Wild ride of a hockey season for Pirri
Brandon Pirri and his wife, Elyse, descend a flight of stairs in a nearly deserted Section 203 at the Allstate Arena on Monday, looking for a good place to watch the Chicago Wolves attempt to eliminate the Iowa Wild in Game 6 of the Calder Cup playoffs.
Pirri, who scored 47 goals in 86 games for the Wolves over a season-and-a-half, could have been shown on the scoreboard and no doubt would have received a rousing welcome from the 3,000-plus in attendance.
But the standout forward wanted the spotlight to remain where it belonged, on a team just 8 victories from capturing its first Calder Cup title in 11 years.
So the Pirris got exactly what they wanted: a quiet "date night" while sitting with perhaps 20 other fans in their section.
As for Pirri's season, well, he certainly made plenty of noise while scoring 12 goals in 31 games for the Vegas Golden Knights. But Pirri, a second-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2009, also spent plenty of time in street clothes as a healthy scratch in 14 of the Golden Knights' final 27 games.
Here's what Pirri had to say about his topsy-turvy campaign, what his future may hold and how difficult it was to put a Game 7 loss to the Sharks in the Stanley Cup playoffs behind him.
Q: On becoming more of a leader with the Wolves:
A: It was my goal to get back to the NHL, but it got to the point (last) summer where I was like, 'You know what? Chicago is comfortable for me and my family. If I'm going to be in the American League, this works for us.'
Obviously things were going good here, the team was doing well and it was a different experience for me being one of the oldest guys on the team. I wouldn't necessarily say I'm a vocal leader, but at 27 for most of the year I think we needed that. That was a different role for me … and kind of a growing experience.
Q: On scoring 6 goals in his first seven games with Vegas, then getting reassigned to the Wolves in January:
A: I understand the business of it. Management there was very good to me and explaining what was going on. They were honest, and as a player that's all you can ask. I was prepared for it mentally.
At 19, 20, if I was having that success, maybe you take it the wrong way. … For me, I was just enjoying it. When I got sent down, I was here for my son's first birthday. It was perfect. As people are packing up, then I got called up (by Vegas) and had to catch a flight out to play. …
It was basically the perfect year. Obviously it didn't end the way I wanted it to or anyone in Vegas did. But it gave me the opportunity to prove myself again, and that's all I wanted.
Q: On getting scratched so much down the stretch:
A: At the beginning, guys were hurt and the opportunity was there. Obviously trading for a guy like Mark Stone, I'll be the first one to tell you that you make that trade all day. I was there for the team. I was like, 'Play him more.' He's that good.
Maybe my minutes went down, but I still think I found a role on that team. On the third line, we had success. …
I still think I was solid even the nights I wasn't scoring. I was able to prove that I don't need to be playing 16, 17 minutes on the first two lines. There's more to my game and I've developed more. (Now) we'll see what happens.
Q: So now what?
A: I've stopped worrying about summers. I've stressed myself out way too many times to worry about it. If I'm back here (with the Wolves), I'm going to be happy. I get to play hockey for a living and I get to live at home. It's a great group of guys and I really enjoyed my time here.
Q: After not playing in Games 1-6 vs. San Jose, what was your reaction when coach Gerard Gallant said you'd be in the lineup for Game 7?
A: I was excited. I had never played a playoff game in the NHL. When I was in New York, I watched the whole playoffs and never got a chance to play. It just looked like so much fun.
It's intense. It's fast. It's aggressive. That's the position you want to be in. It was obviously a crazy game, but I thought I played well. …
A week (later) I was still thinking back on shifts and replaying them in my head. You know, I had 6 shots and I probably should have had 10. I passed up a couple of opportunities that I don't normally pass up.
Q: On the controversial major penalty that injured Joe Pavelski, allowing San Jose to erase a 3-0 deficit with 4 power-play goals:
A: We thought we were doing pretty well and it was obviously a freak accident. I'm glad he's OK and playing again. Being a referee in any sport is probably the toughest job. It happened. You can't do anything about it.
I know the guys in Vegas took it hard for a day or two and then we got past it because that group's going to be together for a while. I do think it's a special group and they have the potential of being strong in the playoffs for a number of years.
Q: On nearly winning the game in the waning moments of regulation:
A: With eight seconds left, I got the puck from (Alex) Tuch and instead of shooting it, I passed it through a guy and I hit (Tomas) Nosek in the foot. But if it's on his tape, it's a backdoor tap-in. It was kind of a half-breakaway. I was going down on my backhand side and I kicked it back through the defenseman and it just jammed him up. Those little things replay in my head.
But it was a really fun experience and I feel fortunate that I was able to play in a playoff game, let alone a Game 7. I wish it would have gone differently. The group we had was pretty special and to be playing still, it would have done a lot for that group, but especially for me. It's just another showcase.
Western Conference finalWolves vs. San Diego
Game 1: At Rosemont, 7 p.m. Friday
Game 2: At Rosemont, 7 p.m. Saturday
Game 3: At San Diego, 9 p.m. Wednesday
Game 4: At San Diego, 9 p.m. May 24
* Game 5: At San Diego, 9 p.m. May 25
* Game 6: At Rosemont, 7 p.m. May 27
* Game 7: At Rosemont, 7 p.m. May 29
* If necessary