Hartford continues to roll in the early stages of the 2021-22 campaign. The club has points in four of five games through two weekends in the American Hockey League.
Despite losing Greg McKegg (missed all games) and Morgan Barron (two games), the club found ways to adapt and push to earn points in the hotly contested Atlantic Division. Keep in mind that the standings are based on points percentage this season as clubs in the division will play 76 or 72 games.
Furthermore, playoffs are expanded, which signals six of eight teams in the division will reach post-season action. Kris Knoblauch fully expects the Pack to make the big dance.
Wolf Pack making strides
Entering the third week of the season, Hartford is ranked 4th in the Atlantic Division with 7 points (.700 point %). Early trends show interesting story lines in the division as Springfield and Hershey are impressive early, while Lehigh Valley and Providence have struggled. Bridgeport notched their first win last weekend after starting the season 0-4.
Overall Play Showing Strides
The two games last weekend in the Keystone State were played well as a group. Despite dropping a 2-1 decision in overtime against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Hartford was poised in their system. They had opportunities and the defense corrected mistakes from the first week of the season. Chemistry was developing and there was a jump in their play.
Hartford’s defensive structure was tight. After giving up AN abundance of chances in week one, last weekend showed improvements. The defense gave up 12 shots in the first, four in the second, and eight in the third. Overtime featured three shots. Keith Kinkaid had another significant outing as well, facing several high quality chances throughout the contest.
The offensive aspect was better despite losing Barron and scoring one goal in the game. Filip Lindberg faced 31 shots and gave Hartford difficulties throughout the contest. Three shots were taken by Zac Jones, Ty Ronning, Alex Whelan, Pierre-Cedric Labire, Jonny Brodzinski, Tim Gettinger, Anthony Greco, and Lauri Pajuniemi. I’m glad to see the forwards step up with a missing key cog like Barron. The club did not back down, and instead, created an opportunity to show what they are capable of as a unit.
This followed into Saturday’s game against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Hartford secured a 3-1 victory in a physical, gritty game against the Flyers affilate. The group was buzzing with offensive chances, out shooting Lehigh Valley 41-22. Adam Huska faced 22 shots, saving 21 shots. Both clubs were competitive and the Wolf Pack displayed their ability to generate offense while going into the dirty areas, forecheck, hit, and not be afraid for rough action after the play.
Between both games last weekend, Hartford looked impressive in all ends of the ice. The talented roster is getting adjusted to the life in the AHL and they will be a force as the season continues. Adam Huska earned his first game on Saturday as well.
Hartford has struggled with the extra man through their five games. The club has registered two power play goals out of 20 opportunities. They also gave up one short-handed goal thus far. This is one area the club will need to work on. Considering its early in the season, we should not be worrying. Entering the upcoming weekend, Hartford is ranked 25th in the league on the power play (operating at 10%).
While shorthanded, Hartford has performed well thus far. They are able to clear penalties in key moments of the game and give opponents difficulty setting up in the offensive zone. Hartford is ranked 13th in the league for the penalty kill. They have killed 19 of 22 calls against them. Hartford is ranked sixth in the league for penalty minutes.
Goals For versus Goals Against
In the five games for Hartford, the club registered 11 goals while giving up nine. Hartford has yet to get scored on in the second period, which compliments the defensive structure in place along with the defensemen.
The club has yet to yield a goal in the second period. However, in each of the games, Hartford was scored on first. Hartford is comfortable in playing in close games.
Three of five Pack games ended 2-1. The outlier is the 4-3 shootout game against Providence and the 3-1 final last Saturday (was 2-1 until the empty net goal).
Despite games being close, Hartford has found ways to collect points and stay poised as a group in performing in tense moments. You have to give credit to Keith Kinkaid, Adam Huska, and the veterans on the group. These moments are great learning opportunities for the prospects.
- Morgan Barron returns to Hartford as the Rangers assigned the forward on October 25th.
- Alex Whelan was called up to Hartford from Jacksonville on October 19th.
- Captain Jonny Brodzinski has points in Hartford’s four of five games. The forward has two goals and three assists for five points. He leads the team in points.
- Anthony Greco has points in three straight outings including a two point performance in the last game against Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The veteran recorded three assists and one goal for four points in his current streak.
- Tyler Wall is with Hartford to start the season. However, the prospect is the odd man out on game days and has not seen ice yet. He could be ECHL bound soon.
Hartford has their second three in three weekend coming up. The first two games are home while they end the weekend in Bridgeport.
Friday, October 29th vs Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh) at 7pm, XL Center
- This is the second of six meetings in the season series. Hartford dropped the first meeting on October 22nd in overtime, 2-1. Both clubs will meet again the following week on November 6th in Hartford.
- Entering the week, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is 2nd in the division with a record of 4-1. The Penguins come into Hartford winning three straight.
- Prospect Valtteri Puustinen leads the Penguins in scoring with six points (three goals, three assists).
- Listen – Mixr. Watch – AHLTV.
Saturday, October 30th vs Charlotte Checkers (Florida) at 7pm, XL Center
- This is the first of six meetings in the season series. The Checkers opted out of playing last season and also have a new affilate, the Florida Panthers. The previous affiliate was the Carolina Hurricanes, which shifted their AHL affilate to the Chicago Wolves.
- The Checkers are 2-1-1 through four games. Charlotte faced the Hershey Bears in three games going 1-2 while defeating the Penguins 4-1 in their second game of the season.
- Charlotte’s Alexander True is ranked second in the league for points (seven). The 24 year old prospect is a dynamic forward that Hartford has to watch for.
- Listen – Mixr. Watch – AHLTV.
Sunday, October 31st vs Bridgeport Islanders (New York) at 3pm, Webster Bank Arena
- This is the second of ten meetings in the season series. Hartford secured a 2-1 win over Bridgeport in the first game on October 15th. After Saturday’s game, the rivals will meet again the following week in Hartford on November 5th, followed by the fourth meeting on November 7th. Then the fifth meeting will be on November 17th in Hartford. The Wolf Pack will be facing Bridgeport in the upcoming few weeks frequently.
- After dropping four straight games, the Islanders secured victories in their last two outings, featuring a comeback win against Springfield and a shutout against the Laval Rocket. Bridgeport is 2-2-0-2 through six games.
- Veteran Chris Terry leads the Islanders in points (five). The Islanders have significant amount of veterans to look out for such as Leo Komarov, Michael Dal Colle, and Austin Czarnik. These players can be dangerous if Hartford is not careful.
- Listen – Mixr (Bridgeport’s feed). Watch – AHLTV.