I want to get something out of the way real quick. I have been ragging on the Tyrell Goulbourne goal that should not have counted Wednesday when the Penguins hosted the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. I was told pregame tonight that replay in the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza was not working. Thus, no review.
Now that’s out of the way, to more current events. A 5-1 Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins win against the Hartford Wolf Pack. A methodical takedown by the Pens of a very good, strong Hartford team which has been punching above it’s weight of recent and really primed to make a run in 2018.
But the Wolf Pack ran into a problem. His name being Daniel Sprong, who had a hat trick tonight, his second of the season.
A lot of chatter has been had on social media regarding the slump that the Pittsburgh Penguins are on and what might fix it. A name that has come up time after time is Daniel Sprong. Sprong, a highly touted prospect from the QMJHL, is still middling around here in Wilkes-Barre while the Pittsburgh Penguins lose game after game and are middling around in Metropolitan Division purgatory. “Bring up Sprong!” they say, “Call up Sprong!” they shout.
The issue here is not his offense. He’s an offensively gifted forward that can and will score at any level of hockey anywhere and will do so for years to come. The issue is his defense. His two-way game lacks in areas. It’s gotten better, but it lacks from time to time.
Pittsburgh wants to take their time with Sprong. The can do that and monitor him from Wilkes-Barre where every night there is a body in the box high above me watching down upon the action below.
Calling him up now could work. But calling him up now to stick him on the fourth line and bury him on the bench when a giveaway or a lax forecheck allows for an odd man rush the other way and a Grade A scoring attempt from the other team or a penalty taken isn’t going to do anything for him.
I know that fans want everything done in a microwave. They want to win every game 10-0 and have their favorite player get all the headlines. I’d be lying if I said that I am not in this group somewhat, but I like to look at everything from all sides.
It’s not a matter of if Daniel Sprong will be called up, it’s a matter of when.
Now, could the Penguins beaten the Hartford Wolf Pack tonight without Sprong? I think yes. Hartford was a mess tonight and it snowballed from there. Getting a four point night out of the opposing teams best prospect coupled with 27 saves out of the ECHL goaltender and you are going to have a rough night. The Pens, as a team, played a complete game. They insulated goaltender Anthony Peters, got the offense that they needed to win and Peters made the saves he needed to when called upon and that’s your ballgame.
Oh, it helps when you keep the AHL’s best road power play (25.7%) 0-6 on the night as well.
Geez, that was a long lede. Someone get me an editor!
Peters opposed Marek Mazanec.
Zach Aston-Reese — J-S Dea — Ryan Haggerty
Gage Quinney – Greg McKegg – Daniel Sprong
Adam Johnson – Teddy Blueger – Colin Smith
Freddie Tiffels – Jarrett Burton – Patrick McGrath
Jeff Taylor – Jarred Tinordi
Kevin Czuczman – Zach Trotman
Kevin Spinnozi – Chris Summers
Anthony Peters – Adam Morrisson
Lineup Notes: Jeff Taylor made his Wilkes-Barre debut for the Penguins in 2017-18…Kevin Spinozzi slotted in as well…Greg McKegg was in as well for the recently recalled Garrett Wilson. Ethan Prow skated the extra man in warmups.
First Period: On a delayed penalty, Daniel Sprong let one rip from the point that deflected off of bodies and Colin Smith got a stick on it to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. Jeff Taylor picked up the secondary assist, his first AHL point.
Hartford would answer back a few minutes later when the Penguins overcommitted to one side, leaving Joe Whitney open with time and space, enough to beat Peters to make it a 1-1 game.
Second Period: Patrick McGrath would pick up 27 minutes in PIMs with a fight with Scott Kosmachuk, one that McGrath would win easy. Hopefully Coal Street has it in their video highlight package.
Anthony DeAngelo leaves a puck in his own zone for Adam Johnson, who pounced on it and then dropped it to Sprong who scored to make it 2-1 Penguins…
Nice to see some puck luck turn the way of the Penguins for once.
Sprong would add a second goal here…
Haven’t heard much from the, “Fire Donatelli” crowd in a while and I wonder why.
Third Period: Anthony Peters was dialing in. He stopped a centering bid on Vince Pedrie, limited rebounds and covered pucks. It helped that the Wolf Pack essentially were firing right at him or way past him or over him, but he was solid when he needed to be, including in one sequence a pad stop followed up by a glove save.
Then, with the game in the balance, Gage Quinney took a tripping penalty at 14:19. Hartford’s lethal road power play stepped over the boards and was looking to get on the board here down a pair.
:07 later, after Teddy Blueger won a defensive zone face-off, Zach Aston-Reese was sprung and scored on a breakaway that made it 4-1 Penguins. Ballgame.
Sprong got his third goal via empty net, with Mazanec vacated with his team down three late.
Three Stars: 3) Adam Johnson (two assists, +3) 2) Anthony Peters (27 saves on 28 shots) and 1) Daniel Sprong (hat trick, assist, +3)
Around the Division: Ex-Penguin assistant and one time head coach Jay Leach will be behind the Atlantic Division bench in a month’s time at the ALl-Star Classic in Utica, thanks to his Providence Bruins team winning 3-1 tonight in the very place he will be coaching in about a month, Utica, NY against the Comets….Lehigh Valley beats Charlotte 3-1 and Hershey beats Springfield 4-2. Bridgeport was off.
Standings: Providence (.710 percentage points) — Lehigh Valley (.676) — Charlotte (.621) — Penguins (.617) — Bridgeport (.550) — Hershey (.485) — Hartford (.485) — Springfield (.412)
Wheeling Update: Nailers lose 5-2 in Fort Wayne. Cam Brown and Reid Gardiner scored for the Nailers in the loss.
Pens take on the Hershey Bears Saturday night and Anthony Peters will get the start, per Clark Donatelli to the Wilkes-Barre media. Gameday setup hits the blog here Saturday at 3.
Let’s Go Pens!