Seven AHL games on a Tuesday seems strange, but then I realized it’s likely all December COVID make ups, like the game being played tonight between the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins and the Hershey Bears.
No full weekend preview, as that will come later in the week for the three road games the Penguins play this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The Penguins, winners of two straight host the Hershey Bears who are 0-2-1 in their last three games. That one OT loss came at the hands of the Penguins, who battled back to tie and then beat Hershey in overtime on Friday. Wilkes-Barre won a too close for comfort game 6-5 over the Bridgeport Islanders on Saturday.
Hershey hosted the Providence Bruins on Easter Sunday and let a team full of still wet behind the ears rookies beat them 1-0. Michael Callahan, playing in his 11th game in the AHL, scored in the third period and Brandon Bussi, playing in his second game, records 26 saves for his first professional shutout in goal.
I think that says more about Boston / Providence’s scouting and depth, than it does anything else. I have always been amazed by teams who bring in players I have never heard of, playing in their first professional game or games, that come in and are an immediate factor for the opposing team.
With the loss Sunday, the Bears dipped to fifth in the Atlantic, while the Penguins took fourth. Hershey has four games left and has a 33-29-6-4 record. The Penguins have six games left and a 33-29-4-4 record. Simply put, these two teams play the same amount of games. Hershey has 76 points, the Penguins have 74. Wilkes-Barre has two games in hand on the Bears and this is the last regular season head to head matchup.
I think this is a First Round or Play-In, whatever you want to call it, preview. Neither team I think can get to third, and neither team is going to fall to sixth I don’t think. So the reality is that these teams are on a collision course to meet in the postseason, and what matters is who has the home ice advantage. If you want to look past qualifying for playoffs and focus on settling for the four seed, I won’t blame you.
I’d rather the Penguins finish fourth, because in a traditional playoff format, the top four teams in the division make it, instead of this nonsense of “expanded” playoffs.
Michael Zyla and Casey Terreri have the assignment Tuesday. The linesmen are John Rey and Tyler Loftus.
Bears close out their regular season with a home and home with Lehigh Valley and a Sunday home game against Hershey. The Penguins are on the road in Providence Friday, Springfield Saturday and Hartford Sunday. The two games in hand the Penguins have on the Bears won’t be used until the following week when they are in Syracuse next Friday and Allentown next Saturday. More on all this later this week with the official Weekend Preview.
More after the game tonight.