If the Connecticut Whale want to make a run deep into the AHL playoffs this season, they’re going to have to get more performances like Tommy Grant’s on Sunday.
Grant, who has played a key energy role on the Whale’s third and fourth lines for most of the season, picked up four points in the Whale’s 5-4 shootout victory against the Portland Pirates, a win that helped separate the team further from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
The two goals and two assists tallied by Grant gave the Whale seven roster plays with at least 10 goals and made it an eight point month of March for Grant with games still left to play.
With the recent losses of Mats Zuccarello and Tim Erixon to New York, the team obviously lost arguably its best forward and defenseman. If the top line of Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Casey Wellman and Kris Newbury can remain hot, then good. But if a player like Grant, not often relied on for his offensive ability, can have a hand in all four goals scored then even better. With Andre Deveaux in the midst of a slump (one goal in March), the emergence of Grant as a possible offensive threat is important.
The Whale should receive a boost this week when Andrew Yogan joins the club. Yogan, a forward born in sunny Florida, ended his OHL career with a bang – scoring a hat trick in his final game and netting 41 goals on the season while earning player of the week honors. Yogan looked good in very limited time last season with the Whale, picking up three points in two games. It should be interesting to see what kind of offensive punch he could bring to the team’s top six another year later with another OHL season under his belt.
After winning two out of three this past weekend the Whale sit at the top of the Northeast Division and are looking at the Sound Tigers in its rear view mirror. While the Sound Tigers do have a game in hand, the Whale lead the Bridgeport team by four points. To its advantage, the Whale’s next six out of seven games are all at home before playing four of the final five games of the season on the road.
The Connecticut Whale/Hartford Wolf Pack franchise hasn’t made it out of the first round since the spring of 2006. The last four appearances have been a repetition of one and done playoff hockey. But if the team remains offensively capable, gets depth scoring from the unexpected and if Chad Johnson continues to see the puck as well as he has been, the team could be poised to make the longest run in the playoffs in years. Of course, that all remains to be seen.
Tags: AHL American Hockey League Andre Deveaux Andrew Yogan Bridgeport Sound Tigers Connecticut Whale Hartford Wolf Pack Jonathan Audy-Marchessault Kelsey Tessier Kris Newbury Mats Zuccarello New York Rangers OHL Tim Erixon Tommy Grant