If you follow the Penguins, even casually, you know that Head Coach John Hynes and Assistant Coach Alain NAsreddine are all about defense. The Penguins as a team, pride themselves on it.
Well, for the fourth time in five years, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will have the best defense in all the American Hockey League.
And it was, interestingly enough, a defenseman, that stole the show today. Sean Escobedo had a career day today, scoring a goal and assisting on two others. The Penguins close out the regular season on a winning note, with a 5-1 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Penguins now turn their attention to the Syracuse Crunch, and open up the Calder Cup Playoffs Friday night in Wilkes-Barre.
Jeff Zatkoff opposed Rob Zepp. Here was a look at the lines….
Conor Sheary – Jayson Megna – Josh Archibald
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Dominik Uher
Bobby Farnham – J-S Dea – Adam Payerl
Pierre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni
Nick D’Agostino – Barry Goers
Sean Escobedo – Alex Boak
Danny Syvret – Clark Seymour
Jeff Zatkoff – Matt Murray
The Penguins gave Tom Kostopoulos and Andrew Ebbett the afternoon off and went 11 forwards and 7 defensemen.
Prior to the game, the Pens made official the signing of Ryan Parent. Parent is a veteran defenseman with a lot of experience and experience is what the Penguins need, especially on the back end with all of these ECHL guys playing defense. Parent is a great add.
First Period: The Penguins, with pretty much nothing to play for, probably wanted to get a quick lead and give the ECHL rich defense some run. It worked.
Penguins found themselves on a 5-on-3 power play. After a few cycles with nothing, John Hynes called his time out.
J-S Dea cleaned up this rebound….
… that made it 1-0.
Then Tom Kuhnhackl zipped this shot past Zepp as the 5-on-4 power play expired…
It was the first AHL assist for Sean Escobedo.
Pens would successfully kill two consecutive penalties.
Second Period: Bobby Farnham made it 3-0 with this nice side step and back hand off of the wall…
Sean Escobedo had his second assist of the day with that Farnham goal.
Phantoms got on the board with an Olivier Lauridsen shot that beat Zatkoff short side.
Penguins got a power play, but it came and went. Wilkes-Barre bottled up the neutral zone. Jason Akeson tried a shot through bodies that hit too many that deflected away.
Third Period: Escobedo would finish a perfect cross ice pass from Carter Rowney on this power play…
The Penguins continued to pile on the offensive pressure. Josh Archibald took a puck in the corner that drew two men to him. Jayson Megna picked up the loose puck and zipped one home for the 5-1 Penguin lead…
Penguins would have to kill an Adam Payerl double minor for high sticking and did so perfectly. At this point, with the game decided, it was all about not getting hurt and the Penguins came out of it unscathed.
Notes: Tom Kuhnhackl is 5-6-11 in his last nine games. What a surge to end the season by Kuhnhackl….The Penguins ended the season with a 45-24-3-4 record, good for 97 points. That is better than last year when they were 42-26-3-5 and 92 points and was a 6 seed.
Three Stars: 3) Oliver Lauridsen (goal, even) 2) Jeff Zatkoff (28 saves, 29 shots) 1) Sean Escobedo (goal, two assists, +1)
Around the Division: Everyone else was off.
Standings: Hershey 100 — Penguins 97 — Binghamton 76 — Lehigh Valley 74 — Norfolk 64
Conference: 1) MCH (109) 2) HER (100) 3) HFD (95) 4) WBS (97) 5) SYR (92) 6) PRO (91) 7) WOR (88) 8) POR (87)
Wheeling Update: The Nailers come home for Game 3 of the Kelly Cup Playoffs Wednesday with the series tied 1-1.
SendToNews Highlights: May be up later and I may link in then.
Content wise, busy week. Final AHL Power Rankings hit the blog tomorrow. Fourth Quarter Grades will go up at some point this week. Western Conference and Eastern Conference Previews and a Preview of the Syracuse series all coming this week.
Let’s Go Pens!!!