Chirps from Center Ice

A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

Penguins / Crunch Tweet Feed

syr14_200          vs.          wbs14_200

Not near a radio? Don’t have a Twitter but still want to follow along with tonight’s game? Look no further. See below for tonight’s game tweets. You don’t even have to refresh. When the game is over, stay tuned right here for the postgame recap.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game 2: Syracuse Crunch (WBS leads 1-0)

vs. 

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal — Game 2

AHL Game: D2

Who: Syracuse Crunch

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 7:05 p.m.

Series: WBS leads 1-0 (Best of Five)

Media Kit

Last Game: Last night in Wilkes-Barre, Kasperi Kapanen scored twice in a span of 1:40 as the Penguins took Game 1 by a score of 5-1. Kapanen was named the first star of the game.

What to watch for: For the Penguins, repetition. For the Crunch, killer instinct. The Penguins can not rest on their laurels and expect the Crunch to lie down and wither away just because they lost last night by four goals. Syracuse needs to come out and take control of the game from the jump if they want to have visions of taking this series back to Syracuse tied at a game a piece.

Referee(s): Terry Koharski / Keith Kaval

Linesmen: Shandor Alphonso / Francis Trempe

Twitter: @wbspenguins / @WBSGameDay / @SyracuseCrunch

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins // /syracusecrunch

Instagram: wbspenguins / officialsyracusecrunch

Beat Writers: @CVBombulie / @TLTomVenesky // @syrhockey

Broadcasters: For WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS / For SYR: Dan D’Uva @Dan_DUva

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep / @Allovimo

Radio: For WBS: WILK NewsRadio / For Syracuse: ESPN Radio Central New York

Television: AHL Live

When is Game 3?: Wednesday night in Syracuse at 7.

Clap Along…Because I’m Kappy! — Pens WIN 5-1

SYR        vs.        WBS

1                                             5

Maybe I should shut up and just buy into the hype. Maybe it’s just one game in fourteen more that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have to win, but Kasperi Kapanen’s two goals out of the three scored by the Penguins in 1:40 in the second period is enough to propel the Penguins to a 5-1 win and a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 tomorrow night in Wilkes-Barre.

I say that, because after his dazzling debut against Lehigh Valley a few weeks ago, one where he scored on his first shot on his second shift, Kapanen hasn’t done many things memorable since. He was scratched last weekend due to injury but maybe that was a godsend to step back and regroup and take things in on video and learn. Tonight he was spectacular.

The rest of the Penguins team wasn’t to shabby. Matt Murray made 22 saves on 23 shots to pick up his first postseason win. The Penguins played a disciplined game and beat a good Syracuse side that has not lost 10 of their last 11 games.

The aforementioned Matt Murray vs. Kristers Gudlevskis. Here’s a look at the lines….

Conor Sheary – Andrew Ebbett – Tom Kostopoulos
Josh Archibald – Jayson Megna – Kasperi Kapanen
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Dominik Uher
Pierre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni – Bobby Farnham

Scott Harrington – Barry Goers
Reid McNeill – Nick D’Agostino
Ryan Parent – Danny Syvret

Matt Murray – Jeff Zatkoff

Notes: Scott Harrington was re-assigned by Pittsburgh yesterday. Ryan Parent made his Penguins debut. Sean Escobedo took warmups but was scratched. Reid McNeill was back too.

First Period: I said in the Gameday setup that the first period was going to be crucial. You can’t if you are the Penguins give an opponent with a negative goal differential who lost 9 of their last 10 games any breathing room or life in Game 1 of a best of five series.

Well, halfway though, a feeling out process. Scoreless and each side had six shots. Crunch had a power play come and go.

Then the Penguins got what they were looking for. The goal to put them ahead.

Tom Kuhnhackl set up Dominik Uher from smack dab behind the net and Uher smashed it in to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. Penguins I noticed, really ran at the Syracuse defensemen on the breakouts. Went right at them and caught them flat foot. Evidenced by a Conor Sheary two on one late. Sheary was waiting for a trailing Kostopoulous but took it himself and shot it right into the belly of Gudlevskis.

Second Period: Boom.

Kasperi Kapanen scored to make it 2-0 off of a Jayson Megna offensive face-off win. Kapanen corralled a puck around bodies and roofed it past Gudlevskis for a 2-0 Penguin lead.

Barry Goers cross ice to Carter Rowney perched on the far side low dot for a one timer and in for a 3-0 Penguins lead.

Penguins could smell the blood in the water. Rob Zettler used his time out to try and calm his Syracuse team down.

It didn’t work.

Barry Goers with a pass off the pads to the wrong man at the time, Kapanen, for a 4-0 Wilkes-Barre lead. Floodgates open. Rout on. That would end Gulevskis night and enter Adam Wilcox, all of two games prior of professional hockey experience.

It actually worked, because the Crunch finally settled, the Penguins fell into a lull that always happens at the euphoria of a multi-goal outburst at a given moment and the Crunch got on the board at fourteen minutes on the dot with a Matthew Peca crash of the net goal that slipped under the pads of Murray to make it 4-1.

Third Period: Syracuse controlled the opening eight minutes until a Slater Koekkoek hold that put the Penguins on a power play. The Crunch would kill it but Danny Syvret would score to make it a 5-1 game which basically iced it away. The Crunch would muck it up after every whistle, but the Penguins held on.

Three Stars: 3) Carter Rowney (goal, two assists, +3) 2) Dominik Uher (goal, assist, +2) and 1) Kasperi Kapenen (two goals, +1)

Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference: Hershey gets three goals on a 5:00 major power play late to ice the Worcester Sharks in Game 1 of that series by a score of 4-1. Game 2 goes tomorrow from Massachusetts. Hartford is up 1-0 in their series with Providence and Manchester is up 1-0 in theirs with Portland. Game 2’s all tomorrow there.

Wheeling Update: The Nailers lost 4-1 to the Toledo Walleye in Game 4 which ties that series at two games a piece. Eric Hartzell made 25 saves on 29 shots. Game 5 of that series is Saturday at 7:35.

By now you have heard that the Pittsburgh Penguins lost in overtime to the New York Rangers 2-1 in Game 5, essentially ending their season. I would expect that Taylor Chorney, Brian Dumoulin, Scott Wilson and Derrick Pouliot be reassigned to Coal Street most likely Sunday. Pouliot may take longer because he is recovering from injury. I wouldn’t rule out the Penguins just sending him home and him not coming here, to be honest. I’d be shocked if Chorney, Dumoulin and Wilson are re-assigned and in town for Saturday’s Game 2 vs. Syracuse. You have to give them time to get back to Pittsburgh with the rest of the team, decompress and go through the exit interview process. I would say that if Wilkes-Barre is going to get any help from Pittsburgh in the form of reinforcements, that it comes in time for Game 3 in Syracuse next Wednesday. Who knows.

Gameday for Game 2 vs. Syracuse hits the blog at 3 p.m. as the Pens look for the commanding 2-0 series lead.

Let’s Go Pens!

RAPID RECAP: Pens WIN 5-1

A three goal outburst in the second period for about 90 seconds was all the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins needed tonight as they take Game 1 of the best of five series by a score of 5-1. Kasperi Kapanen had two of the three goals in the outburst. 

While this one was never really in doubt, we have all been here before and I have blogged my share of collapses through the years. But not this time. Crunch scored one late in the second to make it 4-2 and maybe a game but Wilkes-Barre got one in the third from Danny Syvret to make it 5-1 and iced it away. 

Game 2 goes tomorrow night in Wilkes-Barre at 7:05

Full recap in a bit.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game 1: Syracuse Crunch

vs. 

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal — Game 1

AHL Game: D1

Who: Syracuse Crunch

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 7:05 p.m.

Series: Tied 0-0 (Best of Five)

Media Kit

Season Series: Nov. 9: SYR 4 @ WBS 5 (OT) — Nov. 15: SYR 3 @ WBS 2 — Jan. 10: WBS 3 @ SYR 4 — Mar. 20: WBS 1 @ SYR 2 (OT)

Top four scorers for the Penguins vs. the Crunch: 1. Jayson Megna (4 GP, 4-0-4, even) – 2. Beau Bennett (1 GP, 0-4-4, +1) – 3. Brian Dumoulin (4 GP, 0-4-4, -1) – 4. Andrew Ebbett (2 GP, 1-2-3, +1)

Top four scorers for the Crunch vs. the Penguins: 1. Yanni Gourde (4 GP, 3-2-5, +4) – 2. Jonathan Marchessault (4 GP, 1-4-5, -1) – 3. Nikita Nesterov (2 GP, 0-3-3, +2) – 4. Tanner Richard (4 GP, 2-0-2, +4)

What to watch for: First Period. Could define game and may define series. If the Crunch come out of first ahead by multiple goals, may mean that the Penguins are in for more of a fight than they thought.

Referee(s): Kendrick Nicholson / Dave Lewis

Linesmen: Shandor Alphonso / Jud Ritter

Twitter: @wbspenguins / @WBSGameDay / @SyracuseCrunch

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins // /syracusecrunch

Instagram: wbspenguins / officialsyracusecrunch

Beat Writers: @CVBombulie / @TLTomVenesky // @syrhockey

Broadcasters: For WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS / For SYR: Dan D’Uva @Dan_DUva

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep / @Allovimo

Radio: For WBS: WILK NewsRadio / For Syracuse: ESPN Radio Central New York

Television: AHL Live

When is Game 2?: Saturday night, tomorrow, in Wilkes-Barre at 7:05

Penguins / Crunch Series Preview

syr14_200          cc15_200          wbs14_200

It was June 5, 2014, literally less than 48 hours after the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins bowed out in Game 6 of the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs to the St. John’s IceCaps in the Eastern Conference Finals when the first signing for next year was announced.

It was the captain, Tom Kostopoulos.

Kostopoulos, at age 36, was third on the Penguins this season in scoring. He has been the unmitigated leader of the Penguins for the past two seasons and the heart and soul of the team. The fire still burns. Here is a quote that he gave Jonathan Bombulie last season:

“It’s pretty much all I’m playing for. I don’t want to retire without winning.”

Kostopoulos hasn’t yet achieved the zenith that every hockey player plays for which is a championship. The team that he captains, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, has made the playoffs for thirteen consecutive seasons and have yet to hoist the Calder Cup above their heads. That Kostopoulos, before he even packs a bag or gives an exit interview on that warm June day, makes his first order of business to re-sign with the Penguins sight unseen, speaks volumes at the level of competitiveness and determination that Kostopoulos has in delivering the city of Wilkes-Barre it’s first ever Calder Cup.

Standing in the way are fifteen wins to the pinnacle. This thousand mile journey begins with the Syracuse Crunch.

Here is your breakdown….

Schedule

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals – Series “D” (best-of-5)
4-W-B/Scranton Penguins vs. 5-Syracuse Crunch
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 24 – Syracuse at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 25 – Syracuse at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 3 – Wed., Apr. 29 – W-B/Scranton at Syracuse, 7:00
*Game 4 – Thu., Apr. 30 – W-B/Scranton at Syracuse, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sat., May 2 – Syracuse at W-B/Scranton, 7:05

* – if necessary

Forwards

Jonathan Marchessault paced the Crunch this season with 67 points. Next closest for the Crunch was Yanni Gourde with 57 points and next closest is combinations of Mike Angelidis and Tanner Richard with 38 points each and Vladislav Namestnikov with 35 points. For the Penguins, it’s much more clumped together with Conor Sheary pacing the Penguins with 45 points followed by Andrew Ebbett and Tom Kostopoulos with 44 points and Scott Wilson, who is currently on NHL recall with 41 points. Other players such as Jayson Megna and Tom Kuhnhackl are getting hot at the right time. This is a Crunch team that has scored just 22 times in its last 10 games, 9 of 10 of these games Syrcause has come out at the losing end of while slipping out of division contention and being passed by the Hartford Wolf Pack. Conversely, for the Penguins, they have scored 31 goals in the past 10 games and stayed on the tails of the Hershey Bears up until the final weekend of the season and held off a number of teams for the 4 seed in the Conference. Syracuse’s forwards can get hot at a moment’s notice, but given the 10 game snapshot the Penguins are the more consistent unit up front.

Advantage: Penguins

Defenseman

All you need to know here is that the Penguins were the top defensive team in the 30 team AHL while Syracuse had more goals allowed (219) than goals for (218) and are the only team in the postseason with a negative goals differential. The Penguins may be without Taylor Chorney, Brian Dumoulin, Scott Harrington and Derrick Pouliot on recall to Pittsburgh but the choice is clear.

Advantage: Penguins

Goaltending

It’s not close and it will never be close for as long as the Penguins are alive and Matt Murray is healthy. Murray re-wrote the record book in 2014-15 with a record of 25-10-3 with a 1.58 GAA and a 0.941 SV%. Those numbers are astounding. Kristers Gudlevskis is Syracuse’s number one, and his numbers don’t come close to Murray’s.

Advantage: Penguins, running away.

Intangibles

Here is where we look at coaching and special teams. John Hynes vs. Rob Zettler. Zettler piloted Syracuse to the Calder Cup Championship two years ago and used Hynes’ Penguins team as the springboard to the Finals before bowing out to the Grand Rapids Griffins in six games. Syracuse then missed playoffs in 2013-14 while Hynes guided the Penguins through another season and to the Conference Finals again. Hynes has the benefit of home ice for a possible three out of five contests. Zettler’s club lost 9 of its last 10. That is something unheard of in John Hynes’ vocabulary. It’s advantage Wilkes-Barre. The Crunch were 25th or worse in both power play (25th, 14.2%) and penalty kill (26th, 79.6%) even by Wilkes-Barre’s standards, which has never been a club known for being lethal on special teams, that is pretty bad. But in a playoff series anything can happen and if a team clicks on special teams against an opponent in a series, especially in a tight five game series, it’s up in the air. You certainly can’t state that any team has an advantage over the other here on special teams, at least not yet. So it’s a push or more of a, “wait and see.”

Social Media Coverage

For the Penguins…

Twitter: @WBSPenguins / @WBSGameDay
Radio: @MikeOBrienWBS
Beat: @CVBombulie and @TLTomVenesky
Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins
Instagram: wbspenguins

For the Crunch…

Twitter: @SyracuseCrunch
Radio: @Dan_DUva
Beat: @syrhockey
Facebook: /syracusecrunch
Instagram: /officialsyracusecrunch

Prediction

Penguins in four. That may actually be a generous allocation, because this could easily be a Wilkes-Barre sweep. I see the Penguins going up 2-0 in the series this weekend, the Crunch taking Game 3 in either overtime or by a large goal margin and the Penguins closing the Crunch out in four games next Thursday.

Game 1 Gameday blog setup hits Friday at 3 p.m.

Calder Cup Preview — Eastern Conference

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Yesterday I blogged about the Western Conference teams in the hunt for the Calder Cup and this evening I am back in more familiar territory in breaking down and handicapping the Eastern Conference. Same concept as yesterday, record, power play, penalty kill, top three scorers, an overview of how the team fared in the regular season and its first round playoff date and a record against that team. Don’t forget about my new category this year called, “How they’ll win it” in place of the Calder Cup Odds from years past.

Off we go…after you jump through…

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