I have been blogging about this team for what will be eight years in July. I have been a season ticket holder for the Penguins for a few more years than that, call it ten years.
This has been probably the most uninspired late season win by my beloved Penguins that I can remember. Why?
Because I know what’s coming.
The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs for sixteen straight seasons. There are people at the Arena that have brought their kids to the games that all those children have known is the Penguins playing in the playoffs.
No championships to show for those trips. In fact, I have never blogged a Calder Cup Finals game on this blog for this team yet. 2008 was the last time the Penguins were in the Finals. Remember that? We are all old.
I don’t like their chances this season to even get out of the first round.
Not to be Debbie Downer on a night where the Penguins manage to sweep the Springfield Thunderbirds with a 3-2 win and, coupled with outside results solidify their chances at home ice in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs over either Charlotte or Providence.
But I know what is coming.
The Penguins stormed out to a 2-0 lead on a Springfield team that its playing their final games this weekend before the summertime and had a large shot advantage. Wilkes-Barre ended up putting 49 shots in total at Harri Sateri and the Thunderbirds defense. It looked like another hard fought, but easy win for the Penguins.
Then the magic disappeared.
The Penguins let the Thunderbirds back in the game, Springfield tied it, Wilkes-Barre had two opportunities to nudge back ahead on a power play and failed, but it was Zach Trotman scoring that gave the Penguins the lead for good in the third, a lead that the Penguins didn’t relinquish.
When the playoffs start next week, the Penguins are either facing the Charlotte Checkers or the Providence Bruins. If you are a Penguins fan, you want Providence because the Penguins and Bruins are so evenly matched. Both teams have their NHL counterpart playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Checkers will have a full compliment of players at their disposal and are as hot as you can be coming into the playoffs.
Moral of the story is, Penguins gritted this one out over a Springfield team that is better at coming up short and losing and were overall the better team, barely. They aren’t going to enjoy that same luxury in a week or so.
Charlotte has one game left, Sunday in Bridgeport. Providence has two, but we will get to that in a minute.
Tristan Jarry opposed Harri Sateri.
Garrett Wilson – J-S Dea – Daniel Sprong
Adam Johnson – Gage Quinney – Ryan Haggerty
Tom Sestito – Jarrett Burton – Christian Thomas
Joseph Cramarossa – Teddy Blueger – Tom Kostopoulos
Andrey Pedan – Lukas Bengtsson
Chris Summers – Kevin Czuczman
Jarred Tinordi – Zach Trotman
Tristan Jarry – Michael Leighton
Lineup Notes: Tom Sestito was in for Patrick McGrath. That was the only lineup change from Sunday in Bridgeport…Alex D’Orio was sent back to his junior team. That is not uncommon. Give the kids a taste of the pro life then send them on their way.
First Period: Started out as an evenly matched game between two teams on the opposite end of the success meter here in the AHL’s final weekend of regular season play. Shots were 7-7 somewhere around halfway when the Pens exploded and finished on a 12-0 shot run and got this jaw dropping goal from Daniel Sprong who scored on Harri Sateri, who is the AHL’s reigning Player of the Week and who was stymieing everything sent his way from the Penguins….
Garrett Wilson put it on a tee for Sprong who, in tight quarters, put it top corner and scored his 31st goal of the season, which broke the franchise record for goals scored by a rookie (Michel Ouellet)
Second Period: Penguins extend their lead to two with this nice goal from Teddy Blueger. As I was watching the game on AHL Live yelling for Blueger to pass off, he unleashed this shot that go past Sateri that made it 2-0…
Penguins continued to increase their shot total over the Thunderbirds and it was looking like they were setting up for cruise control, but then the Penguins found themselves in penalty trouble.
Dryden Hunt scored on a pretty tic tac toe play barreling down the slot that cut the Penguins lead to one.
Off the face-off, thrill a minute hockey for both teams. Sateri comes way out to stop Tom Sestito but doesn’t cover the puck. Penguins continue the shooting gallery on the Thunderbirds goal keeper but he turns them all away. Then, Springfield clears the puck away and then Andrey Pedan trips Thunderbirds defenseman Ed Wittchow.
Matters made worse, Tom Kostopoulos was sent to the box. Long 5-on-3 for the Thunderbirds.
But they tossed the puck around the top of the zone and never really manufactured a shot at Jarry. But it was a complete implosion of structures by the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins who were lucky to get out of all the penalty madness with a 2-1 lead heading into the…
Third Period: Curtis Valk got a piece of a shot from the point from Brad Hunt and tied the game.
Turnover. Total breakdown. Pens up big on shots, two goal lead, then get stupid with penalties and cute with exits and the Thunderbirds tie the game.
Better yet, Wilkes-Barre had two chances after the Walk goal to score on a power play and failed. There is going to come a time in the next couple of weeks when the Penguins will need a power play goal either in a situation like this or down one or two. Mark my words. Whether or not they get one remains to be seen, but the trends are not positive.
Zach Trotman put a shot on that found its way Sateri, who was really dialed in tonight and the Penguins squeaked out in front again.
May have deflected in front. Doesn’t matter.
With Sateri vacated, the Thunderbirds never found the equalizer.
Three Stars: 3) Harri Sateri (46 saves on 49 shots) 2) Teddy Blueger (goal, +1) 1) Zach Trotman (goal, +1)
Around the Division: Games that don’t matter are Lehigh Valley beating Bridgeport 5-2 and Hartford edging Binghamton in a shootout 2-1. The game that did matter was Charlotte beating Providence 5-3 in Providence to improve to 8-0-1-0 in their last nine games and are third place in the Atlantic.
Standings: Lehigh Valley won the division last weekend and have 102 points with one more game to play tomorrow against the Penguins. The Penguins are second with 96 points and two games left, Saturday in Lehigh Valley and Sunday in Hershey. Charlotte is off until Sunday when they face off against Bridgeport. They have 94 points. Charlotte has the first tie breaker on the Pens. I believe that the magic number to sew up home ice would be just one point. Providence has two games left with 91 points. They visit Springfield Saturday and then host the Thunderbirds Sunday afternoon. The rest of the division is Bridgeport, Hartford, Springfield and Hershey in that order.
If Springfield puts up a video highlight package, I will edit it in here.
Pens bus down to Allentown for a 7:15 start against the lame duck Phantoms. It will be interesting to see what Lehigh Valley puts out for a lineup in their last regular season home game with nothing left to play for. Check out the gameday setup Saturday at 3 here on the blog.
Let’s Go Pens!