Chirps from Center Ice

A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

Weekend Preview: Off Hiatus, Sorta…

If you don’t love me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.

Or something like that.

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, on an 0-6-0-1 streak to begin 2022 and in last place in the Atlantic Division, come into a weekend set of games against in state rivals Lehigh Valley (who occupied the same grippe befuddling the Penguins for much of the Fall) and the Hershey Bears, who the Penguins are 0-7 against and can pinpoint the root cause of their misfortunes of late.

Where the hell have you been?

I needed a break. I still need a break, but I can’t stay away. Twitter is a desolate wasteland for me now, haven’t looked at or opened the app in a few days but for folks pinging me asking where I am. I have tweeted less, and smiled more.

This is sports. It’s an obtuse reality world where regular people vent their frustrations at paid professionals playing and coaching a game. In the end, it really doesn’t matter. Life goes on.

The moral here is, don’t take it seriously. When you do, like I have from time to time, step away. That’s what I did. I will gradually step back in.

The Setup

Home and home with Lehigh Valley Friday and Saturday and Sunday at home against the Bears.

The Phantoms are probably the hottest team in the AHL right now, at 6-0-1-1 in their last eight games. They were supposed to play up in Providence last weekend but, guess what, COVID worked its way into their locker room and those games were postponed.

Hershey has, well, beat up on a bad Penguins team. They lost last Friday to Syracuse, then curb stomped the Pens in back to back games, one was a shutout. The Bears coughed up a two goal lead Wednesday at home against Bridgeport and lost in a shootout. Seems like they are only good against the Penguins and meh against everyone else.

The Records

Hershey is up to second in the division with a 18-10-2-2 record, good for 0.625 points percentage. Lehigh Valley is sixth, 9-11-5-2 and .463 win percentage. The Penguins are in last, 9-14-1-3 with a .407 win percentage.

Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?

Recently, they have dressed a half decent lineup, which to be fair, hasn’t been really good. It’s a toothless offensive attack, dead last in the AHL in goals for (60), dead last in the League on power play (10.3%) and near the bottom (25th) on the penalty kill.

It’s not good. The players know that, the coaches know that and boy, the fans know that too.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Where is rock bottom? Are we there yet? Can we start climbing back to the top? Is there any hope left? Lehigh is on a run, but cooled off by not playing last weekend due to COVID and Hershey is who we thought they would be.

So what’s a fair expectation? Shootout losses? Overtime losses? All losses? All wins? Depends.

They have to show competitiveness. They did, in parts, in Utica and Sunday in Hershey, but for most of the weekend, it was a toothless, feckless effort. No one wants that.

I think it is also fair to ask if J.D. Forrest is in over his head? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result every time. But, if you are handed a Porsche with four flat tires, you aren’t going to go very far no matter who you are.

Who’s in Goal?

Tommy Nappier or Alex D’Orio. Take your pick. I think they go D’Orio, Nappier, D’Orio, unless Filip Lindberg comes back then you go Lindberg, D’Orio, Lindberg. Or, if he does return, you go D’Orio, Nappier, Lindberg. Who knows.

For Hershey and Lehigh, probably Felix Sandstrom for the Phantoms on both nights and I don’t think it matters for Hershey. The Bears can put a cardboard cutout in goal and probably still beat the Penguins. It’s insane how good and how deep Hershey is in goal.

Who is running the show?

Veteran referee Tim Mayer is paired with Casey Terreri Friday with Jud Ritter and Richard Jondo on the lines. On Saturday, Mayer takes the trip down the PA Turnpike to meet up with Reid Anderson and probably takes Jud Ritter with him as those two will be in Allentown with Tom George on the lines.

Sunday sees Casey Terreri again with Morgan MacPhee running things and Tyler Loftus and Bob Goodman on the lines.

Looking Ahead…

Four more at home. Lehigh Valley Wednesday, Toronto Friday and Saturday, and Cleveland next Monday. It’s hellacious, but at least you factor out the travel.

Give us a bold prediction…

I’ll be back next week with another weekend preview.

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