So after taking 5 of 6 points this past weekend in an impressive showing of work and being still in touch with a playoff spot, well, let’s just get to the music to set the mood part…
Music to Set the Mood…
It ain’t over till it’s over.
It ain’t over till it’s over. — Yogi Berra
So you can sense a theme here. It seems like it’s in the fan contract with this team that no matter what, you have to have hope. It’s always hope.
I still think we are on track for an early spring, but after a 0-3 comeback against a game Rochester Americans team that won eight straight against the Penguins, and then being the better team in Syracuse and then crushing a rested Phantoms team Sunday in the third game in three days, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins are showing life and aren’t dead yet.
Lehigh Valley again Saturday on Star Wars Night, which will likely be a sellout or close to it, then a 5:05 Hartford Sunday home game. Very important games.
Both the Penguins and Phantoms will be rested, as neither will play games until Saturday.
Hartford, a team that the Penguins are chasing, host Springfield Friday and Saturday and will be playing a third game in three days.
On an Island
That other team, Bridgeport, holds the sixth and final playoff spot in the Atlantic, and played Laval Wednesday and won 5-3 and are in Belleville Friday before calling it a weekend.
Laval is in a dogfight with Belleville, who is playing some inspired hockey as of late. So this is a prime time for the Penguins to get some help from out of town, handle what’s in front of them, and see where things shake out at the close of business Sunday evening.
Hartford is 2-5-0-2 against Springfield this season and 2-0-1-1 against the Penguins.
Pens are 5-3-1-1 against the Phantoms and 2-2 against the Wolf Pack.
Small sample size, but Bridgeport is 1-0 against Belleville this season.
Here’s what it looks like at the bottom of the Atlantic…
6. Bridgeport – 10 games remaining – 66 points.
7. Hartford – 11 games remaining – 63 points. 8. PENGUINS – 11 games remaining – 60 points.
I mean if it gets tight and the Pens miss over the Wolf Pack by a point or two, they can probably point back to those games where they won in OT or a shootout, where they give Hartford a point and don’t beat them clean. I don’t think it will cut that close but it’s worth mentioning.
So what are they doing right? What are they doing wrong?
I think they realized that Alex Nylander isn’t walking through that door any time soon, so the role players stepped up in a big way. Justin Addamo scored a goal in every game last weekend. Drake Caggiula was their best player. I think not having Mitch Reinke in the lineup was a blessing in disguise for them. Here’s what I mean…
The first two Rochester goals last Friday. That’s Mitch Reinke coasting on the first goal and getting caught flat footed on the second. Yeah, the Pens weren’t able to cash against Lehigh Valley’s 32nd out of 32 teams penalty kill on Sunday, but it’s a trade off. His defensive adventurism costs the team goals against which you can’t get back as opposed to goals for, which you can score at any time, for the most part.
Also, Taylor Fedun going up to Pittsburgh is also a blessing.
The only thing I would say they are doing wrong is going 1/9 on the power play this past weekend, but it’s a trade off to winning games and losing what I think is causing them to lose those games in Reinke’s injury and Fedun’s callup, despite Reinke’s effectiveness on the power play.
Keep Tyler Sikura, Filip Hallander and Jonathan Gruden going. Peter DiLiberatore is a diamond in the rough, defensively. Josh Maniscalco is rough around the edges, but you hope (there’s that word again) they can coach the bad parts of the game out of him. I think they have enough to get by with Jon Lizotte, Jack St. Ivany and Andrew Nielsen so we will see.
I think the quality of opponents they beat last week (Rochester, Syracuse) are better than the quality of opponents they face this week (they already beat Lehigh Valley Sunday, they play them against Saturday, Hartford isn’t that good) but sadly, none of those teams mentioned in this sentence are winning the Calder Cup. Which leads me to my next point…
Providence is a team which I think will go far this postseason. They lead the division over Hershey by three points coming into Friday. That thing I said about hope at the beginning? What are we hoping for? Hope for playoffs? Hope for a Calder Cup? It’s both, because you can’t have one without the other, but the Penguins aren’t winning the Calder Cup this season. The Bruins, however, are probably one of three teams (Calgary and Toronto being the others) with strong odds to win it all.
The Pens play Providence at home next Wednesday, then against the Phantoms again as they close out March. Home against Syracuse on Saturday to open April.
Who is running the show?
Stephen Hiff and Peter Schlittenhardt are here Saturday and Sunday with Jud Ritter and J.P. Waleski on the lines Saturday, then replaced by Patrick Dapuzzo and Ryan Knapp on the lines Sunday.
Give us a bold prediction…
Mitch Reinke returns, orchestrates the Penguins scoring on 75% of their power plays, plays a direct role in all of this, and wins AHL Player of the Week with 4 goals, 3 assists, all coming on the power play.