet that travels through time stealing priceless historical artifacts. It’s not very good.
- Schroeder got the best of Hellberg eventually, but it took a perfect shot to do it. You can hear the dull clank of the puck going off the post and in. It just doesn’t have that lovely “ping” of the crossbar.
- Kassian was also the only Wolves shooter to score in the shootout, as he somehow made skating straight at the goaltender and shooting deceptive. I’m pumped to see Kassian with the Canucks, if only for the anticipation of actually having someone exciting to anticipate in the shootout. Schroeder, Sweatt, and Rodin, along with Sterling and Haydar, couldn’t beat Hellberg in the skills competition.