April 19 2012 01:49PM
The Chicago Wolves will need Steve Reinprecht to continue to produce offensively in the playoffs.
Photo by Chris Jerina/Ahlinphotos.com
This season was a strong one for the Chicago Wolves, who won 47 games and their division. They'll go into the postseason as the third ranked seed, and look to have an outside chance at making a deep run into the Calder Cup Finals! This season, the veteran squad has been extremely effective defensively, and has enjoyed stellar goaltending from both Matt Climie and Eddie Lack. While the club struggled to score in the early part of their season, the veteran presence of Darren Haydar and Steve Reinprecht, the continued development of Jordan Schroeder and linemate Mike Davies gave the Wolves enough offensive punch to win their tightly contested division. With the addition of the Canucks first round in last years draft Nicklas Jensen, the Wolves should have enough offense so that, when combined with their penalty-killing mastery and reliable goaltending, they'll be an extremely tough out!
Read past the jump for a more detailed preview of the Wolves preliminary round series!
Chicago Wolves (47-27-4-3, 3rd seed) vs the San Antonio Rampage (41-30-3-2, 6th seed)
This is an interesting matchup for the third-seeded Wolves. Just 14 points seperated 1st from 9th in the hotly-contested AHL Western Conference this season and the Wolves finished just 4 points ahead of 6th-place San Antonio. Despite that, they failed to beat the Rampage in four attempts.
The Rampage draw players from both the Panthers and the Coyotes organizations, and are managed by the same group who run one of the most successful small market professional clubs in North American sports history in the NBA's San Antonio Spurs. To give you an idea of how brainy the San Antonio Rampage are, they're Canucks Assistant GM and resident capologist Laurence Gilman's former club. Now you know where he learned all of those CBA tricks!
While the Wolves will rely on Eddie Lack, who was dynamite in the Calder Cup playoffs last Spring between the pipes, The San Antonio Rampge will start all-world goaltending prospect Jacob Markstrom (Florida Panthers 2nd round draft pick in 2008) in net, and he's one of the most highly regarded young goaltenders in the world. The two goaltenders are countrymen (both hailing from Sweden) and are also former teammates (before signing with the Canucks, Eddie Lack was Makrstrom's backup in the 2009-10 season for Elitserien club Brynas IF Gavle).
Players to Watch
Mark Mancari, Darren Haydar, Steven Reinprecht
The veteran trio drives the Wolves' attack. If they aren't firing, this is going to be a very short series. Only Haydar managed to score during the four games between the two teams, however Mark Mancari finished the season strongly, and should be a regular goal-scoring threat.
Jordan Schroeder had a mostly-solid season for the Wolves and his line is relied on to push the tempo. Schroeder and his wingers Mike Davies and Billy Sweatt are all threats because of their speed, both on the powerplay and the penalty kill.
The young defenceman was signed by Chicago to a tryout after his college season finished and he's played nearly every game since. A reliable mover of the puck, he's taken some pressure off of Kevin Connauton on the power play. The PP struggled for much of the year but looked to be finding some form late in the season.
The rookie scored a hat trick to close out the season for the Wolves. He could be just the depth scoring to make the difference.
The Season Series
In four meetings this season, the Rampage were narrowly able to defeat the Wolves in every game. The Rampage play a very disciplined game, having been penalized the third-least in the conference. With the third-worst offence in the conference, they couldn't afford to give away too many power play opportunities. They're very, very reliant on their superb goaltending and as we all know: great goaltending in the playoffs is a very dangerous thing.
Canucks Army Coverage
We'll be recapping games, tracking chances and doing what we can to cover the Wolves throughout their playoff run! Let's hope they don't lose their first three games before finally showing some signs of life in game four... I don't think we could handle that!