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Pack Tactics: Cracks in the Armor

No Chytil, no Kravtsov, and the Wolf Pack have developed some cracks in their undefeated armor.

New York Rangers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Wolf Pack are coming off of a four games in six night stretch, including three games in three nights. Vitali Kravtsov, for better or worse, went back home to Russia. Ryan Lindgren and Filip Chytil both got the call to the big club, so Hartford has had to make some big adjustments on the fly and it’s led to some uneven play and the Pack suffering their first regulation loss of the season.

Hartford Wolf Pack 2 — 1 Laval Rocket

The Wolf Pack kicked off their three in three stretch with a home game against the Laval Rocket, the Montreal Canadiens affiliate. It was very much a quiet game for both sides as the first twenty minutes went by with just nine total shots on goal, six of them coming from Wolf Pack sticks, and nothing really all that threatening for either Igor Shesterkin or Charlie Lindgren.

It was a tight game all throughout the middle frame but Laval was able to break the ice, beating Shesterkin with a power play goal 13 minutes into the frame. The Rocket held strong throughout the 2nd period and Hartford had trouble really generating much of anything as the game went on. Even into the third period, the Wolf Pack just couldn’t find much of an offensive groove. It didn’t help that Hartford went 0 for 6 with the man advantage.

As the 3rd went on, it looked like Shesterkin was going to suffer a hard luck first loss. Then, with just under two minutes left in the game, Nick Ebert picked up his first goal of the season, and his first in a Wolf Pack uniform with a big slap shot from the top of the faceoff circles.

Shayna Goldman, @hayyyshayyy

With Ebert tying the game late, the Pack secured a standings point and sent the game to overtime. The extra frame was a lot like the first three, a whole of nothing. No real chances for either side and it wasn’t until there was under a minute to play that Danny O’Regan was able to drive to the net and finish a nice pass from Boo Nieves for his first of the season.

Shayna Goldman, @hayyyshayyy

Hartford Wolf Pack 4 — 1 Bridgeport Sound Tigers

The first half of a home at home weekend set against the Sound Tigers was a much different game for the Wolf Pack than the previous night’s contest against the Rocket. Hartford came out firing in the first, looking like the team from the first couple weeks of the season. The Wolf Pack put up 11 shots against the Sound Tigers defense but again surrendered the first goal of the game just over halfway through the frame. This time, though, the Pack responded before the end of the 1st twenty as Gabriel Fontaine picked up his first of season to knot things at 1.

Shayna Goldman, @hayyyshayyy

After tying the game late in the 1st, the Pack kept up the pressure and kept pumping shots towards the Bridgeport net. Adam Huska had a quiet night, mostly due to the ineffectiveness of the Sound Tigers’ attack and Hartford grabbed the lead for good after Joey Keane scored on the power play for his fourth tally of the season.

Shayna Goldman, @hayyyshayyy

The Pack kept coming in the 2nd as shortly after Joey Keane picked up his 4th, Tim Gettinger scored his 1st of the season. The Sound Tigers had no real answer for anything that Hartford threw at them and Danny O’Regan capped off the period by scoring his 2nd goal in as many nights for the Pack.

Shayna Goldman, @hayyyshayyy

For the final frame the Wolf Pack were comfortable to play smart, defensive hockey and the Sound Tigers were more than happy to oblige as Bridgeport really didn’t make much of an effort to try and push back. The Pack were probably very okay with that, since they were playing their sixth period of hockey in under 48 hours.

Hartford Wolf Pack 2 — 1 Bridgeport Sound Tigers (OT)

The back end of the home at home series with the Sound Tigers played out like a game between two teams both playing their third games in three nights. It was a sleepy, sloppy start for both teams on Sunday, though Hartford had a harder time generating offense as they only put up six shots on goal, compared to Bridgeport’s 12. Hartford was definitely showing signs of fatigue in this one and they never seemed to be able to get that other gear throughout the game, though they did manage to come out stronger for the next forty minutes.

For the third game in a row, the Wolf Pack surrendered the 1st goal of the game. This one came on a long range point shot that may have been tipped by a Hartford player past Shesterkin who was again solid in net. The Wolf Pack responded before the end of the period though, as Steven Fogarty picked up his first of the year after a nice cross crease feed from Vinnie Lettieri.

Shayna Goldman, @HayyyShayyy

The game sat at 1 apiece through regulation as it looked like both teams just wanted to get off the ice and get some rest. Darren Raddysh would helpfully oblige everyone as he ended the home at home series when buried a nice feed from Matt Beleskey.

Shayna Goldman, @hayyyshayyy

Hartford 1 — Laval Rocket 4

Well, it had to happen eventually right? Playing their 4th game in six nights, and in their first game in the post Chytil and Lindgren era, the Wolf Pack played their worst game of the season by far. The Wolf Pack never really looked right all night. On offense it looked like they were trying to figure out what to do now that the main source of offense is in Manhattan. Meanwhile, the defense was turned around all night against the Rocket and Shesterkin had to come up big early and often all night.

For the 4th time in a row, the Pack were behind the eight ball as they gave up the 1st goal of the night in the 1st period. Shesterkin managed the long shot but lost sight of the rebound and it was poked through his pads and trickled into the back of the net.

Tim Gettinger continued to get rewarded for his strong play to start the season as he’s able to tie the game up in the 2nd. However, that’s all that the Pack would get though as they had trouble getting out of their zone all game. Hartford tried to mount an attack but there wasn’t much they could do against the Rocket, as Laval scored two quick goals in the 3rd and iced the game with an empty netter.

Wrap Up

There is a lot to dissect from this 4 games in six night stand, especially with the big changes made as Filip Chytil, Ryan Lindgren, and Vitali Kravtsov all left the team during and before this stretch began. Chytil was the team’s leading scorer and the heartbeat of the offensive push and the team looked like they were looking for him to spark something for them in Laval.

On defense, the team looked really looked very discombobulated as the stretch went on. Joey Keane continues to learn and have his moments of both good and bad play, Vincent LoVerde has been just alright after a good start, but the biggest issue is Sean Day. Since that first weekend, Day’s play has plateaued and at points dropped off from where he should be, and where the Wolf Pack need him to be. It’s definitely a concern that Hartford should be looking to correct and soon.

Looking ahead

The Pack pick things up again with a Friday/Saturday slate and it is going to be very interesting to see how the Wolf Pack respond to their first real set back of the season. Filip Chytil isn’t coming back any time soon and they are going to need to figure out how to get back to the strong, aggressive play that seems to have dropped off a bit over the last few weekends.