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Penguins vs. CheckersOctober 7th, 2017
74 days to go.
A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins
Casey DeSmith is a goaltender that, for the longest time, was buried on the depth chart in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers for much of their season.
He did not see regular season action for the Nailers until December.
No, that is right, December. You put your kids to school in September, had a Halloween and Thanksgiving, before DeSmith saw action for the Nailers. That was in a December 5 game where he came in relief in mop up duty as the Nailers were dispatched by the South Carolina Stingrays by a score of 6-1.
DeSmith didn’t start seeing regular action for the Nailers until January. He didn’t pick up his first win until January 22. You celebrated Christmas, rang in a New Year and were probably complaining about how the Penguins should fire Clark Donatelli then.
DeSmith set the all time record for saves any a Wilkes-Barre / Scranton goaltender with a 59 save performance in Game 3 against the Providence Bruins as the Penguins sweep the Bruins in 3 games by a 5-4 score in double overtime.
Think of all the stud goaltenders and legends that have come and gone through here. Fleury. Murray. Curry. Chioido. Thiessen. Casey DeSmith, a guy that the Penguins signed on a PTO, stared down the Providence Bruins attack of names like Czarnik, Khokhlachev, Vatrano and Griffith and dismissed the second place team in the Atlantic Division in three games. All in overtime. Sweep.
And how about Clark Donatelli? Here is a guy that Penguins fans wanted to run out of town on a rail. The fact that he stuck to his guns and trusted in DeSmith over the guy we all expected and hoped for in this series in Tristan Jarry speaks volume about how in tune Donatelli is with the team and how much he has his finger on the pulse of what works and what doesn’t.
The Penguins will not know their second round opponent for at least a week, as Hershey and Portland are 1-1 in their series with Game 4 set for next Saturday.
DeSmith opposed Zane McIntyre.
Kael Mouillierat – Dustin Jeffrey – Daniel Sprong
Jake Guentzel – Carter Rowney – Tom Kostopoulos
Mattias Plachta – J-S Dea – Dominik Simon
Tom Sestito – Teddy Blueger – Josh Archibald
Niclas Andersen – Steve Oleksy
Ryan Parent – Barry Goers
Tim Erixon – Will O’Neill
Casey DeSmith – Tristan Jarry
Lineup Notes: No shuffling in or out personnel wise for the Penguins. Daniel Sprong was put on the top line. Casey DeSmith started his third straight game. For Providence, Zane McIntyre made the start in net for the Bruins.
First Period: It did not take long for the Penguins to get on the board. Jake Guentzel…
…:35 in and it was 1-0 Penguins. Steve Oleksy with the initial shot that Guentzel collected and finished.
Zane McIntyre was forced into some key saves and it easily could have been 2-0 or 3-0 Penguins early on. Providence did not register its first shot on goal till around 4:30 into the period. With ex-Penguin Max Talbot in the box for a high sticking penalty, Dominik Simon scored the first power play goal of the series for either team and it was 2-0 Penguins.
Penguins scored twice on six shots.
Providence couldn’t get anything going. Due to technical difficulties on AHL Live, I was on the home feed and heard Providence Bruins broadcaster Craig Durham say that this showing by the Bruins was uncharacteristic of the Providence team that finished second in the division.
Second Period: Casey DeSmith stopped Noel Acciari early on when the Penguins turned it over in their zone. Wilkes-Barre’s fourth line had a good :40- of zone time just cycling the puck in the zone with the Bruins doing little to take it off of them.
Then the Penguins turned it on again. Jake Guentzel hit Dustin Jeffrey with a perfect thread pass. The recipient was tripped by Zane McIntyre, Penguins power play.
Off of the ensuing power play, Daniel Sprong took a low, quick shot that went in for a goal that made it 3-0 Penguins…
Blink and you’ll miss it. Caught McIntyre leaning, went near side low.
DeSmith again. This time stopping Frank Vatrano twice in close. DeSmith would later stop a Vatrano bid with a flashy glove save. I noticed then that the Penguins had 3 goals on 11 shots.
Shots dried up for the Penguins but time started to move quickly for the Penguins. But off of a face-off after a media time out, Austin Czarnik scored that brought the P-Bruins to within two again. The Pens were caught scrambling.
Pens could have packed it in and played tight, but the offense quickly exploded again and they were back ahead by three on this firecracker by Tim Erixon…
Wilkes-Barre started to look a bit too lax for my liking after getting scored on. They made something out of nothing and were back ahead by three heading into the…
Third Period: Bruins would outshoot Wilkes-Barre 20-5 and score three times to force overtime.
Chris Breen from the blue line that made it 4-2…
Tommy Cross from almost the same spot that made it 4-3. This was power play goal…
Pens were being outplayed, outshot and out hustled. What they didn’t need to do was do something stupid.
Will O’Neill did something stupid…
Austin Czarnik scored his second of the game that tied it at 4.
Dustin Jeffrey had a chance to end it in overtime on a partial breakaway but could not get the shot off.
Overtime: J-S Dea had two shots blocked early. Casey DeSmith stopped one with his mask. Dustin Jeffrey had a chance to end it. Shots were 13-11 Bruins here. No one scored. It was off to…
Second Overtime: P-Bruins ended up on the penalty kill when Alex Khokhlachev cleared a puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. Then, on the penalty kill, Brandon DeFazio slashed the stick of Will O’Neill in two. The Penguins had :17 of 5-on-3 to work with and called their timeout.
Providence killed it all.
Past half way, Tom Kostopoulos centered Jake Guentzel…
Three Stars: 3) Casey DeSmith (59 saves on 63 shots) 2) Austin Czarnik (two goals, assist, +1) and 1) Jake Guentzel (two goals, two assists, double overtime game winner, +2)
Not only have the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins qualified for playoffs for 14 straight years, they have made it to the second round for six straight years. It’s one thing to make it. It’s another to make it past the first round. That these Penguins, left for dead by many, including myself, not only get past the Providence Bruins but sweep them, speaks volumes to the personnel in the room and the coaches. You and your #FireDonatelli hashtag on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook be damned.
Pens will draw the winner of the Hershey / Portland series which like I stated in the open will go at least four games with Game 4 set for next Saturday. It’s 1-1 heading to Hershey for Game 3 this Thursday. Game 5 would be Sunday, May 1 if necessary. You would think that Game 1 of the Atlantic Division Finals starts the following Wednesday at the very least.
I will keep you posted.
Sunday at some point I will have an update to my postseason charts. I will tweet a link sometime Sunday.
Now, go. Forget about hockey for at least a week. Rest up. We still have work to do.
Let’s Go Pens!