Wolves: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Tonight is the last Amtrak Rivalry game of the season. That’s rather crazy to think but the Milwaukee Admirals and Chicago Wolves clashed relentlessly in December and January. The Amtrak Trophy has long been clinched by the Wolves who posted a record of 6-3-1-1 over the Admirals this season. If the Admirals were to snag the victory tonight they would at the very least be on par as far as wins in this year’s head-to-head.

The Wolves enter this game having last played on Thursday night where they lost 3-2 in overtime at home against the Cleveland Monsters. That feels more like a small setback as the Wolves are in the middle of a nine-game point streak (7-0-2-0).

Their current record stands at 35-17-5-3 (78 points, 0.650 points percentage) which is good enough for second in the Central Division behind the Grand Rapids Griffins (0.681). They’ve been ahead of the Admirals (0.627) for awhile now and these three teams have locked out the division for what feels like ages.

Of all that took place on the NHL Trade Deadline what was perhaps the most impactful on the Central Division landscape was seeing the St. Louis Blues organization trade away Pheonix Copley. He had been the best goaltender in their pipeline since last season but was really improved in his second season under the Wolves banner. He now rejoins the Washington Capitals organization who had traded him two seasons ago.

In that trade the Blues organization added Zach SanfordBrad Malone, and the Capitals’ first-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Sanford immediately joined the Blues in the NHL while Malone was added to the Wolves roster where he has contributed 2 goals in 3 games.

The battle for the Wolves net now shifts to a three man competition between Jordan Binnington, Ville Husso, and C.J. Motte. Admirals fans are quite familiar with Binnington who previously was a known “Admiral Killer” for how dominant he was in the Amtrak Rivalry. He declined last season and is still up and down in the 2016-17 season. Binnington holds a record of 12-6-4-1 from 24 appearances with a 2.96 goals against average and 0.906 save percentage.

“Why are the Wolves surging again,” you ask. Well that bloke named Kenny Agostino is back in the AHL where he has been the best scorer -by miles- this season. Agostino has recorded 70 points (21 goals, 49 assists) in 54 games. The next closest to Agostino in the AHL’s scoring race is a four-way tie with 52 points between Taylor Beck, Cory Conacher, Matt Lorito, and Chris Terry. In the assists department the next closest to Agostino’s 49 assists are former Admirals Beck and Conacher who both have 38 assists.

And, for all that, Agostino is in the AHL still – even despite contributing 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) in 7 games for the Blues this season. If I’m him, and I’m playing this well and not getting a better NHL shot, I look to move elsewhere in the off-season. He is NHL quality and I’m not sure why the Blues don’t try to treat him as such.

The same might be said from Wade Megan who is having a monster season for the Wolves. To think that two-seasons ago he was playing with the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL, too. He went from that to earn 23 points (14 goals, 9 assists) in 75 games as a member of the Portland Pirates last season. That was a career best for him at the time but he now has more goals than he did points for the Pirates. Megan has scored 51 points (27 goals, 24 assists) in 57 games for the Wolves this season. He also scored his first career NHL goal as a member of the Blues. He has played 3 games in the NHL this season.

What are your expectations for tonight’s Amtrak Rivalry game? With the Wolves no longer on the Admirals schedule after tonight’s game how crucial is it for the Admirals to win in regulation tonight to swing points in the playoff race their way?

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