Monday, June 9, 2008

Wolves can close out Calder Cup at home tonight

The Chicago Wolves, who are up 3-2 in the AHL finals, are back at home on Tuesday for Game 6. In Game 5, Bryan Little scored the game's first goal and the team celebrated wildly -- perhaps a little too wildly because the Penguins came right back and then marched on to a 5-1 victory.

Little talked afterwards about what went wrong, citing mental breakdowns, losing control, taking penalties. "The good thing is that these things can be fixed," he said, sounding a bit like a philosophical coach. "Next game we've got to be smarter. Get control of our emotions." A reporter noted to him that the Wolves had given themselves some wiggle room going up 3-0 in the series and could afford some mistakes. Little admitted, "I think that's the attitude we had, but obviously we have to come in with a different attitude now. We really found out that this team (WBS) is not gonna give up, not gonna stop pressing. They want it as bad as we do."

Everyone else left and I mentioned to Little how while he's been scoring a fair bit in the playoffs, most of the goals were add-on goals until tonight -- finally a difference-maker. He agreed, and said going into that game he was determined to shoot more. "I'm playing good when I'm shooting the puck a lot, controlling the puck a lot," he said. He had three shots in the game, compared to just one shot in the previous two games. Look for Little to be shooting again in Game 6.

Last time I had seen him his hair was freshly buzzed and now it's all back. I remarked that it had grown fast. "It did," he said. "My hair grows very fast." At least that's a sign of good health.

The Wolves gave up five goals, but only on one goal did I think Ondrej Pavelec could have played it better. Most were defensive breakdowns. "Those were some f'ing great saves," my officiating neighbor remarked (a neutral part by definition). He also thought the Wolves couldn't put the puck on net, they were shooting wide constantly.

A funny thing was said by Friday night's referee Dean Morton, sitting two seats down from me. John Anderson had slammed him in Friday's press conference pretty hard, saying he was the sixth player for the Penguins, etc. Well, things weren't going the Wolves way under Saturday's ref Brian Pochmara either, and the ref supervisor and Morton made some reference to what Anderson -- long known for bashing officials -- might say about Pochmara at the end of this game. "He better not outdo me," Morton said.

No wait, here's a better quote, and ironic, given the above. A reporter asked Anderson about his team's physical play. "Are we a physical team?" Anderson asked out loud, with sarcasm in his voice. "We take lots of penalties -- I don't know how physical we are." He didn't mention the officiating that time, though there was as much, if not more, to complain about.

While the Wolves have home ice advantage on Tuesday night, the Penguins seem to have the good vibe around them which makes them dangerous. The game is on NHL Network if you want to check it out.

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