Much of the talk before the Chicago Wolves vs. Rockford IceHogs playoff series centered around two things: Speed and discipline.
The talented, attacking Wolves planned on taking their game to the IceHogs and believed they could even get some of their bigger players to come unhinged to set up a few power-play opportunities.
Calder Cup playoffsChicago Wolves vs. Rockford IceHogs(Best of 5 first-round series)
Game 1: Rockford 2, Chicago 1
Game 2: Rockford 5, Chicago 2
Game 3: Thursday, April 26 at Allstate Arena, 7 p.m.
* Game 4: Sunday, April 29 at BMO Harris Bank Center, 4 p.m.
* Game 5: Monday, April 30 at Allstate Arena, 7 p.m.
* If necessary
Instead, it was a complete role reversal in Games 1 and 2 as Rockford went 5-for-12 on the power play and grabbed a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Game 3 is Thursday at Allstate Arena at 7 p.m.
"We've let our emotion take control, which is unfortunate because it's something that we talked about before," Wolves coach Rocky Thompson said after practicing in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday. "But our guys are learning and I think sometimes you've got to learn the hard way."
A quick look at the damage:
• The Wolves took the first three penalties of Game 1, and it led to a 2-0 IceHogs lead on goals by Tyler Sikura and Adam Clendening.
• Chicago then took four penalties in the first 22 minutes of Game 2, with the fourth being a high stick by captain Paul Thompson at 1:58 of the second period. Matthew Highmore scored at 3:47 to give Rockford a 3-2 advantage.
"It definitely wasn't good timing and it hurt the team," Thompson said. "It's just something I obviously have to control. If I'm going to hold guys accountable for penalties, I can't be in the box either."
• Less than 13 minutes later, Rockford cashed in on a 5-on-3 advantage to go up 4-2. At that point, the Wolves lost focus and rarely challenged during a third period in which they managed just 3 shots on goal.
"I felt our structure went away after that, which is another form of discipline that needs to be better," Rocky Thompson said. "That was brought to their attention. They've accepted it, which is a good thing because you can't change things if you don't accept it."
Brandon Pirri believes the Wolves are making life too easy on IceHogs goalie Colin Delia, who has stopped 59 of 62 shots for a .952 save percentage. There have been too many outside shots. Not enough net-front presence. Too much regular-season-style hockey.
"(Goals are) not going to be so pretty like they were in the regular season," Pirri said. "We've got to get to the net. … If we're getting in front it will make (Delia's) life a lot harder. Shots are from the outside are good shots if there's someone in front.
"He's had an easy go so far and it's not going to be as easy on Thursday."
The Wolves' backs are definitely against the wall, but it's not exactly an unfamiliar spot, considering they were 6-12-5 after 23 games yet still managed to win the Central Division.
"We've been in this position before -- we were dead last and we climbed our way out of it," Pirri said. "We're used to this."
And they've seen plenty of teams overcome deficits worse than this. For instance, Washington just overcame an 0-2 deficit and eliminated Columbus from the Stanley Cup playoffs. In 2013, the Blackhawks stormed back from down 3-1 to eliminate the Red Wings. And in that same year, Paul Thompson's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team lost its first three games to Providence and came back to win that Calder Cup series in seven games.
"We know if we get out to a lead and then play the way we can, they're going to be worried," Pirri said. "We have a lot of firepower. So once we get in a groove and start playing well, we're going to be in good shape.
"We have a great group. If someone's going to do it, I believe we can."