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.'
The Wolf Pack came up with some more OT magic on Thursday night in Wilkes-Barre in Game Two, and the Pack's fourth overtime game-winner of the post-season came from an unlikely source.
Bryce Lampman has been steadily improving as a defenseman since joining the Wolf Pack and had shown a distinct increase in his offensive confidence since returning from a mid-March call-up to the Rangers, but still was not anyone who was making you forget Al MacInnis. Lampman had scored only four goals in 133 games coming into Thursday, but he dropped an absolute bomb on Penguins goaltender Andy Chiodo at 5:16 of overtime in Game Two, to give the Pack a split of the series-opening two-game set in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
The ironic part is, Lampman has been a guy who has seemed to me to struggle with his shot for a large part of the time he has been with the Wolf Pack. He appeared to have a hard time getting it away and never showed much confidence in it. That's not to say I didn't think he was a great prospect. I just figured he'd be one of those defensive-minded blueliners who always took care of his own zone and wouldn't be counted on for much offense. To hear the guys on the team tell it, though, Lampman actually has a great shot, which is on display regularly in practice. If he can fire a few more in games like Thursday's winner, he might be ready to enter the hardest-shot competition at the All-Star Game. I had to blink to make sure it was in, it got into the net so fast.
Now the Wolf Pack, thanks to the circus-altered schedule of this series, have a chance to win the thing without ever having to go back to Wilkes-Barre. It will be interesting to see if the Pack's long rest period before the start of the Conference Finals gives them any advantage in the back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday. By the end of Sunday's contest, the two clubs will have played four games in six days with at least one overtime, so the Wolf Pack may end up being thankful for all that time off that they were cursing going into Game One. Playoff hockey always seems to defy logic, though.
Nothing's better than the team bus after a win (conversely, it can be like a morgue after a bad loss), and it's especially entertaining after a playoff victory, with overtime to boot. To hear the guys deconstruct and laugh about all the little things that happen in a game is one of the best parts of doing my kind of job. We have some real quipsters on this team, and it starts right from the top, with Ryan McGill and Nick Fotiu. When those guys are in a good mood and they get on a roll, it's laughs aplenty, and a three-plus-hour ride seems like no time at all.
Now we're back to the big house in downtown Hartford, where hopefully we'll see some bigger crowds than in the first two rounds. The building was just about full in Wilkes-Barre, and it was a great atmosphere. The hockey in this post-season has been as fast, entertaining and hard-fought as any I've ever seen in the AHL, and you're definitely missing out on a great time if you don't come out. The Pack have won four straight on home ice since losing their playoff opener to Portland, and with two weekend dates coming up, maybe the bandwagon will get more crowded as the club makes a bid to return to the Calder Cup Finals.
- Bob CrawfordRELATED LINKS: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) >>