Chirps from Center Ice

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

New Playoff Format Announced 8/5

Remember when playoffs used to mean something? A reward for having a winning season, playing the select few, the best of the best and a chance at the ultimate trophy, the Calder Cup?

Yeah, me too.

Thursday, the American Hockey League announced the new playoff format which will debut in the upcoming 2021-22 season. Here it is in a tweet:

No, you read that right, TWENTY THREE TEAMS will qualify for the playoffs next season. Not eight, not sixteen, TWENTY THREE teams, or 75% of the league.

To follow simply, if you finish in the bottom two of your division, you didn’t make it. Better luck next year.

The release tries to sell this ridiculous format by citing playoff experience and postseason development and yammers on about 150 more players getting said experience.

It’s watering down a product which has become so diluted it is hardly recognizable anymore.

You have 31 teams this season, 32 when Palm Springs comes in in 2022-23 all playing differing schedules and different amount of games this season (68, 72 and 76, everyone plays 72 in 2022-23) – none of this matters when three-fourths of your league qualifies for a postseason. It doesn’t.

It’s not about the regular season. Hell, it may not very be about the postseason. It’s everyone gets a chance to play (unless you are one of the eight teams that don’t make it), good luck trying to sell a season ticket package on that pitch. “Well, everyone made it in the postseason last year EXCEPT us, but trust me, you are going to want to spend your money on us this season!!!”

You know what it is? It’s a participation trophy league now for grinding out a 68-76 game schedule this year and being essentially at or near average or better. Finish slightly below .500? Here’s a playoff spot!

Say you are a team that is a 6 seed in the Atlantic and you play 76 games and you win the Calder Cup, but in doing so every playoff series went the maximum allowable games. (27) – that is 103 games in one season. That’s insane. Or say you are that same team that runs up against a Pacific Division #1 seed that didn’t need as many games to get there. They are rested by, say half the amount of games in playoffs plus the 68 they played in the regular season. That’s 82 games. 103 to 82. Not fair.

Sure, it will help the Penguins, who I project to be a five or six seed this upcoming year, but if they finish sub .500, get dusted in two games in a playoff series, can you really call them a playoff team?

I don’t know, and I am getting to the point where I may not care to know anymore.

Enjoy your August.

2021-22 AHL Schedule Released

Mark the rest of your calendars.

At 1 p.m. Friday, the AHL announced the playing schedule for all 31 teams. Yes, all 31 teams will indeed be playing the 2021-22 season. Not everyone will play the same amount of games (that’s not till next year) so everything is ranked by points percentage this season.

May as well keep with the tradition of the Q&A I always do with these silly things. Here we go:

League release here, Penguins release here.

1) Do you have a schedule matrix of opponents? Anyone in the Conference we are not playing?

The good news is that we play everyone in the Eastern Conference, including Laval, Belleville and Toronto who the Penguins haven’t played in a few years. The bad news is that the Penguins are back to only playing in Conference teams, so no Rockford, Grand Rapids or Milwaukee.

 

2) Longest road trip? Longest home stand?

Longest homestead is five straight in the middle of March. Four straight in January and February too. Longest road trip is no more than four in a row, once in November and then get this, once at the end of March all in one week.

3) How many three in threes?

These things are probably going away for good when everyone gets to 72 games next year, but the answer is six. They are scattered throughout the schedule.

4) Can I borrow your highlighter? I want to circle and highlight all the Sunday and worknight home games!

You are a funny blog reader. There are five Sunday home games this season, nine Wednesday night games and one weird post Christmas Monday game with Hershey.

5) Show me more charts!

Penguins didn’t do any in their release for me to cut and paste so my tweets will have to do.

Interesting to note that the Saturday home games, all of them, start at 6:05. From the Coal Street release:

“We made a conscious effort to move our Saturday home games to an hour earlier in order to accommodate our many families who come to the games with young children,” said Penguins CEO Jeff Barrett. “Down the line, we hope to have the opportunity to host some post-game events for these nights, too. Fans should stay tuned on that front.”

6) Any, “I have to close the door and act busy at work” dates on the calendar?

Nope. The Penguins play no afternoon weekday games.

7) The All Star Classic, are they doing that this year?

Laval was supposed to get it last year, but that all got cancelled and postponed to this year. The Rocket will host it February 6 and 7 in 2022.

8) Anything else I need to know?

Wear a mask and get vaccinated so we don’t have a repeat of last years debacle?

That’s pretty much it, though. Once you’ve seen one schedule release, you have seen them all. There is nothing special with these unless they start spicing things up and add more diverse opponent schedule. Cut four games with Hershey and Lehigh Valley off and hit a few Central Division teams and maybe a (gasp!) Pacific Division road trip. But it’s the same song and dance every season.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. I have a cigar to light now.

Home Opener Opponent Announced, Full Schedule Friday

Mark your calendars.

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins announced Wednesday that their opponent for their home opener on October 16 will be the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Time of the game is going to be 6:05. I don’t know why the change, maybe a Penn State Football thing or something, who knows.

The AHL announced all other 30 AHL teams home openers here. The Penguins aren’t on any one else’s home opener release. The League opens October 15, the Penguins play October 16, meaning they could play at home on Sunday, October 17 or on the road that day. The Pens are one of a handful of teams still playing 76 games before the mandated 72 game schedule for all teams in 2022-23. Let’s hope not and they minimize the Sunday and weekday home games. A straight schedule of all Friday and Saturday games, I propose!

Full schedule Friday. More undoubtedly then.

2021-22 Divisional Alignment / Schedule Quirks Announced 6/7

First bit of worthwhile news in what seems like forever came out of Springfield today. Divisional alignments, schedule formats and options as well as a teaser with playoffs announced today.

Let’s get into the division first.

Pens are back in the Atlantic Division with the following teams:

Hershey
Lehigh Valley
Bridgeport
Hartford
Springfield
Providence
Charlotte

The League is bringing ALL of the teams that play in the AHL in 2022-23 to a 72 game schedule. The Pacific Division and their 68 game exception? Gone. But that is next year and not this coming year.

The AHL is giving teams the option to play either, 76, 72 or 68 games in 2021-22. The Pacific Division will play 68 games. The Penguins are among 10 teams which will remain on the 76 game format this season. Divisional foes Hershey, Lehigh Valley and Springfield are on the 76 game train. The other divisional foes (Bridgeport, Hartford, Providence and Charlotte) are electing to play 72 games.

This means three things.

  1. The Sunday games as well as the weekday games are staying for now.
  2. Teams will be ranked by points percentage.
  3. You are probably going to see more of your 76 game brethren than you are your 72 game brethren, which means get ready for 10+ with Hershey and Lehigh Valley as per usual.

Color me surprised that the AHL was able to convince a) the Pacific Division teams (which consist of nearly a third of the AHL at this point and will likely balloon to 10 teams when Palm Springs comes in next season) to play more games and b) the traditional heavyweight teams like Hershey, Chicago, Milwaukee, Grand Rapids and others to accept less dates next season. I think that teams electing to play 76 games willingly this season were a hard no on accepting less games, but with a league make up of 10 teams (eventually with the addition of Palm Springs) and all the other teams electing to play 72, majority rules.

Hey, if it means less Sunday and Wednesday games, I am all for it.

The League also announced plans to expand the amount of teams which will qualify for playoffs next year, but details on that will be announced later, most likely when they announce a playing schedule later in the summer.

Woo, that’s a lot to cover on this hot day in June. Enjoy your summer.

Finally Over — Pens LOSE 5-2

Thank god this “season” is over.

Never have I been more disinterested in a feeble of an attempt to play hockey. First, you only play four opponents, in front of no one, have a training camp delayed, other games delayed or rescheduled and then go in with an inexperienced team which is by some miracle a .500 team.

I really don’t feel like recapping this. Brett Brochu made his debut in goal for the Penguins in Hershey. He is the youngest player ever to play for the Pens at 18 years and some months. Hershey played a man short, were busted up and really it felt like a preseason game.

Hershey runs the Pens up to a 3-0 lead. Wilkes-Barre gets two back to make it a 3-2 game and make it interesting for a bit. They get in a few scuffles (more so than usual) and Hershey gets two more for a 5-2 final.

You expect better by coming and reading the blog, you really do and I didn’t give it to you this season because I just wasn’t interested. There would be several times this season I would just scan Twitter and half ass a game story off of that, vs. watching hem play this season. For that I apologize.

Better luck next year, I suppose. Hopefully under better circumstances.

Have a good summer.

GAMEDAY: @ Hershey 5/16

Who: Hershey Bears

Where: Giant Center

When: 3:00 p.m.

Last Game: Last night in Allentown the Penguins won 2-1 in overtime. Alex D’Orio made 23 saves, Kasper Bjorkqvist scored his first goal of the season for the game winner….For Hershey, they hosted Binghamton yesterday and won 3-2. Connor McMichael had a goal and an assist in the win. With the win, the Bears won the North Division title, despite not even playing Syracuse, Rochester or Utica.

Last Meeting: May 1 in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins lost 4-3 in overtime. Sam Miletic had a goal and an assist for the Pens but Connor McMichael scored in overtime to win it for the Bears.

Record: For WBS: 13-12-4-2 (32 pts.) — For HER: 23-7-2-0 (48 pts.) — UPDATE RECORD AND POINTS

Referees: Jordan Deckard / Rob Hennessey

Linesmen: Tom DellaFranco / Tom George

Why You Should Care: Last game of the season for both teams and you want your team to win their last game heading into the summer.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV

Better Effort — Pens WIN 2-1 (OT)

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Much better effort the last time these teams met this past Sunday in a scrappy, tight affair.

Phantoms get a goal in the third to force overtime, but Kasper Bjorkqvist’s goal in overtime wins it for the Penguins in the second to last game of the season. Pens win 2-1 in overtime. They play in Hershey Sunday afternoon.

Here’s how they lined up.

First Period: Jon Gruden on the back door past the half way point of the first on a nice feed by Nick Schilkey.

Pens outshot the Phantoms 13-6 in the period.

Second Period: No scoring, but there was this kick ass save by D’Orio in the dying embers of the period.

Third Period: Phantoms really poured it on, outshot the Pens 12-3 and Ryan Fitzgerald finished this one off to tie it at one.

Alex D’Orio has emerged as the goalie of the future for the Penguins. Remember Emil Larmi? Yeah, me either. Shane Starrett started hurt, played in a few games, got shelled and was never heard from again. Yes, Larmi, Starrett and D’Orio all played in front of this tinpot defense, but D’Orio made the best of a bad situation and has him set up as the #1 goalie come the Fall.

Overtime: About half way through, Bjorkqvist puts away the rebound of a Jordy Bellerive attempt. Ballgame.

Three Stars: 3) Alex D’Orio (23 saves) 2) Ryan Fitzgerald (goal) 1) Kasper Bjorkqvist (goal)

The Good: I think they have a good base of what will work and what won’t come the Fall.

The Bad: Have paid zero attention to the League this year, but the Penguins have not shutout a team yet this season. Almost had one tonight.

Turning Point: Overtime game winning goals are the easy obvious choice to Bjorkqvist’s goal gets it here.

Season finale Sunday afternoon in Hershey.

Let’s Go Pens!