Crawford's Corner: Pack Head into All-Star Break in High GearJan 27, 2015
It’s a moot point because of All-Star break, but it would have been a tough call on Wolf Pack practice today if there actually had been one scheduled.
For those who don’t know, the Pack practice in the morning, usually starting at 10:30, and because of the snowstorm there was a travel ban on Connecticut roads until 2:00 this afternoon. After a loss in their last game and a day off Sunday, the Wolf Pack coaching staff, I’m sure, would have been chomping at the bit to get back on the practice ice, and when they woke up this morning and saw that the snow amounts weren’t as cataclysmic as feared, there probably would have been a severe temptation to say, “Aw, heck, we can go ahead and have practice.” The idea of asking their players to defy a state order, though, would probably have at least made them think twice.
Saturday night’s defeat in Syracuse notwithstanding, the Wolf Pack entered the All-Star break on a solid roll. The loss to the Crunch was the Pack’s first in regulation in a span of eight games (6-1-1-0), and just the fourth in the last 20 games (13-4-1-2), and prior to the setback Ken Gernander’s group had climbed to within three points of first place in the Northeast Division.
That’s a far cry from last season at this time, when the Pack were dead last in the AHL and desperately scratching to save their season.
It seems as though there are precious few one-sided games anywhere in hockey these days—most contests are decided by a goal or two—and a big key to the Wolf Pack’s success this year has been the fact that they have been particularly good in close games.
Thirty-four of the Pack’s 42 games on the year have been decided by margins of two goals or less, and the Wolf Pack is a combined 22-7-3-2 in games decided by two goals or fewer. What’s more, Hartford’s 15 one-goal wins—they are 15-3-3-2 in one-goal games—are only one behind Springfield and Syracuse for the most in the league.
It’s significant to consider, too, that several of the Wolf Pack’s high-end players have yet to match their usual levels of production. That’s not to say that anyone’s effort has been lacking, far from it, and All-Star representative Chris Bourque has certainly been as advertised as an AHL point producer, but history tells us that there have to be hot streaks on the horizon for some others.
Chris Mueller, for example, was a 25-goal-scorer and a Calder Cup champion with Texas last season, and had 18 and 32 goals, respectively, in his previous two AHL seasons, but has been held to four in 30 games thus far this year. Joey Crabb had 15 goals in 62 games with San Antonio in 2013-14, and had a 24-goal season with Chicago in 2009-10, and he has six so far in 34 games this year. And two young guys who were big keys for the Wolf Pack last season, Danny Kristo and Ryan Bourque, have yet to get in a real scoring groove. Kristo was the Pack’s goal-scoring leader last season with 25, and has nine in 39 games in his second pro year, and Bourque broke out for 21 tallies in 2013-14 and currently has eight this season.
I would think those guys all have some good breaks stored up, and could lift the Wolf Pack to even greater heights post-All-Star break.