And…they’re off!

The long regular-season journey is now officially underway…two down, 74 more to go.

The team grabbed three out of a possible four points in the home games Saturday and Sunday, and, ironically, fared better in the game in which I would argue they played less well.

The Wolf Pack dictated much, if not most, of the play in Saturday’s opener against Norfolk, outshooting the Admirals 37-28, but ended up losing 3-2 in a shootout.  In Sunday’s game against Albany, the Pack gave up a goal 51 seconds in, another with 63 seconds left in the first and another 2:31 into the second, and were outshot 26-22, but ended up pulling out a 4-3 victory.  Go figure.Action Shot for Blog - 10-07-13

One thing seems for sure…this is going to be an entertaining team to watch.  They might not necessarily play the kind of buttoned-down hockey away from the puck that the coaches would want to see, but it sure looks like the group will give other teams some significant problems on a consistent basis.

Chris Kreider was flying in both games and had one goal, but probably could have had three or four.  J.T. Miller came down Saturday morning, after playing nearly 12 minutes for the Rangers in their opener Thursday in Phoenix, and responded exactly the right way, turning in a First-Star performance Sunday with two goals and an assist.  Danny Kristo, who has a World Junior gold medal and a WCHA goal-scoring title to his credit, was around the puck all weekend and had a goal and two assists.

Another good sign was that Aaron Johnson and Darroll Powe, two of the NHL-seasoned veterans who found themselves on the losing end of the numbers game in New York, seemed to take a positive approach to the leadership role that the Wolf Pack are going to need them to fill.  Both have letters on their jerseys, with Johnson taking the mantle as the seventh captain in franchise history and Powe wearing one of the assistants’ “A”‘s.

Interestingly, the selection of Johnson to wear the “C” prior to the season opener marks the first time the franchise has started a season with a new captain since Ken Gernander retired after the 2004-05 campaign.  The next five captains after Gernander, Craig Weller, Andrew Hutchinson, Greg Moore, Dane Byers and Wade Redden, all were named well into the seasons in which they took over.

Johnson did a nice job on a pairing with Dylan McIlrath, including the setup of McIlrath’s first goal in 49 pro games, which was the third-period winner in Sunday’s game.  Powe, meanwhile, scored a huge goal Saturday, poking the puck underneath Norfolk goaltender Frederik Andersen with 0.4 seconds left in regulation to earn the Wolf Pack a standings point.  Kudos to referee Geno Binda in that situation…Binda originally signaled no-goal, but went to the wall to exhaust every option for checking whether he was right or not.  Eventually, after consulting the in-house replay system and conferring with linesman Luke Galvin, Binda reversed himself and awarded the goal to the Pack.  Easy to say when it goes your team’s way, but that’s the way the system is supposed to work.

And if you’re thinking about lineups and depth, consider this.  Veteran defenseman Brendon Nash, an AHL regular throughout his first two pro years, one of which was on a Hamilton team that went to Game Seven of the Conference Finals in 2011, was a healthy scratch in both of the Wolf Pack’s first two games.  Also, Brodie Dupont was the lineup casualty when Miller was inserted into Sunday’s lineup, after Dupont was, I thought, one of the Wolf Pack’s more effective players in the opener.  It’s very early, but I think it’s clear that Gernander & Co. have a lot of different weapons and options at their disposal.

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