World Championship Pits Ranger vs. Ranger (Sort Of)
Tuesday May 05th 2009, 11:54 pm
Denisov vs. Hungary Photo: Pressball.by

Denisov vs. Hungary Photo: Pressball.by

Two members of the New York Rangers organization will meet in Bern, Switzerland on Wednesday when Team Russia and Nikolai Zherdev face off against Vladimir Denisov’s Team Belarus in the opening game of the Quarterfinal Round at the 2009 IIHF World Championship.

Denisov, who spent the season with the Hartford Wolf Pack after signing an entry level NHL deal with the Blueshirts last June, joined his countrymen in Zurich-Kloten last week following the Wolf Pack’s first round playoff loss to the Worcester Sharks.  Unlike Zherdev, there was no time for Denisov to adjust to the time difference, as the defenseman played his first game on Tuesday, a mere five hours after stepping off the plane in Switzerland following an overnight flight.

There’s been no rest for the weary, as Denisov played over seventeen minutes in his first game and has been leaned on more and more by head coach Glen Hanlon as the tournament has progressed, culminating in a team-high 27:22 of ice time his most recent contest against the Czechs.  Known more for his hard-nosed defensive style than his offensive prowess, the 5-11, 207-pound Denisov has no points, six penalty minutes and three shots on goal in four games.

The Belorussians, who finished the opening phase of the tournament with a 4-2 record, will face their stiffest competition yet when they match up against the undefeated Russians on Wednesday.

Belorussian sports site Pressball contacted Denisov by phone prior to his being cleared to leave for Switzerland by the Wolf Pack, and talked to the 24-year old blueliner about the tournament and about the shoulder injury that caused him to miss six of the Pack’s final eight games.  Their interview is translated below.

- Vladimir when you will arrive in Zurich?

- It’s not known exactly.  We just concluded the season yesterday.  Today (Monday, April 27th) the team meetings will take place, during which the team’s management will wrap up the season.  I think that then I will learn what more I need to do.

- Have representatives from the Belarus national team already gotten in touch with you?

- Yes.  On Sunday I talked with the coaches, before the Belarus game with the Slovaks started.  I let them know that it seemed that Hartford’s management wasn’t against my participation in the World Championship.  However, the team will have the final say.

- By the way, you haven’t played in the last three weeks…

- Yes, almost a month ago I suffered an injury to my shoulder.  It was a very serious injury.  I couldn’t even practice.  In one of the games, I can’t even remember now who we played, my shoulder was hit the boards at [high] speed.  They had to take a picture [MRI] and for two weeks I had to forget about hockey and practices altogether.  Therefore I had to miss the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs.  I returned only for the last two games of the series with Worcester.  Team physicals took place on Sunday and on Monday the results will become known.  A personal conversation with the doctors and team management will take place.

- How is your health now?

- My shoulder aches a little.  I played the last two games of the playoffs not on [painkilling] injections, but on painkilling tablets.

- Did you follow the performance of Team Belarus in Switzerland?

- Yes, I watched the broadcast of the game against the Slovaks on the Internet.  I didn’t see the game with the Canadians, so I can’t compare them.  We won against the Slovaks — well done. I think it liberated us psychologically.  As I understood, it was a strategically important duel.  Now it possible to prepare for the Hungarians calmly.

- So the Hungarians are strong now? The Canadians already knocked them out 7:0.  (the conversation took place during the evening of Sunday’s Canada – Hungary game).

- I’m sure that the Hungarians are already preparing for the last game of the group round of the tournament.  I think they are capable of presenting a surprise, therefore its necessary to approach this opponent with the utmost concentration and without [too much] self-confidence.



Wolf Pack Season Comes to a Disappointing End… Again
Sunday April 26th 2009, 3:57 am

The Hartford Wolf Pack’s season came to an early end on Saturday night when they dropped a 5-3 decision to the Worcester Sharks in game six of their Atlantic Division Semifinal series at the DCU Center in Worcester.  The 4-2 series loss, which came as the result of four straight losses after the Pack had taken a 2-0 lead in the series, marks the third consecutive season in which the New York Rangers top farm club has ended a promising regular season with a disappointing first round loss.

The victory gave the fourth place Worcester Sharks their fist playoff series win in the franchise’s three year history.

Worcester took and early lead for the third straight game, scoring their first goal at 3:53 of the first period after an extended stretch of Shark pressure in the Wolf Pack zone culminated in a shot from the high slot by Frazer McLaren.  Starter Matt Zaba made the initial stop, but Andrew Desjardins picked up the reboud right in front and put it over the goaltender for his second of the playoffs.

The Wolf pack responded at 6:31 on the power play.  Bobby Sanguinetti, who finished with five points in six playoff games to lead the team in scoring, put a shot on goal from the center point which Dane Byers deflected past netminder Thomas Greiss.

The Sharks took a two goal lead in a span of 2:12, beginning at 12:17 of the first frame.  Winger Lukas Kaspar got credit for the goal when his shot from the left half boards deflected off Wolf Pack defenseman Vladimir Denisov and between Zaba’s legs.  Dan DeSilva followed up with his first of two in the game, when he was left all alone at the left post and tapped home a cross-slot pass from Frazer McLaren at 14:29.

Hartford rookie Dale Weise scored his first of two early in the second period to pull the Pack back within a goal.  The Winnepeg native carried the puck down the right wing boards before cutting into the right face off circle and beating Greiss cleanly on the stick side with a quick wrist shot.

Discipline remained an issue for the Pack, and an elbowing penalty against Tommy Pyatt put the team back down by two goals when DeSilva scored on a perfectly executed back-door play, getting the easy tap-home from the left post off a pass from Jason Demers on the power play at 16:52 of the second period.

Logan Couture put the game out of reach when he powered through a check by left wing Brodie Dupont at the Hartford blueline and cut in off the right wing boards towards Zaba’s cage.  The San Jose Sharks 2007 ninth overall draft pick, who was playing in only his tenth professional game, stuffed the puck on goal from the right side post.  Zaba appeared to make the stop, but Wolf Pack winger Devin DiDiomete, coming hard on the back check, ran into his goaltender, seemingly pushing him, and the puck, into the net.  Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander protested briefly, but referee David Banfield seemed to indicate that the shot went in independently of DiDiomete’s bump on his goaltender.

Weise cut Worcester’s lead back to two with 1:07 remaining in the game.  With the Pack buzzing in the offensive zone (and Zaba still inexplicably in his net) the first year pro carried the puck out from behind the net and across the top of the circles, beating Greiss with another wrister from the right faceoff circle and tying Byers for the team lead in goals with three in the series.

But once again it was too little, too late, as that was as close as the Pack would get despite applying good pressure in the final 67 seconds of the match.

I’ll be posting a proper postmortem for the another disappointing season and individual player grades in the coming days.

Notes:

  • Wolf Pack General Manager and Rangers Assistant Coach Jim Schoenfeld was in attendance, but disappeared during the third period, most likely right around the time the organization found out he’d be filling in for the suspended John Tortorella during Sunday’s game between the Rangers and Washington Capitals.  The Record’s Andrew Gross reports that he could return to New York with Wolf Pack head coach Gernander and assistant J.J. Daigneault in tow to assist him on the bench during Sunday’s game.
  • P.A. Parenteau missed his 10th consecutive game as he recovers from a concussion.  The 26-year old forward is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and after failing to get a shot in the NHL in two years with the Rangers organization, is unlikely to return for a third.
  • Wolf Pack captain Greg Moore got the wind knocked out of him by a clean, hard check along the boards in the opening minutes of the game, but was able to return for his next shift.
  • Defenseman Brian Fahey returned to the line up in favor of ATO-signee Tomas Kundratek.  The veteran defenseman assisted on Weise’s second goal, and was a -1 in the game.
  • With temperatures outside the arena well into the mid-80s, the game was plagued with frequent delays as the officials fixed problems with the ice surface.
  • The Wolf Pack finished the game 1-for-3 on the power play, while the Sharks were 1-for-4.  The home side held a slight advantage in shots, 33-30.
  • Kudos to Mike Ouellette for being the lone Wolf Pack player to acknowledge the contingent of Hartford fans in the corner, who made the trip to Worcester and cheered their team on right to the bitter end, before the team left the ice for the final time this season.

Scoring:
1. Desjardins (2) (McLaren, DaSilva) 3:53
1. Byers (3) (Sanguinetti) 6:31 (PP)
1. Kaspar (2) (Fornataro, Vesce) 12:17
1. DaSilva (1) (McLaren) 14:29
2. Weise (2) (Dupont, Sanguinetti) 5:53
2. DaSilva (2) (Demers, Armstrong) 16:52 (PP)
3. Couture (2) (Demers, Armstrong) 13:18
3. Weise (3) (Fahey, Ouellette) 18:53

Lines:
Byers – Anisimov – Rissmiller
Dupont – Moore – Weise
Pyatt – Owens – Ouellette
DiDiomete – Crowder – Bell

Potter – Sanguinetti
Urquhart – Sauer
Denisov – Fahey

Zaba / Wiikman

Three Stars:
1. Dan DaSilva
2. Thomas Greiss
3. Frazer McLaren

Links:



Wolf Pack Regular Season Wrap-up: By the Numbers
Wednesday April 15th 2009, 12:37 am

Some statistical highlights from the Hartford Wolf Pack season gone by…

The Wolf Pack finished its 12th season with a 46-27-3-4 record for 99 points, good for seventh over all in the league and tops in the Atlantic Division, earning its third division crown in franchise history.  Those achievements are even more impressive when you consider that the team was the lone occupant in the division basement as late as November 30th, after getting off to a 9-9-1-2 start through the first month and a half of the season.  Things didn’t get a whole lot better in December or January, during which the young team put together a 13-game win-one, lose-one string.  But a seven game winning streak that kicked off on February 20th turned the season around and started a 19-4-1-1 run that vaulted them to the top of the division by season’s end.

Rookie netminder Matt Zaba was in the goal for that entire seven game winning streak, and went on to finish the season with a 25-10-0-0 record with two shutouts, wresting the starting job from last season’s rookie sensation Miika Wiikman (21-18-0-4 this season).  Zaba’s 2.33 goals against average ranked him seventh over all in the league and fourth amongst rookies.  His save percentage of .920 also placed him fourth amongst first-year netminders, while ranking him ninth over all.  With 25 wins, the Colorado College graduate placed third amongst rookies and 12th over all, and he was undefeated in three shootouts, stopping 93% of the shots he faced.

Up front, the break-out player of the year was second-year center Artem Anisimov, who lead the team in goals (37) and points (81) and was the only skater to play all 80 regular season games.  He finished fifth over all in AHL scoring and fourth in goals, while his 44 assists placed him just inside the top twenty at 19th.  The 20-year old sophomore was the only player in the top ten in AHL scoring who was under the age of 24 and he was the youngest player in the top 25.  His eight game winning goals lead the team and tied for third most in the league, while his 16 power play goals ranked eighth.  A last-minute injury replacement at the AHL All-Star game, where he picked up a goal and two assists, Anisimov more than doubled the 16 goals he scored in his rookie campaign, added 17 assists, and nearly doubled last year’s 43 points.

P.A. Parenteau followed up last year’s break-out campaign with another one just as good, and if not for a late-season concussion (which now looks likely to cause him to miss the start of the playoffs) would have lead the team in scoring and eclipsed last year’s career-high 81 points.  As it was, his 29 goals and 49 assists for 78 points in 74 games ranked him second on the team, and placed him 9th over all in league scoring.  His 49 assists ranked him 11th in the league, while his 24 power play assists were good for 14th.  Snubbed for the mid-season AHL All-Star Classic, the 26-year old winger was voted to the end-of-season AHL First All-Star Team, trumping last season’s Second Team selection.

Rookie defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti got his pro career off to a nice offensive start, putting up 6 goals and 36 assists for 42 points in 78 games.  That number was tops on defense on the Wolf Pack, second best amongst all freshman blueliners, and 12th on defense over all.

Fellow defenseman Michael Sauer returned from reconstructive knee surgery in mid-November and before long was the team’s best blueliner, ending the season with a team-leading +29 rating, which placed him third over all in the league.  He also more than doubled last season’s point totals with 6 goals and 17 assists for 23 points in 64 games, compared to 11 points in 71 games during his rookie campaign.

Greg Moore had an up-and-down year, and was just starting to come on when he went down to a concussion during a game against Lowell on March 18th.  The 25-year old forward, who was selected to serve as the fourth captain in Wolf Pack history by his teammates in late January, still managed to lead both the team and the league with five shorthanded goals.  Naturally, on a team that led the league with 19 shorthanded goals, there was no shortage of players who made the top 20 in shorthanded stats.  After Moore’s league-leading five shorties, Mike Ouellette was one of ten players tied for second in the league with four, while his penalty-killing partner Jordan Owens tied three others for the most shorthanded assists with four.  Patrick Rissmiller and Anisimov each picked up three assists while a man down, joining a group of 11 players who equaled the feat.  Eight different players scored shorthanded this season, including Moore, Ouellette, Anisimov (2), Rissmiller (2), Brodie Dupont (2), Mark Bell (2), Owens (1) and Vladimir Denisov (1).

Some other numbers of note:  Sophomore Dupont doubled last year’s goal production with 18, and finished the season with 42 points, up from 22 the year before…  Fellow second-year forward Tommy Pyatt, who split last season between Hartford and the Rangers’ ECHL affiliate in Charlotte, spent the entire season in Connecticut’s capital this year, and put up 15 goals and 22 assists for 37 points in 73 games, compared to 11 points in 41 games a year ago… Owens, who has played his first two professional seasons on an AHL-only deal, likely earned himself an NHL contract — somewhere — with a 12-15-37 performance in 67 games, up from 14 points a year ago in a season split between Hartford and Charlotte… Ouellette ranked second on the team with a +19 rating, followed by defenseman Denisov at +18 and Owens at +17… Rookie Devin DiDiomete led the team with 239 penalties minutes, good for fourth over all in the league and second amongst AHL rookies… Parenteau was a surprising second in penalty minutes with 142.

Coming up tomorrow: A preview of the Wolf Pack’s first round series against the Worcester Sharks, which gets underway on Thursday.