Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: The AHL

Friday’s Pens / Rocket Game Postponed

And here I thought penguins thrived in weather like we are experiencing. Guess not.

Pens only trip up to Canada. Only other windows I can think of is when they are in Rochester the week of January 23, maybe make up the date sometime around then (Pens are in Rochester on Wednesday January 25 and have the makeup game against Utica on the 24th. Laval is home that whole time and can make up the game easily then, they can make it up on Sunday or Monday)

More as it comes, but they are done now until after Christmas for a December 27 home game against the Hershey Bears.

I Kind of Miss Binghamton – Pens / Comets Resumes January 24

Used to be the Penguins would always, like always be in New York when Binghamton was in the league. A 90 minute trip up north on I-81.

The Penguins aren’t in New York again until, get this, January.

So it’s natural that the day before (a Wednesday, January 25 game in Rochester) that the Pens and Comets resume their game which was postponed Monday because of a power outage on Tuesday, January 24 at 7 p.m.

Miss you, Bingo.

2022 AHL Preview

Decided to wing it this year and do a full 32 team AHL Preview. Stripped down from other years, just blurbs on teams and when these teams play the Penguins. Let’s start in the Pacific Division and work our way eastward. The Penguins don’t play any of these teams and probably never will.

As an added twist, I provided finishing order for each division as well. Let’s come back in April and see how wrong I was! I also identify a divisional dark horse. I’m more confident with this then I am with finishing order, for obvious reasons.

Pacific Division

Coachella Valley Firebirds: The Leagues newest team playing in the bloated, ten team Pacific Division and won’t play an actual home game until December. Should have some names fairly familiar to the Penguins as Seattle’s AHL players were with Charlotte in a split affiliation last year. Dan Bylsma is the coach, a name really familiar here, so who knows how good they can be.

Calgary Wranglers: Moved from Stockton to Calgary. Are a really good, deep team who pushed eventual winner Chicago in the Calder Cup Playoffs last year. Should, hypothetically, pick up where they left off and contend again this season.

Colorado Eagles: Surprisingly (or maybe not so) stayed put in the Pacific Division and didn’t (like I expected) move to the Central Division, where I think they would have a better shot at (conceivably) winning the division, because I don’t see it happening to them this year in the Pacific.

Tucson Roadrunners: The other team I was expecting to jump with Colorado over to the Central, was one of the eight teams to miss playoffs so it’s been a long summer for them. Only way is up, but the Pacific is a vipers pit, so good luck.

San Jose Barracuda: Have a brand new arena that is very, very nice, at least from the pictures and stories I have read on it. Are the 2024 All Star hosts. Still projected to be mediocre to bad, but at least it’s sunny all the time in San Jose and rarely rains.

Ontario Reign: Will probably contend with Calgary or some other surprise team in the Pacific for the division crown. With healthy doses of Tucson, San Jose and an unknown Coachella Valley side, it’s easy to see why.

San Diego Gulls: Retooled with some decent signings in the offseason and have sure fire AHL Hall of Fame head coach Roy Sommer running things this season. Don’t expect the Gulls to be a doormat for other teams this season. We may have a dark horse team on our hands here.

Henderson Silver Knights: Quiet offseason which, by all accounts is probably fine but other teams improved, reloaded or flat out got better. Will it be enough?

Bakersfield Condors: See Henderson above, of the five California teams aren’t the first best, probably aren’t the second best and likely not the third. Somewhere in between fourth and last, likely. Could be a long year.

Abbotsford Canucks: Lotsa trips to Calgary are on deck for the Canucks, which probably means lots of L’s. Couple that with a super division that is the 10 team, mega chungus Pacific Division, and you are probably clinching a playoff berth on the final weekend of the regular season this year.

Central Division

Chicago Wolves: I don’t think they repeat. They got raided in the offseason, but will probably still contend.

Iowa Wild: Missed playoffs last year but I don’t see that happening this season. Could play dark horse but Bill Guerin is still GM of Minnesota, so maybe you can manage to mess up a free lunch after all.

Grand Rapids Griffins: Didn’t make playoffs last year and by all accounts, could repeat that impressive feat again this season.

Manitoba Moose: Just have to play better than the two worst teams in the division and they are a playoff team. Simple, right? I think they are better than Grand Rapids and marginally better than say Rockford and Texas, so they could be a safe bet to return to the playoffs again.

Milwaukee Admirals: Had a pretty solid offseason signings wise. Primed to make a run in the Central, considering other teams lack of bigger name signings and some teams getting picked apart in the summer.

Rockford IceHogs: Should improve over last season and are probably a better dark horse candidate than Iowa.

Texas Stars: Should show better than their fifth place finish last season. I have them as a top three team, mixed in somewhere with Milwaukee and one of either Rockford or Chicago.

Central Division

Note: Pens play everyone in this division at least once, with those games identified in bold.

Rochester Americans: Bland offseason for Rochester. Should be OK though, just not a division contender.

WBS: @ 1/25, vs. 3/17

Belleville Senators: Decent upgrades for Belleville. Could contend as the dark horse divisional winner. We remain Troy Mann stans on this blog.

WBS: @ 12/21, vs. 2/25

Cleveland Monsters: Going through the lists of who got who in this division, there isn’t a lot of there there with a lot of teams. Cleveland is one of them. Could either be a boom or bust, and with the Monsters putrid showing last year, leaning towards the latter.

WBS: vs. 10/26, vs. 12/9, @ 3/4, @ 3/5

Toronto Marlies: I mean I don’t think that the Marlies will miss the playoffs this upcoming season, like they did last year. Decent enough signings to push them to a possible top five finish.

WBS: @ 12/20, vs. 3/8

Syracuse Crunch: I like their upgrades at all positions. They will be a hard team to play against, as history has shown.

WBS: vs. 1/18, @ 2/24, @ 3/18, vs. 4/1

Utica Comets: I see them as a playoff team, just not one which tore through opponents and won the division going away type like last year.

WBS: @ 10/17, vs. 3/11

Laval Rocket: Had them pegged as the division winner last year and that didn’t pan out but they were the last North Division team standing last year so what the hell and let’s pick them to finish first again this season.

WBS: vs.10/21, @ 12/23

Atlantic Division

Hershey Bears: Loaded up like the Bears always do. And not just big names, but really solid depth signings when the inevitable call ups happen. I think they contend for the division this season.

WBS: @ 10/29, vs. 11/5, @ 11/6, vs. 11/18, @ 11/29, @ 12/4, vs. 12/16, vs. 12/17, vs. 12/27, @ 1/11, vs. 2/15, @ 3/1

Charlotte Checkers: Now on an island all their own with Seattle packing up shop and moving their AHLers to sunny California. Sole Florida affiliate now. I think they are a playoff team, but the confidence level on this call is low.

WBS: @ 11/21, @ 11/23, vs. 1/4, vs. 1/6, @ 1/14, @ 1/15, vs. 4/5, vs. 4/15

Springfield Thunderbirds: Calder Cup runners up got raided a bit with Sam Anas defecting for in division rival Hershey, though should still contend. We waited for the bottom to fall out last season and that never came. Does it this season?

WBS: vs. 11/12, @ 11/26, vs. 11/1, @ 11/3

Hartford Wolf Pack: The most improved team in the division and I think in the entire league. Big off-season get in CJ Smith from Chicago, if he doesn’t stick with the Rangers he’s a point machine at this level. Wolf Pack are a dark horse division contender and a team who will do a complete 180 and should compete all season long.

WBS: @ 10/22, vs. 11/11, vs. 1/7, @ 2/4, vs. 3/26, @ 4/14

Bridgeport Islanders: Shocked us all as the 6 seed ousting the 3 seed Providence Bruins in last years playoffs. I think the Islanders are a solid choice to show better than the 6 seed again this season, but when you play division heavies like Hartford and Springfield 100 times in a season and sprinkle in visits with perennial heavies like Hershey and the Pens, trouble can befell Bridgeport in a hurry.

WBS: @ 11/19, vs. 12/3, @ 1/21, vs. 1/28, vs. 2/19, @ 4/8

Lehigh Valley Phantoms: Laughingstock of the division last season with all that firepower. How in the hell did Ian Laperriere keep his job? Phantoms are back to give it another go, retooled. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic or will they contend in the division like we all expected them to last year?

WBS: vs. 10/15, @ 10/28, vs. 11/25, @ 12/31, vs. 1/20, @ 1/27, @ 2/18, vs. 2/22, vs. 3/10, @ 3/19, vs. 3/25, @ 3/31

Providence Bruins: So as I am putting these things together I am going on the individual team websites to see who signed. Uh, I think the Bruins are still on summer vacation (kinda like me) because all I saw was one signing and that’s all. Boston signed a bunch of guys but they either either draftees or have been with the team prior. So that probably means that the P-Bruins win the Calder Cup this year.

WBS: @ 10/23, vs. 12/30, @ 2/10, vs. 2/11, vs. 3/29, @ 4/7

Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins: Do I think they improved? Slightly. Do I think they got worse? Slightly. JD Forrest took this team to a 4 seed last season and they ousted their biggest rival in Hershey. The remaining core for the most part is there. I think they upgraded slightly in goal (Tokarski) on defense (resigning Reinke, inking Jon Lizotte and Xavier Ouellet) but downgraded in the grit / toughness department with the loss of Jordy Bellerive to Lehigh Valley. Sam Poulin and Nathan Legare should be around for the most part and you hope they don’t hit a sophomore slump. Will give Hershey fits and what I really want to see is how they stack up against Hartford out of the gate on Oct 22.

My very wrong predictions:

1) Ontario
2) Colorado
3) Calgary
4) San Diego
5) Bakersfield
6) Coachella Valley
7) Abbotsford

8) San Jose
9) Tucson
10) Henderson

1) Milwaukee
2) Chicago
3) Texas
4) Rockford
5) Iowa

6) Manitoba
7) Grand Rapids

1) Laval
2) Syracuse
3) Utica
4) Belleville
5) Rochester

6) Toronto
7) Cleveland

1) Hartford
2) Hershey
3) Springfield
4) Wilkes-Barre
5) Bridgeport
6) Charlotte

7) Lehigh Valley
8) Providence

If you have a team going tomorrow, best of luck. I will be back here again Friday morning with the first Weekend Setup of the season previewing Lehigh Valley and Utica. More then.

Just an FYI…

I’m skipping preseason entirely this go around for a number of reasons this year.

1) A 10:30 a.m. preseason game, let alone the first game played this year does nothing for me. A midweek game tailored for kids (school day game) isn’t my cup of tea. Plus I have a lot going on work wise, so it’s out.

2) Last camping trip of the season is scheduled for next weekend, so Friday and next Sunday are out.

3) Midweek road game in Allentown next week is usually a dress rehearsal for the fringe guys and a warmup for the regulars. They don’t televise these and so it’s a pass for me.

Pens socials should have it all covered for you if your itching for coverage. I’ll be back with a preview of everything when I get back from my camping trip. I think I’m running a league wide preview and will have the weekend setup for the opener against the Phantoms and the Monday road game in Utica.

Anyone have six more weeks of summer they can let me borrow? No? Damn. Talk to you in about ten-ish days.

2022-23 AHL Schedule Released

Ho hum with these anymore.

League release here. Penguins release here.

TL;DR every team in the Eastern Conference like last year, Hershey and Lehigh Valley 12 times each. You see one schedule release, you see them all. But, for posterity, let’s do the thing.

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

2) Longest road trip? Longest home stand?

Four game home stand in March, spanning a week. No more than three games on the road. Charlotte trip around Thanksgiving, a Canada trip around Christmas and the other Charlotte trip in January.

3) How many three in threes?

Two. One in October. One in March. The benefit of a 72 game schedule.

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

Two Sunday home games. One in February and one in March. Ten Wednesday games.

5) Show me more charts!

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

Nope.

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

Laval. February 5 and 6, provided COVID doesn’t derail it like it has the last two seasons.

8) Anything else I need to know?

The Saturday home games start at 6:05 again. I don’t mind it, but they started it last year with something in mind with the earlier start and never did anything with it. But the 6:05 starts on Saturday home games remain a thing.

9) Playoff structure?

From the League release, cited above, it will stay the same. 23 teams make it.

The playoff field will include the top six finishers in the eight-team Atlantic Division, the top five finishers each in the seven-team North and Central Divisions, and the top seven teams in the 10-team Pacific Division. First Round match-ups will be best-of-three series; the two highest seeds in the Atlantic, the three highest seeds in each of the North and Central, and the first-place team in the Pacific will receive byes into the best-of-five Division Semifinals, with the First Round winners re-seeded in each division. The Division Finals will also be best-of-five series, followed by best-of-seven Conference Finals and a best-of-seven Calder Cup Finals series.

10) You mentioned preseason games yesterday. Where are they?

A Wednesday morning preseason game against Hershey? Oof.

Schedule Tomorrow – Summer Vacation

AHL schedule will be released on Thursday.

It’s the same thing, different year with these things. Only difference this year is that all AHL teams are playing 72 games.

For the Penguins, they will host the (you guessed it) Lehigh Valley Phantoms on October 15.

Included in that release is the mention of preseason games that will be played as well.

In past years, the Pens weren’t the opponent for any other team and their home opener. Not this year.

You might be wondering why a Monday.

Makes sense for them.

Pens aren’t done being other teams home openers.

If I see any more additional teams tweet who they are playing and if it includes the Penguins, I’ll edit this space. Usually the AHL adds a link of all the home openers in the evening.

My question is whether they get everyone in the Eastern Conference like they did last year. Also, what will the Eastern Conference look like? There hasn’t been any mention of what the divisional alignment will look like for 2022-23. How many games with Hershey and Lehigh Valley?

I’ll be back at some point Thursday to break it all down for you.

Oh, and in case you are wondering where the blog has been and why I haven’t updated anything? I’m loving summer too much. Here’s a link to the offseason signings made by Coal Street so far this year.

Penguins / Thunderbirds Series Snap

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins outlasted the Hershey Bears in the best of three First Round Series over the weekend. The Penguins advanced in three games, in thrilling fashion after blowing a two goal lead late in Game 3. Alexander Nylader, who came over from the Rockford IceHogs in a midseason trade, scored the overtime game winning goal propelling the Penguins into a series with the two seed Springfield Thunderbirds. It was the first series win for the Penguins since 2016, when they ousted the Providence Bruins, but were beaten in overtime in Game 7 by Travis Boyd and the aforementioned Bears.

Springfield, meanwhile, earned a First Round bye on account of finishing in the top two in the Atlantic Division, thereby getting the second highest seeded remaining team to make it out of the First Round. The Thunderbirds have not played since April 29, blanking the Providence Bruins 3-0. They come into the playoffs on the heels of back to back to back shutouts of their opponents.

Infographic time. If you can’t make it out on the screen you are looking at the blog on, click the image and it should enlarge for you. The infographic also has the series schedule for you as well.

It’s going to be Tommy Nappier for the Penguins again in net and most likely Charlie Lindgren, whom the Penguins did not see in the regular season at all in the nets for the Thunderbirds. Nappier’s backup to start the series is likely to be Samuel Harvey, until Tristan Jarry heals up from his foot injury and the Penguins get Alex D’Orio back. Lindgren is going to likely be backed up by Joel Hofer (or vice versa) so it’s going the Thunderbirds way in goal in this department.

What the Penguins need to do to beat the Thunderbirds: Stay out of the box. Springfield’s power play is lethal with names like James Neal, Sam Anas, Matthew Peca. Despite this, it has run into problems playing against the Penguins as the infographic above shows. Yet, that is fire I do not want to play with. Also, if the Penguins want to beat the Thunderbirds, they are going to have to beat them once at the Mass Mutual Center since it’s best of five now and the Pens do not have home ice.

What the Thunderbirds need to do to beat the Penguins: Defend home ice, get your power play going, be the better team in all areas. Look at the infographic again. Springfield’s top three scorers have more points than the Penguins highest scorer and this isn’t even factoring in James Neal who joined Springfield around mid-year and missed some games due to injury. However, despite all that, this is a matchup problem for the Thunderbirds. They were Aces against everyone else, but the Penguins who were the ones who gave them problems.

X-factor for Wilkes-Barre: Radim Zohorna. Three games, five points for the Penguins in the Hershey series.

X-factor for Springfield: Either Charlie Lindgren, who had impressive numbers for the Thunderbirds in goal or James Neal, an elite NHL sniper playing at the AHL level. The Penguins haven’t seen Lindgren yet this season, so he’s a big, big unknown.

What they are saying:

If you see any other predictions, leave them in the comments below.

I still like the Penguins in five. Here’s why. Foregone conclusion that they probably lose Game 1 tonight against the Thunderbirds based off of the amount of games, the type of games and the travel to and from Hershey, Wilkes-Barre and Springfield which they endured. The Penguins win Game 2. It comes back to Wilkes-Barre where they split and Springfield wins one in overtime or something in Game 4 forcing it back to Massachusetts. Head to head, I like the Penguins chances. I’m not confident that it goes the distance here because I could absolutely see a scenario where Springfield drops both at home and the Penguins either sweep or finish the Thunderbirds in four. Vice versa on that too, if the Thunderbirds power play stays hot and gets ripping against the Pens and Lindgren becomes an impenetrable wall for the Pens, it easily could be Springfield in a sweep or moving on in five or less games.

Still, styles make fights and that will be evident in the series. A series which in my opinion still favors the Penguins, all considered.

Who is running the show? Games 1 and 2 officiating crews are out. Nothing for Game 3 yet. It will be Jeremy Tufts and Conor O’Donnell with Justin Johnson and Brent Colby on the lines in Game 1 and Casey Terreri and Conor O’Donnell with Justin Johnson and Kevin Briganti on the lines for Game 2.

More tonight after Game 1.