E-Mail Subscriptions to the Blog

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Welcome back to the 2nd season

A month is a long time to take off from a blog. It is a horrible thing to do to it, as readers begin to find it of interest, and then I disappear. I missed the closing days of the American Hockey League season, including the race by the teams in the Western Division for the final playoff spots in the West and North Divisions.

The Chicago Blackhawks prospect Akim Aliu joined the Rockford IceHogs and Angelo Esposito, the recently acquired Atlanta Thrashers prospect, joined the Chicago Wolves.

Both Chicago and Rockford survived their first playoff series to come together on ice to determine the Western Division contender for the Calder Cup.

I’ve been following these two teams for years and I’m pumped. I expect the winner of this series to take the North Division winner and advance. It would be foolish to predict the final winner of the Calder Cup, but what the hey… it will be the winner of this series.

The IceHogs play on a small ice surface in a building I expect to be humming Sunday. Their fans are homers and are loud and obnoxious and I love going to their games. They are wonderful people in a wonderful facility with a new team and a championship season last year. It is exciting in a way that hums through the blood and percolates out of the pores. I’ll be proud to cheer for the IceHogs into the Calder Cup finals.

But my first love is the Chicago Wolves. We’re the big city guys, sitting under the flight path of one of the world’s busiest airports. We rarely fill our arena of 16,000 plus seats, but we can match our lungs against anyone. This could be the best team the Wolves have ever iced. Ondrej Pavelec handles the puck with confidence and authority. His rebounds are almost always well directed. Looking back, he was seconds away from a shutout numerous times this season. Was it his confidence or the defence relaxing in the final minutes of play that allowed these marks of excellence to escape his record?

He is well defended with a strong line of men. I don’t think Atlanta has been able to recognize strong blue liners, let alone develop them (think about the mismanagement of Braydon Coburn). Next season Boris Valabik, Nathan Oystrick and Joel Kwiatkowski could all potentially play on an NHL blue line. Coming up, close behind in skill, Brian Fahey, Scott Lehman. Further back Chad Denny , Grant Lewis, prospect Arturs Kulda and Wolves signee Brian Sipotz.

I cannot remember a year before, where the blue line is so good.

And finally, the key to our wins, we have some of the top scorers in the league. There was a nice write-up about Jason Krog in the Hockey News last week. He is one of two players I believe are the keys to the Wolves going all the way. The other, Steve Martins.

I watch these two men on the ice and see them play with great heart. There are others on the team who no one should ignore, Brett Sterling and Darren Haydar in particular. But I sense these two men want a ring. They want a cup. They want their name put on hockey history. A Stanley Cup or an Olympic medal would be great. But they are settling for a Calder Cup.

For the IceHogs, what can I say? There is another NHL goaltender on the ice, Corey Crawford. I had the pleasure of seeing him shutout the defending NHL champions at the United Center this year. It is a joy to put him among the pantheon of great goaltenders of this generation that I’ve seen cheering for the Wolves. He’ll do the Indian proud.

Like the Wolves, the front line of the Hogs has some small skilled players. I wish there was a place for these guys in the NHL. Martin St. Pierre, Jim Fahey and Jack Skille. I’m not as accustomed to the Hogs players as the Wolves players. They play hard. They are a hard physical team that finishes its checks and doesn’t mind mixing it up on the ice. I compare Wade Flaherty to Crash Davis in his working with the younger goal keepers.

But, I don’t think this is their year.

1 comment:

Jane Rickard said...

Welcome back Kissane, you need more photos!;)