by Bob Crawford || AHL On The Beat Archive
Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau is a guy whom the Wolf Pack got an eyeful of when he played for the division-rival Portland Pirates, and who scored several huge goals against the Pack. None of those was bigger than an overtime tally in Game Six of the 2006 Atlantic Division Finals that knocked the Wolf Pack out of that year’s postseason and sent the Pirates on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Since joining the Wolf Pack via a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 11, Parenteau has laughed with his new teammates about that Pack-killing score, but is happy not to have to play against the Wolf Pack any longer.
“I’d rather play with the Wolf Pack than against the Wolf Pack,” the fifth-year pro says. “They’ve always been a hard-nosed team to play against, always tough and a real good team all the time. They’re always a top team in the Atlantic Division. I’m glad to be with Hartford and not against them.”
Parenteau, who also experienced a trade last season, going from the Anaheim organization, Portland’s parent club, to Chicago in December, also enjoys the approach that the Wolf Pack club brings to the game, feeling that it meshes well with his particular skills.
“The way they (Ken Gernander and his staff) coach, they keep it really simple for us, and it’s fun so far,” Parenteau says. “I’m having a lot of fun playing the system. It’s pretty easy, and they let us play in the offensive zone and as long as you do your job in the defensive zone and work hard, they’re going to be happy with you.
“I think I’ve been playing some really good hockey in the last 15 games or so, really consistent and playing the way I can.”
Parenteau chalked up 52 goals and 128 points in 124 AHL games the last two years between Portland and Norfolk. Having been dealt twice in a span of less than 10 months, he is looking to establish a foothold in the Ranger organization.
“It is tough,” the Hull, Que., native says of the multiple trades. “It’s never fun to get traded, especially when you don’t expect it, like this year, but I think I did a pretty good job of getting to know the guys and the coaches and the organization, and I’m feeling pretty comfortable here in Hartford and I really like it so far.”
Part of what has made Parenteau’s early Wolf Pack experience enjoyable has been the offensive success the team has enjoyed. While he is an elite player at the AHL level, Parenteau is hardly the only Pack forward who can be counted on to score goals.
“We’ve got a lot of depth on this team,” he says. “Up front we have four solid lines and we’re pretty dangerous, any line can hurt the opposing team. It’s a good thing to be with this Hartford team right now because all the lines can score goals and everyone plays hard. It gives me a lot of room to do what I have to do out there, and I like what we have been showing so far.”
Parenteau spent much of the months of November and early December playing right wing on a line with Artem Anisimov at center and Brodie Dupont on left wing. At 24 years old, Parenteau is the graybeard of that line, as both the 19-year-old Anisimov and the 20-year-old Dupont are getting their first tastes of pro hockey this year.
Parenteau reports that he has enjoyed being part of that particular combination.
“Those two rookies have been working really hard this year,” he says of Anisimov and Dupont. “They’ve earned their spot and so far have been playing some good hockey.
“And when you play with two rookies you have to be sometimes a little more conservative. You have to be the third man high (in the offensive zone), and to make sure everything is going on the line. I try to get them going as much as I can and to help them as much as I can. We’ve been a pretty good line and I’ve had fun playing with those two guys.”
Everyone in hockey knows what Parenteau can do offensively at the minor pro level. The necessity of being a little extra attentive to detail to compensate for his linemates’ inexperience, though, gives him an opportunity to show that he is a solid all-around player as well.
“The last two or three years I’ve been doing really well offensively in this league,” Parenteau comments, “so I’m figuring I need to do some other stuff, maybe, to get a callup and to get a chance in the NHL. So playing with two rookies and being maybe a little bit more conservative and more responsible maybe will help me to get a call eventually.”
What helped Parenteau gain the Wolf Pack and Rangers’ notice was his propensity for coming through in the big spots, for being a guy who not only scores a lot, but scores when it counts.
When asked about that knack, Parenteau is at a loss to explain it, except to say, “When the game’s on the line everyone brings his game to another level, so I just try to do that. I’ve scored some big goals in my career, and it’s something I’m trying to do, when the game’s on the line it’s always fun to score goals or to make a big play. That’s why you play the game. You want to win, and it makes you feel even better when you score big goals or make big plays.”
More than a year-and-a-half later, Parenteau still counts that overtime series-winner against the Wolf Pack as the biggest goal of his career, and remembers it as if it were yesterday.
“It’s pretty hard to describe what kind of feeling you get when you score an OT winner like that to knock a team out of the playoffs,” he says. “I talk about it sometimes with the guys here, but it’s in the books. I had a great time doing it, it was fun, but right now I’m with the Wolf Pack and I hope I can do it against other teams come this year’s playoffs.”
That 2005-06 Portland squad fell a Game Seven overtime goal short of going to the Calder Cup Finals, losing in a classic series to eventual-champion Hershey in the Conference Finals. Parenteau hopes to apply the experience he gained with that powerhouse Pirate club to helping the Wolf Pack get possibly a step further.
“I learned a lot that year in Portland,” he says. “We had a real good team, a lot of good forwards. We were a pretty dangerous team to play against, everyone could score on that team. We lost against Hershey, but it was one of the greatest series I ever played in in my life. It went to seven, and it was just a battle.
“That was my third year in the AHL and I did learn a lot. I hope I can bring that to the table this year with the Wolf Pack because I think we have kind of a similar team right now to two years ago in Portland.”