Chirps from Center Ice

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

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Weekend Preview – November Has Come

Wait a minute, aren’t we already in November?

Yes, just go with it.

November has come and the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have yet to win a hockey game or collect a singular point in the 11th month on the Julian calendar.

Music to Set the Mood…

I enjoy the Gorillaz. Demon Days was a banger album. Plastic Beach was too.

November has come and the Penguins don’t have a win yet. Hopefully, by the time we do this again they will. This is the last Weekend Preview for the month with Thanksgiving in a week and holiday travel and the like, so consider this a mega chungus version of the Preview.

A Quote…

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
– Thomas Edison

I like this one and think it applies partially. Think of all the one goal losses of recent for the Penguins.

Nov. 5 vs. Hershey – fell in a 2-0 hole, scored a power play goal late, ran out of time and lost 2-1.
Nov. 6 at Hershey – fell in a 4-0 hole, scored three straight in the third period, ran out of time and lost 4-3.
Nov. 11 vs. Hartford – carried 1-1 game into the third, played careless. Lost 3-1, Wolf Pack had an empty netter.
Nov. 12 vs. Springfield – fell in 2-0 hole, tied it on a 4:00 power play – another turnover sees ex-player score game winning goal. Lost 3-2.

The Penguins have not scored first since October 21 at home against Laval. They haven’t had a lead since beating Hershey in overtime 2-1 on October 29 (their last win)

Am I suggesting they are giving up as the quote above states? No. But seeing the other team score first, getting behind the eight ball with silly careless plays with the puck and it’s easy for a game to get away from you at this level.

The Setup

Well, there are a lot of them. I am giving you the next seven games. So pay attention!

This Friday and Saturday against Hershey at home and Bridgeport on the road. Then a Monday / Wednesday trip to Charlotte next week. Thanksgiving Thursday. A Black Friday home game against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms then a Saturday trip to Springfield and then a rare Tuesday visit to Hershey.

Whew that was a lot. Let’s break the opponents down.

Hershey: Ahead of the Penguins on points, beat the Bridgeport Islanders in two overtime games last weekend and then hosted the Laval Rocket and won there too. Hershey sweeps the weekend. After playing the Penguins, will play Hartford four times with a pre-Thanksgiving game against Springfield sandwiched in between before seeing the Penguins again on November 29.

Bridgeport: Played the Bears close in Hershey last weekend but lost two overtime games. Will see Charlotte on Friday before hosting the Penguins this Saturday.

Charlotte: Floundering a bit. November hasn’t been good to them either but they are winning games. Won their first road game of the season last Saturday in Hartford in a shootout. Dug themselves out of a hole with Providence Sunday but still lost (sound familiar?) In Hartford this past Wednesday, history repeated itself and they beat the Wolf Pack again in a shootout. Will be in Bridgeport Friday and Springfield Saturday before returning home for a pair against the Pens the first part of next week.

Lehigh Valley: Have won three straight coming into this week, but the real test comes this weekend when they play a pair in Providence. I think the Phantoms are mercurial, but they did beat Springfield and Laval in one goal contests last weekend. After the doubleheader in Providence next Friday and Saturday, will visit Springfield on Sunday the 20th before having the rest of the week off before the Black Friday trip up the Turnpike to play the Penguins.

Springfield: Pens most recent opponent, will be the Penguins last opponent in the five game home stand which kicked off this past Wednesday with a school day game against the Syracuse Crunch. Thunderbirds were up 4-1 in the third and saw Syracuse tie it and then go on to win it in a shootout. Will see Charlotte and Lehigh Valley this Saturday and Sunday, Hershey on Thanksgiving Eve then will close out their home stand against the Pens on Saturday, November 26.

Hershey again on November 29.

Records

Coming into Friday only.

Penguins: 6-4-1-0; 13 points – 6th in the Atlantic.
Hershey: 8-2-2-0; 18 points – 2nd in the Atlantic.
Bridgeport: 7-2-3-0; 17 points – 3rd in the Atlantic.
Charlotte: 7-4-1-1; 16 points – 4th in the Atlantic.
Lehigh Valley: 5-5-1-0; 11 points – 8th in the Atlantic.
Springfield: 6-5-0-3; 15 points – 5th in the Atlantic.

Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?

You are probably going to see a few transactions the remainder of the month but I’ll keep you posted on any of that in my Lineup Changes on each post game report. Those aren’t going anywhere.

Mark Friedman was sent back to Wilkes-Barre on Sunday. Jon Lizotte joins Jamie Devane and Jordan Frasca on the injured list. Mitch Reinke came off of that last week.

Filip Hallander was sent back Tuesday. Sam Poulin was sent down last weekend but didn’t play due to weather related travel issues. Poulin practiced with the team Tuesday on Coal Street.

Sean Josling was returned to Wheeling on Thursday morning.

So, yeah, barring anything unforeseen the team is at 100% capacity. No one is on recall to Pittsburgh.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week the remainder of the month?

I think the questions you have to ask yourself when a team is on a losing streak are as follows. I will answer as it applies to the Penguins.

Are these problems correctable? (yes)
Is it a personnel problem? (I don’t think so)
Is it a coaching problem? (No)

If the reverse is true to any of the questions above, we have a problem. I don’t think it is though. They are working through things. Teams have film on them now also, remember.

If you asked me to put a finger on it, it’s defensive idiocy with the puck and a lack of any kind of scoring from any line anywhere. Sometimes, if you are without one and have a lot of the other, you get the good to overshadow the bad and are able to work your way through it. The Penguins aren’t getting any scoring and their defense is suspect at this point. That’s why they are losing these close contests. Once you get one going, the other follows.

You’d rather these issues now in November then in March or April.

Who’s in goal?

I’m not going to predict this. Filip Lindberg and Dustin Tokarski will get their fair share of work against a bevy of equally talented goaltenders in the Atlantic Division.

Who’s running the show?

Friday sees Michael Zyla and Mathieu Menniti wreaking havoc on evildoers and Jud Ritter and J.P. Waleski on the lines.

Saturday sees Mason Riley and Jordan Deckard ensuring everything stays on the up and up with Bill Lyons and Trevor Disbennett on the lines.

Sean Fernandez and Jake Kamrass work Monday in Charlotte with Ryan Jackson and Brandon Grillo on the lines.

AHL hasn’t posted assignments past this coming Tuesday but it’s a safe enough bet that Fernandez / Kamrass will be the referees for Wednesday’s game with the Checkers and different linesmen.

Looking ahead…

Yikes, by the time we meet again for the Weekend Preview it will be December. A Saturday, December 3 home game against Bridgeport and then a Sunday trip to Hershey on December 4. If the Penguins don’t figure out their problems, the hits will keep coming in December and beyond.

Give us a bold prediction…

We will probably eat too much turkey on Thanksgiving and watch too much football. The American kind, not the World Cup, but I’ll probably watch the World Cup.

Four Els — Pens LOSE 3-2

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Anthony Angello was everywhere tonight.

Yes, he plays for the other team these days and that other team, the Springfield Thunderbirds, defeated the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins on Saturday night by a 3-2 score.

After a third period comeback which saw the Penguins score back to back power play goals on a double minor, it was Angello which scored the Goa ahead game winner to send the Penguins to their fourth straight loss of this young campaign.

Winless in November. So far.

Here’s how they lined up.

Lineup Notes: Sean Josling for Lukas Svejkovsky up front and Colin Swoyer for Jon Lizotte. Lizotte picked up a knock Friday against Hartford and there’s no timetable. Upper body.

First Period: Innocuous. Lots of icings. No scoring.

Second Period: Will Bitten unmarked in front and scores to get the Thunderbirds on the board first.

Ty Smith leaves Bitten to pinch and puck chase and it costs them a goal.

Dmitrii Samorukov scores after yet another sloppy play with the puck in the defensive zone by the Penguins and Springfield goes up 2-0.

So you have guys leaving guys wide open in front and turning the puck over. Yes, these are correctable problems but they keep happening. If this was your job, HR would have you attend a seminar or something by now.

Here were the goals. Just brutal fundamental breakdowns between the Bitten goal above and the Samorukov goal below.

Third Period: Sam Houde was high sticked and this drew blood. Penguins score on both ends of the power play to tie the game at two.

Sam Houde slams one home back door for the first goal and Ty Smith atones for his previous mistake and scores to tie the game.

Elite call by Nick Hart there on the goal call.

Jack St. Ivany loses his situational awareness and a surprise hit by Nathan Todd separated the Penguins defenseman from the puck. This sends Jake Neighbours down the other way with ex-Penguin Anthony Angello. Angello drags a leg to stay onside while Neighbours enters the zone with the puck and here just watch the rest…

Penguins would get a couple more shots on the power play (they went 2/7 and they all came in the third period) but were unable to capitalize and find the tying goal.

Three Stars: 3) Vadim Zherenko (39 saves) 2) Ty Smith (goal) 1) Anthony Angello (goal)

The Good: They pumped 41 shots at Zherenko yet still lost. It’s not the quantity / quality. They could have 105 shots and if they still are careless with their markings or the puck, they will lose. It’s that simple.

The Bad: They have to tighten up this messy defensive play. It is now a problem and costing them points. Losing Lizotte, a contributor to the problems in his own right, may sting a bit. Hope it’s not long term.

Turning Point: Angello burning his ex-team.

Around the Division: Hershey beats Bridgeport 2-1 in overtime again…Charlotte picks up their first road win of the season with a 6-5 shootout win over Hartford…Don’t look now by Lehigh Valley has won three straight, beating Laval 3-2. Providence was off.

In the, “it could always be worse” department: Syracuse pummels Utica 8-3. Those two teams hate each other.

Standings: Providence 20 – Bridgeport 17 – Hershey 16 – Springfield 14 and Charlotte 14 – Penguins 13 – Lehigh Valley and Hartford 11.

Wheeling Update: Nailers fall to the Fort Wayne Komets 2-1.

Video Highlights: 

The Week Ahead: Off till next Friday vs. Hershey then away at Bridgeport. Bears have Laval at home Sunday, Bridgeport hosts Charlotte on Friday.

Let’s Go Pens!

Special Wolves – Pens LOSE 3-1

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Sometimes games are won and lost on special teams. This game was a prime example of that, a 3-1 Hartford Wolf Pack win over the Penguins, who have now lost three straight and are winless in November.

A first period short handed goal and heavy hockey by the Wolf Pack coupled with a cocksure attitude by their goaltender Louis Domingue and Hartford made it look easier than it probably was.

Penguins don’t have a lot of time to regroup as the team that knocked them out of the Calder Cup Playoffs, the Springfield Thunderbirds, stop in for a Saturday evening visit.

Dustin Tokarski opposed Louis Domingue. Here’s how they lined up:

Hartford didn’t post lines.

Lineup Notes: Sam Poulin in fact did not make it in time for the game on his reassignment from Pittsburgh. Kyle Olson was back for Ty Glover and Drew O’Connor replaced the recalled Filip Hallander (essentially). Mitch Reinke also returned from injury and (essentially) replaced Mark Friedman.

Lines were all jumbled as well, as it should be when you lose two straight coming in.

First Period: Pretty innocuous start, until the Penguins went on the power play late.

But then Hartford breaks in on a 2-on-0 short handed and scores to make it 1-0 for them. Tim Gettinger gets the Wolf Pack on the board.

Second Period: This sequence kinda kicked things off in the period:

The Penguins would score on the ensuing power play via Drew O’Connor.

Tie game.

Tokarski had a hell of a save on C.J. Smith with about 10 seconds to play.

Third Period: Penguins were looking for a spark but couldn’t find one. Then leading scorer Lauri Pajuniemi scored to put the Wolf Pack up 2-1.

Brutal turnover by Jonathan Gruden there set the whole thing up.

I noted that I felt that the intensity in the game matched or exceeded anything we saw last weekend with the Hershey Bears. Seemed that the Penguins couldn’t get anywhere close to Domingue in goal because of the muscle that they have to go through first.

Penguins take Tokarski out of the net for an extra attacker and take two straight penalties putting them two men down. Hartford finds an empty net goal from Tim Gettinger, his second of the contest.

Three Stars: 3) Drew O’Connor (goal) 2) Lauri Pajuniemi (goal) 1) Tim Gettinger (two goals)

The Good: Pens limited Hartford shot chances Friday, only allowing 23 but…

The Bad: Three of team went in and one was a short handed goal while the other comes right after you take two stupid penalties late, chasing the game.

If you didn’t like the referees tonight I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. Morgan MacPhee and Marc-Olivier Phaneuf will be running things again tomorrow. I thought they could have let those two penalties (Svejkovsky hook, Fedun slash) go, by the way.

Turning Point: Chasing the game late, Pens take a pair of penalties squelching any chance of a tying goal.

Around the Division: Hershey beats a very good Bridgeport’s team 4-3 in overtime…Lehigh Valley beats Springfield 2-1…Providence, the AHL’s top team, pounds Charlotte 5-2.

Standings: Providence 20 – Bridgeport 16 – Hershey 14 – Penguins 13 – Charlotte and Springfield 12 – Hartford 10 – Lehigh Valley 9

Wheeling Update: Nailers pound Kalamazoo at home 5-1. Taylor Gauthier picks up the win in goal for Wheeling, stopping 28 shots.

Video Highlights: 

Back at it Saturday with the Thunderbirds. More then.

Let’s Go Pens!

Weekend Preview: Where Have All the Good Times Gone?

Wait a minute, you lose two games after that hot start in October and it’s all despair here at the blog?

Not exactly, but the way that they lost, almost won but still lost last week in two games after looking invincible in October was a shock. Plus this fanbase is a fickle bunch, so I like to play to those strengths.

The headline also lets me run straight into this…

Music to set the mood…

You are always going to get me to find a classic banger like this.

OK. So maayyybe I am being a bit overdramatic by asking the question. But a close game Saturday, ineffectiveness on the power play, your captain losing a man in front leading to a goal rolling into a 4-0 hole after the second period Sunday only to storm back to 4-3 and drop two straight against Hershey is a bit disheartening because it’s the Bears.

Things to work on for sure that you hope they worked on this week at practice.

A Quote…

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
– Frederick Douglass

Remember how last week I said that we wouldn’t really be able to learn anymore about the Penguins unless or until they started hitting adversity? Well, I think we will learn a lot about the team this weekend. Read on.

The Setup…

Pair of home games Friday and Saturday against Hartford and Springfield, respectively. Hartford gave up five goals against Springfield last Friday and five more against Bridgeport last Saturday. The Wolf Pack hosted Springfield on this past Wednesday and held the Thunderbirds to just a goal and beat them 2-1 in a shootout.

After beating Hartford last Friday, Springfield hosted Providence last Saturday and lost 3-2. I gave you their most recent result in the paragraph above. They will be in Allentown Friday before heading up Saturday against the Pens.

Records

Wilkes-Barre is 6-2-1-0 good for 13 points and 3rd in the division. Springfield coming into Friday is 5-4-0-2 good for 6th with 12 points and Hartford is 7th with a 3-4-1-1 record and 8 points.

Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?

Note: This space may need to be updated depending on who, if anyone Pittsburgh recalls on the defensive end. They lost P-O Joseph and Jan Rutta Wednesday in Washington. If it isn’t I will drop a blurb under the Lineup discussion in the postgamer later against Hartford.

Edit: As soon as this post went up at 11 a.m., Pittsburgh announced they have recalled D Mark Friedman and sent back F Sam Poulin.

Drew O’Connor is back down, replacing him up to Pittsburgh was Filip Hallander. Sam Poulin remains up. Mitch Reinke and Jordan Frasca have company amongst the infirmed with Jamie Devane being re-added to the injury list, getting hurt on his first shift on Saturday against Hershey. As a result, Sean Josling was recalled from the Nailers Friday morning.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

How do they bounce back and look more prepared against two tough opponents again this week. Hartford should be (at least hypothetically) be the easier of the two opponents but again, I did project the Wolf Pack as an early Calder Cup favorite back a month ago when I did my season predictions.

You wish you could bottle up the third period in Hershey performance when they nearly erased a four goal deficit against Hershey and replicate it. I think you will see a more prepared team on both nights against the Wolf Pack and Thunderbirds.

Do I expect two more losses? No. The team is too talented and too well coached to lay two duds like they did against the Bears. Now, if the personnel is careless and sleepwalk through shifts, it is entirely plausible. But I don’t see that happening.

The adversity is here, as mentioned above, in micro form. Button up the issues which caused you to lose (very minor in my opinion) and reap the rewards of the time you put in righting those wrongs.

Who’s in goal? 

No reason to change course here. Dustin Tokarski will get a game (probably Saturday) and Filip Lindberg will get a game (probably Friday) – expect Louis Domingue for Hartford Friday and Joel Hofer for the Thunderbirds.

Who’s running the show?

Morgan MacPhee and Marc-Olivier Phaneuf have the Friday assignment with Trevor Disbennett and Patrick Dapuzzo on the lines. Saturday sees the same referee crew with John Rey and Spencer Knox coming in to work the lines.

Remarkable. 81 referees under contract to the American Hockey League this season and we see the same pairing on back to back nights. Real original.

Looking ahead…

May have to double this one up. Friday game against Hershey, Saturday trip to Bridgeport which should be a nice measuring stick game against a good Islanders team and then a Monday / Wednesday pair in Charlotte before Thanksgiving.

Give us a bold prediction…

Back on track with a pair of wins this week. Pens work overtime in one of them but come away with all four points.

Edged – Pens LOSE 4-3

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Put this entire game on Jonathan Gruden’s highlight reel.

I’lll tell you, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will be in big, big trouble if Gruden gets a deserved recall or is injured. He was everywhere Sunday afternoon for the Penguins, who lose 4-3 to Hershey.

The Penguins had a feckless effort the first two periods of the game, trailed 4-0, outshot 26-13, but storm back with a 20-3 barrage of shots and come one goal short of a split with the Bears.

I mean it’s something to build off of after a 0-2 weekend, especially coming into the weekend as the sole unbeaten team in the AHL. Maybe Hershey let off, who knows.

But Gruden, man, what an effort.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: Raivis Ansons for the now injured Jamie Devane was the only lineup change. Pittsburgh reassigned Drew O’Connor right at puck drop.

First Period: Pens play fast and loose with the puck in their own end and it costs them twice. Ty Smith turns the puck over to Shane Gersich and then Mark Friedman tiptoes through tulips and sees Mason Morelli score. Pens get two shots on a late power play and the shot board read 8-4 for the home team. Here were the goals…

Second Period: Ethen Frank, who is slowly budding into a Penguins killer, goes for a cross crease pass to a teammate which deflects in for a goal to give Hershey 3-0 lead.

The assault continued. Henrik Rybinski scored his first pro goal on a rebound and it was 4-0 Bears.

Third Period: :14 in and Gruden scores to kick start the comeback.

Wilkes-Barre continued to buzz. Filip Hallander scored his first of two. Bears defender’s stick breaks, Jonathan Gruden, out there stirring the drink, puts a shot on net that Hallander slams home for a rebound that brings the Pens within two.

Penguins get a late power play and like last night with the goalie pulled Hallander scores his second to bring the score within one.

Penguins nearly were mining for a fourth but a too any men call late sunk any chances of a comeback.

Three Stars: 3) Ethen Frank (goal) 2) Filip Hallander (two goals, assist) 1) Henrik Rybinski (goal)

The Good: Besides that third period kickstarted by Gruden and Hallander, can’t really come up with anything.

The Bad: You cannot sleepwalk in Hershey for two periods, have two of your better and more experienced defensemen cough up pucks in their own zone and expect to win. It’s magnified more because of the record you had coming into the weekend, and tonight it cost you two points you are going to wish you had in the Spring.

Turning Point: Hard to pinpoint one when it was so teeter-totter, but the too many men on the ice call late put down any faint but getting louder noise the away team had at tying the score.

Around the Division: Providence clips Bridgeport 1-0.

Standings: Providence 18 – Bridgeport 15 – Penguins 13 – Hershey 12 – Charlotte 12 – Springfield 11 – Lehigh Valley 7 – Hartford 6

Wheeling Update: Nailers were off.

Video Highlights: I’ll edit them in if I see them.

This Week: Pens off until Friday against the Hartford Wolf Pack at home then Springfield rolls in Saturday. Hartford and Springfield play Wednesday in Hartford. Springfield will be in Allentown Friday before heading up to Wilkes-Barre Saturday.

Let’s Go Pens!

Bodyslammed — Pens LOSE 2-1

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Well, I knew they wouldn’t go undefeated.

Penguins lose 2-1 in regulation, their first such loss of the season.

Biggest thing you could point to in this game is the Penguins lack of success on the power play. A paltry 1-for-6 Saturday including a 4:00 double minor back in the first period they could not score on. Hershey telegraphed the entires, which frustrated the Penguins.

Reigning AHL Goaltender of the Month Dustin Tokarski took the loss in net for the Pens but I thought he was fine and kept the team in in.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup: Caggiula for the recalled Drew O’Connor, Jack St. Ivany for Colin Swoyer on defense.

First Period: No scoring. Action flashed by. Bears took a too many men on the ice call late.

Second Period: Hershey took the first four penalties and one of them was a Bobby Nardella high stick which busted open Drake Caggiula. 4 minute power play to the Penguins. No dice. Few shots.

Later, no one marks Mike Sgarbossa in front (read: Taylor Fedun lost his assignment) and the Bears get on the board first.

Pens take a penalty. It’s Jonathan Gruden, one of their better penalty killers in the box. Hershey keeps it in the zone the whole time and Ethen Frank takes a high slot one timer for a goal that gives Hershey a 2-0 lead.

Third Period: Penguins with a too little, too late flurry, sees Alex Nylander bust up Zach Fucale’s shutout bid with under a minute to play. Ironically, it comes on a power play.

More late pushes by the Pens, but no dice for a tying goal.

Three Stars: 3) Alex Nylander (goal) 2) Ethen Frank (goal) 1) Mike Sgarbossa (goal)

The Good: The goaltender. If Tokarski wasn’t on his game Hershey may have one 5-1.

The Bad: Bears see their captain suspended for this game, a lot of offense get called up to Washington, and still waltz in here Saturday night and beat the Penguins. Can’t happen.

Turning Point: The Gruden penalty which led to the power play goal. I knew this when it happened. Turns out my premonition comes true.

Around the Division: Providence beats Springfield 3-2….Bridgeport beats Hartford 5-3….Lehigh Valley slips past Laval in overtime 3-2….Charlotte is shutout at home 4-0 by Syracuse.

Standings: Providence 16 — Bridgeport 15 — Penguins 13 — Charlotte 12 — Springfield 11 — Hershey 10 — Lehigh Valley 7 — Hartford 6

Wheeling Update: Nailers lose 4-3 in Reading. Power play problems? What power play problems? Reading went 3-for-5 on the power play while the Nailers went 2-for-4. Tommy Nappier takes the loss in goal, stopping 21.

Video Highlights: 

More tomorrow after the rematch in Hershey.

Let’s Go Pens!

Weekend Preview: Bear Hunt

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins enter November as the last unbeaten team in regulation in the American Hockey League and the #1 team in all of the 32 team AHL. The grind continues now as the month flips to November with more work to do, starting off with a home and home against the rival Hershey Bears.

Music to set the mood…

I have no idea what they are teaching kids these days and have openly said on a number of occasions that I would make for a terrible parent. I found the video relevant, however. I’d rather cats, instead.

A Quote…

For me, winning isn’t something that happens suddenly on the field when the whistle blows and the crowds roar. Winning is something that builds physically and mentally everyday that you train and every night that you dream.
– Bilal Zahoor

A lot, and I mean a lot of the success of the team starts with the work that J.D. Forrest and his staff have done in preparing the team week in and week out thus far. Trusting and executing the process. All that.

And the Award Goes To…

Dustin Tokarski was named AHL Goaltender of the Month for October on Tuesday. Any concerns (I had them) that Tokarski doesn’t have “it” anymore have been quelled by this award. 4-0-1 record, 1.38 GAA and a .949 SV% is pretty, pretty good for veteran player like Tokarski. There are a lot of good goalies in this league. The Goaltender of the Month Award is always one I hold in higher regard because there are so few goalie jobs available across the higher levels of professional hockey.

Mail Time!

I asked you to send me questions and some of you did. Let’s dig in…

Tony asks: What does the souvenir cup look like this year?
Answer: Good Question. The next time $7.50 burns a hole in my pocket and I want to spend it on a soda at the game, I will let you know.

Dean asks: Do you think such a great start and not so good for Pittsburgh will they start taking from Wilkes barre and go down hill
Answer: Currently? No. They don’t have cap space to just randomly pull guys up from the AHL. You saw that a few games back when Pittsburgh skated a forward short. They sent back Drake Caggiula and recalled Drew O’Connor on Monday. It’s cycling guys who have had good AHL weeks and rewarding them with an NHL call up, but when healthy, they have to send O’Connor and Sam Poulin back because they have no money to keep them around.

Patrick asks: Give me your October MVP.
Answer: Without the obvious choice of the aforementioned Tokarski, pick one of Ty Smith or Jonathan Gruden. Smith is a wiz with the puck, can quarterback the power play with ease and Gruden is the straw that stirs the drink and solidifies an already talented, young, hungry team with his return from injury.

Jean asks: Name another team other than the Penguins in the division we should worry about.
Answer: I think Bridgeport is the early leader in the clubhouse with their 6-1-1 record. Off to a good start, beating good teams (Charlotte, Providence, Springfield, Laval to name some) The Pens drop by November 19.

The Setup…

A home and home with the Hershey Bears Saturday in Wilkes-Barre and Sunday in Hershey. This is the second and third straight games against the Bears and already 25% of the games scheduled against the Chocolate and White.

Hershey thumped a lifeless Lehigh Valley team Sunday at home 4-1 and lost to the Hartford Wolf Pack Friday 4-2 and sandwiched in between was a 2-1 OT loss to the Penguins.

Could Hershey just be, average? Ask me in a month. They have Bridgeport twice, next week, Laval and then the Penguins on November 18. I’m not buying an average Bears squad just yet. I think the Pens are in another stratosphere and there will be a regression to the mean at some point.

Records

Pens are a league best 6-0-1, good for 13 points; Bears are 3-2-2 good for 8 points.

Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?

Sam Poulin and Drew O’Connor are on recall, Mitch Reinke has a lower body injury and could be back. Jordan Frasca has a lower body injury. Jamie Devane returned from injury last weekend. No one is up from Wheeling.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Can they get four points off the Bears this week? Can they stay undefeated? Can Tokarski stay hot? Will the power play improve?

They remain unfazed. They continue to ground teams to dust. They grind offenses. A switch of the calendar isn’t what is going to bring this team down is it?

I don’t think we will ‘learn’ anymore from this team until it starts hitting adversity. Losses, injuries, more call ups, what have you.

Who’s in goal?

Tokarski and Filip Lindberg in some form or fashion. I don’t think they let one of them go back to back. Same story applies for Zach Fucale and Hunter Shepard for the Bears.

Who’s running the show?

Jack Young and Patrick Hanrahan have the Saturday assignment. Kinda disappointed with this as we have seen these guys this year already. John Rey and Jud Ritter work the lines. On Sunday in Hershey, Young again and Peter Schlittenhardt are the referees with Michael Magee and Tyler Loftus on the lines.

Looking ahead…

Two home games Friday and Saturday against Hartford and Springfield respectively.

Give us a bold prediction…

Pens get a shutout this weekend. Filip Lindberg gets it.