Throughout the 2004 American Hockey League Calder Cup Playoffs, Hartford Wolf Pack Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations Bob Crawford will be checking in with his thoughts and analysis during the AHL's 'second season.'
It's a best-of-three series now...
Games Three and Four of the Eastern Conference Finals over the weekend were almost mirror images of one another. In Game Three on Saturday the Pack penalty killing was deadly, with an eight-for-eight performance and two shorthanded goals, and Sunday the PK was dreadful, allowing three goals on six opportunities. With that the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins became the first team to manage two victories against the Wolf Pack in a playoff series this year, and the weekend ended with the best-of-seven set tied at two games apiece.
The Pack had hoped to snuff the Penguins out without ever having to return to Wilkes-Barre, and had an opportunity to do so after earning a split of the first two games of the series on the road. The Pens had other ideas, though, and now know that they will have at least one more post-season home game at the Wachovia Arena. The Wolf Pack showed some good character in Game Four, coming back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to tie the score at 3-3, but ultimately they took one penalty too many.
After the Pack had won Games Two and Three on the heels of a Game One loss, it was starting to look like this series would follow the same script as the first round, which the Wolf Pack won over Portland after having lost the opener. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton did a good job of getting the jump on the Pack in Sunday's contest, though, and showed that these two teams are a lot more evenly matched than the 16-point difference in their regular season finishes would indicate. I don't know if the Wolf Pack players, in the backs of their minds, thought they had the Penguins on the run and would be able to roll through the rest of the series, but if they didn't already know that it would be a real battle to get by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, they certainly know now.
Hartford had won five home games in a row since that opening loss to Portland, and they'll be looking to recapture that home-ice dominance in Game Five, as one of the team's backs is going to be pushed to the wall after that one.
The Wolf Pack and Penguins got some extra exposure this weekend, as Fox Sports Net-New York made a decision to televise the games Saturday and Sunday and will also carry Game Five on Tuesday. Yours Truly got a chance to slide into the TV chair to handle the play-by-play duties, a decidedly different experience than doing radio. On radio you're kind of your own show, everything from engineer to stat man. With television, though, the announcers are just one part of a large crew, and you get to benefit from the great work of a number of talented individuals. It's kind of like playing dress-up, too, because all of a sudden you have to worry about how your hair looks, make up your face (talk about a lost cause!) and make sure you don't spill any food on your tie. All of these concepts are very foreign to your friendly neighborhood radio guy, not to mention the fact that your audience can actually see what is going on. I had to keep telling myself throughout the last two games, "Shut up, you're talking too much!" It was certainly good fun, though, and a great opportunity.
- Bob CrawfordRELATED LINKS:Crawford's Pack Report: Extra Rest May Benefit Pack (5/22/04) >>Crawford's Pack Report: Down in Game One, But Not Out (5/20/04) >>Crawford's Pack Report: Next Stop ... Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (5/17/04) >>Crawford's Pack Report: Looking to Stay Sharp, Focused (5/11/04) >>Crawford's Pack Report: Great Finish to a Hockey Marathon (5/6/04) >>Crawford's Pack Report: Looking to Close Out the Series (5/3/04) >>Crawford's Pack Report: A Big Win to Open Round Two (5/1/04) >>Crawford's Pack Report: On to the Second Round! (4/29/04) >>Crawford's Pack Report: 'Road Warriors' Return Home (4/26/04) >>Crawford's Pack Report: Nothing Like Playoff OT (4/24/04) >>Crawford's Pack Report: Home Split, Off to Portland (4/21/04) >>