Chirps from Center Ice

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

AHL Power Rankings: Week 21

The AHL’s Daily Playoff Primer debuted this week, meaning that we are close to the end of the season. About at the three quarter pole for all teams.

But there is much work to do as teams jockey for playoff positioning.

There are three teams in the AHL that are on an absolute tear, and are ranked 1-2-3 in this weeks Rankings. A Penguin and a Griffin walk into a bar and say to the Bear tending bar….I forget the rest, but you get the idea….

If you are new to the Rankings, the way this works is that you click through the jump below to read more or if you clicked in from someplace else, you can just keep scrolling…

Read more of this post

Domination — Pens WIN 7-0

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The Penguins as a team rolled to a 7-0 win Sunday afternoon vs. the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in Southern Connecticut. The two teams are two teams that are going in opposite directions.  The Penguins haven’t are 8-0-1-1 and the Sound Tigers have lost now nine straight. Two trains passing in the night, if there ever was one.

The only real issue after the end of the first period wasn’t whether the Penguins, up 2-0 at the time, were going to win the game but whether Matt Murray was going to earn his third straight shutout, and eighth overall.

He did.

Just some of his statistics for you to gnaw on…

– Three straight shutouts.
— A streak of 185:22.
— Last five starts: 127 saves on 128 shots, 5-0-0, 0.20 GAA and a .992 SV% with four shutouts.
— Murray takes over the Penguins franchise lead in shutouts for a season, passing Brad Thiessen in that category.

Murray is one shutout shy of tying himself with Wade Dubielewicz (2003-04) and Gordie Bell (1942-43) for all time shutouts made by a rookie goaltender.

A remarkable, remarkable run for the first year goaltender.

He will tell you that it is a team effort and will downplay any attention paid in his direction.

But the stats, and the company he is in so far, bears the attention.

The Penguins just dominated the Sound Tigers today. Bridgeport only had 18 shots on goal today playing the third game in three games. The Penguins were the rested and better of the two teams and this was on full display today.

Matt Murray vs. David Leggio

Lines were:

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

Brian Dumoulin – Taylor Chorney
Reid McNeill – Scott Harrington
Nick D’Agostino – Barry Goers

Matt Murray – Jeff Zatkoff

Alex Boak skated the warmups as the extra defenseman but was scratched. Adam Payerl was swapped out for Tom Kostopoulos.

First Period: Sound Tigers opened with some pressure. Brett Gallant had a nice hit on Matia Marcantuoni. As he was coming off the ice with his team pressuring in front of Matt Murray, he was confronted by Bobby Farnham. They tumbled right to the ice and it wasn’t much of a fight at all. Very smart play by Farnham to stop play and start something.

Then the Penguins went on a power play and, despite what the caption says, Tom Kuhnhackl finished this…

Pierre Leblond nearly scored from the high slot as the Penguins continued to pressure. Bridgeport then had a chance n a power play but couldn’t sneak anything past Murray.

While the teams were four-on-four, Jayson Megna did this…

That’s Josh Archibald that finished off that play. His first AHL goal since November 21 against Albany.

Penguins continued to pressure the Sound Tigers and outshot them 16-5.

Second Period: Was actually running a bit behind coming up the steps as the second period started as Jayson Megna did this…

It was off of a gaffe of a turnover by Cory Conacher.

Brian Dumoulin hasn’t had a power play goal at all this season, but finally got one off of this play…

There really wasn’t much to this period, the Penguins really dominated the Sound Tigers in all facets in this period. The Penguins had five shots in the period but scored two goals off of them, while the Sound Tigers only had seven.

Third Period: Sorry about the lack of video for the fifth goal, which was a Scott Wilson shot from the long side of the left circle that made it 5-0.

The Sound Tigers wouldn’t stop taking penalties. The Penguins made them pay. This was on repeat twice more in the period.

First, Andrew Ebbett…

And then Josh Archibald…

It was Archibald’s second of the game and again, first goals since November. I would say that the stint in Wheeling paid dividends for Archibald, who was the footnote to Murray and the Penguins dominating day.

The only issue was would Murray hang on for the shutout, and he did.

Three Stars: 3) Matt Murray (18 save shutout) 2) Jayson Megna (goal, assist, +3) and 1) Brian Dumoulin (goal, two assists, +1)

Around the Division: Binghamton lost in overtime to the Albany Devils, 4-3 in overtime. Hershey keeps winning too, beating Lehigh Valley 2-0. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer with his sixth shutout of the season as well.

Standings: Hershey 77 — Penguins 70 – Lehigh Valley 57 — Binghamton 52 — Norfolk 50

Conference: 1) HER (77) 2) MCH (75) 3) SYR (74) 4) WBS (70) 5) SPR (70) 6) HFD (68) 7) WOR (66) 8) PRO (66)

As long as the Penguins keep winning, there really is no sense in keeping up with what other teams in the Conference are doing win / loses wise. So let’s juts move past this…

Wheeling Update: The Nailers played today but due to bad ice at WesBanco Arena, the game was delayed until tomorrow with the Greenville Road Warriors.

SendToNews Highlights: Are here.

Depending on the trade deadline, Monday at 3 p.m., I may run a summary post of what it all means for the Penguins and the teams in the East Division. The Week 21 AHL Power Rankings will hit the blog at some point, I just haven’t decided when yet. Also, the Third Quarter Grades are going to be later on this week also, so be on the look out for those.

Latest on Twitter as always.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Bridgeport 3/1

 

Away Game: 27

AHL Game: 836

Who: Bridgeport Sound Tigers

Where: Webster Bank Arena

When: 3:00 p.m.

Media Kit

Last Game: Last night in Hartford, the Pens won 3-2 in overtime. Andrew Ebbett did the overtime honors. For Bridgeport, the Sound Tigers were in Springfield and were shutout 3-0.

Last Meeting: February 8 in Bridgeport, the Pens won 3-1. Three different Penguins scored goals and goaltender Matt Murray stopped 36 of 37 shots to pick up first star honors.

Record: For WBS: 31-18-2-4 (68 pts., 2nd place East Division) — For BRI: 21-28-5-1 (48 pts., 5th place Northeast Division)

Why you should care: So the Penguins go 7-0-1-1 in the month of February. That’s great, but this is March now. Expect a hungry Sound Tigers team that will be looking to play spoiler on a Penguins team flying high off of a fantastic month.

Referee(s): Cameron Voss / Geno Binda

Linesmen: Mike Baker / Brent Colby

Twitter: @wbspenguins / @WBSGameDay / @TheSoundTigers

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins // /soundtigers

Instagram: wbspenguins / thesoundtigers

Beat Writers: @CVBombulie and @TLTomVenesky / @fornabaioctp

Broadcasters: For WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS / For BRI: Phil Giubileo @philgpbp

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep

Radio: For WBS: WILK NewsRadio / For BRI: I don’t think Sound Tigers games are on radio. Here’s the link to AHL Live where you could here the game if you want to.

Television: AHL Live

Other Game to Watch: Teams ahead of and behind the Penguins lock up later this afternoon in Hershey. The Bears host the Phantoms at 5.

Next Five Games: @ MCH 3/6, @ MCH 3/7, @ SPR 3/8, HER 3/11, HER 3/14

Do We Really Have to Flip This? — Pens WIN 3-2 (OT)

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Before I get started, make sure you read about tonight’s 3-2 overtime win by the Penguins in the Sunday version of The Citizens’ Voice tomorrow at some point. I pinch hit for Jonathan Bombulie tonight and my words are in the paper.

Anyway, the Penguins probably don’t want the month of February to end. They go throughout the month without a single regulation loss, 7-0-1-1 to be exact and are on a tear.

There is a team about an hour south of Coal Street that is slightly hotter, and the best team in the AHL, but that’s for later.

An overtime game winning goal by Andrew Ebbett, a power play goal by Jayson Megna and Reid McNeill’s second goal of the season with 29 saves from Jeff Zatkoff was enough for the Penguins tonight.

The lineup was unchanged from last Sunday. Josh Archibald skated in warmups instead of Alex Boak. Bobby Farnham played after leaving last Sunday with injury. Jeff Zatkoff opposed Yann Danis.

First Period: Nothing happened. Hartford blocked shots. The Penguins did too. Goaltenders made saves.

Second Period: Penguins jumped out to a 1-0 lead with Reid McNeill’s second of the season setup by the nice forecheck of Dominik Uher. Penguins continued to make boneheaded exit passes that in the past have cost them but tonight they were lucky. Zatkoff stopped a three on one attempt by the Wolf Pack.

Megna took a penalty and seven seconds later Chris Mueller scored to tie the game at one. Mueller fumbled a pass from Chris Bourque, causing Jeff Zatkoff to overslide in the crease and giving Mueller enough room to score.

Wilkes-Barre responds with a power play goal from Megna with 8.6 seconds left off of a rebound that Danis left on an initial shot from Scott Harringtion.

Third Period: Looked as though the Penguins were going to cruise to a win, locking down the Wolf Pack. It didn’t happen. Mike Koska throws a shot on net that Mueller scores on to make it a 2-2 game. Zatkoff had been scattering rebounds all night and Mueller was in position to take advantage.

Penguins had two opportunities to score on the power play in the period but didn’t.

I don’t know if you listened to the Penguins Pit Podcast Friday afternoon or not, but I did. In it, Jonathan stated that the Penguins didn’t ask the AHL to review the hit that Dylan McIlrath laid on Bobby Farnham last Sunday. That didn’t stop McIlrath from having to answer to Pierre Leblond. The two threw down about halfway through the period for a long bout that lasted well over a minute.

Nothing of big significance happened after the fight, so with the game tied at two yet to be decided it was off to…

Overtime: Brian Dumoulin pinned his man against the near wall freeing a puck to Andrew Ebbett who was all alone and beat Danis stick side.

Of note, Ebbett’s goal in overtime was the 200th overtime goal scored in the AHL this season.

Three Stars: 3) Dylan McIrath (no idea, he had two shots, seven penalty minutes) 2) Andrew Ebbett (overtime game winning goal) and 1) Chris Mueller (two goals)

Around the Division: Hershey starts out listless and is in an 0-2 hole at home against Albany but then scored two goals in a franchise best five seconds and roll on to win 4-2. There is no two teams hotter than the Penguins and Bears right now. The only reason why it may appear to the common man that the Bears are the better team with the bigger lead is because of the games in hand situation. Hershey had three on the Penguins to open the month, and won two of them. The two teams meet in Wilkes-Barre a week from Wednesday…Binghamton lost to Lehigh Valley 3-2 in overtime and Norfolk lost 4-3 to Providence.

Standings: Hershey 75 — Penguins 68 – Lehigh Valley 57 — Binghamton 51 — Norfolk 50

Conference: 1) HER (75) 2) SYR (74) 3) MCH (73) 4) SPR (70) 5) WBS (68) 6) HFD (68) 7) WOR (66) 8) PRO (66)

The top eight are tight. St. John’s actually beat Worcester 2-0. The Sharks have games in hand that they have yet to play.

Wheeling Update: The Nailers lost 4-3 to the Greenville Road Warriors (who happen to be the ECHL affiliate of the Hartford Wolf Pack) J-S Dea had a goal and an assist. Eric Hartzell started in net for the Nailers and stopped 23 of 27.

SendToNews Highlights: Are here.

Pens travel down the road a bit to Bridgeport for a 3 p.m. start against the Sound Tigers. Gameday setup for that will be up here on the blog at 11 a.m.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Hartford 2/28

hartford wolf pack

Away Game: 26

AHL Game: 824

Who: Hartford Wolf Pack

Where: XL Center

When: 7:00 p.m. EST

Media Kit

Last Game: Sunday in Hartford, the Pens won 4-1. Andrew Ebbett notched his 100th and 101st AHL goals in the win. For the Wolf Pack, they were in Manchester last night and lost 4-2. Steve Spinell and Tyler Brown scored for the Wolf Pack in the loss.

Last Meeting: Was this past Sunday. The Penguins Bobby Farnham left the game after a vicious open ice hit from Hartford’s Dylan McIrlath.

Record: For WBS: 30-18-2-4 (66 pts., 2nd place East Division) — For HFD: 30-18-4-3 (67 pts., 3rd place Northeast Division)

Why you should care: The Penguins rematch with the Wolf Pack looking to sweep Hartford in the Connecticut capital on Saturday night. The Wolfpack are just a point ahead of the Pens in the race for fourth in the Conference. It will take another team effort if the Pens want to leave Hartford with another two points towards the playoff push.

Referee(s): Evgeny Romasko

Linesmen: Paul Simeon / Derek Wahl

Twitter: @wbspenguins / @WolfPackAHL

Facebook:  /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins // /HartfordWolfPack

Instagram: wbspenguins / hartford_wolfpack

Beat Writers: @CVBombulie and @TLTomVenesky@HowlingsToday

Broadcasters: For WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS / For HFD: Bob Crawford / @HawkCrawford

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep

Radio: For WBS: WILK NewsRadio / For Hartford: Fox Sports Radio 1410

Television: AHL Live

Other Game to Watch: Springfield finishes off a two game home series with tomorrow’s opponent, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers tonight in Massachusetts.

Next Five Games: @ BRI 3/1, @ MCH 3/6, @ MCH 3/7, @ SPR 3/8, HER 3/11

Yes, I’d Like to Return This…

So the stays of J-S Dea and Harrison Ruopp in Wilkes-Barre were short lived. They were returned to Wheeling Thursday.

Jonathan reported Wednesday that Bobby Farnham practiced in a limited role and has not been ruled out for games Saturday in Hartford and Sunday in Bridgeport. So the extra forward Saturday will probably come down to Farnham, Adam Payerl or Josh Archibald.

On Archibald, he performed better in Wheeling so he gets to stay. I still have no idea why Ruopp was recalled. If anyone knows, please leave me a comment.

On a potential suspension for Dylan McIlrath on Farnham Sunday, the AHL was mum this week so he’s not going to be suspended. While I respectfully disagree with the lack of action on behalf of the AHL, we have to move on.

If you live in Pittsburgh and get MyPittsburgh TV WPMY22, you will be able to watch the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins on television. This was announced on Thursday. The games will be 3/14 vs. Hershey, 3/21 vs. Binghamton, 4/4 vs. Lehigh Valley and 4/18 vs. Norfolk. Press release with channel information here.

Pens are off Friday, I am planning on taking in the rematch between between Hershey and Binghamton from the Southern Tier on AHL Live. This is the final game in hand that the Bears, who have a five point lead in the East Division in the Penguins, play.

Unless something jumps off the page Friday, expect the next blog update Saturday at 3 p.m. for the Gameday setup vs. Hartford.

Dea, Archibald and Ruopp Reassigned Monday

I wanted the Week 20 AHL Power Rankings to get the views yesterday so I am running this old news this morning. Yesterday afternoon the Penguins announced the recalls of forwards Josh Archibald, J-S Dea and defenseman Harrison Ruopp.

I get the recalls of Archibald and Dea. There were no healthy scratches for the Penguins Sunday in their 4-1 win over Hartford. Bryan Rust and Bobby Farnham left with injuries this weekend. Nick Drazenovic is still technically “week to week” also. So their recalls make sense. What I don’t get is the recall of Harrison Ruopp. The Penguins have seven defensemen (Chorney, Dumoulin, McNeill, Harrington, D’Agostino, Goers and Boak) on their roster. Ruopp gives them eight. Unless someone was banged up Sunday in Hartford (I didn’t notice anyone) or there is a body heading back to Wheeling (Boak? D’Agostino?) or perhaps a trade, this move baffles me. Who knows.

The Penguins cancelled practice scheduled for today, so any updates regarding the moves or the statuses of Farnham, Rust and Drazenovic will need to wait till Wednesday.

How have Dea and Archibald done in Wheeling? I’d say pretty good. They sent Archibald down to Wheeling to regain his scoring touch. In a 4-1 Nailers win in Kalamazoo Sunday, Archibald had a hat trick and an assist. Overall, he was 6-4-10 in eight games. Dea was a respectable 2-1-3 in eight games.

Nothing yet from Springfield regarding supplemental discipline on the unpenalized Dylan McIlrath hit on Farnham by the way. There may not be anything. I defer to the AHL to render a decision in this regard. It’s not worth getting worked up over it really. They either suspend him or they don’t. If they do, I’ll have a follow-up blog later.

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