Chirps from Center Ice

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

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee — Pens WIN 6-5 (OT)

   button_adk200       @       WBS

  6                                          5

Shame on you if you thought the Penguins were in danger of going down 0-2 in the series with the Providence Bruins.

Shame on you if you thought it was another wasted season down the tubes after the Bruins stormed from three goals down to tie it, then take the lead late in the third.

Shame on you.

Shame on me.

Shame on me for thinking that it was another wasted year down the tubes after the Bruins stormed for three goals down to tie it, then take the lead in the third.

Shame on me for thinking that the Penguins were in danger of going down 0-2 in the series with the Providence Bruins.

An offensive explosion between the two top defensive teams in the American Hockey League was on full display as the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins take Game 2 of this best of five series with the Providence Bruins by a 6-5 score in overtime after Derrick Pouliot’s heroics in the overtime session.

Game 3 is Thursday in Wilkes-Barre.

Casey DeSmith opposed Zane McIntyre.

Lines were…

Tom Sestito – Kevin Porter – Tom Kostopoulos
Garrett Wilson – Oskar Sundqvist – Josh Archibald
Dominik Simon – Teddy Blueger – J-S Dea
Ryan Haggerty – Jarrett Burton – Adam Krause

Tim Erixon – David Warsofsky
Derrick Pouliot – Barry Goers
Cameron Gaunce – Ethan Prow

Casey DeSmith – Sean Maguire

Lineup Notes: No changes up front for the Penguins, Cameron Gaunce and Barry Goers were back and were in for Brett Stern and Frank Corrado.

First Period: Providence goaltender Zane McIntyre was the story of the period, stopping 18 Penguins shots, many of them coming on the two power plays Wilkes-Barre had. Casey DeSmith had 9 saves of his own on the Bruins, but was bested by McIntyre’s performance in the first where he stopped Tom Kostopouolos point blank and a Kevin Porter shot with his mask.

Second Period: Tale of two halves for both teams. Wilkes-Barre struck thrice, then Providence struck back with a trio of goals of their own.

David Warsofsky scored twice in :23 to make it 2-0 Penguins. Here is the second one…

Tom Sestito scored when he was setup by Tom Kostopoulos exiting the penalty box that made it 3-0. The rout was on.

Until it wasn’t.

Providence struck for their first while four on four when Chris Porter redirected a shot in from the slot that made it 3-1 :14 after the Sestito goal.

Tom Kostopoulos had his stick slashed in what would have been a 4-1 lead for the Penguins when Providence raced back down the ice to score to make it 3-2 on a rebound. Chris Porter again.

1:03 later, Tommy Cross scored on a dart that made it a tie game. Three goal lead evaporated.

Third Period: Josh Archibald scored after what looked like a blown icing call by the linesman to make it 4-3 Penguins. But the Penguins found themselves on a kill again and at the tail end of if Danton Heinen scored bar down that made it a tie game once again….

Sorry that I don’t have all the goals here. I didn’t cut up any and my usual sources didn’t do any GIFs.

Teams traded chance after chance, which was uncharacteristic for the top two defensive teams in the AHL. Peter Mueller scored to make it 5-4 when the Penguins were not able to clear the puck out of the zone…

First lead of the game for the Bruins.

If you know the answer to this question, drop a line in the comments.

Penguins pulled Casey DeSmith and this time were able to find the equalizer when Josh Archibald scored his second of the period with 1:03 left that brought the Penguins back from the dead.

To…

Overtime: Derrick Pouliot floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee when he faked like he was going to go around the net of McIntyre but instead banked it in off of the Providence netminder that won it for the Penguins.

Ballgame. Coming to you Thursday night tied 1-1 in the series for Game 3.

Three Stars: 3) Tommy Cross (goal, two assists, +1) 2) David Warsofsky (two goals, two assists, +2) and 1) Derrick Pouliot (game winning overtime goal, even)

Around the Eastern Conference: Every other series was in action Saturday night. Big comebacks by Syracuse and Hershey, both down multiple goals in the third period and walked away winners. Syracuse in double overtime in St. John’s 4-3 and Hershey in regulation after Alex Lyon went down with injury leaving the Phantoms with the third string goalie Martin Ouellette as the man for now. Hershey wins 5-4. Bears are up 2-0 in their series with the Phantoms and Crunch and IceCaps head to Syracuse tied at a game a piece. Toronto tied the series with Albany with a 6-2 win also. Game 3 for all here will be played Wednesday.

Sprong Watch: Daniel Sprong’s Charlottetown Islanders lost their first game of the QMJHL Playoffs Saturday after Blainville-Boisbrand won 5-4 to even that best of seven series at a game a piece. Daniel Strong had two goals and an assist in the game. Game 3 is Tuesday.

I’ll have to think of stuff to write about between now and Thursday. Maybe I will come back with something Tuesday night or Wednesday night. Who knows. Stay tuned.

Let’s Go Pens!

Atlantic Division Semifinal Game 2: Providence Bruins (PRO leads 1-0)

@     15PRO

Atlantic Division Semifinal — Game 2

AHL Game: A2

Who: Providence Bruins

Where: Dunkin’ Donuts Center

When: 3:05 p.m.

Series: PRO leads 1-0 (Best of Five)

Media Kit

Last Game: Friday in Game 1 the Bruins scored two power play goals and took Game 1 by a 2-1 score. J-S Dea scored for the Penguins in the loss.

What to watch for: Discipline for the Penguins who took too many penalties Friday. Also, the blue line will get a boost with the return of Cameron Gaunce and possibly Barry Goers.

Referee(s): Terry Koharski / Furman South

Linesmen: Ryan Daisy / Nick Briganti

Twitter: @wbspenguins / @AHLBruins

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins // /providencebruins

Instagram: wbspenguins / ahlbruins

Beat Writers: @CVSethLakso / @TomVenesky // @MarkDivver

Broadcasters: For WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS and Nick Hart @_NickHart // For PRO: None

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep

Radio: For WBS: WILK NewsRadio / For PRO: None

Television: AHL Live

When is Game 3?: The series shifts to Wilkes-Barre Thursday at 7:05.

When The Bruin Sees Four, It Bites — Pens LOSE 2-1

   button_adk200       @       WBS

  1                                          2

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins had the top overall penalty killing unit in the regular season.

So of course the Providence Bruins score not one, but two power play goals and hold on to beat the Penguins 2-1 in Game 1 to take a 1-0 series lead with Game 2 Sunday afternoon in Providence.

Providence blocked a ton of shots, stymied the Penguins offense in that way and scored twice on a power play. Wilkes-Barre had a would be goal with :56 left in the third period taken away in a pile of bodies and the Bruins hung on. It’s that simple.

Don’t fret, unless you had Wilkes-Barre in a sweep, you’d be the only one, a lot of pundits, myself included (I’d like to consider myself a blowhard) had the Penguins advancing in four or five games. Say it with me, in order for that to happen, the Bruins have to win at least a game.

Game 2 goes off Sunday afternoon from Providence in what has to be must win for the Penguins.

Casey DeSmith opposed Zane McIntyre.

Lines were…

Jarrett Burton – Kevin Porter – Tom Kostopoulos
Garrett Wilson – Oskar Sundqvist – Josh Archibald
Dominik Simon – Teddy Blueger – J-S Dea
Tom Sestito – Adam Krause – Ryan Haggerty

David Warsofsky – Frank Corrado
Derrick Pouliot – Brett Stern
Tim Erixon – Ethan Prow

Casey DeSmith – Sean Maguire

Lineup Notes: Pittsburgh re-assigned Josh Archibald, Cameron Gaunce and Tom Sestito to Wilkes-Barre Friday morning. Gaunce was not in the lineup because he needs to clear waivers first. Zach Aston-Reese is out for Games 1 and 2 per Providence media. Barry Goers should be back for Game 2.

First Period: It was all Wilkes-Barre to start, but Casey DeSmith had the best save of the period when Jordan Szwarz snuck through but DeSmith got the pad on it.

Wilkes-Barre was outshooting the Bruins 8-3 at one point but then the Bruins started to push back and forced the Penguins into a penalty.

Peter Mueller shot it, Jake DeBrusk was there to clean up the rebound to put the Bruins on the board on the power play goal…

Another angle…

After being all Wilkes-Barre to open, Providence put their foot down then controlled the pace. It could have been worse than the first intermission score line indicated.

Second Period: Penguins opened with some bit of a push by the Bruins weren’t budging. Both teams traded power plays but neither were able to capitalize. McIntyre made a cool save on J-S Dea in front and DeSmith made a few saves with the glove, one notably on Peter Cehlarik after a face-off around the halfway point of the game.

J-S Dea finally broke through for the Penguins scoring his first postseason goal on this shot by David Warsofsky…

Shots were an even 10-10 in the period heading into the…

Third Period: Bruins go up one again on this Danton Heinen goal that made it 2-1…

After that goal, the Penguins took another penalty. They got out of that one unscathed, but that killed momentum as the Penguins continued to buzz and push, but weren’t able to get anything by McIntyre.

Penguins think they score with :56 left here….

Referee right on top of play, washes out possible goal. Penguins continue to whack, puck bleeds across and is in, Penguins celebrate a tie game, but the referee does not make a signal either way as to the puck crossing or not. After an initial washout to make the call to get to a review, the call on the ice stood as no goal.

That, of course, set off the Penguins bench.

Penguins weren’t ever able to get the equalizer.

Forget about the last minute. If you look at Taylor’s GIF there carefully, the referee was not able to see the puck cross the line being right on top of the play. Replay is just an overhead view, and the Bruins were wearing all black. What color is the puck? The Penguins didn’t lose the game because of that call. They need to be more disciplined, giving Providence six power plays in the game, and better structured a man down, allowing the Bruins to score twice.

Good thing that there is a day between games. Lots of time to break down tape and execute plans.

Three Stars: 3) Zane McIntyre (30 saves on 31 shots) 2) J-S Dea (goal, +1) and 1) Danton Heinen (goal, -1)

Around the Eastern Conference: Hershey beat Lehigh Valley 1-0 in overtime on a Nathan Walker overtime goal. Game 2 is Saturday in Allentown….Syracuse falls 2-1 to St. John’s, Game 2 is Saturday in Newfoundland and Albany looks to go up 2-0 in their series against Toronto Saturday after beating the Marlies 3-0 Thursday.

Sprong Watch: The Charlottetown Islanders remain unbeaten in the QMJHL Playoffs as they take Game 1 over the Blainville-Boisbrand Armada 3-0 Friday night. Daniel Spring had two assists. Game 2 goes Saturday from the EastLink Centre in Prince Edward Island.

If Cameron Gaunce is claimed on waivers at noon tomorrow I will have a blog on it. Let’s hope that is a piece I do not have to write.

Gameday setup for Game 2 will hit the blog Sunday at 11 a.m.

Let’s Go Pens!

Atlantic Division Semifinal Game 1: Providence Bruins

@     15PRO

Atlantic Division Semifinal — Game 1

AHL Game: A1

Who: Providence Bruins

Where: Dunkin’ Donuts Center

When: 7:05 p.m.

Series: Tied 0-0 (Best of Five)

Media Kit

Season Series: Nov. 6: WBS 5 @ PRO 4 (SO) — Nov. 12: PRO 1 @ WBS 3 — Dec. 30: PRO 5 @ WBS 2 — Feb. 19: WBS 2 @ PRO 3 — Mar 11.: PRO 2 @ WBS 3 — Apr. 9: WBS 2 @ PRO 1

Top four scorers for the Penguins vs. the Bruins: 1. Tom Kostopoulos (6 GP 1-4-5, E) — 2. Oskar Sundqvist (4 GP 3-1-4, +1) — 3. Josh Archibald (5 GP, 2-1-3, +2) — 4. Dominik Simon (5 GP, 2-1-3, -2)

Top four scorers for the Bruins vs. the Penguins: 1. Danton Heinen (6 GP, 3-3-6, +1) — 2. Alex Grant (6 GP, 0-5-5, +1) — 3. Peter Cehlarik (3 GP, 2-2-4, -2) — Jordan Szwarz (6 GP, 2-2-4, E)

What to watch for: The first period. The team with the better first period will probably dictate how the game is played tonight.

Referee(s): Keith Kaval / Peter MacDougall

Linesmen: Ryan Daisy / Kevin Briganti

Twitter: @wbspenguins / @AHLBruins

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins // /providencebruins

Instagram: wbspenguins / ahlbruins

Beat Writers: @CVBombulie / @TomVenesky // @MarkDivver

Broadcasters: For WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS and Nick Hart @_NickHart // For PRO: None

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep

Radio: For WBS: WILK NewsRadio / For PRO: None

Television: AHL Live

When is Game 2?: Sunday afternoon in Providence at 3:05.

Penguins / P-Bruins Series Preview

These two, again?

It seems that in recent times, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins and Providence Bruins have a collision course set for the middle of April and always meet up in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Who could forget the seven game classic against the Bruins a few years back when the Penguins were down 0-3 in the series and stormed back to win in seven? Who could forget last years sweep of the Bruins by the underrated Penguins who many, including myself, picked to lose the series against Providence?

This year is different. Instead of coasting into the playoffs as a three seed, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins come into the Calder Cup Playoffs as a favorite to win it all if not the clear favorite. The Penguins pretty much led the AHL from start to finish as the league’s overall top team.

But none of that matters now, as what you did in the regular season doesn’t matter in a short playoff series because all that matters is the team that you are battling for the right to advance to the Atlantic Division Finals where either the Lehigh Valley Phantoms or Hershey Bears await.

So let’s take a look at how these two match up…

Schedule

Atlantic Division Semifinals – Series “A” (best-of-5)
A1-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins vs. A4-Providence Bruins
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 21 – W-B/Scranton at Providence, 7:05
Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 23 – W-B/Scranton at Providence, 3:05
Game 3 – Thu., Apr. 27 – Providence at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 4 – Fri., Apr. 28 – Providence at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 5 – Sun., Apr. 30 – Providence at W-B/Scranton, 3:05
*if necessary… All times Eastern

Forwards

Last year Providence had four players that had 55 points or more. This year, they have Jordan Szwarz who paced the Bruins with 54 points. Rookies Jake DeBrusk (49) and Danton Heinen (44) join Wayne Simpson (49) at the top of the leaderboard for points scored for the Bruins. The Penguins were led by ageless captain Tom Kostopoulos who put up 54 points at age 38. Oskar Sundqvist, Dominik Simon and Kevin Porter clock in with 46 points each. With both teams at the top of the AHL in defense which I will get to in the next category, offense isn’t too heavily relied upon to win games because the defense is more than capable of stealing games against opponents with far inferior defensive units.

Advantage: Slight edge to the Penguins, only because they ranked higher than the Bruins in scoring at 3.25 goals / game than Providence, who comes in at 3.01.

Defensemen

Both teams finished at the top of the AHL in defense, with the Penguins coming in first at 2.24 goals per game and the Bruins coming in second at 2.47. Each team has an offensive defenseman in David Warsofsky for the Penguins with 47 points, second on the team and Alex Grant for the Bruins with 49 points, good for third on the Bruins in scoring.

So you essentially have two teams identical in the way that they play defensively with one offensive horse.

Even if you peel more of the onion skin off, you find Derrick Pouliot’s 23 points second to Warsofsky’s and the currently recalled Tommy Cross’ 35 and Matt Grzelcyk’s 32 points as the next on the list in the offensive category for the Bruins and Penguins defense.

Both teams scored 16 goals on the other in the six game regular season series. I took away the goal for the shootout win the Penguins had on the Bruins back on November 6.

Advantage: Push. If you hard pressed me to give you a team, it’s the Penguins, only because using the “what have you done for me now, lately” question, the Bruins finished the season so poorly.

Goaltenders

Casey DeSmith led the AHL in goals against with 2.01. His backup is the untested rookie in Sean Maguire. Seems like last year we had the same thing to say about the then at the time untested rookie in Casey DeSmith. Tristan Jarry is on NHL recall for the injured Matt Murray.

Guess who finished second behind DeSmith in goals against? Providence’s Zane McIntyre. Both goalies have near identical statistical accolades. Both won 21 games. DeSmith lost 5 games, McIntyre lost 6. DeSmith lost three in overtime to McIntyre’s two. McIntyre has a better save percentage at .930 to DeSmith’s .926. McIntyre actually led the AHL in that category.

Advantage: It is a push.

Intangibles

Coaching and special teams always go here. The Penguins are coached by Clark Donatelli, who should have won AHL Coach of the Year for piloting his team through the toughest division in the AHL and winning it easily. Kevin Dean did OK in his first year behind the bench for the Bruins but Providence was in second place right as the season started to dwindle and nosedived out of the runner up spot to nearly missing playoffs altogether to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The clear winner here is the Wilkes-Barre’s Head Coach.

Special teams is almost identical. Both teams lead the AHL in penalty killing with the Penguins killing penalties 86.9% of the time with the Bruins right there in second at 86.4%. Take it a step further and on the road, the team with the best PK is the Bruins at 88.7% followed by, yes you guessed right, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins at 86.5%. The Bruins power play was 11th best in the AHL with a 19.1% success rate and the Penguins came in at a respectable, middle of the road 15th, or 17.9%. Match these two teams up head to head and you have another push.

The biggest intangible is how the NHL parent does in the playoffs. If Pittsburgh gets knocked out, Jarry, Jake Guentzel, Carter Rowney, Tom Sestito, Josh Archibald and Cameron Gaunce all become eligible for AHL playoffs. The Bruins could get Tommy Cross, Matt Grzelcyk and Noel Acciari back if Boston goes out to Ottawa or at any time during this short five game series.

Will Zach Aston-Reese back back for the Penguins after getting slashed in the second to last game for the Penguins? His presence would tip the scales for the Penguins in the offensive category.

Social Media Coverage

For the Penguins…

Twitter: @WBSPenguins
Radio: @MikeOBrienWBS / @_NickHart
Beat: @CVSethLakso and @TomVenesky
Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins
Instagram: wbspenguins

For the Bruins…

Twitter: @AHLBruins
Radio: Providence fired both their broadcasters a week before the end of the regular season.
Beat: @MarkDivver
Facebook: /providencebruins
Instagram: ahlbruins

Prediction

Looking at both teams on a scale from across the room, that scale is dead even, but as you get closer to the scale you can clearly see that it tips on one side. That side belongs to the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. Penguins in four. While yes, both these teams are dead even in nearly every single statistical category known to man, it’s the Penguins who have more ounces on that proverbial scale that tip it in their favor. Providence steals one game, but are again sent packing by the one single team who has had their number in postseasons past.

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

2017 Calder Cup Preview

In keeping with what I did last year, I am rolling one preview into this blog piece, and that is giving you a snapshot of each team in the playoffs, how they match up, a key player to watch for both teams and offer a prediction. The prediction for Penguins / Providence series will be broken down into it’s own blog piece tomorrow at noon.

So here goes nothing, starting in the Western Conference….

Western Conference

     San Jose Barracuda (P1) vs. Stockton Heat (P4)     

How the Barracuda got here: Really were the class of the Western Conference all season, piloted by Head Coach Roy Sommer. They outpaced defending Conference Champion Ontario and San Diego, who is a very strong side.

How the Heat got here: Someone had to finish fourth in a division which is really three headed. Bakersfield’s 4-6 run at the end of the season was met with the Heat’s 11 game unbeaten in regulation streak. Stockton made it close, but they edged the Condors.

How they match up: Season was pretty split between the two. 12 games, 7-5 if you are a Barracuda fan, 5-5-2 if you are a Heat fan.

Key player for the Barracuda: Troy Grosenick, on a team that plays on 68 games, won 30 of them. That is impressive.

Key player for the Heat: Linden Vey was second on the Heat with 55 points, one off Mark Jankowski. Vey comes with playoff experience needed during these times.

Prediction: San Jose in five. This is the one matchup that the Barracuda didn’t want. Stockton steals one or both in overtime, but are ultimately beaten by the better, more consistent team here in this conversation.

     San Diego Gulls (P2) vs. Ontario Reign (P3)     

How the Gulls got here: Played out of the two seed from right after New Years and held on solidly to the position.

How the Reign got here: Played out of the three seed from right after New Years and held on solidly to the position.

How they match up: Both teams went 6-4-1-1 against the other. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Key player for the Gulls: Corey Tropp’s 54 points in 62 games paces the Gulls.

Key player for the Reign: Jack Campbell is an all-star goaltender who has won 31 games in net for the Reign and their iron horse. No other net minder has appeared in more games (52)

Prediction: San Diego in four. Gulls come at you from all sides attack will be too much for Ontario to overcome in a short five game series.

     Chicago Wolves (C1) vs. Charlotte Checkers (C4)     

How the Wolves got here: Rewarded for being the Central’s most consistent team. Despite the deficit of two or three games in hand on Grand Rapids at the time, the Wolves remained at the top of the Central for pretty much the entire season.

How the Checkers got here: Outlasted the Cleveland Monters and Iowa Wild in the regular season’s final weeks. Checkers won out on regulation or overtime wins and beat out the Monsters, who they were in a tie with in points and points percentage.

How they match up: Wolves went 6-1-0-1 against the Checkers this season.

Key player for the Wolves: It’s two. Kenny Agostino won the scoring race (83 points) and Wade Megan had the most goals (33) this dynamic duo terrorized an overall strong Central Division on a night in and night out basis.

Key player for the Checkers: Charlotte’s Tom McCollum joined the team late and took the reigns and went 12-2-4 with a 2.17 GAA and a .917 SV%.

Prediction: This one ends with a sweep, Chicago in three.

 Grand Rapids Griffins (C2) vs. Milwke. Admirals (C3) 

How the Griffins got here: 4-5-0-1 in their final ten games, it’s what ultimately cost the Griffins a shot at the Central Division title.

How the Admirals got here: Equally as dire, Milwaukee went 4-5-1-0 in their last ten but were out of the championship picture about a month or so ago.

How they match up: Griffins went 7-5 against the Admirals, with one overtime victory. Call it pretty even.

Key player for the Griffins: Martin Frk finished fourth on the team in scoring overall but led the team in goals with 27.

Key player for the Admirals: Adam Payerl was a castaway with Wilkes-Barre a few seasons ago, but was consistent piece with the Milwaukee Admirals all season, appearing in every game. He doesn’t lead in any category, but he always seemed to find the scoresheet at the right time whenever I caught a glimpse at what was going on out West with the Admirals.

Predication: Probably the most evenly matched series in the Western Conference, Admirals in five.

Eastern Conference

     Syracuse Crunch (N1) vs. St. John’s IceCaps (N4)     

How the Crunch got here: Despite being pillaged on an almost daily basis by call-ups to parent Tampa Bay, the Syracuse Crunch stayed the course throughout the entire 2016-17 season and led the division for huge chunks of it. They rightfully took home the division championship on the last day of the season.

How the St. John’s IceCaps got here: With this being the last season of professional hockey in Newfoundland, the IceCaps played inspired hockey down the stretch and got in as the four seed, beating out the Utica Comets.

How they match up: 4-1-2-1 went the Crunch against the IceCaps this season.

Key player for the Crunch: Cory Conacher and Matt Taormina paced Syracuse with 60 points each.

Key player for the IceCaps: Offense ran through Chris Terry all season, Terry put up 68 points.

Prediction: Scare for Syracuse, but they outlast the IceCaps in five games.

     Toronto Marlies (N2) vs Albany Devils (N3)     

How the Marlies got here: Played reinvigorated hockey in the final third of the season after most left them for dead and wrote them off.

How the Devils got here: Were never able to overcome Syracuse for the top spot in the division and lost personnel at the end of the season to recall to New Jersey and fell to the three seed.

How they match up: Devils went 5-3 against the Marlies this season with an overtime and shootout win sprinkled in.

Key player for the Marlies: Garret Sparks played 31 games in goal for Toronto and went 21-9 with a 2.16 GAA and a .922 SV%.

Key player for the Devils: Brian Gibbons and Carter Camper each came from successful teams in the past and are consistent Devils players.

Prediction: Like Grand Rapids and Milwaukee out west this is probably the most every matched series in the Eastern Conference. Devils advance in five if the Maple Leafs remain alive in the NHL playoffs.

  W-B / Scr. Penguins (A1) vs. Providence Bruins (A4)  

How the Penguins got here: But for a few bumps along the way, the Penguins remained the best overall team in the AHL all season long.

How the Bruins got here: Were a two seed as early as a few weeks ago, but a 0-3-1-0 run to close out the season dropped the Bruins to a four seed in an ever competitive Atlantic Division which saw the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, a team which would have ran away with the North Division Championship this season, miss playoffs.

How they match up: Penguins beat the Bruins four times in the regular season, including once in overtime.

Key player for the Penguins: Tom Kostopoulos. At age 38, time isn’t slowing the grizzled captain down. His 54 points leads the team.

Key player for the Bruins: There was a time when Zane McIntyre just didn’t lose when he went in between the pipes for the P-Bruins.

Prediction: Check back tomorrow for a full series preview of this one.

     Leh. Val. Phantoms (A2) vs. Hershey Bears (A3)     

How the Phantoms got here: Never really a challenger for the Penguins top spot, the Phantoms played consistently as a two seed all season in the AHL’s best division.

How the Bears got here: Left for dead on a number of occasions, the Bears used the final two weeks of the season to propel out of the five seed where they were all the way to a three seed.

How they match up: Phantoms got the better of the Bears, 7-4-1-0 in the 12 game season series, but a lot of those games played when the Bears were a struggling five seed.

Key player for the Phantoms: Alex Lyon is the man in goal now that Anthony Stolarz went down with season ending knee surgery.

Key player for the Bears: Pheonix Copley was a trade deadline acquisition who went 11-5 for Hershey when the Bears biggest deficiency was the man between the pipes.

Predication: This is a tough one to predict on the basis of the hot and cold play that Hershey exhibited all season long. Going out on a limb here and saying Lehigh Valley in five.

If you see it any other way, let me know in the comments.

2016-17 Fourth Quarter Grades

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins ended the 2016-17 campaign on Saturday night with the leagues best record of 51-20-3-2 good for 107 points and the top overall spot in the American Hockey League. They won the Atlantic Division Championship, the Eastern Conference Championship and the Macgregor Kilpatrick trophy for tops overall in the 30 team AHL.

The cadre of players graded here today played a large part in carrying what the recalled batch of players set them up for from grades before to the finish line.

Here’s how it works, everyone who played in the last 20 games for the Penguins gets a mention.

Six or less games gets an incomplete which will be mentioned at the bottom of this post. We start with the forwards as soon as you hop through the jump…

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