Chirps from Center Ice

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

All Games Postponed This Weekend

I am not surprised.

Next scheduled games are Wednesday and Saturday at home against Hershey and Sunday at home against Springfield. We will see what happens then.

More, as it comes.

Weekend Preview – Crunchy Chex

The Penguins would absolutely have to tank big time to not be considered a playoff team with six of the eight teams in the Atlantic Division making it this season, so my stance on this club being a playoff team hasn’t changed. However, if it comes down to the final weeks of the season, looking back on the last week, where the Penguins split in Charlotte (perfectly fine, no one beats the Checkers twice down there) but then were obliterated in the third period of a 1-1 game Saturday at home against Providence. The Bruins had 1000 miles on a bus in the span of 72 hours going from Hershey, home, then to Bridgeport then to Wilkes-Barre. Zach Senyshyn’s third period hat trick capped off what was a very good week for the Providence Bruins.

The Setup

Pens have two games this weekend, away and home with the Syracuse Crunch and the Charlotte Checkers. Their game with the Hershey Bears was postponed due to COVID in the Bears camp. First, it’s a trip to Syracuse to take on the injury riddled Crunch followed by yet another contest against Charlotte.

Syracuse comes in on a 2-6-1-1 in their last ten streak and haven’t beat anyone of substance since Laval in the beginning of November. They had their Wednesday game in Rochester postponed due to COVID.

The Checkers were swept at home last weekend by Utica. Only really, really good teams do that to the Checkers and well, you guessed it, Utica is a really good team. The Checkers are in Lehigh Valley Friday.

The Records

Syracuse is 6-8-2-1, on 15 points and in last place in the North Division.

Charlotte comes into the weekend 8-9-2-0 on 18 points and sixth in the division with .474 percentage points.

The Penguins are a straight .500 team at 8-8-0-2 and 18 points.

Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?

Bryan Rust is week to week again with a lower body injury and didn’t accompany the Penguins to Western Canada for their trip so Pittsburgh recalled Drew O’Connor from Coal Street.

Anthony Angello, Filip Lindberg and Kasper Bjorkqvist are out. Angello has a god knows what injury that they still laughably call day to day, Lindberg is week to week and I didn’t catch what it was status wise on Bjorkqvist, but it’s lower body.

Coal Street swapped backup goalies this week, sending Tommy Nappier down to Wheeling and recalling Alex D’Orio. With Lindberg shelved, this makes the most sense in getting live fire for your assets in the system.

They also recalled Justin Almeida and Will Reilly. These two had no business playing in the ECHL. Almeida has nine goals in six games for the Nailers. Reilly has six points in three games.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Syracuse stinks and Charlotte has a smell about them. The Penguins have a smell about them too, but as we have seen in flashes with this team (close contests in Charlotte, OT mastery so far) but some real stinkers (Providence in the third period last Saturday, special team failures in the second game against Charlotte) you just don’t know what team you are going to get each night.

And on top of that, you may have to call into question the coaching. Unless J.D. Forrest skated the piss out of them earlier this week, it is completely unacceptable to have an opponent come on your home ice after 1000 miles in a bus and outpace and out work your dandy behind when you flew home Thursday and didn’t skate Friday.

3 of 4 points out of the weekend may be too much to ask. But you have Hartford and Springfield getting away and then mediocrity with the Penguins, Charlotte, then a COVID riddled Providence, Hershey and Bridgeport and a what the hell were they thinking in hiring Ian Laperriere in the first place Lehigh Valley Phantoms squad bringing up the rear, falling behind and making fools of themselves in the process each weekend. Just be better than the four you are grouped with. Some weeks it’s Providence, others its Hershey and sometimes even the Checkers and Pens. Consistency is key here.

Unless, “consistently average” is what we are going to get with this team. Who knows.

Who’s in Goal?

I think they go Domingue for both games. If not then Alex D’Orio Saturday.

Figure ex-Penguin Max Lagace Friday in goal for Syracuse, then a combination of either Evan Fitzpatrick or Chris Gibson for Charlotte Saturday. Figure Gibson because he has the Penguins number of recent. The Seattle Kraken recalled Joey Daccord earlier this week so you could see Gibson get both games.

Who is running the show?

Stephen Hiff and Nicolas Loyer will maintain order Friday in Syracuse joined by Jason Brown and Brian Oliver on the lines. Loyer worked in Winnipeg this past weekend for Texas / Manitoba, so transferring to Syracuse where it’s equally cold if not colder is nothing for Mr. Loyer. What I want to know is who he upset at the scheduling office to draw Winnipeg and Syracuse on back to back weekends.

Jordan Deckard and Alec Rounds get the Saturday assignment. Deckard was in Charlotte last weekend, so the Checkers are probably tired of seeing him. Bob Goodman and Jud Ritter work the lines along side Deckard and Rounds.

Looking Ahead…

Wednesday and Saturday home against Hershey then Sunday at home against Springfield. Oh, the joy of a weekday and Sunday home game all in one week!

Give us a bold prediction…

There is a shutout somewhere in one of these games for the Penguins. They are going to make liars out of me and have a hot start to an even hotter December.

Schedule Alterations

I’m actually quite surprised it has taken as long as it has for COVID to find its way into AHL locker rooms. You may or may not have heard about a boat load of schedule postponements* and other changes to the AHL schedule affecting many AHL Atlantic Division teams (Hershey, Providence, Hartford, etc.) for games scheduled for this week.

At this point, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins are clear of COVID (as best they can be playing a physical sport in the midst of a pandemic) and are scheduled to play two of the three games originally scheduled for this weekend. They are:

At Syracuse Friday.
Home against Charlotte Satuday.

Their Sunday game against Hershey, in Hershey was postponed by the League Wednesday, along with a bevy of changes affecting a lot of teams.

Two other changes to note, swap the opponents for the Penguins home games scheduled for March 18 and 19. It was originally going to be Utica on Friday, March 18 and Syracuse on Saturday, March 19. Swap it. Syracuse is here Friday, March 18 and Utica is here the next night on March 19.

No makeup date has been announced for the December 5 game in Hershey yet.

Weekend Preview will still hit Friday morning, setting up Syracuse and Charlotte.

* – there is a difference between, “cancelled” (it has been stricken from the schedule) and “postponed” (it has been delayed) please utilize caution.

Power Rankings – Real Americans

I debated leaving Utica as the number one team again this week, but Rochester was the only team thus far to hand the Comets a regulation loss, so in situations like this, the team that beats the team that was at the top gets the rub.

But don’t worry, the Comets remain a very good team. Not many teams go into Charlotte and sweep the Checkers. The Comets did just that this past weekend.

Springfield and Hartford remain joined at the hip and tread into Utica and Rochester’s waters this week trying to separate themselves from one another in a two horse race in the Atlantic.

Here’s the whole list. A lot of mediocrity out there.

RankTeamBlurbLast Week
1Amerks continue to throttle teams but because everything is done on percentage points this season, trail second place Cleveland by a few. Friday’s showdown in with Springfield should be the AHL’s free game of the week on AHLTV.+8
2Only really, really, really good teams go into Charlotte and sweep the Checkers. Utica did that this weekend.-1
3Split their weekend series with Hartford where the home team won each game. Busy week with a stop in Rochester Friday which could be a test for the Atlantic Division leading Thunderbirds.n/c
4Speaking of tests, Hartford has passed all theirs with flying colors thus far. Big week ahead with division heavies on the schedule then a Saturday date with the Comets at home.n/c
5Three out of four or, if you want to take it back even further, 5 out of 6 points out of Toronto, who is hotly contesting with the Monsters the chase and pace the Comets and Americans are setting in the North thus far.+2
6OK, so a bad week in comparison to the torrent pace set by the Heat thus far with two regulation losses. San Diego comes in this weekend, hot on Stockton’s tail. -4
7Are 5-0 against Grand Rapids this season, 11-3-1 against Central Division foes. Played Grand Rapids Sunday and won. Really all you need to be is good in your own division to have success.+10
8Spilt with Stockton at home then ice issues at Toyota Arena postponed contests with Bakersfield and San Jose.-3
9So the Bruins go close to 1000 miles on the road in the span of 72 hours and pick up 5 of 6 points in the process. Very, very impressive. +2
10Getting Matt Murray down from Ottawa, if he even reports, should be a huge boost for a Belleville side making a bit of a push here, 7-3 in their last ten.+9
11Took 3 of 4 away from Stockton, which is no small feat. Homestand continues with a pair against the Roadrunners. +12
12Smashed the Stars at home. Are 7-3 in their last ten. Head east for dates with Belleville twice and Laval this week and next.+3
13Coughed up three goals in 98 seconds in Henderson Sunday, otherwise would have been a sweep of the Silver Knights. Now three with the division leading Wolves staring the Wild right in the face this week.-7
14Fumbled a bit with losing a few games to Cleveland, division looks a little top heavy so the Marlies are good for now. Springfield and Laval drop by this weekend. -6
15Only won once this week. A lot of mediocrity in the Atlantic, Charlotte is in amongst it.-3
16We talk a lot about mediocrity in the Atlantic, and we have found our mediocre Central Division team. It’s Grand Rapids. No consistency with this team.-6
17Pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and – don’t look now – are up to fifth in the Pacific after sweeping Abbotsford at home. Heading into Colorado this weekend.+10
18Use three goals in :98 to blow past a flat footed Iowa side on Sunday. Just one game this week up in Bakersfield.-4
19Bears have a COVID issue they are dealing with which is postponing their contest with Lehigh Valley this Wednesday. Beat Providence in OT last Wednesday then were throttled in Rochester Friday.-1
20Gulls won four straight over last place San Jose which may have artificially inflated their stock a bit. Real test comes this weekend with a pair in Stockton.+5
21Schedule isn’t kind to the Condors this week. A midweek game in Stockton followed by a date against the pesky Silver Knights then the Reign comes in Saturday. +1
22Split a weekend with Chicago (loss) and Milwaukee (win) – may have lost their top two leading scorers (Lukas Reichel and Brett Connolly) to injury. Rematch in Milwaukee this week then a pair in Western Michigan. -6
23COVID has pillaged the Islanders with recalls up top, coupled with the fact Bridgeport was on the road for five straight or 7 of their last 9. Four at home coming now, but against all rough opponents.+7
24Swept in Winnipeg by the Moose. Head east to take on Laval for the first time ever this week then they are home for 11 straight games. After this Friday, Texas doesn’t go on the road until January 15. -4
25Mediocrity continues. Let a Providence team with 1000 bus miles under them out pace them in the third period on Saturday. Busy week ahead of some winnable games, but are they?-12
26Split a weekend series with Rockford, who the Admirals host Wednesday before heading to Cleveland.+5
27Winless in their last four, host a Texas side for the rare Western Conference – Eastern Conference clash.-3
28You can’t drop four straight games to an opponent like the Barracuda did with the Gulls over the span of these last two weeks. Heading to Abbotsford this weekend. Four out of the next five is against the Canucks.-2
29Less than ideal trip to the desert against the Roadrunners. Only on 11 points and starting to lose touch with the rest of the division.-8
30If you take away the win the Crunch had over Lehigh Valley (everybody is beating the Phantoms these days) you have to go back to November 6 for Syracuse’s last win. Injuries have killed all of Syracuse’s momentum.-2
31Couldn’t even beat barely an ECHL squad in equally as putrid Bridgeport on Saturday. Winless in their last seven. Three wins is a league worst by far.-2

Beaten by Bus Legs — Pens LOSE 5-1

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It’s 686 miles to and from Hershey, PA to Providence RI.

It’s 121 miles to Bridgeport CT from Providence, RI

It’s 186 miles to Wilkes-Barre, PA from Bridgeport, CT.

Let’s see:

686
121
+ 186
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993 miles the Providence Bruins travelled by bus this week. 686 over the course of a Wednesday game in Hershey, 121 down to Bridgeport for a Friday game and then 186 through the night from Connecticut to Wilkes-Barre for a Saturday night game. A game where the Bruins explode for FOUR goals in the third period to beat the Penguins 5-1 Saturday night.

Four goals. In the third period. After close to 1000 miles in a bus in the span of about 72 hours.

After their Wednesday game the Penguins flew back from Charlotte Thursday after spending an extra night in North Carolina and didn’t play Friday. They were the fresher, more rested team playing on home ice and they laid an absolute egg.

The team has no talent because all of that would be talent was cast away in the span of winning two Stanley Cups in two years and then mishandled by a GM here in Wilkes-Barre (Bill Guerin) who was in over his head and later by a GM in Pittsburgh (Jim Rutherford) who rage quit and just left town.

Tonight isn’t about talent. Tonight is about coaching. J.D. Forrest gets a long leash from me because you can’t turn water into wine unless your first name is Jesus and you were a carpenter and your last initial starts with C. How Forrest lets his team get outworked by a team which has lived on a bus for the last three days come in on home ice and run circles around them in the third period and show more life and juice is beyond me.

Maybe the coaching, like the players, are just average and it is what it is.

Pens took three penalties in the third, including back to back. Providence’s Zach Senyshyn cashed on his first of three in the period on a power play. Pens up to this point were 0/4. In hindsight I wish I could make an argument that an overall close game to this point was decided on special teams.

Senyshyn scores again when a rush up ice started by Samuel Asselin is broken up but Asselin has enough time and space to dish a puck over to Senyshyn who scores to put the game out of reach and make it 3-1.

Pens scrambling, pull starter Louis Domingue and Jack Studnicka scores an empty netter to really insult you and it’s 4-1.

Ballg–wait.

Senyshyn again, this time with Domingue in net to make it a hat trick.

They played “Hard Days Night” by the Beatles on the way out of the building tonight. So apropos.

Here’s all three Senyshyn goals because I hate myself.

Unless Senyshyn has his own pilot, he’s on the same bus as the rest of his team traversing I-81 and I-84 up and down the Atlantic Division, all 993 miles in the span of 72 hours.

Completely unacceptable.

Here’s the Penguins goal, a Radim Zohorna goal that opened up the scoring in the second period.

Here’s how they lined up. Kyle Keyser opposed Domingue.

Nathan Legare for the injured Kasper Bjorkqvist was the only lineup change.

Pens are sixth in the division, a .500 team, and will likely play at this level for the remainder of the season. It’s a division full of mediocrity. You have Springfield and Hartford playing as the class of the field, Bridgeport and Lehigh Valley playing as the class clowns and a bunch of C students thrown in between. If one of those C students meets a pretty girl who starts assisting them with their Algebra homework, watch out.

They go again next Friday in Syracuse, then back home for Charlotte and then the first of six in the month of December with Hershey. All winnable. You have to have a coach that gets the team rightfully prepared and a group that wants to be better every shift. Until then, the mediocrity continues.

Power Rankings Tuesday. Pens will be in the bottom third.

Phooey.

Splitsville — Pens LOSE 4-3

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Overall, a positive road trip for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. They see their five game point streak come to an end, but I think they have figured a few things out and they will travel home Thursday for a Saturday home date with the Providence Bruins.

Checkers use a two goal third period to eke by the Penguins and win 4-3.

Tommy Nappier opposed Christopher Gibson.

Here is how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: Nathan Legare was a healthy scratch. Jan Drozg took his spot in the lineup up front. Mitch Reinke came out for Chris Bigras on defense.

First Period: Checkers has 18 shots in the first period Tuesday and had 18 shots in the first on Wednesday.

Charlotte opened the scoring on what appeared to be an own goal by Sam Poulin. The video below doesn’t show it because the angle wasn’t the greatest but credit went to Aleksi Heponiemi.

:58 later, P.O. Joseph hauled a puck down below a face-off dot and slid a low shot at Gibson that went in that tied the game at one.

Checkers late regained the lead when ex-Pittsburgh Penguin Riley Sheahan scored a goal when  left unmarked on the far side.

Four Penguins overloaded on one side is a recipe for disaster.

The Penguins then had a chance on a power play and  much like last night failed to capitalize. In fact, Henry Bowlby had a small breakaway that Nappier was forced to make a save on.

Second Period: Kasper Bjorkqvist deflected in a Juuso Riikola shot from the point which drew the Penguins even at two with the Checkers.

But then Bjorkqvist left the game about halfway through the period with an apparent injury and didn’t return for the balance of the period.

Third Period: Zac Dalpe and Max McCormick score goals about a minute and a half from one another to edge them ahead 4-2.

Jordy Bellerive takes on the whole Checkers team on his own and scores to cut the lead to one.

Penguins get the only power play of the period late with 3:45 left in regulation but fail to score. Then with Nappier pulled for the extra attacker, the Penguins get close but Gibson makes the requisite saves to win the game for his side.

Three Stars: 3) Riley Sheahan (goal, assist) 2) Aleksi Heponiemi (goal, assist) 1) Max McCormick

The Good: Good fight tonight. Sweeping a team like Charlotte on their home ice was always going to be a tough task.

The Bad: Roles reversed a bit tonight, with Charlotte going 1/4 on the power play and the Penguins 0/2, but I don’t think the game was won on special teams. I still think its just two average teams who if they play 100 times in a row, split the wins and losses. It is what it is.

Turning Point: Mix in a couple of late saves by Gibson, but it’s McCormick’s goal which pushed the lead to 4-2 where you got the sense that the lead was insurmountable for the Penguins.

Around the Division: Springfield thumps Bridgeport 4-1… Providence and Hershey went to OT with Hershey winning 4-3 on a goal reviewed on replay. Mason Morelli with the goal there. Hershey had nine penalties called against them.

Standings: Springfield .824 percentage points / Hartford .750 / Hershey .594 / Providence .533 / Charlotte and Penguins .529 / Bridgeport .361 / Lehigh Valley .344

Wheeling Update: The Nailers handled the Indy Fuel 5-1 at home. Will Reilly had three assists. Alex D/Orio stopped 34 shots.

Video Highlights: If I can work an edit in between now and the next time I am in front of the blog I will edit them in here.

Pens are back on the ice Saturday at home at 6:05 against the Providence Bruins.

Let’s Go Pens!

Hall of Joy — Pens WIN 3-2 (OT)

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So they had a bad first, a better second, then a bad start to the third and a better finish of the third and win 3-2 in overtime in Charlotte Tuesday.

Amazing.

Amazing because this is a game they probably lose two weeks ago. Or do they? Seems like the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have only played the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Charlotte Checkers, so the sample size isn’t as broad as it could be.

In reality, I think it’s two average teams that are just are what they are at this point. And that can be a good thing.

They rematch Wednesday.

Louis Domingue opposed Joey Daccord.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: From Saturday in Providence, no changes to the lineup. Jordy Bellerive skated in his 100th WBS Penguins game. The Penguins sent Justin Almeida and Will Reilly to Wheeling Tuesday.

First Period: Pens got an early power play just 64 seconds into the game but didn’t register a shot on goal. Charlotte then possessed the hell out of the puck and outshot the Penguins 12-2 in the games first 11:07. Finally Henry Bowlby plays a puck off of one of the linemen and starts a rush and finds Gregori Denisenko for a goal that puts the Checkers on the board.

Penguins turned it on from there. In one sequence, Nathan Legare missed an open net off a perfect setup by Felix Robert then Robert was denied by Daccord on a great save.

Shots were 18-9 Checkers after the first. The 18 shots were the most allowed by the Penguins in one period all season.

Second Period: So whatever the message was at the first intermission by the coaching staff, it was received loud and clear because the Penguins came out blazing, tied up the shots at the end of the period at 25 and had a strong period.

Michael Chaput scored a power play goal on a breakaway after a blocked shot.

The Penguins continued to buzz, had a few more chances but weren’t able to get another goal.

But then Chase Priskie slammed home a drop pass left for him and the Checkers went back on top.

Penguins outshot the Checkers 16-7 in the period. Wilkes-Barre was gifted power play after power play, year only converted once with Chaput marker earlier in the period.

Third Period: Louis Domingue with a save of the year candidate stop on Alex True.

The Penguins had a blitzkrieg of shots and chances in the second period but had one paltry shot on goal thirteen plus minutes into the third period.

It didn’t matter really, because on their second shot in the third, they scored a goal.

Kyle Olson’s goal there on a nice pass into the slot by Michael Chaput.

Pens had a bevy of odd man rushes at Daccord, one was Valtteri Puustinen setting up Filip Hallander, but Hallander wasn’t able to connect for a goal.

Yet.

Overtime: Three breakaways for the Penguins, a couple chances were P.O. Joseph could finish the game but it wasn’t until Filip Hallander scored to end the game and win it for the Penguins.

Three Stars: 3) Chase Priskie (goal) 2) Louis Domingue (33 saves) 1) Filip Hallander (game winning goal)

The Good: They won a game where, maybe two weeks ago, they lose. I think there’s progress being made.

The Bad: They had six power play opportunities and scored on one of them. Close game where if they lose, you point right to this deficiency.

Turning Point: They didn’t lead until the very end, on Filip Hallander’s goal which got them the win.

Around the Division: Only game in the AHL tonight. Seems like it should carry more of a dubious distinction, but it doesn’t.

Standings: Springfield .813 percentage points / Hartford .750 / Hershey .567 / Penguins .563 / Providence .536 / Charlotte .500 / Bridgeport .382 / Lehigh Valley .344

Wheeling Update: Nailers were off. They went out Monday and got themselves a goalie. I don’t know what this means, but if I were to read the tea leaves, it means that the injury to Filip Lindberg means that Tommy Nappier is going to be living out of an apartment vs. a hotel room, meaning more longer term, then it is what it is.

Video Highlights: 

These two teams rematch Wednesday. More then.

Let’s Go Pens!