Wolf Pack Weekly: The Playoff Push Continues!

Lias Andersson & Aleksi Saarela

Hartford skated into the All-Star break with a five-game winning streak. The group found their magic touch and continued to climb the standings. Last weekend was a thriller, with the Wolf Pack sweeping a two-game series against Charlotte, as well as defeating the Utica Comets. Four of the wins were in overtime while the lone regulation win was the last game on Saturday against Charlotte.The offense it buzzing again and the defense seems to have found their game. Entering the first week of February, Hartford is sixth in their division at 46 points. They are .500 with a record of 20-20-3-3.  The record can improve, especially when you consider that Hartford is not far off with the other top dogs.

February Make or Break the Season?

To put the standings into perspective, Hartford is sixth in the Atlantic Division. The fifth-place Sound Tigers are tied with fourth place Charlotte for the last playoff spot. Since the league goes by point percentage, both clubs are .568 (technically 50 points), with Charlotte owning the tie-breaker. Hartford is four points behind and did themselves a favor last weekend with sweeping the Checkers in both games. Hartford will face Bridgeport next week and then play Charlotte twice the following week and then face Bridgeport once again.

This is perfect timing due to the standings race. If Hartford wants to get ahead of Charlotte and/or Bridgeport, they have to beat both clubs. Those games will not be easy and the Pack are getting hot at the right time. However, if the Pack begin to struggle in the month of February, the opposite will happen. The club would lose ground quickly in the standings, showing just how critical each game against both clubs will be. Hartford gets a crack at both clubs twice in the month of February. A majority of their games will also be on the road, so it is essential for the group to bond well and get comfortable away from XL Center.

Alexandar Georgiev Stepping Up

Since Marek Mazanec is injured, young prospect Alexandar Georgiev is beginning to play frequently. The goalie has stepped up his game, having pitched two shutouts within a week, against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on January 21st (1-0) and Charlotte on January 27th (4-0). Alexandar Georgiev found his touch in net. Previously, the goalie struggled in moments and was often caught on the losing end of games. He has turned it around and is pivotal to the success of Hartford while Marek Mazanec is out.

Recent Streaks

  • Filip Chytil is the man. Since returning to Hartford, the prized forward has found himself on the scoresheet more often than not. Chytil has points in five of the last seven games. In that span, he has two goals and six assists for eight points. Another interesting note is that he is shooting the puck frequently. He is noticeable on creating chances, either shooting on net or passing well, especially on the power play.
  • In his final year of his entry level contract, Adam Tambellini has finally started to find himself on the scoresheet. The forward has struggled this season producing points and has been quiet. The forward enters the weekend with a goal in three straight games. The left winger has been spotty in the 2017-18 season. In 43 games,Tambellini has recorded nine goals and ten assists for 19 points. Last season in 68 games, the forward had a total of 35 points. Tambellini has work to do if he wants to stay in the organization.
  • All-star John Gilmour is on an assist streak in three straight games. The defenseman has tied his last season’s record for points, at 25 points. This season, John Gilmour notched 25 points in 41 games, as opposed to 76 games last season. That is a great sign of the growth of his offensive game. His offensive upside is manifesting itself, however, on defense, he still needs improvement. Gilmour plays similar to a forward since he is an offensive-defenseman that does not get into the dirty areas. His positioning is good, but there are hiccups at times with odd-man rushes. The young prospect is learning from his mistakes and will be rewarded down the road, as long as he can keep it up.

  • Lias Andersson is still finding his groove in Hartford. In his first game with the team, he recorded an assist on the overtime game-winning goal against Utica. The forward also notched a point in Saturday’s game against Charlotte with another assist. He has points in two of the last three games. Once the young forward is comfortable, he will tear it up similar to Filip Chytil.

The Captain Struggles

Joe Whitney has been in and out of the lineup this season. The veteran forward found himself out of the lineup for three games straight as a healthy scratch. This is also due to the veteran rule which the American Hockey league created. The team has played well without him in the lineup as well. Joe Whitney has nine goals and ten assists for 19 points in 40 games. From a leadership standpoint, he is the odd-man out. You wonder why the captain is out of the lineup, and with the deadline looming, the forward may be on the move.

Roster Moves

Peter Holland, Vinni Lettieri, and Anthony DeAngelo were sent down to Hartford during the all-star break for the National Hockey League. Vinni Lettieri was the lone forward to play once returning. Peter Holland and Anthony DeAngelo went back up earlier this week to New York.

Vinni Lettieri is a strong forward and I feel he did not get enough time with New York. On the plus side, he will help Hartford for their playoff push. If the Rangers need another forward, he should be the next man up.

In addition, the Wolf Pack have sent down defenseman Sergey Zborovskiy to Greenville of the ECHL. That means Ryan Sproul is back from injury for Hartford.

John Gilmour Has Speed

At the All-Star festivities, John Gilmour surprised everyone with his speed. He won the Fastest Skater Event with a time of 13.663, putting him fourth all-time for the fastest skater in the American Hockey League.

Madison Square Garden, Capital Regional Development Authority Close on Wolf Pack Lease

Be on the lookout shortly for the announcement of the new Wolf Pack lease! According to this report from the CRDA, the new lease agreement for the Wolf Pack will be finalized and announced shortly. The deal is a five-year agreement, that will include protections for both parties when the XL Center is sold.

The CRDA will put the building for sale this spring and issue a Request For Proposal. The state agency is looking for a private company or person to buy the building and manage the facility. The XL Center needs renovation in order to maintain competitiveness in the market and update the building top to bottom. The facility is considered outdated and the price tag for a refurbishment is $250 million. In any case regarding the building being sold, the Wolf Pack should remain in Hartford.

Upcoming Games

Friday, February 2nd vs Providence Bruins (Boston) at 7:05 pm, Dunkin Donuts Center

  • This begins at home at home series with the Bruins.
  • Providence has been struggling as of late, going 3-6-0-1 in the last ten games and dropping their previous decision.
  • Hartford won their last two meetings against Providence.
  • Hartford is 2-1-0-1 in the season series.

Saturday, February 3rd vs Providence Bruins (Boston) at 7:00 pm, XL Center

  • The sixth meeting of the season between the clubs.
  • Hartford is 1-1 at home against Providence.
  • The first game at home featured a 5-0 loss on November 4th.
  • The previous home game featured a 6-4 win on December 22nd.

Ricky Milliner is a Hartford Wolf Pack season ticket holder. While growing up, he discovered hockey by attending a... More about Ricky Milliner

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