INSIDE HOCKEY » Central Get Inside! Thu, 18 Sep 2014 19:48:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tribute to A Fallen Friend and Flyer Fan Tue, 08 Jul 2014 20:19:23 +0000

Algeo Dan and Mike 1AThe one recurring scenario in my mind’s eye is of my friend, Dan Algeo as a middle school student. I remember him constantly thanking me during the late-1970’s and early 1980’s for my coverage in The North Penn Reporter of the Lansdale Catholic Crusader football (and the school’s other sports) teams.

We also had in-depth discussions about the Philadelphia Flyers, which was my professional beat for the daily newspaper when I wasn’t covering the Crusaders. Both of us were confident that the Bob Clarke-led Flyers had the personnel and grit to win another Stanley Cup or two. Unfortunately for the orange and white, they ran into a New York Islanders team that was just beginning its own Cup dynasty.

Dan Algeo seemed to possess a maturity far beyond his pre-teenage years, enabling us to talk as football fans and friends at LC football practices and games, and at other sporting and school events. He could discuss the Crusaders, the Flyers and virtually any of Philly’s other pro sports franchises.

Dan passed away at the age of 49 last Thursday, July 3 after suffering a heart attack. The shock has affected legions of people who knew Dan, including the Cardinal O’Hara High School community, where he would’ve coached his 11th season as head football mentor this fall.

The sadness and sense of loss has also hit me across the miles — in suburban Dallas – like a defenseman making a jolting (but clean) open  ice body check. Dan Algeo’s loving family and friends will celebrate his life at his funeral in Lansdale, PA tomorrow, Wednesday, July 9.

Even before he attended LCHS, Dan exuded a significant degree of pride in the school’s student-athletes, his dad Jim, Sr. as the head coach, and his brother Jim, Jr. as the on field leader – the quarterback. “Thanks for giving us so much great ink (i.e., newspaper coverage),” he said on numerous occasions in his enthusiastic inflection, always accompanied by that unforgettable ear-to-ear grin that made him an absolute pleasure to visit with. “I love reading about the team, and I know the (student-athletes) do as well.”

He also enjoyed reading my chronicles about the Flyers, to be sure.

It is ironic that my “ink” did not spread to covering Dan’s outstanding football career at Lansdale Catholic, when I left the Delaware Valley to become Public Relations Director for the Central Hockey League’s Fort Worth Texans Hockey Club (the then-Colorado Rockies’ top minor league affiliate) in 1981.

Algeo men 2xxxxI have remained in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex ever since, and was fortunate to renew my friendship with Dan a few years after he coached Roman Catholic to the 1999 Philadelphia Catholic League football title. In 2004, he repeated the feat to become one of only two Philadelphia Catholic League coaches to win championships with different schools. It was no surprise that Dan had joined his dad Jim, Sr.,  his brother Jim, Jr. (Pottsgrove High football) and his sister Maggie Algeo DeMarteleire (North Penn High girls basketball) as an outstanding title-winning coach who related so well to student-athletes.

Upon renewing our relationship, we both lamented the Flyers’ lack of a third Stanley Cup conquest.

I quickly found that Dan’s personality was even more endearing, and he continued to thank me for my articles about Lansdale Catholic during that previous era. Dan could relate to virtually everybody, and I know he had a significant impact on his students and student-athletes, on his friends, and especially on each and every one of his family members and relatives.

He also shared some words of comfort with me about me losing my wife, Ilene to cancer in 2009 when we visited, along with several members of his family, in December 2013.

I feel blessed to have known Dan Algeo, and will miss him terribly. I know that he will be in my heart forever.

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Stars Add Spezza & Hemsky, Emerge as Contenders Tue, 08 Jul 2014 16:15:25 +0000

One year ago, the Dallas Stars made a blockbuster trade when they acquired center Tyler Seguin from Boston. Adding an explosive scorer of Seguin’s pedigree enabled them to earn their first Stanley Cup Playoff berth in six years.

One year later, it appears that General Manager Jim Nill has taken it one skate step further, transforming his club from a merely emerging contender into a serious Central Division championship team for the approaching 2014-2015 National Hockey League season.

Nill celebrated Canada Day (July 1) by acquiring superstar center Jason Spezza (23 goals in 75 games with Ottawa last season) – who desperately wanted out of the Canadian capital– to give the Stars the potential of three bona fide goal scoring lines.

To acquire Spezza and winger Ludwig Karlsson from the Sens, Nill was forced to part with winger Alex Chiasson, who may on the verge of NHL goal-scoring productivity (he netted 19 during the final weeks of the 2012-13 season and last year). He also sent two prospects in left wing Nick Paul (a 4th round entry draft choice in 2013) and forward Alex Guptill (a 3rd round entry draft choice in 2010 who has played at the University of Michigan) and a 2nd round draft pick in 2015 to Ottawa.

In addition, Nill signed free agent forward Ales Hemsky to a contract reportedly worth $12 million over three seasons. “I think the options (these deals give us) are almost limitless,” understated coach Lindy Ruff.

Hemsky may be reunited with Spezza after netting four goals and 17 points in 20 games on Ottawa’s top forward following his acquisition by the Senators from Edmonton in a trade deadline deal last March. Spezza’s line may draw opponents’ premier checkers and open up even more ice for Dallas’s top trio of Seguin, team captain Jamie Benn and Valeri Nichushkin.

Spezza is a strong skater with an excellent playmaker’s touch and a quick, accurate shot. He gives Dallas a solid complement of centers along with Seguin (team- and career-high 37 goals and 84 points in 2013-14) and Cody Eakin (16), enabling the Stars to go face-to-face with virtually any Western Conference foe. Spezza can team with Hemsky, an instinctive and creative player with outstanding puck skills and perhaps one of the emerging Texas Stars who helped that team win the AHL crown.

“If you want to be one of the elite teams, you have to have (depth at the center position),” Nill said. “(In Detroit) we always had that. It was Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk. You look at the other teams that are winning (in the Western Conference) now, you need to have two elite centermen. We knew that was a little bit of a weakness on our team.”

“You look at what we have now (and it could be) a great top nine,” Ruff said, referring to a formidable third line of Eakin along with wingers Ryan Garbutt and Antoine Roussel that contributed 47 red lights last season. “(We can do a lot with that — create mismatches, get away from matchups (desired by the opponent), and juggle (our) personnel.”

Spezza and Hemsky figure to prosper in Ruff’s attacking style that last year enabled the Stars to finish 10th in the NHL with 2.82 goals per game and 6th with 31.7 shots on goal per outing.

They will also improve the team’s power play that finished 23rd in the NHL with a 15.9% success rate with the man advantage.  “We’re putting hockey back on the map (in Dallas),” Nill said. “I think there are great days ahead for this organization. I think this is a great sports town, a great city. I love the people, the players love playing here. We want to be a significant part of this city. We want to win.”

Ruff is excited about what Spezza brings to the Stars. “He’s a fantastic possession player, he’s a great playmaker, he was great for me on the power play,” Ruff said in reference to coaching Spezza with Team Canada. “He’s a world-class talent, and you see that in a lot of areas of his game.”

Spezza, who turned 31 in June and broke into the NHL with Ottawa in 2002-03, is hoping to rediscover the offensive skills and impressive productivity that highlighted the early part of his career. Spezza has netted 30+ goals five times, including career-high 34-goal seasons in 2006-07 and 2007-08. He also has amassed a career-high 92 points in 2007-08, 90 in 2005-06, 87 in 2006-07 and 84 as recently as 2011-12.

“I just really felt that Dallas was a fit for me,” said Spezza, who waived his no-trade clause to join the Stars. “I have a relationship with Lindy. He’s coached me at World Championships. I think the young group they have is an envy of a lot of the league, and I think I could fit in with helping out with the depth at center.”

Hemsky, who turns 31 in August and entered the NHL in Edmonton in 2002-03, is also looking for a return to his former productive offensive output. The native of Czechoslovakia scored a career-high 23 goals in 2008-09, lit the lamp 19 times in 2005-06 to go with a career high 77 points and 20 more in 2007-08 en route to a 71-point campaign. His best point total since his 66-point campaign in 2008-09 was a 42-point effort in 2010-11.

Nill also added free agents in backup goalie Anders Lindback (one year, $925,000) and forward Patrick Eaves (one year, $650,000), and the return of center Vernon Fiddler (two years, $2.5 million).

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Jonathan Toews, Selke and Messier Nominee Tue, 24 Jun 2014 18:26:47 +0000

Jonathan Toews is nominated this year for both the Selke Trophy and the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.

For the Selke Trophy, he is up against Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins) and Anze Kopitar (LA Kings).

“When you’re talking about defensive forward,” Toews said of the aspects of the Selke. “It doesn’t sound right. You consider yourself an offensive player. What those guys [Kopitar and Bergeron] mean to their teams, and the Cups that those guys have won, it’s huge to be nominated, first of all, with those two guys. It definitely adds some value to it.”

For the Messier Award, he faces off against Dustin Brown (LA Kings) and Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks). This Award is bestowed upon the player that best exemplifies great leadership qualities both on and off the ice during the regular season.

Not too many people ask him about his work off the ice in the community, and when they do, he’s a little shy to talk about it.

“It’s something I’m bashful to talk about,” he said. “Because I think there are a lot of hockey players out there that do great work off the ice that maybe don’t get that recognition. They’re showing their leadership not only with their teammates and their team, but also with that community that they’re a part of and mean a lot to.

“For myself, I haven’t really developed any charity or non-profit foundation, per se. At this point, I have some thoughts and plans for the future, but just contributing little things where I can…hopefully it adds up to something. [I do] some hospital visits. There is one place called Misericordia in Chicago. It’s basically a campus where disabled people can develop their skills. There’s a big creative school. There’s artwork. It’s an amazing place for them. To be part of that, for me, was very special, too. I brought the Stanley Cup there last fall.

“It’s just little things. Hopefully, it pays off for someone else.”

One of the reasons why he is nominated for the Messier NHL Leadership Award is for his assistance in the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Prior to the NHL Stadium Series, a couple of kids came out to skate with the team.

“The Blackhawks have always been very great about that sort of thing, too. Right before our Stadium Series game, we had a couple of Make-A-Wish children come out on the ice with us for our practice. I think small things like that go a long way for some people that are going through some really tough times.”

The NHL Awards will take place on Tuesday, June 24 at 7:00 p.m. (ET).

]]> 0 Photo Gallery: Ice Caps @ Penguins (5/31/14) Mon, 02 Jun 2014 16:58:18 +0000

Eastern Conference Finals Game #5 was held in Wilkes-Barre, PA on Saturday 05/31/14 between the St. John’s Ice Caps and WBS Penguins.  At the 19:44 mark of the 3rd period, WBS Penguins Zach Sill scored the winning to defeat the Ice Caps by a score of 4-2. The Ice Caps lead the series 3 to 5 games.  The “3 Stars of the Game” were WBS Spencer Machacek, #2 WBS Chuck Kobasew, and #1 WBS Zach Sill.  Photos taken by Steve Rusyn for Inside Hockey.

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Photo Gallery: Ice Caps @ Penguins (05/29/14) Fri, 30 May 2014 16:59:08 +0000

  Game #4 of the Eastern Conference Finals between St. John’s Ice Caps and the WBS Penguins was held in Wilkes Barre, PA on 5/29/14.  At the 9:19 mark of the 3rd period STJ Josh Lunden scored the winning goal defeating WBS by a score of 2-1. The “3 Stars of the Game” were #3 STJ Michael Hutchinson, #2 WBS Peter Mannino, and #1 STJ Josh Lunden. Photos were taken by Steve Rusyn for Inside Hockey.

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What Ails the Blackhawks? Tue, 27 May 2014 06:19:37 +0000

So what had to happen for the Blackhawks to get back into their series with LA on Monday night? If you believe what the papers from both towns say, Patrick Kane had to get it going.

He didn’t, though others did. Still, it wasn’t enough as the Blackhawks dropped a 5-2 game to the Kings and now face elimination in their own arena Wednesday. It’s feeling a bit like a done deal, but like Justin Williams of LA said after Monday’s game: “I don’t think it’s hard at all not to look ahead. Every team has been in positions where they’re down, and that can make them better. . . . We just know that we don’t want to be in that position, but character comes out a lot more when your backs are against the wall. That’s why the games get harder, every game you win. Going into game five, we’re obviously going to try our best to finish it off.” In other words, it’s not going to be automatic, which is what you might think looking at how they handled the Blackhawks at Staples Center.

What happened to Chicago?

Someone got it going for the team in period one, but it wasn’t Kane. It was Marian Hossa. They problem was that even with him doing that, the Hawks as a whole didn’t have anything to offer LA. The Kings outscored them by a total of three goals (to none) in the first frame, with just eight shots recorded in so doing.

Yet for everything the Hawks did well, they did something dumb. Hossa was in the slot all period. Early on during a power play, a point shot came from Sharp, and Hossa found a rebound for a bloop shot. Quick grabbed it. But on the same shift, Hossa gave the puck away at the blueline. Late in the period, Sharp sent a diagonal pass to him and Hossa ripped a shot on Quick, who made a blocker save. Well and good, but the first goal had been his fault, as he had crossed through the crease and whacked Quick on the head to draw a penalty that Jake Muzzin scored on.

He wasn’t the only one with problems. The Hawks were offside at the LA blueline on the power play. They had a puck stripped (from Duncan Keith) to allow for the Kings’ second goal. And altogether in the period, they allowed two power play goals on two Kings’ chances with the extra man.

Hossa did fire a shot from the slot late in the period that looked dangerous, and the stats on the period showed that of the seven shots the Hawks took, he had three of them. No other player had more than one.

But still, where was Kane? Well, in period one, he had no stats recorded on the official sheet except for time on ice, of which he had a bunch: 7:32. What’d he do with it?

Same thing as he did in period two. At least on the scoresheet, he was held off. My personal iso-cam revealed the following about his game: he’s trying, but no one’s giving him much help. He made a weak jab at a loose puck at the boards in his own end and saw Kopitar take the puck. He was on a power play and cruised across the slot with his stick down on the ice, but no pass came to him.

He took a shot from the high slot, but it was easily blocked by the crowd in front. He was in the mid-slot with his stick raised waiting for a pass. The puck came out from Bickell near where he was, but not to Kane, and the Kings swallowed it up.

So if you look at that, you can see that Kane was trying, and the numbers at the end of the period bear that out. Rather than the straight run of zeros he’d had after one, he had a string of ones: one shot, one attempt blocked, one missed shot, one giveaway. But again, no production.

The issue wasn’t so much him as that one person can’t do it without help, and nobody was able to get him the puck when he needed it. Why didn’t he just carry it the length of the ice? That goes back to what the Kings have said they’d do, and what they’ve in fact done, which is shut him down by playing him tight, staying on him, getting that little bump in that harasses him.

After the game, standing in front of his dressing stall, he looked positively downcast. He talked at length, but he had no answers for why the team is frustrated. “We all know that we’ve done it before, so we have to try and win the next game and see what happens.” That was near the start. He later talked about other matters, commenting on the slow start, getting down 3-0 and having a weak power play.

“We’ll keep trying to do the right things, five-on-five . . . and try to come out with some success.” He said he was not frustrated and talked about going home to the crowd in Chicago. He also commented on confidence, “We’ve just got to find it. It doesn’t help when you get off to the start we did tonight.” He did say, “We feel that we can beat anyone.”

When he finally got around to talking about his personal frustrations (in period three, he had another shot, another shot attempt blocked, but also another giveaway), he said, “They’re doing a good job of taking away space, and when you go through that, you want to work as hard as you possibly can and just try to look for any type of breaks you can. There’s still some chances to get on the offense and make some plays, and it’s just up to me to do it.”

Period three brought about a much greater effort from the visitors. It was almost like their coach had told them between two and three that their season was on the line. Check that. Of course he didn’t. He didn’t have to. Chicago had their first goal at fourteen minutes of period two, and they took until ten (nearly) of P3 to get the second. They then took over the game, working the Kings over and testing Quick with low shots that he made leg saves on. They pulled goalie Crawford with about three minutes to go and then largely controlled play, but LA had a two-goal lead and could afford some tries at th empty net. The one that went in was about the third or fourth, and it came with 1:02 left, sealing it for LA.

They Hawks were, in fact, better in both periods two and three than they had been in the first, and LA Coach Sutter reflected that fact in his post-game comments. When asked how his team could put Chicago away, he said, “We’ll have to play a hell of a lot better than we did tonight. We had really good special teams and a really good start.” But that latter is deceptive. It was answered in response to a question about what he did not like about the game. The answer essentially was, “everything except these two elements.”

When pressed, he said, “I think our five-on-five play certainly could be better. I know it can be better.” When asked if there was anything else, he said, “That’s a lot.”

The Chicago coach had a similar read on things: “In the last two games [two and three] we had a great forty minutes and the last twenty killed us. Tonight we started out decently, but they scored early. That got them going. But I thought we fought back in the second half of the game. We got some good looks and some good zone time. Things to be excited about for next game.”

Meanwhile, the Kings, having found the lineup that works, kept rolling it as the periods went along. The lines are solidified and the contributions are coming from everyone. The Kings got five goals including an empty-net one, and all were from different players. Two were first-line players, Gaborik and Brown, though Brown got his on the PP. Two were defensemen, Doughty and Muzzin. And one came from the youngster, Pearson, which was the empty-net goal that happened with just over one minute to go.

But as suggested, Chicago came on steadily. They had seven shots in period one, but 17 in the next two. They were on the defensive in terms of being shorthanded twice in each of the first two periods, including at the end of the second, but LA could not score.

Don’t take lightly the opportunity that the Kings have. Last year, they lost game five in this round to this same team to be eliminated. Williams, for one, hasn’t forgotten. “Winning is tough, and sometimes you have to lose again to get that fire back, and last year stuck with me for a long time. Losing game five, and we had the Cup, and they knocked us out, and took it. Knowing that a team got the better of us doesn’t sit well with me.”

Nor with others on his team, one would surmise, and that’s what might motivate them in Illinois on Wednesday night, despite Sutter’s admonition that they must play one game at a time. “Don’t look behind; don’t look ahead,” he said at the first of his comments.


The Kings have outscored opponents 53-30 since being down 0-3 to San Jose.

They are 8-0 when leading after two periods.

Follow me on Twitter @growinguphockey. Please!

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Only When They Want To Sun, 25 May 2014 05:15:07 +0000

The Chicago Blackhawks can be awfully good when they want to be. Saturday night, the Kings were coming off a thrilling and dominating win in Chicago. They’d laid into the Hawks to the tune of 6-2, and they’d been faster, stronger, and better in winning that way. Then they came out that same way on Saturday night. Then Chicago took the game back over. Then they just stopped playing, letting the Kings get the win and gain a 2-1 advantage in the series.

Is that so surprising? Of course the Kings were going to buzz having evened the series, ruined the home ice advantage by winning away, and being that they were once more at home. But why did the Hawks simply cave in to the LA way of playing?

First, some description to set up the point. The very first shift of game three of their Western Conference Final showed LA’s resolve. Kopitar, Gaborik, and Brown went down, got Crawford to his knees, and saw him spin awkwardly around while the puck squirted out into the corner to a whistle.

Next shift, the line on (not line two—Sutter doesn’t like to label them), which was Richards, Williams, and King, made a cross-ice pass, Williams, to King, right in the slot. They didn’t score. But it looked like the Kings were rolling.

They got the benefit of a dumb penalty by Michal Handzus, who closed his hand(zus) on the puck in the offensive zone. Things looked to be going their way. But on the power play, Toews took the puck down the left side. Now watch this: the Kings had been hard on defense even in the early going, always having a guy where a Blackhawks player was. And they did in this case. Two, in fact, stacked up diagonally between Toews and the net. But he was smarter than they. He waited, faded across the slot to his right, and did a fake shot/shot combination that was so fast Quick couldn’t keep up with it. It went in long side, shorthanded.

All was not immediately lost, as on that power play, the Kings scored, Voynov moving in from the high left slot, and waited, reloaded, and fired. It went past Crawford on his left side, and it looked like not a great goal. Not a horrible one, either, but he had a lane to see it.

So it was 1-1, then 2-1 Chicago when Toews, who appeared determined to take over the game, scored at 13:19. He, Hossa, and Brian Bickell actually worked together to smother the Kings, move the puck around their zone and get it low, dig it out from the wall, and put it in the net almost like there was no defense there.

But Toews didn’t keep it up, and Patrick Kane was ineffective all night, and so LA slowly took over, then really took over for good in period three. They were so convincing that the Chicago coach said afterwards, “Forty minutes of the game were the same” as in game two. Then, too, Chicago sustained the action through two (or all but two minutes of two, in game two). But then they just flopped. Quenneville added, “They’ve had two big third periods on us, and that’s the difference in us being down 2-1.”

Toews said after, “Clearly they want it badly and are playing really hard. For us, I think it’s just a matter of continuing that effort that we started with in the first period.” If you take out the “we” and replace it with “I,” you’d have a statement that’s closer to the truth. His coach said that his work ethic is contagious but that all of the Blackhawks need to work as hard as that.

So why were the Kings so good? This might surprise you. Their depth player, Kyle Clifford, was a difference-maker. He played only 9:20 on a line with Stoll and Lewis, but he seemed to be everywhere. He carried the puck for much of the time he was on the ice, forcing it down deep in the Chicago end. If he ran out of talent a couple of times, such as in period three when he took it across the Chicago slot and held it far too long, getting forced to the corner, then at the least you can say that when you’re playing good defense, you’re playing good offense, and holding the puck in the other guy’s end is good offense.

Clifford had one shot and one hit, but his game might have been the best he’s had in his NHL career. The Kings’ second goal, though he was not on the ice, should have a little bit of his name attached to it. Why? He and Lewis showed the Hawks how pressure works, keeping the puck in their end. Clifford passed it to Lewis, who could not get a handle. Even on the second try he missed. But the pressure got into Chicago’s head, and they allowed the Carter line to get into the zone in exactly the same way on the next shift, and it produced a goal.

LA managed to exploit the weaknesses that Chicago portrayed. The two middle goals, Carter’s just mentioned and that of Toffoli just after, both took advantage of the same Chicago mistake. Carter got himself positioned at the edge of the crease between two defenders, and slammed a puck home. Toffoli got the puck as it slid between two, took it to the net, deked, and slid it under Crawford’s left leg. Not the same goal, but exploiting the same kind of gap. There aren’t a ton of mistakes in the games of either of these teams, but LA pounced on Chicago’s.

They did the hard, dangerous stuff like it was routine. Sutter said after the game, “Screens, tips, and rebounds are still the best way to score goals,” and the Kings did that. Their fourth goal, by Doughty, had Dwight King right in front, waving at it to distract Crawford.

The Kings also slowed down the speedy Chicago players, Toews and Kane. Dustin Brown commented on how they had played Toews hard in the neutral zone. “Grabbing him, making it hard, grinding him through the neutral zone. It helps not only our defensemen, but it allows a couple of other guys to get back in the play before he can do what he does.” Doughty said that Kane likes to build up speed doing fancy stuff in the center of the ice, and that the Kings’ strategy was to shut him down before he got started. He did get three shots, but he didn’t seem to have the puck much. He wasn’t all that noticeable in any zone.

Drew Doughty said that they were “trying to frustrate them, give them no room, be physical on Kane and Sharp” in response to a question about the latter.

The Kings won because they’re getting good netminding, though it didn’t have to be great this night. Quick had 27 shots on him. The three goals were good ones, but he also made enough saves. None were super-spectacular, but he was there when he needed to be, including taking some pucks up high off the chest.

And finally, the LA Kings shut down the Blackhawks because they believe they’re the better team. Drew Doughty said after the game, “We’re not here to win a few games. Our ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup. We’ve got a lot of obstacles before that happens. Chicago’s a good team and they’re not going to go away easy. We’re only up 2-1.”

Which means, “We think they’re going away easier than we thought, and we are the ones up 2-1, after all.”

On the other side, it is distinctly seeming like Chicago is starting not to believe. Duncan Keith looked downcast in his dressing stall as he commented on the lack of a power play goal and other matters. “With LA, they got some young guys that have speed and skill . . . . They work hard. They skate hard, and I think they’re a little bit quicker than last year. We just have to move the puck and play our game.” He finished, “We need everybody if we’re going to beat this team,” not just the captain, Toews.

They’ll get their chance again Monday, 6pm local time.

Carter has ten points in the last four games, and seven in the last two.

Youngster Tanner Pearson has points in four straight games, with one goal and four assists.

Toffoli also has points in four straight on three goals and one assist.

Forget not being able to score—the Kings have outscored their opponents 48-28 during the last 14 games.

Let me know you’re reading @growinguphockey. Please!

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Wolves Fall Flat, Drop Both at Home Sun, 11 May 2014 15:51:39 +0000

The Chicago Wolves had been beyond sensational at Allstate Arena entering the postseason. Their pure dominance at home was the primary reason as to how Chicago captured the Western Conference’s second-seed, as well as home-ice advantage in each of the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Wolves closed the season 22-1-3-2 at Allstate Arena.

After winning two of three games at home in the opening round of the AHL playoffs, Chicago fell flat on consecutive nights at home and dug themselves a 2-0 hole against the Toronto Marlies in the Western Conference semifinals. Toronto took game two by a score of 4-2.

“We’ve got to do the same in their building,” said Shane Harper, who scored the first of Chicago’s two goals.

Much like the first game of the series, Toronto built an early lead and was able to extend. Just one minute, four seconds into the opening period, Carter Ashton forced a turnover in behind Wolves goaltender Jake Allen and got the puck to the front of the net where Peter Holland finished it off for the game’s first tally.

“We made some tremendous blunders early and it’s just so hard to come back from that,” said Wolves head coach John Anderson.

“They’ve got a really opportunistic team,” said defenseman Taylor Chorney. “We’ve got to limit our mistakes early in the game.”

Brandon Kozun fed Trevor Smith on the doorstep during a three-on-two rush to open up a two-goal advantage for Toronto and Josh Leivo roofed one past Allen to make it 3-0 before the end of the first frame.

A stronger second period for Chicago yielded no reward despite the Wolves slowing down the pace of the game and opting for a possession-oriented approach.

“We’ve got to find a way to do that to start the game,” said Chorney.

Again, much like in game one, Chicago was able to battle back and pull to within a goal of the Marlies in the third period.

Harper burst into the offensive zone after being sprung by Chorney pass through the neutral zone and finished top shelf past Marlies netminder Drew MacIntyre to get Chicago on the board.

“We needed one to jump us into attack mode,” said Harper.

Dmitrij Jaskin redirected a point shot on the power play with the net empty to make it a one-goal deficit, but the Wolves could not complete the comeback as Jerry D’Amigo put one into a vacated net to seal the game two victory for Toronto.

“We’ve just got to find a way to come out and fly in the first five minutes like we’ve been playing in the third periods,” said Chorney.

The series now heads to Toronto for the next three games with Chicago needing to take two in order to keep their playoff run alive.

“They showed it’s possible to go into an opposition’s building and win two games in a row,” said Chorney. “That’s something we have to take in Toronto.”

Chicago is 2-6 in series when dropping each of the first two games of the series.

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Special Teams Mishaps Cue Game One Loss Sat, 10 May 2014 12:25:15 +0000

Special teams have seemed to dictate the Chicago Wolves’ success throughout this season, playoffs included. Friday night was a prime example of that as the Wolves failed to convert on three power play chances, including a crucial third period man-advantage with Chicago down two goals. The Wolves also surrendered two power play goals, both in the opening period, which allowed Toronto to build an early lead en route to a 5-2 victory at Allstate Arena in game one of the Western Conference semifinals.

“You can’t give them much, they’ve got too much firepower,” said Michael Davies, who scored Chicago’s second goal of the game. “We’ve just got to stay out the penalty box.”

The Marlies converted on two of their five power plays in the game. Chicago killed off just 70.4 percent of its penalties in round one of the playoffs after posting the league’s fourth-best penalty kill (85.6%) during the regular season.

Toronto scored early in the second frame to open up a three-goal advantage. However, a mid-second period spark from Christian Hanson allowed the Wolves to get back in it. Mark Cundari rifled a perfectly placed pass that caromed off the end boards to the front of the net and Hanson was there to clean it up and get Chicago on the board.

In tight along the side boards, Ty Rattie made a beautiful tap pass to Davies, who beat Marlies goaltender Drew MacIntyre to make it a one-goal deficit for the Wolves, but that was as close as they would get.

“We thought we still had a chance, but it was just too much to overcome,” said Wolves head coach John Anderson.

After Mark Cundari nearly tied the game in the opening minutes of the third period with a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar, the Marlies scored the game’s final two goals to seal away the game one victory on the road. Carter Ashton gave Toronto a two-goal lead when he whiffed on a breakaway from the blue line in, but had the puck redirect off Wolves goaltender Jake Allen’s stick and in.

“What are you going to do,” said Anderson.

Chicago and Toronto will see a 24-hour turnaround before facing off again in game two of the series Saturday night back at Allstate Arena.

“We’ve just got to come back tomorrow, stay within our systems, and keep the game five-on-five,” said Davies.

MacIntyre recorded 37 saves in the win for the Marlies.

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Late 2nd Period Surge Powers Wolves to Semis Mon, 05 May 2014 18:48:17 +0000

Following a 7-2 home loss in game four, Chicago Wolves head coach John Anderson was asked if he was nervous heading into an ensuing do-or-die game five situation against the Rochester Americans.

“We just got beat 7-2 at home, so I’m not nervous at all,” said Anderson sarcastically Friday night.

Those nerves were intensified in the decisive game five after Rochester held a 2-1 lead nearing the conclusion of the second frame.

After Shane Harper scored the opening goal of the game just a few minutes in, the Americans responded with the next two and grabbed the lead. Both Rochester tallies came via the power play.

However, a late-second period surge from the Wolves sprung Chicago back into the lead and into the Western Conference semifinals, where they will face the Toronto Marlies.

“Sometimes you have to go through a little hell to get to heaven,” said Anderson.

Brent Regner found a loose puck in the slot after Michael Davies lost the puck on a wraparound attempt and sniped it past Rochester goaltender Andrey Marakov for the equalizer. The power play tally came with two minutes, 32 seconds to play in the period.

With just 26 seconds to play in the frame, again on the man-advantage, Dmitrij Jaskin tapped home a centering pass from the side of the net to put Chicago ahead.

“Nobody cared on our team who was going to score that one,” said Jaskin. “We just tried to play for each other.” Jaskin’s power play tally proved to be the game-winner, his second of the series.

“They kind of had us on the ropes there,” said Regner. “The power play came up huge.”

From there, it was all Jake Allen for the Wolves. The AHL’s most outstanding goaltender made a crucial pad save on a one-time attempt at the side of the net with the Wolves on the penalty kill to preserve what was then a 3-2 lead for Chicago. It was an impressive rebound performance for Allen after surrendering five goals on 17 shots in game four.

“I told myself after that I wasn’t going to allow them to score again,” said Allen.

Taylor Chorney added an empty net goal with a tick over one minute to play in the game and was mobbed in front of the Chicago bench before time ran out.

“They gave us all we could handle,” said Allen. “We closed it down when we needed to and that’s all that matters.”

Chicago improved to 8-3 all-time in postseason elimination games with the win.

Game one between the second-seeded Wolves and third-seeded Marlies will take place Friday night at Allstate Arena. The two teams split the season series, with each game being decided by a single goal.

“We’re going to have our hands full there,” said Allen. “It’s going to be a challenge but I’m sure the boys will be ready.”

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