Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Rattled By The Rush

Al Montoya (Chris Rutsch photo)

Inveterate gift-giver Al Montoya gave up two softies in the first three minutes, then another bad one on a long wrist shot by Andy Delmore in the second period, as the Hartford Wolf Pack dropped their season opener to the Springfield Falcons on Saturday night, 3-2.

After practically walking over their opposition during the pre-season (3-0-1, 17 goals scored), the Pack began the regular season looking like they weren't ready to play. Defenseman Ryan Constant, who could've shaken things up with his fists and his physical hit-anything-that-moves style of play, had instead been loaned to Charlotte two days earlier to make room for semi-useless Dale Purinton. Purinton fought lumbering Mitch Fritz in this game, a couple of minutes after Springfield had gone up 2-0, but the fight was silly (it looked like Fritz was the one doing the hair-pulling this time), and it did nothing to shake the Pack out of their lethargy.

Jakub Petruzalek (51) and Brandon Dubinsky (19) can't
solve Sean Burke (Chris Rutsch photo)

NHL vet Sean Burke was in goal for Springfield, and he kept a lid on things (with the aid of a few Pack shots that hit the posts) until late in the second period, when Marvin Degon broke in from the blue line and snapped a wrister that seemed to go through Burke's 5-hole and then deflect up into the corner of the net. Gumby Legs' goal came only a minute-and-a-half after the Falcons had gone up 3-0 on Delmore's long bomb, which Montoya said in today's paper that he never saw ("I didn't see the first one, either"). Added Schoenfeld, "We hit four posts, and they scored on two muffins from the blue line."

Hartford closed the gap to 3-2 with under 5 minutes left in the third, when Hugh Jessiman picked up the puck while in close and walked past a prone-to-the-ice Falcons defenseman, sending the puck home over Burke's shoulder. Jessiman's celebration afterwards seemed a little bit too joyous to me, considering how bad the night was going for the Wolf Pack, but whatever. The team lost, but Hugh got his one point. Hooray!

Hugh Jessiman's 3rd-period goal (Chris Rutsch photo)

The first "Let's Go Wolf Pack" chant (which used to be common around here) didn't pop up during the game until after Jessiman's goal late in the third. It also took most of the "one-game-only" fans around where I was sitting through most of the second period to realize that it was actually former Whaler Sean Burke in net for Springfield:

"Dude, I think that's Sean Burke."

"Can't be. Why, because he has the same last name?"

"No, really! I think it's Sean Burke!"

Christ, buy a newspaper once.

This was followed by several fans moving down to stand near the glass (while the game was in progress) with their cell phone cameras out, taking Burke's picture, and then the inevitable heckles of "Hey, Burke!! What are you doing back here?!?", and so forth.

Burke stops Petruzalek in the 1st (Courant photo)

Zdenek Behensky, who I'm expecting to see good things from this season, left the game in the first period, holding a towel to the left side of his face. I didn't see him on the ice after that, until he made a strong bid to tie the game on a partial breakaway late in the third period, but Burke stoned him.

Overall, I think the Pack are stacked this year-- especially on offense, with a couple or more studs at each of the three forward positions-- and I can see them putting together another 100-point season this year. The players that are on defense aren't bad, either, especially with the possibility that Constant comes back from Charlotte (or Thomas Pöck heads back for a spell from New York) and "Less Than" Jake Taylor doesn't come back at all. Again, this year's team has a problem with puck control, especially on the power play (1 for 10 against the Falcons), and you could see Degon and Dan Girardi struggling with their passes. Montoya has a long way to go before he can handle the puck decently, also-- he still doesn't know when to leave the puck for one of his defensemen to pick up and when to play it himself, and a couple of times last night his poorly-executed clearing attempt ended up on a Springfield player's stick blade.

(Update 10/9 - Hockey's Future posted their Wolf Pack season preview on Saturday, which is worth checking out. It discusses a bunch of Hartford players in a little bit of detail, but basically says that Hartford has "impressive talent" on offense, a little less on defense, and that Al Montoya might end up facing a lot of shots this season.)

Chris Rutsch photos

The night began with some extra pre-game festivities, considering that it was Opening Night and also the Pack's 10th season (complete with awkward-looking 10th Anniversary jerseys to match). Some crappy band played outside before the game, and then there was a highlight retrospective on the video board, to the tune of the "X-Files" theme (X is the Roman numeral 10, I get it-- are we that fucking stupid?). It seems the Wolf Pack's anthem singer this year is going to be some god-awful Ashley Something-or-Other, who "American Idol"-ed her way through every high note. She's going to be pretty tough to take if she sticks around for the whole year, I can say that much.

Tony Harrington, anyone?


Anonymous Whitney Huston said...

Why does every white girl who sing the anthem have to think they need to sound like every annoying black female singer? wiggers anyone

10/8/06, 8:46 PM

Blogger Brushback said...

She definitely had that "Christina Aguilera"-type thing going on. I might hold off getting to my seat until after the face-off, if this keeps up.

By the way, leave Mick Jagger out of this.

10/8/06, 9:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was the worst anthem ever, and I've heard it sung by Japanese as the lockets led grale.

10/9/06, 9:44 AM

Blogger Brushback said...


Bruce Berlet wrote some stuff about some of the Pack players (including Gumby Legs) in today's

Degon Starting To Emerge As A Leader

Marvin Degon was the best defenseman, scoring once and hitting a crossbar and a post during the 3-2 loss.

Zdenek Bahensky got the first of the Pack's 30 shots on former Whalers goalie Sean Burke, then burst between the defense and had a partial breakaway stopped with 1:30 left.

Hugh Jessiman parlayed his big hit and ensuing pass from Jarkko Immonen into a goal that got the Pack to 3-2 with 5:22 left.

Jakub Petruzalek got more ice time as the game progressed and nearly pushed a rebound past Burke in the final seconds after the Pack pulled goalie Al Montoya.

"Petruzalek kept moving himself up the ladder," Pack coach Jim Schoenfeld said. "He was a dangerous player."

Captain Craig Weller tried to energize the team with some big checks, but holdovers Immonen, Dwight Helminen, Lee Falardeau, Lauri Korpikoski and Greg Moore didn't seem at full speed.

Some of the youngsters will wear an A, and one will be Degon, who has shown grit. "He was hungry," Schoenfeld said.

10/9/06, 11:02 AM

Anonymous mrs. brushback said...

You should've named this post "Rattled by the Rutsch."

10/9/06, 2:01 PM

Blogger Brushback said...

Oddly enough, that pun did pop into my head at one point, the first time I saw the headline with the photo caption right underneath it.

10/9/06, 2:29 PM

Anonymous cc2k said...

Thanks for not going that direction! ;0)

Oh, and I don't think the band outside was too crappy. Fluffy enough not to offend the masses and thankfully they didn't have their horde of "thirty or forty something, twice divorced with kids, I think I'm still 18" groupies in tow like so many of the local bands. I did think it was funny when they played a Doobie Brothers cover and all the little puck bunnies looked at each other wondering what the hell type of music it was -- haveing never heard the song apparently.

I'm still holding out for when they have Minor Threat, or even Fugazi come in for a game. Or even better, get Ray Manzarek in to dust off the old organ and get the hockey tunes pumping again -- with a tinge of the Doors or something...

I swear, I'd have enough of the "River 105.9" format the games seem to be taking on... I don't like it, I don't love it, I don't want some more of it...

10/10/06, 2:43 PM

Blogger Brushback said...

I'm still holding out for when they have Minor Threat, or even Fugazi come in for a game.

Hell, I'd even settle for Polvo at this point.

10/10/06, 3:15 PM

Anonymous quint said...

What? There is not enough of this over at Deadspin?

10/10/06, 9:01 PM

Blogger Brushback said...

The dreaded "D" word!!

Prepare to defend yourself, nabe!

10/10/06, 11:26 PM


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