We were laughing at ourselves when we learned last Monday that Bryan Rust was being re-assigned to the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins with news that Tom Kuhnhackl was getting close to retuning and that Olli Maatta up top was getting healthy which meant that David Warsofsky would be heading back soon. I tweeted this at the time…
After this weekend, we all may as well be bankrupt. The Penguins lost Sunday to the Hershey Bears by a score of 4-1. Three goals scored all weekend, 0-for-15 on the power play, no center man can win a face-off, and on and on and on and on.
Sometimes you are the frog, sometimes you are the fly. The Penguins were the fly this weekend.
If you follow the AHL closely like I do, you will know that the Grand Rapids Griffins were the odds on favorites to win the Calder Cup this season. They started the campaign 1-8-0-1. Things were bleak there. I had them as the 30th team in my weekly AHL Power Rankings for weeks. A team that is the odds on favorite to win it all is 1-8?
The opponents don’t care. When the whistle blows and the puck is dropped, you have to execute.
Oh, by the way, the Griffins have won nine straight and, spoiler alert! Will be the number one team in this weeks Power Rankings come Monday afternoon.
Sometimes you are the fly, sometimes, you are the frog. The Griffins are a big ol’ toad in a swamp right now.
Anyway, enough with metaphors. Matt Murray opposed Justin Peters.
Lines were shaken up. Let’s take a look.
Scott Wilson – Kael Mouillierat – Conor Sheary
Carter Rowney – Kevin Porter – Dominik Simon
Dominik Uher – Oskar Sundqvist – Tyler Biggs
Tom Kuhnhackl – J-S Dea – Bryan Rust
Derrick Pouliot – Steve Oleksy
Tim Erixon – Will O’Neill
Reid McNeill – Niclas Andersen
Matt Murray – Tristan Jarry
Lineup Changes: Both Bryan Rust and Tom Kuhnhackl were in the lineup. For them, Josh Archibald was swapped to for Bryan Rust and Tom Kostopoulos made way for Tyler Biggs. The first and second lines and defensive pairings remained the same. Seth mentioned before the game that Kostopoulos wasn’t moving around very well after the Hartford game Saturday and Obie said on radio that he’s, “day to day” with a lower body injury. Today would have been Kostopoulos’ 499th game in a Penguin uniform.
First Period: Teams traded early power plays to no avail. Then, Bears defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer scored his third AHL goal of his career. Why did I mention this? Because the other two have come against the Penguins. This guy mat loves playing the Pens. The play may have been offsides though…
You can’t challenge offside plays in the AHL like you can the NHL in case you were wondering like I was at the time.
Second Period: To sum up the weekend to this point, read this tweet…
Penguins would get some nice looks on a power play later on, Dominik Simon would setup a Tom Kuhnhackl tip, but Kuhnhackl put the puck wide.
Connor Carrick scored to double the Bears lead when he was lost by Derrick Pouliot. Pouliot couldn’t decide on pinching on a play on the far half wall. When he did, it was too late and Sean Collins led a rush up ice with Carrick the trailer and he cashed on a backhander at 12:34.
Seemed to me at the time the Penguins were building to tie the game, then Pouliot lost Carrick and the Bears went up 2-0 and the Penguins never recovered in the period.
Third Period: The Penguins needed to generate offense. They needed to get shots towards Peters. The Pens started with a power play, but like we have seen all weekend, they lose the face-off and the opposing team shoots the puck 200 feet down the other way and kill off about 15 seconds.
Not only that, the Bears had a few shorthanded chances here when Nathan Walker stripped Tim Erixon along the far wall and skated in for a shorthanded chance.
Seemingly every rush that built up got blown down for offsides. Every good look at a shot resulted in a broken stick or a whiff on a shot. Sometimes the breaks just mount.
Through 13 minutes, the Penguins had only two or three shots on goal.
With Murray pulled, Tim Erixon scored when a puck deflected off of Travis Boyd and in to spoil the Peters would-be shutout.
The Penguins pulled Murray again, lost out on an icing race and Nathan Walker scored to make it 3-1 and ice the game away. Check out the sequence.
Look, I get that it’s the third game in as many nights and you are in the third period. But you are not only battling your biggest rival in a game in their building, but you are battling to get back into the NHL where you belong. Derrick Pouliot has been downright bad for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins and this goal seemed to crown the jewel on his weekend.
Oh, five seconds later, Chris Bourque hit another empty net. This was predicated by Coach Mike Sullivan calling a time out. So the Pens go out, lose a face-off to Bourque who scores to make it 4-1 and ice the game away.
Three Stars: 3) Nathan Walker (goal, assist, +2) 2) Erik Burgdoerfer (goal, +3) and 1) Justin Peters (22 saves on 23 shots)
Around the Division: Providence crushes Springfield 6-1…Bridgeport downs Hartford thanks to a Joe Whitney hat trick 4-2…Lehigh Valley and Portland were idle.
Standings: Penguins (.762 percentage points) — Hershey (.630) — Bridgeport (.620) — Lehigh Valley (.479) — Springfield (.477) — Portland (.475) — Hartford (.458) — Providence (.457)
Wheeling Update: The Nailers dropped a shootout to the Elmira Jackals 3-2. Casey DeSmith made the start and stopped 22 of 24. Derek Army had a goal and an assist.
Here’s the video highlights.
My Week 9 AHL Power Rankings hit the blog Monday at 4. I’ll also work on my chart stat board later tonight and get that updated as well.
Maybe it is good that the Penguins lose all three games this week to see what Coach Mike Sullivan has up his sleeve now that his team has hit adversity for the first time all season after being the toast of the AHL for a month and a half. We’ll see Wednesday when Syracuse makes a trip in.
Let’s Go Pens!