Throw everything that you know or you think you know about the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins for a second and let me hit you with some statistics:
– The Penguins have been outshot 90-63 in these two games.
– AHL MVP Brian O’Neill and his line mate Jordan Weal are 2-3-5 and 3-1-4 respectively in the series.
– First team AHL AHL All-Star, Rookie and Goaltender of the Year Matt Murray has a 3.35 GAA and a 0.899 SV% while J-F Berube has a 1.83 GAA and a 0.921 SV%.
– The Kuhnhackl / Rowney / Ebbett line is 1-1-2 through two games.
We often laugh off other teams in other divisions in this Conference because of the wars we wage with the Binghamton’s, Hershey’s, Lehigh Valley’s and Norfolk’s of the East Division, but the Manchester Monarchs of the Atlantic Division are as good if not better than advertised in this playoff series and are every bit as good as advertised as the AHL’s regular season champions. The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, through two games can’t stop and haven’t contained the regular season champions yet in this series and haven’t had a lead in the series yet and now trail the Monarchs 0-2 after a 5-2 loss tonight. The series shifts to Wilkes-Barre for Game 3 Saturday.
One of the things that I am struggling with in comprehending is how the Monarchs were taken to five games in the first round by the eighth seeded Portland Pirates. The Penguins are a class level above the Pirates as far as skill level top to bottom, but you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between that if you have watched this series so far.
Matt Murray vs. J-F Berube.
Conor Sheary – Andrew Ebbett – Tom Kostopoulos
Scott Wilson – Jayson Megna – Josh Archibald
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Dominik Uher
Bobby Farnham – J-S Dea – Oskar Sundqvist
Brian Dumoulin – Taylor Chorney
Scott Harrington – Barry Goers
Reid McNeill – Derrick Pouliot
Matt Murray – Jeff Zatkoff
Lineup Changes: Kasperi Kapanen was out for Josh Archibald on the second line, Oskar Sundqvist made his pro debut on the fourth line for Pierre Leblond. Matia Marcantuoni took warmups but was scratched, J-S Dea took his spot.
First Period: The Monarchs showed no ill effects of the three overtime thriller from the night before, turning on the offensive pressure like you would a lightbulb switch in your favorite room in your house. Just when you think the Penguins were going to set the offensive tone, they got no shots, and were back in their own end trying to stifle the endless pressure of the Monarchs offensive forwards. Finally about halfway though, Brian O’Neill digs a puck out of a corner, cuts to the net, avoids the sweeping poke checks from the Penguin defenders and roofs the shot over Murray for a 1-0 Manchester lead.
I don’t think a first period that saw the Penguins trailing in shots 7-2 and 12-3 at points in the period was due to fatigue as much as it was the Monarchs just opening up an imaginary beach umbrella in front of Berube’s net and managed to block or deflect aside any shot headed in their goaltenders direction.
Second Period: Penguins best period of the series so far. Not much in the way of shots to the net, but the offensive zone time was there. Penguins scored on a power play goal on this goal by Conor Sheary that went to review…
:09 later, Justin Auger found himself room and scored to make it 2-1. Big time response by the Monarchs and bad coverage by the Penguins who watched Auger walk in and before they realized his actions were too late to do anything to stop it.
But Wilkes-Barre answered right back off of the face-off on this finish by Dominik Uher…
Three goals in :23. The Penguins would have been absolutely crushed if they played as well as they did to have the momentum snatched away from them as quickly as they built it.
But wait, the period wasn’t over yet.
Brian O’Neill found Jordan Weal all alone on the near dot on a nice cross ice pass that Weal one timed over Murray’s shoulder for a 3-2 lead. I noticed after the Uher goal, the Penguins didn’t have any offensive setup at all and the Monarchs continued their relentless pressure and finally got the goal from Weal that put them ahead heading into the…
Third Period: Penguins had a nice jump to open but took a penalty and who else but Jordan Weal scored on it to extend the lead for the Monarchs to 4-2. Murray couldn’t freeze it and the puck was shuffled over to Weal who poked it across for the first multi-goal lead in the series and the first power play goal allowed by the Penguins in the post season.
The Monarchs iced the game away with two key penalty kills on the Penguins. Brian O’Neill hit an open net with Murray vacated that made it 5-2. Despite the fact that the Penguins had a better start and looked improved compared to the other periods, even with the benefit of two power plays and an extra man with the goaltender pulled, the Monarchs still outshout the Penguins 10-8 in the third.
Three Stars: 3) Brian O’Neill (two goals, assist, +2) 2) Michael Mersch (three assists, +1) and 1) Jordan Weal (two goals, assist, +1)
No other action in the Eastern Conference tonight. Hartford and Hershey play their Game 2 Friday in Chocolatetown.
So the Penguins are down 0-2 with the series shifting to Wilkes-Barre for an important Game 3 Saturday. Silver lining is the fact that the Monarchs have not won a game on the road yet this postseason and the Penguins have the next three at home (provided they win Saturday or Monday) so the series is far from over yet, but the Penguins must come up with some way to slow down the hectic offensive pace that the Monarchs are setting.
One note before we wrap it up, Josh Archibald left the game with an apparent injury and did not return and I didn’t hear Barry Goers name much in the second half of the game but he was on very late. Got to wonder if a defensive move is made in favor of Nick D’Agostino, Ryan Parent or Danny Syvret for Game 3 Saturday.
I’ll update the postseason charts and may individualize the charts exclusive to this series sometime Friday and will tweet a link. Look for the Game 3 setup Saturday at 3 p.m.
Let’s Go Pens!