The slide continues.
The Penguins are now 1-8 in their last nine games. I can’t explain any one thing that could be the problem. Let’s walk through the basics:
1) Goaltending. I don’t think there is an issue here. Jeff Zatkoff won goalie of the month in November. You don’t all of a sudden forget how to play goal. Brad Thiessen is a former AHL Goaltender of the Year as well.
2) Defense. An issue, but not a concern at this point. Okay, maybe a concern, because there have been more that a few times that a defensive gaffe has led to a turnover which in turn leads to a goal against. Still, a top unit in the AHL.
3) Forwards. John Hynes shook up the lines. It’s late, so I am not going to individually go through each players performance, but there really doesn’t seem to be an established fourth line. Second and Third lines rotate almost game to game, situation by situation, opponent to opponent.
4) Special teams. Big concern here. power play is running at a 1 for 41 clip at this time. Penalty kill is ranked third in the league, however.
5) Coaching. John Hynes is the all time winningest coach in Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins history. If you think he is the problem, please never read my blog again.
So in short, I don’t know.
The problem which scares me though is, I don’t think the Penguins do either.
They lost tonight and were swept in the mini-two game series against the Bears 4-1. Not a lot to get into here but I will do my best.
Lines were shook up. They were as follows:
Dupuis – Peters – Tangradi
Megna – Smith – Gibbons
Thompson – Ferriero – Holzapfel
Sill – Farnham – Uher
Dumoulin – Reese
Strait – Bortuzzo
Morrow – Despres
Zatkoff – Thiessen
First Period: Garrett Mitchell scores his 981st goal against the Penguins this season to make it 1-0 Bears early. Bobby Farnham and Kevin Marshall fought shortly thereafter. Farnham riled up his team and the crowd. It worked in part, as the Penguins would sustain offensive zone pressure throughout the remainder of the period but would be unable to crack netminder Dany Sabourin. Shots after one were 11-6 Penguins.
Second Period: Shots quickly jumped to 10 for the Bears in the opening minutes of the second period. They adjusted and quickly extinguished any pressure Wilkes-Barre had hoped to carryover from the first period. On a rush, Jeff Taffe sets up Steve Oleksy on a drop pass he wristed home past Zatkoff to put the Bears up 2-0. Seemed at the time to stop all momentum Wilkes-Barre had mounted or hoped to mount. Later, the Bears miss an open net, maintain pressure and capitalize on another and make it 3-0 via Mathieu Beaudoin.
Third Period: Brad Thiessen came in for relief of Zatkoff, who allowed three goals on fifteen shots. Penguins finally break through on a power play goal by Paul Thompson. Going back on my tweets from that point, all it was after that was tweeting time and score. Literally nothing was going on for the Penguins offensively the last ten minutes of the game. Boyd Kane picks a corner on Thiessen late and put the game away at 4-1.
Going back the last couple of games, it really hasn’t been Penguin hockey. It really has been hard to watch at times because nothing is going the Penguins way.
Three Stars: 3) Boyd Kane (goal, assist, +1) 2) Jeff Taffe (two assists, +2) and 1) Garrett Mitchell (goal, assist, +2)
Around the Division: We were the only divisional action on the schedule.
Standings: Syracuse 40 — Binghamton 35 — Hershey 34 — Penguins 30 — Norfolk 27
Saturday’s game against the defending champion Norfolk Admirals is HUGE in the scope of things.
Conference: 1) SYR (40) 2) SPR (37) 3) POR (34) 4) BNG (35) 5) HER (34) 6) BRI (33) 7) PRO (32) 8) MCH (32) 10) WBS (30)
So not only do the Penguins have to worry about last place they also have to worry about losing touch with the 7 and 8 seeds in the Conference.
Not much to see here, and they aren’t up at 11:05 p.m. on Thursday yet. Morning after edit: The highlights are up. They include all five goals and two fights including Simon Despres and Bobby Farnham.
Wheeling Update: Nailers lose in a shootout to the Greenville Road Warriors 5-4 at the Bi-Lo Center in South Carolina. The Nailers were up 4-2 at one point but the Road Warriors were able to tie it late and win in the shootout. Chris Barton had a goal and two assists and was a +2 in the loss. The same two teams meet again tomorrow night in Greenville.
Hang in there. That’s all I can say.
Let’s Go Pens!