Six games left, all against playoff teams or teams fighting for playoff positioning, and three this week starting with the penultimate home game this Wednesday against the Charlotte Checkers for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.
The team hasn’t won clean since March 19 in Allentown, hasn’t won at home since March 17 in a shootout (February 22 against Lehigh Valley if you go back to when they last won clean in regulation)
That’s sad. The issue is blowing third period leads. Somehow, the Penguins are 14-1-4-3 when leading after two periods. So that’s eight blown leads which end up in clean losses (1) or shootout or overtime losses (7) for a total of nine points lost total (the two points they lost with the regulation loss and the seven other points they lost as loser points) – take half of that, say, five, and you have 68 points as opposed to 63; five points off a playoff spot as opposed to ten.
Math being what it is, it’s more advanced to see who they blew the leads against and I don’t have the time nor the desire to dive that deep to see how it factors into the points as they are today.
They took two points out of the weekend last after blowing a 3-1 lead in the third to Syracuse and losing in overtime 4-3 Saturday, and losing Wednesday to Providence in a shootout 4-3. The week prior in had to have it games, they lose to Lehigh Valley 3-2 in overtime on March 25 then lay an egg against a team they needed to beat in Hartford and lose that game 5-1.
So it’s over. They can only max out at 75 points provided they win out but if Lehigh Valley (74 points, in fifth place) or Hartford (73 points, in sixth place) get there first, it’s over officially.
We knew this, weeks ago. They aren’t a playoff team. They don’t deserve the spot because they are mediocre role players, a one dimensional team who’s best player (Alex Nylander) was keeping a press box seat warm in Pittsburgh until he was re-assigned back to the AHL on Monday and who’s defenders can’t defend and goaltending who’s either hurt all the time or past their primes. How sad is it that I think their best player right now is Taylor Gauthier, their backup goaltender. Gauthier is 7-3-6, with a 2.75 GAA and a .906 SV%.
Pretty sad. Tough scenes.
Charlotte comes to town after getting swept at home by Springfield for three straight. That’s a likely playoff preview between those two teams. Checkers went from a potential challenger for the top two in the division and now may not even host a first round best-of-three playoff series.
Wilkes-Barre then hits the road for Providence on April 7 then Bridgeport on April 8 before heading up to Laval on April 10 for a makeup date with the Rocket. They then hit Hartford next Friday, April 14 before closing out the 2022-23 campaign at home against Charlotte again.
Providence is slumping. They were just overtaken by Hershey for the top spot in the Division and needed a shootout to beat the Pens Wednesday, were shutout 5-0 to Hartford Friday night then Bridgeport comes to town Saturday and beats them 5-2. They already clinched a spot, maybe this is the last piece of vulnerability that they have to get through before they go on what I’m expecting is a deep run into the Playoffs. Who knows, though.
Bridgeport is in a battle straight up with Hartford for the final playoff spot. They won a kids day game against Springfield in overtime on Tuesday then head to Hartford for a massively important game Friday before hosting the Pens this Saturday.
Equally so for Laval, who are in a three team battle with Belleville and Cleveland for the final spot in the North. The Rocket will have hosted Cleveland then traveled to Syracuse before returning home to face the Penguins this coming Monday.
And the Penguins? Planning on mid-April vacation most likely. I’m heading to Virginia Thursday, so if you don’t see me at the game Wednesday I’m likely just resting up for the trip Thursday morning. I will be back next week in time for next Saturday’s send off against Charlotte.
Out the door, here are the crews scheduled to work the four games at issue this week for the Penguins:
Jonathon Sitarski and Adam Tobias with Jud Ritter and Tyler Loftus on the lines Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre.
In Providence Friday, it’s Riley Brace and Tyson Stewart with Kenneth Gates and Matt Heinen on the lines.
It’s Stewart again Saturday in Bridgeport with Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Trevor Disbennett and Nick Briganti on the lines.
I don’t have Monday’s crew. I’m sure they are capable humans.
I should be recapping the away games from the campfire, provided it doesn’t get that cold.
Talk to you again in a bit.