I will be by at some point next week with a postmortem of what went wrong in the 2018-19 season for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, who were eliminated from playoff contention after a 8-1 loss to the Utica Comets Friday night in Central New York. To preview, there is a cost when your parent team wins two Stanley Cups in the last three years. To reiterate, the AHL is a developmental league and whatever happens here, as long as the prospects develop here, nothing matters. Zach Aston-Reese and Teddy Blueger are prime examples. I am fine with that. Don’t take this as a complaint that me as the AHL fan of the team doesn’t want to see the NHL succeed because somehow AHL>NHL. No, it’s an explanation as to one of the many reasons why the Penguins didn’t make a playoff appearance for the 17th straight season.
Long odds as they were, the Penguins could have went down with a fight. They lost 10-6 in Allentown and were swept in the mini series in the Lehigh Valley last weekend. After entering the second period down a very manageable 1-0 Friday night in Utica, the Comets outscore the Penguins 6-1 to carry a 7-1 lead into the third period in a game that ended 8-1.
To note, the Comets have won just three games in the last three weeks. Injuries have ravaged them, but that is no excuse for what I just watched Friday night and a gross disrespect to the opponent just expecting that the result would continue because you are a team that has made playoffs for sixteen straight seasons.
Fight they did in the second period. Five fights to be exact, which is the most that I can remember for a period of AHL hockey associated with this team in a long time. The game was slipping out of hand with Reid Boucher completing a hat trick in the second period and the Penguins lost control of the game and their emotions and it snowballed from there.
Unpopular opinion but Clark Donatelli, who I will address in kind next week in my autopsy of the team, did all he could to keep the team afloat and relevant till the fortnight of the regular season. With the way that the teams were playing in the season and all of the head to head meetings backloaded on the schedule this season, the Penguins saw a way into the playoffs though the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. With call ups and injures, Wilkes-Barre relied heavily on amateur tryout guys to help salvage a season. It worked to a point, a point of exhaustion. It fell apart last weekend in Allentown and the cracks started to show in the first period Friday in Utica before the dam broke in the second period.
John Muse opposed Marek Mazenec. Muse was yanked at the end of the second and Matt O’Connor made his Penguins debut and just allowed one goal in the third period in relief.
In the lineup notes, there were no changes up front but for a few shuffles here and there on the lines. Michael Kim and Jeff Taylor were back in for Jon Lizotte and Tim Erixon on defense.
Jarrett Burton scored the only goal for the Penguins in the game, coming in the second period on a rebound left by Mazanec which he swept across the line to break up the shutout bid.
Taylor Haase, who you have seen all season long on the blog here as she was nice enough to permit me embedding her tweets of the goals that she GIFed during the year, had a nice post mortem of her own on the Penguins season you can read here if you don’t want to wait for me next week. A lot on what she hit on there is relevant to what I will explain next week.
Pens will close out the 2018-19 campaign Saturday and Sunday at home, with Bridgeport and Binghamton respectively. Gameday setup hits the blog Saturday at 3 for the Sound Tigers and Sunday at 11 a.m. for the 3 p.m. finale with the Devils.
* – in case you were wondering about the headline this time, explanation here