Chirps from Center Ice

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

Weekend Preview – Devil in the Details

Hold on…

…sorry about that. I was checking to see if the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins were finished scoring goals on the Bridgeport Islanders.

After a nine goal explosion on the Islanders and other out of town implosions on the scoreboard, the Penguins find themselves in a tight race for what could be at best a four seed and at worse a ticket to an early summer.

Here’s a look at the standings as we enter Wednesday.

4 – Hershey Bears: 10 games remaining, 31-26-5-4, .538 points percentage
5 – Hartford Wolf Pack: 9 games remaining, 29-26-6-2, .524 points percentage
6 – WBS Penguins: 11 games remaining, 30-27-4-4, .523 points percentage

7 – Bridgeport Islanders: 7 games remaining, 27-27-7-4, .500 points percentage

Bridgeport and Hartford are playing 72 games, The Penguins and Bears are playing 76.

So, as fortunes would have it, the Penguins go from, “shaky ground” from last weeks preview to the possibility of a four seed, if they continue to pile up wins and the out of town scores break their way.

The Setups

I think that with less than a month to play in the regular season and the Penguins in a playoff battle that I look at the weekend for not only the Penguins but the three other teams that the Penguins are battling. Just brief words. Here we go.

Hershey Bears

Were swept in Charlotte and played Bridgeport in a kids day game Tuesday. They won that game against the Islanders 4-3 in overtime, their 3000th win in franchise history. Despite this, the Bears are in free fall mode. They are 3-5-1-1 in their last ten. Their schedule doesn’t relent, they host the Atlantic Division leading Springfield Thunderbirds this weekend for a pair after a stop in Allenton on Friday.

Hartford Wolf Pack

No one has been worse than Hartford. 2-7-1 in their last ten. Eked out an OT loser point Monday in Providence. Now head to Charlotte for three this weekend.

Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

Played a close one in Allentown against a too little, too late Phantoms team and lost. Flipped that into an obliteration of the Bridgeport Islanders where they scored nine unanswered goals, including five in the second period. There’s a lot to like about the Penguins right now. Goaltender Louis Domingue is keeping them in games and they are finally getting offense. They still lack a finisher and are prone to clunkers as you saw in Allentown on Friday. Calder Cup favorite? Hardly. Playoff team? Maybe.

Pens host Lehigh Valley Wednesday then take a Saturday trip to Syracuse.

Bridgeport Islanders

Got smoked Saturday in Wilkes-Barre as the more rested team. Played Tuesday morning against the Bears and as you saw above lost 4-3 in overtime. Bridgeport has cooled off considerably over these last two games played vs. how they came into last weekend. Still, a very dangerous team and one you have to keep an eye on.

Islanders host Providence for a home and home this Friday / Saturday, then Lehigh Valley stops in Sunday.

The Records

Are above. I may scrap this going forward this season.

Syracuse plays Toronto Wednesday and Springfield on Friday before hosting the Pens Saturday. They are third in the North, 32-24-6-2 with a .563 points percentage in an ultra competitive North Division where you literally can go from a top seed to an out of playoff seed in one game. There is no margin for error in that division.

Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?

Radim Zohorna and Anthony Angello are still up. There is no one up from Wheeling because it its ATO season. Pens didn’t make any additions in that department. Taylor Fedun is still out, my guess is the rest of the regular season.

Who is in Goal?

I would like the record to indicate I was 6/6 in my predictions last week. That said, I’ll probably go 0/4 this week. Got to think Domingue gets both games, Felix Sandstrom for the Phantoms and probably ex-Penguin Max Lagace Saturday in Syracuse.

Fun fact…this is the first trip to Syracuse for the Penguins this season.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

They need to beat teams that they should beat (the Phantoms) and beat teams that are slightly better than them (Syracuse) if they want to make us fans believe that they are serious contenders for 1) a playoff spot and 2) a serious push in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

I will believe it when I see it. The Pens will be playing the caliber of what is an essentially a playoff mode / intense Syracuse Crunch team Saturday. You can expect a playoff like intense game, kind of what you experienced Saturday. If the Penguins don’t stand and deliver in Syracuse, the Crunch will flatten them and the Pens will be back at square one again.

Aren’t you overlooking Lehigh Valley?

I am, slightly. Look, this team is done and this talk about their mythological playoff push is nonsense. They exist to play spoiler, nothing more, in a faint-but-not-impossible push to the six seed in the Atlantic.

The Penguins though, can’t mess around with a team like this, especially at home. Get to them early so you don’t have to worry about them late.

Who is running the show?

Jim Curtain and Mason Riley get the assignment Wednesday with Jud Ritter and CJ Murray on the lines Wednesday. Saturday sees Jordan Deckard and Marc-Oliver Phaneuf with Brian Wasilewski and Tory Carissimo on the lines.

Looking ahead…

Four game homestand to close out the regular season for the Pens; Charlotte in a makeup game next Wednesday, Hershey Friday and Bridgeport on Saturday. So three crucial games that the Penguins have to prepare for, but in order to do that they must first address the current week ahead.

Give us a bold prediction…

The Penguins will not finish sixth in the Atlantic Division.

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