Rangers make trade to bolster Wolf Pack goaltending for Playoffs
Going into this season, the Hartford Wolf Pack needed vast improvement in a number of areas to bring a competitive team back to Connecticut’s capital city. Not since 2015 have the Pack made the Calder Cup playoffs with lack of proper talent, questionable personnel decisions and outdated coaching styles among the key factors in the Wolf Pack’s futility.
One area that has seen the biggest overall improvement has been goaltending, with the 2019 portion of this season seeing Igor Shesterkin’s domination of opposing teams vaunt the Pack into one of the top teams in the AHL this season. With Igor leading the way, the Pack seemed poised to not only make the playoffs but be a strong contender for capturing their second Calder Cup in franchise history. Fortunes for the team took a slight turn when Igor Shesterkin was called up by the Rangers on January 6th and has since supplanted both Henrik Lundqvist and Alex Georgiev as the consensus number one goaltender for the Blueshirts. With Adam Huska having proven to be a solid backup behind Igor, it was then his turn to take the reigns as the Wolf Pack’s number one netminder while the Pack had called up veteran Tom McCollum from his assignment to the Florida Everblades of the ECHL to back up Huska. McCollum has essentially been moved for J.F. Berube.
After a dismal start to his pro career at the end of last season, which saw him only win once in nine games, Adam Huska seemed determined to prove he could play in the AHL and made such an impression that he beat out the veteran McCollum for a spot in Hartford behind Shesterkin. Pressure seemed to be off of Huska with Shesterkin taking the number one slot as the Pack earned at least a standings point in his first eight starts of the season before suffering his first regulation loss on November 23rd in a 5-1 home loss to Syracuse. After two more regulation losses, Huska would go on a three-game winning streak and would win five of his next nine starts. Since Shesterkin’s call up to the Blueshirts, Huska has posted a 4-3-1 record in nine games. Despite a 10-7-5 record, 3.11 GAA and .892 SV%, Huska has many imperfections to his game. His rebound control isn’t where it needs to be, he tends to be out of position at times and has misplayed the puck at key points. The number one spot has been Adam Huska’s to lose and while he hasn’t completely lost out on the number one spot, Tom McCollum was making a case. Now Berube will push Huska for the spot.
Since January 6th, Hartford has a record of 6-5-2 in 13 games. While respectable, the Wolf Pack’s goaltending hasn’t performed to the level it had while Igor Shesterkin was with the team; and with less than two months and 24 games left to play in the regular season, teams are shoring themselves up for deep playoff runs. Adam Huska and J.F Berube need to do the same if they are going to be the ones carrying the Wolf Pack in the playoffs, especially with the possibility of Shesterkin not being made playoff eligible.
While Igor Shesterkin has been the biggest reason for the Wolf Pack being where they are, it’ll be up to Adam Huska to take the Pack to the next level for now.