Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: The AHL

American Hockey League Postpones Season Until May

If you followed it on Twitter Monday, they were on again, off again. At 5 p.m. Wilkes-Barre time on Monday, Springfield bought itself time.

AHL’s season pause will run out to May. Players are heading home.

Delaying until May buys the League about six weeks to come up with some type of contingency plan which still ultimately may end up in season cancellation. You still have 200+ regular season games left to play, plus playoffs. That is, unless you truncate what’s left of the season and either go straight into playoffs and come up with a format that runs a Calder Cup Final out to mid-June, best case.

It’s a bandaid on a bullet wound. The world as you know it has changed. If you haven’t been told to work from home yet, you will be, like I was on Monday. You are home from school and don’t know when you are going to go back. The last thing on anyones minds really should be when something as insignificant as sports are going to restart, let alone minor leagues.

Things can change and when they say that this situation with COVID-19 is fluid and literally changes every hour it’s true. Example, just last week I was still coming in to work and six of my colleagues volunteered to work from home due to this. Today, they scrapped those plans entirely and everyone was instructed to work from home. Maybe the worst of the pandemic happens in a week to ten days and we slowly work out of it and get the country and life as we all know it back online. But I just don’t see it happening, not when it comes to the resumption of play for the 2019-20 AHL season.

More, as it comes when it comes. Stay healthy.

American Hockey League Suspends Season 3/12

Thursday afternoon after a Board of Governors call which wrapped up around 3:30 p.m. Wilkes-Barre time, the American Hockey League announced that they have suspended the 2019-2020 season indefinitely due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 (Corona) virus.

The statement from Springfield reads as follows…

Here is the official statement from Coal Street:

Expand to see the whole statement in its entirety.

Some teams were getting out ahead of the virus and cancelling player appearances, some arenas were taking precautions adding extra hand sanitizer stations and some were even considering playing behind closed doors with no fans in attendance.

The NBA, Major League Soccer, the NHL, MLB and even some college leagues had all previously announced pauses or suspensions to their seasons. In MLS it’s 30 days, baseball is paused for two weeks. Everywhere else there isn’t a timetable.

There are a little over 200 regular season games left in the AHL. The regular season was set to end on Saturday, April 11. Frankly I don’t see how you are going to wedge the remaining month of games (Wilkes-Barre has 13 games left in the regular season) into a window of the middle of April to say the start of or middle of May. Playoffs, for as long as they go (Calder Cup Finals wrap in mid-June in some years) you are looking at the middle of July if you are to play all the games and hold a standard playoff series.

That’s on the assumption that this virus is contained to a point to where you aren’t cancelling sports.

That’s also on the assumption that teams can even reschedule regular season games in buildings where they aren’t the primary tenant of said buildings. A Tuesday at 1 p.m. start in late April? A 10 a.m. Saturday game because of a concert later that night in early June?

On top of that, what’s the quality of play going to be like playing on an ice surface when it’s 80 degrees outside in some areas? You are attempting to play a winter sport in the summertime.

No, thank you.

It’s a developing situation, one that changes every hour it seems, but my best suggestion is to simply cancel the remainder of the regular season and who ever is top four in their respective divisions (the Penguins are not one of the teams, currently) make playoffs, whenever playoffs start, if you can even get the season going again.

Stay tuned, I guess, but we all just were handed a lot of free time for the foreseeable future.

AHL Power Rankings: Early March 2020

Some changes and shake ups in the top five this week with a pair of Atlantic Division teams set to battle for the top of the division but it’s Belleville who holds on to their top spot in this weeks version of the Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings.

Binghamton makes a jump into the top five this week and Iowa hangs around also. Pop past the Wild if you didn’t link in direct to see where your favorite team ended up this week.

1

Last Games: UTI 6 @ BEL 3, MB 4 @ BEL 5 (OT), LAV 4 @ BEL 1, BEL 5 @ CLE 1, BEL 4 @ CLE 1, TOR 4 @ BEL 8
Senators hold the top spot for another go around here on the Power Rankings. Remarkable work done by Troy Mann and his crew to turn the race to the North Division crown into a runaway.

n/a

Next Games: vs. ROC 3/6, vs. ROC 3/7, @ LAV 3/11, @ UTI 3/13, @ SYR 3/14
Record: 38-17-4-1

2

Last Games: HER 1 @ WBS 2, HER 5 @ BRI 4 (SO), CHA 1 @ HER 6, WBS 1 @ HER 5, CHA 6 @ HER 3
Hershey’s going to get company quick in the form of Charlotte and/or Providence quickly. The race for the lead in the Atlantic may become a three horse race.

+3

Next Games: @ HFD 3/6, @ HFD 3/7, @ PRO 3/8, vs. TOR 3/13, vs. WBS 3/14, vs. LAV 3/18
Record: 35-18-3-3

3

Last Games: CHA 1 @ BNG 2, CHA 6 @ BNG 3, HFD 3 @ BNG 5, TOR 4 @ BNG 5, BNG 1 @ BRI 0
Quite the turnaround in the Southern Tier, but the Devils have little room for error still out of the playoff picture.

+4

Next Games: vs. WBS 3/6, vs. LV 3/7, @ WBS 3/8, @ ROC 3/11, @ LAV 3/13, @ LAV 3/14, vs. LV 3/18
Record: 30-24-4-0

4

Last Games: SPR 4 @ PRO 7, WBS 1 @ PRO 2, PRO 6 @ WBS 2, PRO 3 @ SPR 1, PRO 3 @ HFD 2
Eight straight wins at a time where playoff jockeying is so important. On this trajectory the next time we do this the Bruins could very well be tops in the Atlantic.

+5

Next Games: vs. SPR 3/6, @ SPR 3/7, vs. HER 3/8, @ HFD 3/11, @ CHA 3/14, @ CHA 3/15
Record: 33-18-3-3

5

Last Games: IA 3 @ TEX 4, IA 4 @ TEX 0, CHI 2 @ IA 5, IA 2 @ STK 0, IA 1 @ SJ 2 (OT), IA 1 @ SJ 5
It isn’t out of the realm of the reasonable anymore that Iowa may catch Milwaukee for the best in the Central, but that loss in San Jose Wednesday stinks.

-3

Next Games: @ MB 3/7, @ MB 3/8, @ GR 3/11, vs. SA 3/15, vs. SA 3/18
Record: 36-17-4-3

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Weekend Update 3/1

I took the weekend off because of my cat and stayed off Twitter so I apologize if you rely on me to give you updates about the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. Friday night I was in New York State and Saturday night I was home relaxing and decompressing and quite frankly wanting nothing to do with tweeting.

I didn’t watch a second of the Syracuse game Friday because of my travels, but watched a good portion of Saturday’s game. I can tell you that the Penguins were more competitive just based off of what I read on Twitter and elsewhere on Friday than they were on Saturday. I don’t think it’s a situation of giving Hershey the division and the odds on lock in the Calder Cup Finals, but when you constantly turn the puck over and don’t look like a cohesive unit 50+ games into the season, any team will look like a Cup contender.

They lost Friday 4-3. The Penguins were up 2-1, then got it to 3-3 before Alexander Volkov’s goal with under four minutes to play in the third period gave the Crunch the lead for good. Alex Barre-Boulet stole the show, scoring :11 into the game and netting a hat trick with two other goals.

Here’s how they lined up Friday.

Phil Varone made his debut and immediately made an impact. The power play clicked twice and Varone assisted on both goals. Varone had a goal taken away on account of a kick in that was taken away on video review.

Riley Barber had a nice goal that put the Penguins up 2-1 in the first on a power play goal.

Cole Cassels and Phil Varone had the assists there.

Saturday, they were expecting a different result. They played good Friday in Syracuse and were looking to carry the momentum into Hershey Saturday.

It didn’t work.

Here’s how they lined up first and foremost.

No Niclas Almari for both games this weekend. He’s been a sore spot, but I don’t think it would have mattered Saturday. They were on a whole, bad in every way Saturday night.

They went down 4-0. Garret Pilon scored on a breakaway goal off of a gaffe. Daniel Sprong made his Bears debut and scored on a fluke of a goal that clattered around in the air before going in the net. Mike Sgarbossa scores into an empty net when Sprong hit him with a no look behind the back pass. Sgarbossa’s first game back in a while too which made it 3-0. Philippe Maillet scored to make it 4-0 before David Warsofsky connected with a power play goal that made it 4-1 with and assist to Phil Varone before Sgarbossa and Sprong connected again to make it 5-1. Hershey let off from there and protected it’s four goal lead.

That’s basically it in one paragraph. Everything that could go wrong went wrong Saturday.

They have a week to get it together. They head to Binghamton Friday before returning home to face Bridgeport who always plays them tough and host the Devils again for a Sunday matinee.

Some solace as Springfield is struggling just as much and have lost two straight and are on 62 points with the Penguins.

The bad news is fourth place Charlotte is at least four points up with two games in hand after Sunday’s game in Hershey.

We will get back to regularly tweeting the games next weekend dependent on the health of the little guy who is improving.

AHL trade deadline is Monday. I don’t expect the Penguins to be active, but stranger things have happened. Check in Monday for an update there if there is one to be had.

AHL Power Rankings this Thursday but for anything breaking before.

2020 NHL Trade Deadline Recap(ish)

On a day like today, the NHL trade deadline, there are winners and losers. That also will trickle down to the AHL farm clubs. Let’s take a look at some of the contending Atlantic Division teams.

In sum, the losers in the race for Atlantic Division playoffs appear to be the Charlotte Checkers.

This is coupled with losing both goalies to recall yesterday and the trades from last week.

That trade would come at a cost, again directly affecting Charlotte.

The winners appear to be the Springfield Thunderbirds.

Djuse has 29 points with the Texas Stars.

It’s a direct blow to the Charlotte Checkers by the team pursuing them for the final spot in the playoffs that the Checkers currently occupy in Springfield. Here’s a look at the standings real quick.

4. Charlotte (64 points, 53 games played)
5. Springfield (62 points, 56 games played)
6. PENGUINS (62 points, 56 games played)

I’m kind of burying the real lede here and that’s what happened today with Pittsburgh and how it directly affects Wilkes-Barre. First, the direct impact.

Agozzino was placed on waivers Sunday at noon. That was for purposes of having him able to be assigned to Wilkes-Barre after the NHL deadline. Always a risk and there is always a possibility that a guy gets claimed when put on and now it has happened twice to the Penguins with Agozzino now and Stefan Noesen earlier in the season.

Out the door, no direct impacts to the Wilkes-Barre roster. In fact, there was this later Monday afternoon…

Lafferty and Angello were straight up assignments. With those two coupled with Phil Varone and Riley Barber, the Penguins are shaping up to be a solid team. But a contending team or a playoff team? Anyone’s guess.

Zach Trotman will likely be back down at some point, most likely after the Penguins California trip, which is later this week.

Barring any injuries, of course.

Our friends about an hour south with a splash of their own as well.

 

The Big Bear Machine, already warm and leading the Atlantic Division, getting hot.

That’s all really. Lehigh Valley made a few moves with TJ Brennan going to Chicago in exchange for a guy that they assigned to ECHL Reading. Brennan hasn’t played in a while and worked his way out of the locker room in Lehigh Valley. Again, a Phantoms team that stockpiled talent still only has one puck on the ice for the players to access. All of those players on that team is bound to have problems and you are seeing that with how far back the Phantoms are (in seventh place) in the standings.

More Wednesday unless there are notes for an entry Tuesday.

Blandisi and Lucchini Traded for Phil Varone and Riley Barber 2/20

We have seen this fish before.

If you have been around this blog long enough have been a fan of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins then you remember the names vividly, Barber with Hershey and Varone with Lehigh Valley. Varone was AHL MVP in 2018.

So proven goal scorers and point producers at the AHL level. Barber with Laval this season has 31 points in 39 games and nine NHL games (Montreal is the NHL affiliate of Laval) this year. He had 31 goals for a stacked Bears team last season. Barber is also an automatic 20 goal scorer.

Phil Varone had 70 points with Lehigh Valley in ’17-18 in his MVP season and was a point off Chris Terry of Laval that year for the point race. Varone this season with the Rocket has 27 games played, 4 goals and 10 assists. No NHL games this season.

Laval was in Providence Sunday and Mark Divver, one of the hardest working guys in the AHL and in Rhode Island, tweeted this…

So a clash in styles between two players who get shipped out to greener pastures in return for an NHL yo-yo in Blandisi and an unproven young commodity in Lucchini. I don’t know how anyone on this side of the aisle sees this as anything but and upgrade for the Penguins and winners of the trade. On the Laval side you get rid of two guys who look like they didn’t want to be there if Divver’s suspicions are true for a serviceable NHL piece in Blandisi and a good player in Lucchini with upside.

But we have been here before.

Mattias Plachta. Spencer Machacek. Danny Syvret. Ryan Parent. Derek Nesbitt. Colin Smith and Joseph Cramarossa. Chris Wideman.

Sure, Varone and Barber have great numbers and should, by rights, have an instant impact for the Penguins who are fighting for a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. But history is an indicator (eight names isn’t an outlier, it’s a downright pattern and that is only some of the names) that these names may pop a few eyes here and there now and be the talk of the AHL going into and through this weekend, but the applications of the players putting in the work and producing remains to be seen.

By no means am I ruining this and saying that the trades are bad and you should expect to finish seventh in the Atlantic Division and miss playoffs for a second straight year. No, I am not saying that. Just take these trades with a guarded optimism that yes, they are massive upgrades over what you lost, but the history of pouting and clashing with management that comes with the trade is not something to be ignored and not just a young prospect thinking he should be in the NHL. Varone is 30, Barber just turned 26.

As to the immediate availability of the assets acquired…

In other news, Ryan Scarfo is up from Wheeling this week and Brandon Hawkins was sent back down. Zach Trotman went up to Pittsburgh on an emergency recall while John Marino recovers from facial surgery.

I was told this week that Kevin Czuczman was a full go in practice this week and Tyler reported that Dustin Tokarski practiced without limits too and also added that Thomas DiPauli won’t be available this weekend.

Also this, which happened Thursday at 5 right after my post went up…

I would assume that with DiPauli not available and Varone sorting out his visa issues, the recall of Knott was needed.

Around the division, Lehigh Valley and Hartford swapped backup goalies, J-F Berube to the Wolf Pack for Tom McCollum. Charlotte’s third leading scorer Julian Gauthier was traded to Hartford for their fourth leading scorer Joey Keane. The Wolf Pack look like they are going to go for a playoff berth this season.

Springfield too…

Same goes for the Penguins, and that applies to what you just read above.

Gameday setup is here Friday at 3 when Riley Barber squares off against his former team the Hershey Bears, provided Barber gets here in time.

AHL Power Rankings: End of February 2020

Major shakeup to the top five this week in the Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings.

The Belleville Senators are your top team this week after opening up an eight point lead over second place, largest in all the other AHL divisions. They are followed in second by Iowa, who have closed to within five of Milwaukee which was something unforeseen a month ago.

Two Pacific Division teams in Ontario and San Diego, the hottest teams in the division come in three and four and Hershey, who leads the Atlantic, slide up to fifth.

Jump past the Bears if you didn’t link in direct to see where the other teams fared.

1

Last Games: TOR 4 @ BEL 7, LAV 2 @ BEL 3 (OT), TOR 4 @ BEL 2, BEL 6 @ TOR 7 (OT), SYR 2 @ BEL 5, BEL 3 @ ROC 2 (OT)
Eight point lead over Rochester, who the Senators took down Wednesday. Belleville remains a complete team.

+1

Next Games: vs. UTI 2/21, vs. MB 2/22, vs. LAV 2/26, @ CLE 2/28, @ CLE 2/29, vs. TOR 3/4
Record: 34-15-4-1

2

Last Games: STK 2 @ IA 5, STK 4 @ IA 7, SA 1 @ IA 2, SD 0 @ IA 3, SD 5 @ IA 2, IA 3 @ MIL 2
All of a sudden, five back of Milwaukee and a real chance that the Wild can overtake the Admirals for first in the Central.

+3

Next Games: @ TEX 2/21, @ TEX 2/22, vs. CHI 2/25, @ STK 2/29, @ SJ 3/2, @ SJ 3/4
Record: 33-15-3-3

3

Last Games: ONT 10 @ BAK 3, TUC 5 @ ONT 1, BAK 2 @ ONT 4, ONT 6 @ STK 3, COL 3 @ ONT 6
Reign have pulled themselves up and look like they may push on to a first round home ice advantage playoff series quite possibly if they play their cards correctly.

+10

Next Games: vs. COL 2/21, vs. SJ 2/23, @ SJ 2/26, vs. TUC 2/28, vs. BAK 2/29
Record: 26-19-4-1

4

Last Games: TUC 3 @ SD 5, BAK 2 @ SD 4, SD 0 @ IA 3, SD 5 @ IA 2, SD 2 @ STK 3 (OT), STK 2 @ SD 3
Quietly 7-1-2 in their last ten, two off another stout Ontario team in what’s shaping up to be a great finish in the Pacific.

+5

Next Games: @ BAK 2/21, vs. SJ 2/22, @ TUC 2/26, @ STK 2/28, @ SJ 2/29
Record: 24-17-5-2

5

Last Games: HER 3 @ WBS 0, SPR 2 @ HER 5, HER 5 @ LV 2, HER 3 @ BNG 4 (OT), BNG 4 @ HER 2, LV 3 @ HER 5
Bears are looking good even though there were some stinkers in there. Lead the Atlantic and want to stay there.

-2

Next Games: @ WBS 2/21, @ BRI 2/22, vs. CHA 2/25, vs. WBS 2/29, vs. CHA 3/1
Record: 32-16-3-3

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