It’s nice to be back in the friendly confines of the Allstate Arena this morning, even though it means a temperature change of about 50 degrees outside.
We caught an early-morning flight back to Chicago yesterday along with the rest of the Wolves staff, the scratched players and the Texas Stars. The rest of the players and coaches were on a later flight, which probably isn’t a bad thing, as there is no love lost between these two squads right now.
Everything was cordial in the airport and on the flight, with the only issue being the plane getting delayed at the gate due to extended loading and weighing of cargo (i.e. equipment for two professional hockey teams.)
Stars goaltender Brent Krahn, who was a huge factor in Game 5 when the Wolves outshot the Stars 46-23, sat next to Wolves enforcer Reid Simpson on the plane. The pair left the series on the ice and seemed to hit it off, chatting throughout the flight.
They had a great icebreaker in Simpson’s attire, and I owe playoff blog readers a big apology for not getting a photo of him at some point during the week. He definitely deserves a shout out though, as the veteran of 301 NHL games rocked a light khaki suit, white shoes, white belt, aviators, and a variety of pastel v-necks all six days of the road trip.
He most certainly deserves honorable mention, not only for eliciting smiles everywhere he went – including from Stars sniper Jamie Benn while going through security – but he managed to keep the entire ensemble spotless throughout the trip.
Moving on to more serious matters, the Wolves find themselves in a bit of an unfavorable position this morning, trailing 3-games-to-2 in the series entering the Game 6 Mother’s Day matinee this afternoon.
The situation is eerily similar to another series Wolves fans might recall, when the 2008 squad found themselves facing elimination entering Game 6 against the Rockford IceHogs on May 11, which just so happened to be Mother’s Day.
That game proved to be one of the most pivotal of the 2008 championship run. The Wolves came out for warm-ups sporting their rally ‘staches for the first time. Things didn’t go well in the first period, with Rockford taking a 1-0 lead and outshooting Chicago 15-5, and it looked like an end to the season could be at hand.
It was then that the team really proved what they were made of.
Midway through the second period, Jason Krog finally cracked the scoreboard for the Wolves with a power-play goal.
“We were in a bit of a dry spell there, so that first goal gave us some much needed life," Krog said at the time.
Once the dry spell was broken, the goals began to pour out.
Less than four minutes later, defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski followed suit, making the score 2-1. One minute and 52 seconds after that, Nathan Oystrick added a third power-play strike, and Krog capped off the outburst with a fourth man-advantage strike 1:53 after Oystrick’s.
The IceHogs didn’t go away, scoring two more goals in the late second and early third periods, but the damage had been done and the Wolves kept their season alive. As we all know, they went on to win Game 7 and the Calder Cup that season, proving that adversity sometimes brings out the best in a locker room of players.
The other time Chicago rallied from a 3-2 series deficit should also be well known to Wolves fans. It was in the 1998 Turner Cup Finals, when the IHL squad rose to the occasion and defeated the Detroit Vipers in Games 6 and 7 to capture the franchise’s first-ever league title.
The moral of these stories is of course this isn’t the most desirable position for a team to find itself in, but it certainly isn’t an impossible one. A few notable numbers for you now before you head out to join us at the Allstate:
--- Chicago has posted a 15-9 all-time mark when facing elimination in the playoffs, which includes an 8-5 mark on home ice.
--- This marks the fifth time the Wolves have trailed, 3-games-to-2, in a playoff series; Chicago has racked up a 2-2 series mark in those situations.
--- The Wolves have posted an 11-3 all-time record in Game 6 of a playoff series, which includes a 4-1 mark at home.
--- Wolves captain JASON KROG, who will play in his 100th career Calder Cup playoff game tonight, matched the AHL’s all-time record for career postseason assists with his 76th playoff helper on Friday, tying none other than former Wolves captain and Krog’s good buddy, DARREN HAYDAR.
--- Defenseman NATHAN OYSTRICK leads all AHL defensemen with eight assists and 10 points in 12 games this postseason, and has picked up four points (2PPG, 2A) in his last three games.
---- Right wing ANTHONY STEWART has exploded for six goals and eight points during a current six-game point streak and shares the Wolves lead with seven points (5G, 2A) during the West Division Finals; the 25-year-old forward leads the Wolves and ranks third in the AHL with eight goals and paces Chicago and is tied for the league lead with five power-play strikes in 11 playoff matchups; he also shares first on the Wolves and ninth in the league with 10 points.