Chirps from Center Ice

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

Kryptonite — Pens LOSE 3-2


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Tyler’s summation of this 3-2 Penguins loss was proper.

This hot, cold, hot, cold action that they are on isn’t good, and they can’t for the life of them, figure out a way to run Bridgeport out and beat them. The Sound Tigers are in last in the Atlantic but you wouldn’t know it by watching them play the Penguins.

Like Tyler mentioned, it wasn’t a bad effort, Wilkes-Barre outshot Bridgeport 36-28, but for a team that will be returning home this week with just two points out of the three game road trip, that isn’t ideal especially when you are battling for playoffs. They had a chance to go two clear of Providence last night and lost then a chance tonight to go back even with Providence and lost again.

Hershey, Hartford, two with Providence and Syracuse are the next five games. You know this if you read the Gameday setups four hours before every game on this blog. Those teams aren’t cakewalks by any means.

It’s frustrating because, despite the call-ups and injuries, they are close but keep losing. A young team does that. Oh well.

Casey DeSmith opposed Jared Coreau.


Bridgeport didn’t post lines.

Lineup Notes: None. Certainly would have expected Emil Larmi to get the start in net and for perhaps Macon Erkamps on defense, but they didn’t go in that direction.

First Period: Back and forth first half of the period, both teams traded power plays and Coreau and DeSmith also traded good save for save.

Then, Oliver Wahlstrom broke up ice on a delayed call and scored to give the Sound Tigers a 1-0 lead.

Second Period: You were looking for a response from Vellucci’s crew and got it.

First, Jamie Devane on a rebound that tied the game at one.

And then Joseph Blandisi on a rebound for a power play goal that made it 2-1 Penguins.

But then Simon Holmstrom took a nice pass from Bobo Carpenter (yes, that’s his name) and scored on a rocket of a shot that leveled it at two late in the period.

Shots were a hefty 18-11 in favor of the Penguins in the period, so the message of getting pucks to the net was delivered to the on ice personnel by Vellucci.

Third Period: I’m going to let my tweets set up this period. Bridgeport to a power play.

Simon Holmstrom, his second of the game, gives the Sound Tigers a 3-2 lead. Here is how he did it.

Penguins got close a few times, but Jared Coreau shut the door at every chance he could. Even with DeSmith pulled for an extra man they got close, but couldn’t find the equalizer.

A late too many men on the ice call pretty much iced their chances away at a comeback.

Three Stars: 3) Jared Coreau (34 saves) 2) Grant Hutton (two assists) and 1) Simon Holmstrom (two goals)

The Good: They are an Anthony Angello or an Andrew Agozzino away from a playoff team.

The Bad: Those players are still in Pittsburgh.

Turning Point: Holmstrom’s second goal of the game which gave the Sound Tigers the lead for good is the choice here.

Around the Division: Binghamton sweeps Hershey in the home and home series, beating the Bears in Hershey 4-2….Springfield gets a much needed win in overtime against Charlotte. 4-3 was the score….Lehigh Valley loses in a shootout to Hartford 4-3. Providence was idle.

Standings: Hershey 68 — Hartford 68 — Charlotte 62 — Providence 60 — Penguins 58 — Springfield 56 — Lehigh Valley 51 — Bridgeport 44

Wheeling Update: Nailers win big at home against Fort Wayne beating the Komets 6-1. Graham Knott, Ryan Scarfo and Cam Brown all scored goals.

Video Highlights: If the Sound Tigers put some out I will work an edit in here.

They are off until Friday when they host Hershey. I’ll have an update to my charts some time Sunday most likely. They auto update at the bottom of that link there except for games. AHL Power Rankings Thursday. Blog pieces and news as it comes otherwise till then.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Bridgeport 2/15


Who: Bridgeport Sound Tigers

Where: Webster Bank Arena

When: 7:00 p.m.

Last Game: Last night in Providence, the Pens lost 4-2. Adam Johnson scored a power play goal, Jordy Bellerive scored too. For Bridgeport, the Sound Tigers were in Lehigh Valley and lost 3-2 in overtime. Travis St. Denis and Simon Holmstrom scored for the Sound Tigers in the loss.

Last Meeting: Bridgeport won in a shootout February 1 in WIlkes-Barre. It lasted seven rounds. Jake Lucchini and Joseph Blandisi scored in regulation. Josh Ho-Sang scored in regulation for the Sound Tigers.

Record: For WBS: 25-19-3-5 (58 pts., 5th place Atlantic Division) // For BRI: 18-27-5-1 (42 pts., 8th place Atlantic Division)

Referees: Brandon Schrader / Beau Halkidis

Linesmen: Jonathan Deschamps / Patrick Dapuzzo

Why You Should Care: Pens need to capitalize tonight against a Bridgeport team that got in late from their travels from Allentown last night. The Sound Tigers always play the Pens tough, so Wilkes-Barre needs to be careful.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV is back for another season and better than ever.

Other Game to Watch: Springfield, their playoff chances on the ropes here, host Charlotte.

Next Five Games: vs. HER 2/21, @ HFD 2/22, @ PRO 2/23, vs. PRO 2/26, @ SYR 2/28

Wrestling a Bear — Pens LOSE 4-2


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The term, “wrestling a bear” is used when you are dealt with a difficult task.

In this case, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins are without defenseman Kevin Czuczman to injury and playmakers Anthony Angello and Andrew Agozzino to recall to Pittsburgh.

Every night is like wrestling a bear.

So they need to capitalize on the opportunities when presented.

They didn’t tonight.

A 4-2 loss to the Providence Bruins when crucial playoff points are on the line. The Bruins didn’t look like a team who have won just four games in their last ten. They gummed up the Penguins and have a hell of a goalie in Max Lagace tending the nets for them.

Onto Bridgeport Saturday, who will be coming up from Allentown overnight. The Bruins are off Saturday and it’s a chance again to draw even in points with Providence as we go on.

Casey DeSmith opposed Max Lagace.


Lineup Notes: Jordy Bellerive was back, on the the fourth line with Jamie Devane and Christopher Brown. Brandon Hawkins came out of the lineup to make room for Bellerive. No changes on defense. Kevin Czuczman, Dustin Tokarski and Chase Berger were all listed as, “week to week” on the pregame show with Nick Hart.

First Period: Not Niclas Almari’s best period.

Turned into a pylon on the first goal scored by Didier and then turned the puck over on the wall to the Bruins and Brendan Gaunce scored as he tried to olé his way back into the play. The Penguins are in big trouble if they are going to be without Kevin Czuczman for any length of time. The coaching staff has no faith at all in Macoy Erkamps and Matt Abt is banished to Wheeling. There really isn’t anything else in the ECHL affiliate to call up. For a team that is battling agin this season for its playoff life, plays shown above from Almari have to be corrected.

Yes, development league, yadda yadda. Save it.

Wilkes-Barre failed to score on the only power play in the period.

Second Period: Adam Johnson scored a power play goal in the opening stages in the period here.

And that was pretty much it for action in the period. Shots were 6-6 and I thought that the Penguins played better than the Bruins in the period. It resembled a lot of what they did in Hartford on Wednesday, they just were trailing here vs. leading there.

Third Period: Penguins had a great opportunity to score when Kevin Roy led a 2-on-0 up ice. His pass was broken up and then the Penguins buzzed around Lagace’s net before the referee lost sight of a puck in a mass of bodies when Joseph Blandisi pushed the puck in but the whistle had blown.

Two on one, Penguins defender goes to ground to cut off the pass and Joona Koppanen keeps it and scores to make it 3-1.

Penguins went into scramble mode from there and pulled DeSmith out of a media break with 4:21 left, scrambled some more and the Bruins hit an empty net. Jordy Bellerive tacked on a meaningless goal with .8 left to make it a 4-2 final.

Three Stars: 3) Joona Koppanen (goal) 2) Josiah Didier (goal) 1) Max Lagace (28 saves)

The Good: They didn’t take a penalty against.

The Bad: Niclas Almari needs to figure it the hell out already. You aren’t going to see me on his foreign exploits and put him as the second coming when he’s constantly lost out there on the ice night after night. He was responsible for both Bruins goals in the first period. At this point if I am Vellucci I run Macoy Erkamps out there to get a message across Saturday in Bridgeport.

Turning Point: Koppanen’s goal that made it 3-1 gets it. Lagace was dialed in from the drop, was beat early in the opening stages of the second on a power play goal but shut it down from there.

Around the Division: Binghamton clips Hershey in overtime 4-3. The Devils scored with an extra attacker to force and then won in overtime….Lehigh Valley beats Bridgeport in overtime 3-2….Hartford beats Laval 3-1. Charlotte and Springfield were off.

Standings: Hershey 68 — Hartford 66 — Charlotte 61 — Providence 60 — Penguins 58 — Springfield 54 — Lehigh Valley 50 — Bridgeport 42

Wheeling Update: Nailers are finishing up against Cincy. Box here.

Video Highlights: I doubt Providence will run a video highlight package.

Gameday setup for Saturday’s matchup against the Sound Tigers hits the blog Saturday at 3.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Provicence 2/14


Who: Providence Bruins

Where: Dunkin’ Donuts Center

When: 7:05 p.m.

Last Game: Wednesday in Hartford, the Penguins won 2-1. P-O Joseph scored both goals, Casey DeSmith made 25 saves. For Providence, the Bruins lost Sunday at home in overtime to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Zach Senyshyn scored the only goal for the Bruins in the loss.

Last Meeting: December 20 in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins won 1-0. Anthony Angello scored, Dustin Tokarski made 23 saves.

Record: For WBS: 25-18-3-5 (58 pts., 5th place Atlantic Division) // For PRO: 26-18-3-3 (58 pts., 4th place Atlantic Division)

Referees: Beau Halkidis / Casey Terreri

Linesmen: Jared Waitt / Michael Zyla

Why You Should Care: Big match up tonight in the Rhode Island capital. Both teams deadlocked at 58 points looking to solidify themselves as playoff teams. Providence has hit a bit of a skid of late, 4-3-2-1 in their last ten and the Penguins, but for a sour weekend at home last, have been one of the hottest teams in the AHL’s Eastern Conference. Which team is catching the other at the right time? We don’t have long to wait.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV is back for another season and better than ever.

Other Game to Watch: Bridgeport, coming off of a positive weekend, visits Lehigh Valley who is coming off of the same.

Next Five Games: @ BRI 2/15, vs. HER 2/21, @ HFD 2/22, @ PRO 2/23, vs. PRO 2/26

The P.O. Show — Pens WIN 2-1


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The Hartford Wolf Pack don’t lose in regulation on home ice this season. They had one regulation loss coming in to Wednesday’s matchup with the Penguins.

Until tonight.

Two goals by Pierre-Olivier Joseph, 25 saves by Casey DeSmith and the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins defeat the Hartford Wolf Pack 2-1 on Wednesday to move into a tie with the idle Providence Bruins for fourth in the Atlantic Division with 58 points. Those two teams meet Friday in Rhode Island.

DeSmith opposed Adam Huska.


Lineup Notes: 

I didn’t catch Nick Hart’s pregame show because Wednesday is garbage night so I don’t have anything for you on Chase Bergeror Kevin Czuczman. Assume upper body, day to day.

First Period: They played 19:58 of inert hockey with a ton of icings, smattered with a quick pace and really needed it in contrast to getting scored on in every period last weekend against Hershey and Lehigh Valley until P-O Joseph had a shot blocked but he followed the puck and wound up and scored with 1.6 seconds left in the period to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.

Second Period: Wolf Pack come out and score early on in the period when they swarmed the goal and Ryan Dmowski was the last guy to throw it on net and it went in.

Teams traded some bullheaded power plays. Lucchini chucked a puck over the glass for a Hartford power play that was bad and Huska interfered with Lucchini behind his net for a Penguins power play which was worse.

P-O Joseph or Brandon Hawkins scored when Joseph shot the puck and Hawkins either deflected the puck or didn’t. Hawkins was first through the tap line but the off ice guys gave the goal to Joseph.

Third Period: They needed a quiet period given the score line and got one. Navigated through some penalty trouble, limited chances against and held on. With Huska pulled, Hartford never found the equalizer.

Three Stars: 3) Ryan Dmowski (goal) 2) Casey DeSmith (25 saves) 1) P-O Joseph (two goals)

The Good: They needed a quiet, you can say a boring affair and got one.

The Bad: Giving up one goal and winning is nitpicking in this department.

Turning Point: Joseph’s or Hawkins goal that gave the Penguins the lead for good was all that DeSmith and the Penguins defense needed as they took it from there.

Around the Division: Charlotte continue to win, their fifth in a row, as they sweep the Rochester Americans at home and win 5-2 in the divisions only action of the night.

Standings: Hershey 67 — Hartford 64 — Charlotte 61 — Providence and the Penguins 58 — Springfield 54 — Lehigh Valley 48 — Bridgeport 41

Wheeling Update: The Nailers were off.

I’ll look in the morning for video highlights. There really weren’t many. A DeSmith save here, a post hit there. The videos above should fill it all in for you.

They head to Providence for a huge matchup with playoff implications this Friday. I’m looking forward to that. Gameday setup is yours Friday at 3, but for anything breaking beforehand.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Hartford 2/12



Who: Hartford Wolf Pack

Where: XL Center

When: 7:00 p.m.

Last Game: Saturday at home against Lehigh Valley, the Penguins were defeated 5-3. Kevin Roy, Jan Drozg and Myles Powell scored for the Penguins. For Hartford, the Wolf Pack were defeated in overtime Saturday in Charlotte 4-3. Patrick Newell had a goal and an assist in the loss.

Last Meeting: January 11 in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins won 3-0. Casey DeSmith had a 25 save shutout, Kevin Roy and David Warsofsky scored goals.

Record: For WBS: 24-18-3-5 (56 pts., 5th place Atlantic Division) // For HFD: 27-12-5-5 (64 pts., 2nd place Atlantic Division)

Referees: Casey Terreri / Jim Curtin

Linesmen: Jonathan Deschamps / Nick Briganti

Why You Should Care: Two teams coming off of bad weekends meet tonight in Hartford. Hartford were stopped by a resurgent Checkers team and the Penguins were set back by in state rivals Hershey and Lehigh Valley. Does Jordy Bellerive come back tonight? What type of Penguins team do we see tonight?

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV is back for another season and better than ever.

Other Game to Watch: Charlotte and Rochester rematch tonight. The two teams played Tuesday in Charlotte.

Next Five Games: @ PRO 2/14, @ BRI 2/15, vs. HER 2/21, @ HFD 2/22, @ PRO 2/23

Asked and Answered 2/11

Lots of good questions this week so let’s get right to them….

How do you feel about losing Calen Addison in The Minnesota trade? From what I saw last year in the short time he played in Wilkes Barre, he looked like a good prospect who would have been impactful when he was able to play next year.
– Bob

There was a trade Monday night that sent Alex Galchenyuk and Calen Addison with a 2020 first round draft pick to Minnesota for Jason Zucker. Addison was highly touted as the number prospect in the Pittsburgh pipeline.

You can’t really get upset over something like this because you have never seen Addison play a professional game that counts. Is he the next Brian Dumoulin or the next Derrick Pouliot? Pittsburgh is in “win now” mode and didn’t want to wait long enough to find out. This is one of those trades that doesn’t have any immediate impact on Pittsburgh right now but may down the line in the next three to five years. You are out a 2020 first round draft pick and lost Addison and, depending on the type of player he develops into, go all in on Zucker to win a Stanley Cup. You can’t fault Jim Rutherford for making that trade.

On the flip side, Galchenyuk hasn’t worked anywhere, you gain a first round draft pick and a blue chip defensive prospect. Who wins the trade? You’ll never convince me otherwise that Bill Guerin is a terrible General Manager. He’s essentially getting fleeced for a really good player in Zucker for a fourth line plug in Galchenyuk, Addison who is still a few years away and a draft pick who is farther than that. Do you honestly trust Bill Guerin to rebuild Minnesota into a contender? I don’t. He has a lot of people fooled that he’s good at what he does.

At the end of the day, John Marino made Calen Addison expendable. They know what they have in Marino. They don’t with Addison and the Stanley Cup is in the car in the driveway with the engine running waiting for the Penguins to take it down the Boulevard of the Allies again.

What your opinion on are power play and coaching stuff and where they can improve
– Jag

Well, the power play is 14th overall in the 31 team league clicking at an 18.7% conversion rate. It’s not that bad, clicking at just under once in five tries (rounding up to 20% here). It’s aggressive, which I like, but sometimes lacks consistency. I think in large part that’s due to having Anthony Angello and Andrew Agozzino on recall right now. As to where they improve? You can always use good wingers on your power play. One of them was Oula Palve. According to my chart he was on the ice for 14 power pay goals for and just one against. The problem was he was only on for six even strength goals for and twenty-six against and had an 18.75 even strength goals for percentage. There was a lot bad that outweighed the good. You have to be careful there. Clicking at nearly 20% and in the upper half of the teams on special teams isn’t that bad, all things considered.

With all the injuries and players up in Pittsburgh do you think the team has a shot to make playoffs? Pittsburgh will probably make (another) trade soon. Do you think we get get someone for WBS or will they subtract more by trading someone we already have?
– Rose

Under the current lineup? No. They need Jordy Bellerive and one of or ideally both of Andrew Agozzino or Anthony Angello back. Even if they got those guys back you have five, maybe six teams for four playoff spots. Let’s take a quick look.

Hershey: I think they are safe. They have a three point lead on the division now, second place Hartford has games in hand but the Bears are good to make playoffs I think. They don’t have many holes.
Hartford: At biggest risk to fall out of contention once the NHL trade deadline passes and the Rangers sell off all their assets. I definitely think their reign at the top of the Atlantic is over.
Providence: Interesting team in flux. Their power play is bad (24th) and they lost two straight to Bridgeport this past weekend. I still think Head Coach Jay Leach figures it out and they pencil in at a three or four seed.
Charlotte: Team that won’t go away and doesn’t have an identity. Hovered at .500 for the first half of the season, went on a run, cooled off when the Penguins came to town and then are now 7-3 in their last ten. They have games in hand on everyone in the division and could finish as high as second in my opinion.
Penguins: They were doing more with less, but then lost Jordy Bellerive who was the straw that stirred the drink and lost both games badly this weekend. They need to get healthy both internally and up top in Pittsburgh. If they don’t, I don’t see them cracking the top four.
Springfield: Stick a fork in this team, they are done. Same story every year with the Thunderbirds. They have the most amount of games played in the division and trail by three points. Two flaccid performances this weekend with Lehigh Valley and Hershey.
Lehigh Valley: Had a strong showing this weekend against some non-playoff (Springfield and Wilkes-Barre) teams, then went to Hershey and got manhandled. This is a paper team with a lot of issues that need to be figured out. They are nine points out, will probably make things interesting but I don’t see them as a playoff contending team down the stretch.
Bridgeport: Were out of it months ago.

Pittsburgh already made a trade acquiring Zucker. Do I think they are done? Maybe, but lets look at some names anyway.

Casey DeSmith: Would be a major loss because he’s been the best player, but you don’t see many goaltenders moved at a trade deadline and organizationally, that would make Emil Larmi third on the depth chart. Is it out of the realm of the reasonable that DeSmith gets traded? No. But the cupboard is too bare to give DeSmith away unless the haul is huge, and they already made a big splash.
P-O Joseph: He’s a guy I would give the highest odds to get moved if they decide to go ahead and make another move. He turns 21 this July, had put up pretty decent defensive metrics so he’s a name to watch.

There really isn’t anything else that you would want on this team that you could look at to get traded unless it is a very minor, minor, throw in move.

When Pitt is healthy do we get the help we need?
– John M.

Agozzino, Angello and Lafferty are all possibilities, yes. They all just have to stay healthy.

Is a call up expected after the news of Marino’s surgery?

Marino is out three to six weeks. Check back Tuesday afternoon at around 5:30 to see if Pittsburgh recalled anyone. I don’t see a really reason why they would, but if they do, it’s probably David Warsofsky or Zach Trotman going back up.

There’s gotta be something wrong with Adam Johnson, right? Nagging injury, personal issues…something? My dude had a fantastic end to his season last year, showed some ability to perform in Pittsburgh…and now he can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. What’s wrong with my boy?
– Mike

He’s fourth in points on the team, has positive defensive metrics and is having a very good year. If you are looking for him to put the team on his back and carry them through the slog like, say Jordy Bellerive, I don’t see it. Defenders like to key on the top line guys, which Johnson is, so he’s getting exposed a bit.

It also could be coaching. Mike Vellucci is a demanding coach who expects a lot out of his players. I think Clark Donatelli was more of a players coach, Vellucci I don’t think by any stretch is.

Do we need more speed? Or puck moving defenseman?
– Alex

Every team could, but when you are a feeder team to a Stanley Cup contending team, you wish in one hand and … well, you know the rest.

In your opinion, what will the state of the AHL be, in say 10 years? It seems like the league changes constantly every year now. Will there ever be period of time of “stability” for the league?
– Chrs

You answered the first part of your question with your next sentence and to answer your final question, what many perceive as “stability” may be the never ending shifts in franchises moving.

For those unaware, the San Antonio Rampage will be going away at the end of the year. The franchise was purchased by the Vegas Golden Knights and pending AHL Board of Governors approval, will play their games in Henderson, NV next season while a new arena is built. That leaves the Rampage’s NHL affiliate, the St. Louis Blues and the Golden Knights current AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, without an AHL/NHL partner. Those two will probably pair up again. The model of an NHL team owning an AHL affiliate and stashing those assets close by is catching on.

I don’t know what that is going to do with the Pacific Division which right now has seven teams and with Henderson coming in next season gives them eight and with Palm Springs coming in 2021-22 would give them nine. Nine is too many. Does Colorado join the Central Division and go from playing 68 to 76 games then? Everyone flies there for two games then flies out. Will the AHL be at a point where everyone plays 72 games? Chicago, Hershey, Providence and other teams that do well with Sunday games may never allow that. This new AHL Commissioner coming in (David Andrews is retiring at the end of the season) has a plateful of moving tasks that are huge in getting the league shaped up for the next decade or beyond.

Good stuff this month. Thanks for all the questions.