Chirps from Center Ice

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

Weekend Preview – Three Away

So the magic number to clinch a playoff spot is three. The Penguins also have three away games this weekend. The Penguins can actually clinch a playoff spot on Friday this way. Here’s how:

Did you get all that? Because I sure didn’t. Win, and have Lehigh Valley, Hartford and/or Bridgeport lose in regulation or get a point and have Hartford lose in regulation and Lehigh Valley lose in regulation.

I think. I have read it five times and think I get it.

Anyway, the fact remains that in order to clinch Friday, or at any point this weekend, the Penguins face off against two already qualified playoff teams as well as a team fighting for its playoff life. It’s not going to be easy nor should it be.

The Setups

So the idea is that the Penguins and Hershey Bears are on a collision course for a playoff date in the first round. Barring an epic collapse from both teams, it’s going to be Pens / Bears Round 1 in a best of three series to see who plays one of the two top teams in the Atlantic (who get a Round 1 bye) in the next round. So with all that said, let’s only focus on the Pens and Bears this weekend.

Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

Record: 34-29-4-4, .535 percentage points, five games left. 4th place Atlantic Division

Wilkes-Barre closed out its home record this season with a 16-3-2-1 record in their last 22 games. A remarkable feat and the single thing that has the Penguins on the brink of a playoff spot and possibly home ice in the first round. They shutout Hershey on Tuesday, beat Bridgeport last Saturday in a thriller and beat Hershey in overtime last Friday, all at home. They turned around the two game losing streak and have won the last three. They have two games in hand on the Bears they will burn off next week.

They have Providence this Friday, Springfield Saturday then Hartford on Sunday.

The Bruins: Are still up and down. They looked invincible last week, beating Lehigh Valley and shutting out Hershey, then narrowly squeaked past the Phantoms this past Tuesday in overtime. They play the Penguins tough and it’s a tough matchup. If there is one team I don’t want to play in the playoffs, especially in a best of five, it’s Providence or Charlotte. The Bruins are mercurial, sure, but they always find the right combination against the Penguins.

The Thunderbirds: Springfield has looked strong all season, but the Penguins make the Thunderbirds look down right pedestrian. What I said about the matchup with Providence above, applies in reverse to Springfield. I’d welcome a playoff matchup against Springfield in any format. The Penguins can beat this team.

The Wolf Pack: Are a mess. 1-8-1-0 in their last ten. They led the division a few weeks back and are now on the brink of missing playoffs. Hopefully the Pens wrap up a playoff berth and can rest some regulars and play some ATO guys Sunday when these two teams meet.

Hershey Bears

Record: 33-30-6-4, .521 percentage points, three games left, 5th place Atlantic Division.

Hershey hasn’t scored in the past two games. You know, when I watched them Tuesday it was painfully evident that they are a lot like the Penguins in that, despite them being the Bears, they lack a finisher. I don’t like their chances against the Penguins in the first round playoff series (if it comes to that) they have three games left, all this weekend, and here they are.

Home and home against the Phantoms: Lehigh Valley isn’t dead yet. They need a miracle and will get juiced up for the final two games against Hershey.

Syracuse: Haven’t clinched a playoff spot yet. Probably won’t this weekend. The top three in the North get first round byes. Syracuse wants to protect their third place or improve their positioning coming into the weekend so don’t expect the Crunch to be pushovers here, but expect Hershey to empty the tank at home in their final game of the regular season on Sunday.


Because I didn’t mention it above for the three opponents the Pens play this weekend, here they are.

  • Providence: 36-20-4-6, .621 percentage points, 1st place Atlantic Division
  • Springfield: 39-23-6-3, .613 percentage points, 3rd place Atlantic Division
  • Hartford: 30-31-6-2, .493 percentage points, 7th place Atlantic Division

Who’s Up, Down, Out?

Louis Domingue is up for the injured Tristan Jarry. Alex D’Orio is up from Wheeling backing up Tommy Nappier. Drew O’Connor has an “ailment” which shouldn’t be long term and Mitch Reinke is non-COVID sick. Taylor Fedun is out long term with a lower body injury and Filip Lindberg is done for the year.

Who’s in Goal?

My supposition is that Tommy Nappier gets the playoff teams in Providence and Springfield and either Alex D’Orio or Joel Blomqvist, who backed up Nappier on Tuesday goes Sunday in Hartford. For the opposition, reigning AHL Player of the Week Brandon Bussi may likely go for Providence on Friday, then Joel Hofer for Springfield on Saturday and either Keith Kinkaid or Adam Huska, depending on how things shake out for the Wolf Pack this weekend.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

How quickly they wrap up the playoff berth and what they do after. Do they push to protect the four seed (they can’t go higher, the teams ahead of them minimum points percentage if they all lost out is still higher than the Pens max) or do they dress the kids and let the chips fall where they may.

Two schools of thought here. They are good at home, nearly unbeatable. They would have home ice as the four seed in the first round best of three. Wrap up playoff berth with a win Friday and help out of town and protect the four seed at all costs. The second thought is if they know they can beat Hershey, why kill yourself after you wrap up a berth? Rest the guys that have to get you through the next two months in what’s going to be a brutal postseason.

Interesting times, for sure.

Who is running the show?

Jim Curtain and Mike Sullivan have the officiating duties on Friday with Dan Kelly and Stephen Drain on the lines.

On Saturday, it’s Michael Zyla and Beau Halkidis with Kevin Briganti and Brent Colby on the lines.

Sunday sees Kevin drive down to Hartford to meet who I think is his brother Nick Briganti on the lines with Jim Curtain and Jeremy Tufts handling officiating duties.

Looking Ahead…

The Penguins close out the regular season with a date in Syracuse on Friday and a trip down to Allentown on Saturday.

Give us a bold prediction…

The Penguins wrap up a playoff spot…this Saturday.

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