Don’t let the result or the scoreline fool you, these two teams are very well built and very good hockey teams.
One was better tonight, a lot better.
Kerby Rychel’s first period power play goal holds up as the game winner as the North Division leading Toronto Marlies come to Wilkes-Barre and the home of the AHL’s best team and hand them a 3-0 defeat. Antoine Bibeau stopped just 19 shots, picking up his third shutout of the season. The Penguins see their four game winning streak and eight game point streak (15 of 16) come to an end. It’s the second regulation loss of the season for the Penguins and also the second time this season they were shutout.
No, don’t start the “fire Donatelli, this team is screwed” act yet. As I was trying to make sense of the fact that the Penguins were being run out of the gym tonight, I came up with these salient points:
-> The Marlies have 19 guys on their roster all over 6 feet tall. The Penguins only have 11.
-> Not a single Marlies defenseman is shorter than 6’1.
-> Every man on that Marlies roster can skate, well.
You can teach skating, but as my basketball coaches used to always say, you can’t teach height.
When a big, fast team runs over a team built with smaller-ish forwards and medium size defenders like the Marlies did to the Penguins tonight, the results are typical. It is really no wonder why Antoine Bibeau had two shutouts coming into tonight. He really wasn’t tested much at all by the Penguins.
Bibeau opposed Tristan Jarry. Jarry stopped 32 of 35 shots. It really could have been a 5, 6 or 7-0 shutout tonight.
Lines, then a brief recap of the game.
Jake Guentzel – Carter Rowney – Tom Kostopoulos
Garrett Wilson – Kevin Porter – Dominik Simon
Thomas DiPauli – Oskar Sundqvist – Josh Archibald
Sahir Gill – J-S Dea – Reid Gardiner
Reid McNeill – Chad Ruhwedel
David Warsofsky – Tim Erixon
Cameron Gaunce – Stuart Percy
Tristan Jarry – Casey DeSmith
Lineup Notes: David Warsofsky and Stuart Percy were both in the lineup for the Penguins for the first time since October 15 for Warsofsky and October 21 for Percy. Thomas Di Pauli made his pro debut for the Penguins and also Lukas Bengtsson is dangerously close to debuting as well. A strong team only gets stronger with these additions.
Someone forgot to tell Toronto. In the first, the Penguins would get the first power play and came close to scoring but Bibeau and the Marlies kill kept the Penguins off the board.
Then the Marlies got a power play and it was Kerby Rychel scoring his first goal of the season when Jarry came out of position to make a save, with the puck bleeding to the stick of Rychel who backhanded it into the net to give the Marlies the lead at 7:33 of the first.
Toronto would never look back. They caught the Penguins in on an icing call, kept the puck in below the face-off dots and Andreas Johnsson dug a puck out from behind the Penguins net and centered back to Rychel who scored his second of the game with just over three minutes to play in the first.
Penguins were basically getting throttled, but in a subtle way. They did a good job of keeping their top line featuring ex-Penguin Kasperi Kapanen off the score sheet but were getting run around and out chanced at every opportunity.
In the second, Frederick Gauthier swatted in a puck that Jarry made the initial save on that made it 3-0.
Penguins had a few chances after that. Josh Archibald tried to slip a puck five hole on a shorthanded breakaway but was stopped, later Bibeau stopped a Oskar Sundqvist redirect.
The Penguins tried to add the speed element to their game but Toronto was just that much faster.
Three Stars: 3) Frederik Gauthier (goal, +1) 2) Kerby Rychel (two goals, +1) and 1) Antoine Bibeau (19 save shutout)
Around the Division: Albany stops the Bears long point streak as well as they beat Hershey 6-3 in the Capital District….Bridgeport beats Syracuse 3-2 in a shootout. Two sneaky good teams featured there…Providence beats a bad Binghamton team 4-2 and Lehigh Valley beats a worse Utica side 4-1. Springfield rebounds after a bad last weekend and hand St. John’s a 3-1 defeat and Hartford’s struggles continue as they lost 5-2 in Rochester.
Standings: Penguins (.773 percentage points) — Lehigh Valley (.650) — Hershey (.636) — Bridgeport (.636) — Springfield (.591) — Providence (.458) — Hartford (.318)
Wheeling Update: The Nailers defeat the Reading Royals tonight 4-1 at home. Adam Krause scored a goal. Doug Carr stopped 25 of 26.
I doubt Coal Street will even bother with video highlights but if they do I will put the embed here. If not, check here Saturday for the 3 p.m. setup for the Providence rematch from Sunday.
Let’s Go Pens!