Tonight’s game, a 4-2 loss to the Syracuse Crunch, was won and lost by the goaltenders tonight.
Brian Foster for Wilkes-Barre stopped just 13 of 16 shots at him tonight and looked generally awful. I had a concern at the start of the year that if the Penguins ever needed to rely on him at any point that they would be in trouble and this is proving to be true. Seth dug this stat up during the game tonight:
I will get to my point that he wasn’t very good tonight and cost the Penguins at a real shot at winning the game.
Andrei Vasilevskiy on the other hand, was outstanding. He wasn’t one of the three stars of the game, but he won the game for Syracuse tonight, stopping 28 of 30 and all 16 shots in the third period by the Penguins as they were chasing a one goal deficit. His best work came in the third period and again, I will get to the evidence of that visually in a second.
Lines were as follows…
Josh Archibald – J-S Dea – Bryan Rust
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Dominik Simon
Dominik Uher – Oskar Sundqvist – Tom Kostopoulos
Ty Loney – Sahir Gill – John McCarron
Derrick Pouliot – Adam Clendening
Tim Erixon – Will O’Neill
Reid McNeill – Niclas Andersen
Brian Foster – Casey DeSmith
Lineup Notes: Adam Clendening was sent down by Pittsburgh to Wilkes-Barre Thursday morning on a conditioning assignment. He took the place of Clark Seymour paired on the top defensive unit with Derrick Pouliot….John McCarron was called up to Wilkes-Barre yesterday as Matia Marcantuoni was sent down and was in on the fourth line reunited with his Wheeling line mates Ty Loney and Sahir Gill. J-S Dea centered the top line with Kael Mouillierat out with an upper body injury.
First Period: Pens had the games first power play and brought in a unit which was on a long dry spell on power play success. Clendening pumped a shot at net that was tipped in by J-S Dea for a goal and a Penguins lead for the first time in a while, as it was the first goal scored under the Clark Donatelli Era and the first lead too.
Here is a look at it…
Penguins continued to control the offensive zone. They would set up shop, and just stay there and cycle the puck and pump shots at Vasilevskiy.
But it was becoming apparent that the Crunch were doing a decent enough job at getting sticks in the lanes of where the shots were headed, as seemingly 60% of the shot attempts were either blocked or deflected.
Josh Archibald would then take a questionable goaltender interference penalty and the Crunch would quickly cash on power play when Adam Erne finished off a tic tac toe play in front of Foster for a 1-1 game.
After the Penguins were so dominant to this point, I said this at the time…
My very next tweet…
It was actually a reversal of the way I called it at the time on Twitter. It was Mike Blunden who scored and Tanner Richard who won the draw. Regardless, it was a 2-1 Crunch lead after what was a pretty good period by the Penguins.
Second Period: Sahir Gill would score on the power play and the terms were even again. Dominik Simon set the whole thing up with a nice pass to Gill who shot it home. Simon collected his AHL leading 28th point for rookies.
1:19 later, Syracuse edged ahead again when Nic Andersen got dumped into the Syracuse bench, turned the puck over. Adam Erne broke down the wing, centered to Cameron Darcy who missed the net entirely, but shot it off the wall where Erne collected and put it past Foster for a 3-2 Crunch lead.
Someone needs to explain to me what the hell Foster was doing in that situation. Syracuse scored three goals on ten shots. Look, I know that the Pens are down their top two goaltenders, but you have to have the ability to make saves at the American Hockey League level. Right now, Foster isn’t that guy.
Saw people clamoring on Twitter for Penguins backup goaltender Casey DeSmith. Here’s his story. He is in his rookie season and is the third goaltender in Wheeling, playing behind Foster and Franky Palazzese. If you aren’t good enough to play your way into a a few games here and there in the ECHL, you aren’t good enough to be relied upon in the AHL for a good team like the Penguins.
Third Period: Here is one of Vasilevskiy’s two monster saves in the third period. This one is on Oskar Sundqvist.
Here is the second one, on J-S Dea. Two looks. Two angles.
Penguins really brought everything they could at the Crunch and Vasilevskiy. They did a good job of insulating Brian Foster but could not solve Vasilevskiy at all. With time dwindling and Foster vacated, the Penguins never found the equalizer and had to watch this shot by Slater Koekkoek drift harmlessly into their net…
Derrick Pouliot was awful tonight. He may be hurt, discouraged, or slumping. He had three turnovers tonight that led to rushes up ice for the Crunch the other way. I think he misses Steve Oleksy, who he was paired with before Oleksy’s injury…
Three Stars: 3) Mike Blunden (goal, assist, +1) 2) Sahir Gill (goal, even) and 1) Adam Erne (two goals, +1)
Around the Division: The silver lining in the current losing streak that the Penguins is on is that it is being matched by the Hershey Bears, who drop their third straight game, this time a 3-1 setback at home to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Portland beat Providence 4-3.
Standings: Penguins (.717 points percentage) — Bridgeport (.591) — Portland (.583) — Hershey (.576) — Lehigh Valley (.500) — Hartford (.469) — Providence (.465) — Springfield (.419)
Wheeling Update: The Nailers lost in overtime to the Brampton Beat by a score of 4-3. Anton Zlobin had a goal and an assist, Matia Marcantuoni had a goal.
I don’t think that the Pens will put a postgame infographic up or video highlights. You aren’t missing much that you haven’t seen already here.
Pens are in action again Saturday against Springfield. Look, Syracuse is a good team that has been pillaged by injuries and call-ups. They are resilient and play that way and I think that was full on display tonight. If the Pens lose to the last place Falcons, then I think you will see fans start to get desperate and start demanding answers.
Anyway, Happy New Year and Let’s Go Pens!