The Penguins would absolutely have to tank big time to not be considered a playoff team with six of the eight teams in the Atlantic Division making it this season, so my stance on this club being a playoff team hasn’t changed. However, if it comes down to the final weeks of the season, looking back on the last week, where the Penguins split in Charlotte (perfectly fine, no one beats the Checkers twice down there) but then were obliterated in the third period of a 1-1 game Saturday at home against Providence. The Bruins had 1000 miles on a bus in the span of 72 hours going from Hershey, home, then to Bridgeport then to Wilkes-Barre. Zach Senyshyn’s third period hat trick capped off what was a very good week for the Providence Bruins.
Pens have two games this weekend, away and home with the Syracuse Crunch and the Charlotte Checkers. Their game with the Hershey Bears was postponed due to COVID in the Bears camp. First, it’s a trip to Syracuse to take on the injury riddled Crunch followed by yet another contest against Charlotte.
Syracuse comes in on a 2-6-1-1 in their last ten streak and haven’t beat anyone of substance since Laval in the beginning of November. They had their Wednesday game in Rochester postponed due to COVID.
The Checkers were swept at home last weekend by Utica. Only really, really good teams do that to the Checkers and well, you guessed it, Utica is a really good team. The Checkers are in Lehigh Valley Friday.
Syracuse is 6-8-2-1, on 15 points and in last place in the North Division.
Charlotte comes into the weekend 8-9-2-0 on 18 points and sixth in the division with .474 percentage points.
The Penguins are a straight .500 team at 8-8-0-2 and 18 points.
Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?
Bryan Rust is week to week again with a lower body injury and didn’t accompany the Penguins to Western Canada for their trip so Pittsburgh recalled Drew O’Connor from Coal Street.
Anthony Angello, Filip Lindberg and Kasper Bjorkqvist are out. Angello has a god knows what injury that they still laughably call day to day, Lindberg is week to week and I didn’t catch what it was status wise on Bjorkqvist, but it’s lower body.
Coal Street swapped backup goalies this week, sending Tommy Nappier down to Wheeling and recalling Alex D’Orio. With Lindberg shelved, this makes the most sense in getting live fire for your assets in the system.
They also recalled Justin Almeida and Will Reilly. These two had no business playing in the ECHL. Almeida has nine goals in six games for the Nailers. Reilly has six points in three games.
What can we learn about the Penguins this week?
Syracuse stinks and Charlotte has a smell about them. The Penguins have a smell about them too, but as we have seen in flashes with this team (close contests in Charlotte, OT mastery so far) but some real stinkers (Providence in the third period last Saturday, special team failures in the second game against Charlotte) you just don’t know what team you are going to get each night.
And on top of that, you may have to call into question the coaching. Unless J.D. Forrest skated the piss out of them earlier this week, it is completely unacceptable to have an opponent come on your home ice after 1000 miles in a bus and outpace and out work your dandy behind when you flew home Thursday and didn’t skate Friday.
3 of 4 points out of the weekend may be too much to ask. But you have Hartford and Springfield getting away and then mediocrity with the Penguins, Charlotte, then a COVID riddled Providence, Hershey and Bridgeport and a what the hell were they thinking in hiring Ian Laperriere in the first place Lehigh Valley Phantoms squad bringing up the rear, falling behind and making fools of themselves in the process each weekend. Just be better than the four you are grouped with. Some weeks it’s Providence, others its Hershey and sometimes even the Checkers and Pens. Consistency is key here.
Unless, “consistently average” is what we are going to get with this team. Who knows.
Who’s in Goal?
I think they go Domingue for both games. If not then Alex D’Orio Saturday.
Figure ex-Penguin Max Lagace Friday in goal for Syracuse, then a combination of either Evan Fitzpatrick or Chris Gibson for Charlotte Saturday. Figure Gibson because he has the Penguins number of recent. The Seattle Kraken recalled Joey Daccord earlier this week so you could see Gibson get both games.
Who is running the show?
Stephen Hiff and Nicolas Loyer will maintain order Friday in Syracuse joined by Jason Brown and Brian Oliver on the lines. Loyer worked in Winnipeg this past weekend for Texas / Manitoba, so transferring to Syracuse where it’s equally cold if not colder is nothing for Mr. Loyer. What I want to know is who he upset at the scheduling office to draw Winnipeg and Syracuse on back to back weekends.
Jordan Deckard and Alec Rounds get the Saturday assignment. Deckard was in Charlotte last weekend, so the Checkers are probably tired of seeing him. Bob Goodman and Jud Ritter work the lines along side Deckard and Rounds.
Wednesday and Saturday home against Hershey then Sunday at home against Springfield. Oh, the joy of a weekday and Sunday home game all in one week!
Give us a bold prediction…
There is a shutout somewhere in one of these games for the Penguins. They are going to make liars out of me and have a hot start to an even hotter December.