Chirps from Center Ice
A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins
Category Archives: Weekend Preview
Weekend Preview: So You’re Saying There’s a Chance?
March 24, 2023Posted by on
So after taking 5 of 6 points this past weekend in an impressive showing of work and being still in touch with a playoff spot, well, let’s just get to the music to set the mood part…
Music to Set the Mood…
It ain’t over till it’s over.
It ain’t over till it’s over.
— Yogi Berra
So you can sense a theme here. It seems like it’s in the fan contract with this team that no matter what, you have to have hope. It’s always hope.
I still think we are on track for an early spring, but after a 0-3 comeback against a game Rochester Americans team that won eight straight against the Penguins, and then being the better team in Syracuse and then crushing a rested Phantoms team Sunday in the third game in three days, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins are showing life and aren’t dead yet.
Filip Hallander, on a whim, flew to and back from Dallas, Texas on Thursday. He and Dustin Tokarski were recalled Thursday but when it was revealed that Hallander’s services weren’t needed, Hallander was sent right back.
Coal Street signed Jagger Joshua to an AHL contract earlier this week. He will join the team on an Amateur Tryout Contract.
Lehigh Valley again Saturday on Star Wars Night, which will likely be a sellout or close to it, then a 5:05 Hartford Sunday home game. Very important games.
Both the Penguins and Phantoms will be rested, as neither will play games until Saturday.
Hartford, a team that the Penguins are chasing, host Springfield Friday and Saturday and will be playing a third game in three days.
On an Island
That other team, Bridgeport, holds the sixth and final playoff spot in the Atlantic, and played Laval Wednesday and won 5-3 and are in Belleville Friday before calling it a weekend.
Laval is in a dogfight with Belleville, who is playing some inspired hockey as of late. So this is a prime time for the Penguins to get some help from out of town, handle what’s in front of them, and see where things shake out at the close of business Sunday evening.
Hartford is 2-5-0-2 against Springfield this season and 2-0-1-1 against the Penguins.
Pens are 5-3-1-1 against the Phantoms and 2-2 against the Wolf Pack.
Small sample size, but Bridgeport is 1-0 against Belleville this season.
Here’s what it looks like at the bottom of the Atlantic…
6. Bridgeport – 10 games remaining – 66 points.
7. Hartford – 11 games remaining – 63 points.
8. PENGUINS – 11 games remaining – 60 points.
I mean if it gets tight and the Pens miss over the Wolf Pack by a point or two, they can probably point back to those games where they won in OT or a shootout, where they give Hartford a point and don’t beat them clean. I don’t think it will cut that close but it’s worth mentioning.
So what are they doing right? What are they doing wrong?
I think they realized that Alex Nylander isn’t walking through that door any time soon, so the role players stepped up in a big way. Justin Addamo scored a goal in every game last weekend. Drake Caggiula was their best player. I think not having Mitch Reinke in the lineup was a blessing in disguise for them. Here’s what I mean…
The first two Rochester goals last Friday. That’s Mitch Reinke coasting on the first goal and getting caught flat footed on the second. Yeah, the Pens weren’t able to cash against Lehigh Valley’s 32nd out of 32 teams penalty kill on Sunday, but it’s a trade off. His defensive adventurism costs the team goals against which you can’t get back as opposed to goals for, which you can score at any time, for the most part.
Also, Taylor Fedun going up to Pittsburgh is also a blessing.
The only thing I would say they are doing wrong is going 1/9 on the power play this past weekend, but it’s a trade off to winning games and losing what I think is causing them to lose those games in Reinke’s injury and Fedun’s callup, despite Reinke’s effectiveness on the power play.
Keep Tyler Sikura, Filip Hallander and Jonathan Gruden going. Peter DiLiberatore is a diamond in the rough, defensively. Josh Maniscalco is rough around the edges, but you hope (there’s that word again) they can coach the bad parts of the game out of him. I think they have enough to get by with Jon Lizotte, Jack St. Ivany and Andrew Nielsen so we will see.
I think the quality of opponents they beat last week (Rochester, Syracuse) are better than the quality of opponents they face this week (they already beat Lehigh Valley Sunday, they play them against Saturday, Hartford isn’t that good) but sadly, none of those teams mentioned in this sentence are winning the Calder Cup. Which leads me to my next point…
Providence is a team which I think will go far this postseason. They lead the division over Hershey by three points coming into Friday. That thing I said about hope at the beginning? What are we hoping for? Hope for playoffs? Hope for a Calder Cup? It’s both, because you can’t have one without the other, but the Penguins aren’t winning the Calder Cup this season. The Bruins, however, are probably one of three teams (Calgary and Toronto being the others) with strong odds to win it all.
The Pens play Providence at home next Wednesday, then against the Phantoms again as they close out March. Home against Syracuse on Saturday to open April.
Who is running the show?
Stephen Hiff and Peter Schlittenhardt are here Saturday and Sunday with Jud Ritter and J.P. Waleski on the lines Saturday, then replaced by Patrick Dapuzzo and Ryan Knapp on the lines Sunday.
Give us a bold prediction…
Mitch Reinke returns, orchestrates the Penguins scoring on 75% of their power plays, plays a direct role in all of this, and wins AHL Player of the Week with 4 goals, 3 assists, all coming on the power play.
Weekend Preview: Three, and Out?
March 17, 2023Posted by on
So if the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have any shot at making the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs, they have to get a result out of each of the next three games played on consecutive days.
They may not have it in them. Face it, they have been outgunned and outclassed almost on a nightly basis. They have scored just one goal each in the last three games. Alex Nylander, which makes up a lot of their offense, is in the NHL.
But this is the AHL. Teams go on runs, stuff happens. Teams ahead of you in the standings stall and the teams behind those teams start running down hill and can’t stop.
Thing is, with 14 games left and 28 total points at stake, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot of time here.
Music to set the mood…
Yep, Mission Impossible. Not much of a movie buff, did the guy make it through the mission OK? Did he get what he wanted? Legitimately asking here.
Say goodnight, Gracie.
— George Burns
Personally, I think it’s a fools enterprise, what we are doing here, be we shall continue.
A rare three in three, just the second this season for the Penguins. Prime to set the stage and get off on the right foot against tonight’s opponent Rochester, keep the ball rolling in Syracuse Saturday then empty the tank Sunday in Allentown.
Rochester is in a fight for the final spot in the North Division with Laval, Belleville and Cleveland. That is a lot of teams. They are trying to keep pace with Syracuse and Utica for the two seed. They won’t be an easy opponent. They played the Rocket on Wednesday and shut them out 2-0.
Syracuse had a measuring stick game with Providence Wednesday and lost 4-2. They will be in Bridgeport Friday. That offense is potent. Every time Trevor Carrick and Alex Barre-Boulet play the Penguins it seems like they run wild. Gotta mark those guys.
Lehigh Valley is a blood rival, are probably out of reach for the Penguins to catch with this little time and will have played Hershey Friday after hosting them and losing to them on Wednesday. The Phantoms will have Saturday off.
Wolves on an Island
The Islanders and Wolf Pack met in Hartford on Wednesday and Hartford won a 12 goal affair 7-5.
Hartford has Springfield at home on Friday, go to Bridgeport on Saturday and are off Sunday.
Bridgeport has Syracuse as I mentioned above on Friday and host the Wolf Pack.
There are two more head to heads with which involve the Islanders and Wolf Pack, one later this month and another in April.
Only taking a look at the bottom three, the only ones that matter right now on Coal Street.
6. Bridgeport: 13 games left – 62 points.
7. Hartford: 13 games left – 61 points.
8. Wilkes-Barre / Scranton – 14 games left, 55 points
Records against Whomst…
PENGUINS: 0-1 against Rochester, 0-2 against Syracuse, 4-3-1-1 against Lehigh Valley.
Hartford: 2-4-0-2 against Springfield, 4-5 against Bridgeport.
Bridgeport: 0-1 against Syracuse, 5-4 against Hartford.
Penguins score more than one goal and find a way to win the game challenge…
Wilkes-Barre has struggled against North Division teams, just 4-8-2 against the teams which reside there, and three of those wins have come against Cleveland. Syracuse gives the Penguins fits and Rochester treats the Penguins the way the Penguins treat Cleveland, easy two points. The Americans have won eight straight against the Penguins.
One goal simply isn’t going to cut it against the quality of opponents the Penguins are facing this weekend.
How do you overcome it? You get scoring from where it should come from (Valtteri Puustinen, if healthy Filip Hallander) and get secondary guys like Tyler Sikura, Drake Caggiula and Sam Houde to chip in. Find a way to get Andrew Nielsen and Peter DiLibertore in the lineup defensively. Get Ty Glover back in the lineup up front and scratch Jamie Devane.
Easier said than done, and likely impossible as recent history has shown.
Don’t be so hard on them, they are trying their best!
Listen, it’s a team full of role players put there by a hamstrung front office who has no prospects and an aging veteran core in Pittsburgh who are likely one and done in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, if they even make it. The problems you see up top with Pittsburgh are the same problems they have in Wilkes-Barre, save for the three hall of famers in 87, 71 and 58.
Goaltending is a mess and downright shoddy at times.
– Nothing in the hole in Wilkes-Barre. Filip Lindberg is made of glass and Taylor Gauthier is probably two years away, if not more. Dustin Tokarski has too many miles on him and his glory days are behind him.
Forwards are old and too much of a liability.
– The only prospect they have is Alex Nylander, who is already up with them, likely for good, and that leaves a massive hole in Wilkes-Barre. All the other call-ups (Hallander, Caggiula, etc.) were merit recalls. Nice work in Wilkes-Barre, here’s an NHL cup of coffee, don’t take your coat off cause you aren’t staying long. The rest in Valtteri Puustinen (doesn’t play defense), Nathan Legare (they fell out of favor with him), Corey Andonovski (needs about 25 more pounds) and Lukas Svejkovsky, Jonathan Gruden, etc. aren’t anything more than flash in the pan one and done NHL dime a dozen callups. These aren’t prospects, these are role players. Sam Poulin, coming back from a three month leave, isn’t saving this franchise.
Defense is old and too much of a liability.
– They have nothing in the way of defensive prospects. P-O Joseph is that prospect. Ty Smith showed flashes, but I think this is the wrong system for him. They have nothing else. Jon Lizotte, Taylor Fedun and Mitch Reinke are not NHL defensemen. They may be great guys, great teammates, whatever, but they aren’t NHL defensemen.
We fooled ourselves thinking this team was going to go somewhere after making it to a four seed and winning a playoff round last year, but the bottom fell out. They are cap strapped and have nothing in the way of prospects. It’s going to be some long, lean years in Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh.
Who is running the show?
Mike Sullivan and Ian McCambridge Friday with John Rey and Michael Magee on the lines.
Ian McCambridge again with Jim Curtin Saturday in Syracuse with Jason Brown and Sam Cucinotta on the lines.
Cody Beach and Jack Young Sunday in Allentown with Joseph Mahon and Ryan Knapp on the lines.
A Friday off, then Saturday and Sunday home games next week against the Phantoms and Wolf Pack, respectively. That Sunday home game against Hartford starts at 5. Yikes.
Give us a bold prediction…
We will all be back in October with the same anticipation that maybe, just maybe, this will be the year.
Weekend Preview – Ides of March or March of the Penguins?
March 8, 2023Posted by on
Here’s a look at the bottom four teams in the AHL’s Atlantic Division as we enter Wednesday:
5. Springfield Thunderbirds: 55 games played – 62 points
6. Bridgeport Islanders: 55 – 58
7. Hartford Wolf Pack: 55 – 58
8. WBS Penguins: 55 – 55
Springfield is tied on points with fourth place Lehigh Valley with 62, but the Phantoms have another game played. Bridgeport are tied with Hartford with 58 points.
The Penguins have the remainder of head to heads with the following teams:
Lehigh Valley – 4
Springfield – 0
Bridgeport – 1
Hartford – 2
So it is going to be a lot of scoreboard watching.
The Penguins also have the third toughest strength of schedule percentage (.581) in the entire division behind Springfield (.595) and Charlotte (.591)
It’s a lot of ground to cover, and not a lot of head to head games left to have direct implications.
A Lesson to Set the Mood…
Et tu, Storm?
(Storm is Bridgeport’s mascot)
I think it’s important to focus on the out of town aspect…
I agree, somewhat. I’ll expound below, but for the sake of asking, here’s who has who this coming week:
Springfield: Home against Hartford, Providence and Laval.
Bridgeport: At Charlotte for three straight.
Hartford: At Springfield, Rochester and Toronto.
Penguins: Home against Toronto, Lehigh Valley and Utica.
Springfield is 5-1-1 against the Wolf Pack, 2-4-1 against Providence, and 0-1 against Laval.
Bridgeport is 1-2 against Charlotte.
Hartford is 2-3-2 against Springfield, 1-0 against Rochester and haven’t played Toronto yet. Marlies are the best team in the North Division, for what it’s worth.
The Penguins are 0-1 against Toronto, 4-2-1-1 against the Phantoms and 0-1 against Utica.
Okay, but what about worrying about your own house?
The Bad: They miss Ty Smith (possible broken jaw) and Jonathan Gruden (possible broken rib(s)) big time. Captain Taylor Fedun is a defensive mess. Head Coach J.D. Forrest can’t stop tinkering with the lineup. They have no secondary scoring whatsoever, what they do produce is overshadowed by shoddy defending or sometime suspect goaltending, as evidenced crystal clear as a bell last Wednesday in Hershey, where Taylor Fedun put on a masterclass of how not to defend, but were brought even by Justin Addamo and Alex Nylander, only to be let down by a boffo goal allowed by their veteran goaltender Dustin Tokarski.
Microcosm of the season summarized in one game? Yes.
Focusing on the good: The power play is lethal, bringing them back into games as you saw Sunday in Cleveland, jumpstarting them to four unanswered goals and a 6-4 win over the last place Monsters. You are starting to see some secondary scoring come to light with Ty Glover getting two goals Sunday and Raivis Ansons and Peter DiLiberatore scoring Saturday outdoors, but, back to the inconsistency of the lineup, where was Justin Addamo Saturday? Kid scores two goals in Hershey and is an aircraft carrier on the ice (my college coaches always said you can’t teach size) and he’s scratched for Drake Caggiula who was invisible on Saturday?
It’s mind boggling. Time is running out here. Even if you do run up to the six seed, is it worth getting smashed by three seed Charlotte (who have 56 games played and a 7 point cushion over Lehigh Valley at the four) who the Penguins are 3-2-1 against head to head? I don’t know.
Alex Nylander was recalled Tuesday, so there goes half the offense and a main power play threat. A seemingly more insurmountable feat just got more difficult.
Ask yourself this question. Are you good with missing playoffs or would you rather they make it as a six seed with virtually no shot of running the table?
I don’t personally know yet, but this weekend will be a good telltale sign of what’s to come, that’s for sure.
Under 30 words on who we face this week…
Toronto just runs team over but are 0-2 thus far on their Pennsylvania trip, dropping back to back 4-3 losses to Hershey and Lehigh Valley this past weekend.
Lehigh Valley are mercurial. They always will be under Ian Laperriere.
Utica is a big unknown. They are 4-0-1 coming into this week and 15 points back of Toronto but just a point clear of rival Syracuse.
Give me the crews…
Wednesday: Rob Hennessey and Michael Zyla with Brandon Grillo and John Rey on the lines.
Friday: Sam Bernier and Michael Zyla with Jud Ritter and J.P. Waleski on the lines.
Saturday: Sam Bernier and Dre Barone with Josh Cleary and J.P. Waleski on the lines.
Rochester at home next Friday, at Syracuse Saturday and at Lehigh Valley Sunday.
Realistically, what do you think happens…
They find a way to lose against the Marlies, beat Lehigh Valley clean and take a point from Utica. Out of town, they inch to within two points of the six seed, and we are probably doing this same exercise some time next week.
Give us a bold prediction…
One of these days I will figure out a format with these Weekend Previews and stick to it throughout the course of the season…
Weekend Preview – March Madness?
February 24, 2023Posted by on
It’s not good.
Last night, the Bridgeport Islanders played a rare Thursday game and burned a game in hand the had on the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins and won that game against the Belleville Senators 5-1.
Here’s what it did to the standings in the AHL Atlantic. Remember that the top six teams make it.
Is it too soon for this? I don’t think so. We are entering March, the final full month of regular season play in the AHL in a few days, so no, it is not too early to start talking about this.
Penguins are three back of an Islanders team on even games played and don’t exactly play Bridgeport well. They have Hartford in between who have been mini-surging, winning three straight, looking to keep up.
Here’s who has who this weekend:
At Syracuse (3rd in he North, 53 points) on Friday.
Home against Belleville (last in the North, 45 points) on Saturday.
At Syracuse Saturday.
Home against Charlotte (3rd in the Atlantic, 62 points) on Saturday
Home against Lehigh Valley (5th in the Atlantic, 55 points) on Sunday
Expanding on the divisional standings, Springfield is 4th at 50 games played and 56 points, Lehigh Valley has 51 games played and is 5th with 55.
So a run by the Penguins would most likely mean a run up the standings, possibly as high as fourth.
Toronto has opened up an eye popping 18 point lead on second Utica in the North Division. That race, barring a collapse, is over. So you are jockeying for the other home ice advantage with your rival Comets and trying to hold off runs by Laval, Rochester and Cleveland if you are the Crunch. They beat Utica 8-5 last Saturday and beat Rochester in overtime last Sunday. They have been off since. They are a good, solid team playing in a division with other good, solid teams.
The Penguins played the Crunch close in January, but that could have been the start of their downfall, as they lost that game in hand that they had on everyone in the division and just got straight beat by a team who was better then they were.
Belleville, on the other hand, isn’t good. Ravaged by injuries, seeing their head coach get fired for trading secrets, it hasn’t been a good year on the Bay of Quinte. The B-Sens (still feels weird typing that and having it not refer to Binghamton) beat the Penguins back in December. You might be able to go back to that game and say that it was the start of the downfall because they had no business losing to. Pens were on a 3-0-1 run at the time, while Belleville was 0-3. Pens would lose two more after that and haven’t really recovered as a top tier team since.
So I am expecting more hold on to your butt type games, like we saw Wednesday against Lehigh Valley.
Who’s in Goal?
Question about Dustin Tokarski’s availability. He got ran into late Wednesday and was shook up a bit, but stayed in. I haven’t seen any recalls up from Wheeling (yet) so it’s likely that Tokarski is OK and he goes Saturday against Belleville and you give Taylor Gauthier the net Friday in Syracuse against old pal Max Legace.
Belleville has had a revolving door of goaltenders, so it’s a tossup. They have Luke Richardson and Brian Wilson on the roster now, who knows if they will even make it to Wilkes-Barre Saturday. With the way the Penguins have been playing, it may not matter.
Refs Who Look Ahead
I mashed the sections together from the last time I did the Weekend Preview in case you haven’t noticed.
Casey Terreri and Adam Tobias work the Syracuse game with Rob Sauda and T.J. Dockery on the lines. Terreri takes the run down I-81 and meets up with Brandon Schrader with Patrick Dapuzzo and Jud Ritter working the lines on Saturday.
Pens open March Wednesday in Hershey then head to Cleveland for the outdoor game next Saturday at 1 against the Monsters then a Sunday matinee in Cleveland at 3.
Winnable games against Hershey and Cleveland. Pens have Hershey down to a science and always rough up the Monsters. Get 3 out of 4 points this weekend, propel yourself to a good week on the road and maybe you are closer to a four seed in mid-March than you are to the fourth tee in mid-April.
Music to lead you out the door…
Heard this pregame Wednesday night and it reminded me how much I sometimes miss the repetitive droning of terrestrial radio.
Weekend Preview – What, No Bears?
January 18, 2023Posted by on
No Hershey on the menu for the rest of the month for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, who start seeing that other PA team a couple times this month with some other non-Hershey divisional opponents.
Music to set the mood…
Meditation music? Really? You’re really reaching…
Wait. There’s a tiger tie in there with the Sound Tig- wait, they are the Islanders now. Aw, shucks. Well, at least no bears!
“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.”
They have certainly. overcome challenges, haven’t they? Half the team either injured or called up and yet they are a point off Charlotte for third with three games in hand on the Checkers.
Home against a game Syracuse team Wednesday then home against Lehigh Valley Friday before taking on Bridgeport in Connecticut on Saturday. The Penguins are better than all of these teams, but can’t take any of them lightly.
Syracuse is perpetually an offensively explosive team and that was on full display this past weekend with a 7-3 pasting of Laval Friday, a 5-2 walloping of Lehigh Valley on Saturday and took down their biggest rival Utica on Monday.
The Crunch are fourth in the North Division where only five teams make it so they want to stay ahead of the cut line as the season starts to head into its backend.
The Phantoms took 3 of 4 points out of Bridgeport a home and home Wednesday / Friday last week and then got thumped by the Crunch on Saturday. They are in Cleveland this week, beating Cleveland 3-1 Tuesday with a rematch on tap Wednesday night.
I gave you what the Islanders did in the first part of their weekend last, then they got stomped by Utica 5-1 on Saturday and against Springfield on Monday they beat a struggling Thunderbirds team 6-2.
Penguins beat Hershey in overtime after blowing a three goal lead in the third period on the road then gave rival Charlotte 3 of 4 points in North Carolina this past weekend and are a point off the Checkers.
Pens are 18-11-2-3, good for 41 points and fourth in the Atlantic.
Syracuse is 16-13-2-3, good for 37 points and fourth in the North.
Lehigh Valley is presently 17-14-3-2, good for 39 points and fifth in the Atlantic. The Pens have two games in hand.
Bridgeport is presently 16-15-6-1, good for 39 points and sixth in the Atlantic. The Pens have four games in hand.
Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?
Drew O’Connor, Jonathan Gruden, Ty Smith, Mark Friedman, Taylor Fedun and Dustin Tokarski are up with Pittsburgh. Kyle Olson, Xavier Ouellet and Filip Hållander are out, Taylor Gauthier and Filip Lindberg are in and out and are playing with something. Tommy Nappier has backed up and is up from Wheeling but hasn’t played in a game yet this season. Sean Josling, Chris Ortiz, Adam Smith, Josh Maniscalco and Colin Swoyer are also up from the Nailers.
Jeez, that seems like a lot. Hope I didn’t miss anyone.
What can we learn about the Penguins this week?
Last week it was about stepping up and getting results. I think they did that in some regard last week with getting by Hershey and taking two points out of Charlotte with how depleted they are in all areas.
This week should be about maximizing points against teams that are below them in the division and getting anything out of a non-divisional opponent on Wednesday.
I think Syracuse’s offensive forwards will challenge the Penguins defense, and the Penguins forwards may struggle to keep up on the scoreboard. But, as this team has shown me in the past, they exceed expectations.
They aren’t overtaking Hershey and Providence for the top of the division this weekend, but a good week starting Wednesday at home against Syracuse can be a step in the right direction.
Who’s in goal?
Good question. Taylor Gauthier left the game after the first period on Saturday then returned to back up the rest of the game but didn’t dress Sunday. Is he OK to go Wednesday? Can he back up? How is Filip Lindberg after his first game back after missing the last couple of weeks? Does Tommy Nappier get a start? Does Dustin Tokarski return from Pittsburgh?
I’m going Lindberg – Gauthier – Lindberg provided Tokarski stays in Pittsburgh.
For Syracuse, Max Lagace. For Leigh Valley, most likely Felix Sandstrom and for Bridgeport toss a coin for Jakub Skarek or Cory Schneider considering how far out that game is.
Who’s running the show?
Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Laura White are here Wednesday with Ryan Knapp and Tyler Loftus on the lines…Brandon Schrader and Amanda Tassoni are here Friday with Jud Ritter and Josh Cleary on the lines and on Saturday up in Bridgeport it’s Mike Dietrich and Jordan Watt with Nick Briganti and Josh Cleary again on the lines.
They make up the game against Utica on Tuesday going on the power play and then head to Rochester on Wednesday then they close out the weekend and the month of January in Allentown on Friday and then return home to host Bridgeport on Saturday.
Give us a bold prediction…
5 of 6 points, third place in the Atlantic at the end of the weekend.
Weekend Preview — 4 O’Clock Grind
January 11, 2023Posted by on
The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins hit the road this week for a pair of 4:00 home games Saturday and Sunday before yet another trip to play the Hershey Bears on Wednesday.
Music to set the mood….
Yeah, I know. It’s a five o’clock world, your headline says 4 o’clock grind. Just work with me.
I write seven days a week, starting at 4 o’clock in the morning, including Christmas.
– Dan Brown
There’s your 4 o’clock tie in. Happy now?
Split with Charlotte which was fine, bigger story was Filip Hallander getting stretchered off Friday. He’ll be fine, eventually, then a comeback for the ages against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday. This week, a trip to Hershey Wednesday, then two in Charlotte this weekend. Really, really important games. How important? Pens can solidify themselves as a solid three seed in the Atlantic with 43 points assuming they take all six points available.
There’s a mangrove of mediocrity with Bridgeport, Springfield and Lehigh Valley with Hartford creeping in which you want to avoid at all costs. Play more like Wednesday and less like the first period Saturday and you put yourselves in good position to propel yourselves away from the averages and start pushing at the Providence’s and Hershey’s in the division.
Bears are coming off a 3-1 loss to Charlotte Saturday and then fending off Syracuse 4-3 Sunday. Bears are getting healthier and are getting big bodies back from Washington. Does Joe Snively ring a bell for anyone? He should be making his debut for Hershey Wednesday. Hershey is actively pursuing the top seed in the AHL but is getting pushback from Providence and a bunch of really good Pacific Division teams. I don’t do power rankings on the blog anymore but if I did they would look like this, this week:
- Coachella Valley Firebirds: Just started playing home games in December, and have just 6 regulation losses.
- Calgary Wranglers: Deep heavy team that just grinds opponents.
- Providence Bruins: I think the Bruins are better than Hershey more wholly.
- Hershey Bears: But it’s the Bears who have led the Atlantic for much of the first half of the season.
- Texas Stars: Stars use a point run to race up to the top of the Central with a cushion.
- Toronto Marlies: I think there are a lot dark horses in the North but it’s Toronto who lead this division.
- Utica Comets: Comets took down Providence Sunday. Eleven game point streak, yet are six off Toronto’s lead for the division.
- Abbotsford Canucks: 8-2 in their last ten, six off Coachella Valley in the Pacific.
- Rochester Americans: 7-3 in their last ten, doing what they can to keep up with Utica’s 11 game heater and the pace that Toronto sets.
- Charlotte Checkers: Took down Hershey in Hershey and split with the Penguins.
That was easier than I thought it would be. Hmmm.
You notice just one Central Division team in Texas. There is a lot of mediocrity in the Central. Rockford is four off Texas in second.
Penguins would probably be 15-20 if you forced me to complete the list for all 32 teams.
I snuck Charlotte in there at 10 so I can move on, but they did lose 5-0 to last place Hartford 5-0 yesterday.
Bears lead the division with 23-8-2-1 and 49 points, Charlotte is third with a 18-13-2-1 and 39 points and the Pens are fourth with 16-10-2-3 and 37 points.
Charlotte will have hosted Hartford again on on Wednesday before hosting the Penguins.
Who’s Up, Who’s Down? Who’s Out?
Forward Drew O’Connor, Defensemen Ty Smith and Goaltender Dustin Tokarski are all up with Pittsburgh. Mark Friedman was reassigned to Wilkes-Barre from Pittsburgh this morning. Kyle Olson, Xavier Ouellet and Filip Hallander are out. Jamie Devane returned from injury. A couple guys were in the non-COVID protocols. Taylor Gauthier and Tommy Nappier are up in goal for the Penguins. Sean Josling, Chris Ortiz, Adam Smith and Colin Swoyer are up also. Filip Lindberg was OK to back up Wednesday but then the Pens called Nappier up and it was Nappier who backed up Friday and Saturday.
It will be interesting to hear who is on the Charlotte trip (Lindberg and Hallander being would be positive signs)
What can we learn about the Penguins this week?
Do they want to push to be among the elites or are we dealing with a buoy in the ocean whos size changes when the tides roll in and out? They had no business being down 3-0 against Hartford and no business letting Charlotte score three straight in a four minute span in the second period Friday.
They give Hershey fits and have Charlotte figured out. They are dealing with callup and injuries to a lot of key guys. Newsflash, they aren’t the only team.
Nathan Legare has shown flashes. Lukas Svejkovsky’s game has grown by leaps and bounds recently. Alex Nylander is probably their best player now and Drake Caggiula and Sam Houde are like TNT and can go off at any time.
So it boils down to limiting mistakes and capitalizing on others. Simple, really.
Who’s in goal?
I guess it depends on how the rehab is going with Filip Lindberg but I’d say it’s a lock that Taylor Gauthier starts his fourth straight Wednesday in Hershey and possibly fifth Saturday in Charlotte. This far out speculating on who starts Sunday is a fools science.
Zach Fucale will probably get the nod Wednesday for Hershey and Mack Guzda will likely face the Pens for both games this weekend because Alex Lyon was recalled to Florida on Tuesday afternoon, although you may see veteran J-F Berube in one of the games.
Who’s running the show?
Mike Dietrich and Mike Sullivan (no, not that one) dish out penalties and Bill Lyons and Michael Magee make sure the boys stay onside Wednesday. Conor O’Donnell and Chris Waterstradt work the Saturday game in Charlotte with Sean D’Loughy and Brady Fagan on the lines and on Sunday it’s Jake Kamrass joining Waterstradt with Brandon Grillo and Dan Kelly working the lines.
Next Wednesday at home against Syracuse, then Lehigh Valley stops by next Friday. Pens then head to Bridgeport on Saturday.
Give us a bold prediction….
The Power Rankings will return. Someday.
Weekend Preview – Chess or Checkers
January 4, 2023Posted by on
The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins look to open 2023 with some wins against the visiting Charlotte Checkers this week as well as the last place Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday.
Four out of the next six this month will be against the Checkers.
Music to set the mood…
Apropos. Fun fact: the Charlotte Checkers mascots name is Chubby. Chubby as in Checker. Chubby Checker. Genius, if you ask me.
I love food, and the food industry is huge, and I just love dealing in it.
– Chubby Checker
Staying with the theme, if you will.
They played the Providence Bruins close and lost last Friday. They went to Lehigh Valley and obliterated a musha musha Phantoms team behind 29 saves with a goaltender making his AHL debut.
There’s a lot to like with the Penguins, but they aren’t an elite team by any stretch. I don’t think that the setup of the team was ever such that they would be classified as an elite team, but they are a solid team that plays elite teams like Hershey and Providence tight but can dominate average teams like the Phantoms, but then lay eggs against bad teams like Belleville.
Charlotte beat a Cleveland team 3-2 in back to back games. They also beat Providence twice back in North Carolina before Christmas.
So they, like the Penguins, are a maybe elite but not all the time team. So these next two games should prove as a good test for Wilkes-Barre.
Hartford started their week with a seven spot against a cold Bridgeport team then were swept in a home and home against the Springfield Thunderbirds. They will be in Utica on Friday.
Charlotte leads the mediocres in the Atlantic Division with 35 points with a 16-11-2-1 record in third place behind heavies Hershey and Hartford. Penguins are in fifth behind the Islanders in fourth, with 14-9-2-3 and 33 points. Hartford brings up the rear in last place in the Atlantic with a 11-13-1-5 record and 28 points, but that record will be different on account of the Utica game on Friday.
Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?
Ty Smith, Mark Friedman and Drew O’Connor are in Pittsburgh. Dustin Tokarski joined them Tuesday. Filip Lindberg, Kyle Olson and Jamie Devane are hurt, but because the Pens didn’t recall Tommy Nappier from Wheeling Wednesday morning, makes me believe that Lindberg is OK to go again. Sean Josling, Josh Maniscalco, Chris Ortiz and of course Taylor Gauthier are up from Wheeling. No one is down in Wheeling.
What can we learn about the Penguins this week?
They have the least amount of games played (28) in the division. They, at some point, have to play these games to play catch up to Hershey (four more games played) Providence (three) and Charlotte (two) – head to heads mean a lot because they are “four point games” – so they should maximize the chances at every opportunity and win these games against Charlotte.
Editor note: Letting the reader in the room when the sausage is made…
Below, in italics, is what I had written on Sunday afternoon before the Monday Winter Classic where Tristan Jarry was injured. Yeah, I do write these in advance and schedule them with edits here and there.
I’d go right back to Taylor Gauthier if I am J.D. Forrest on Wednesday. You didn’t notice the mistakes that they made against Providence as much, perhaps that is a talent thing, but they played with swagger in front of Gauthier. I think it’s a different philosophy when Tokarski is back there because he is a veteran and can make the saves when he needs to. But, sometimes they let him down (like late Friday) and it costs them points.
A bold move would be Gauthier both games against Charlotte and then let Tokarski get a game Saturday against the Wolf Pack. But Tokarski will probably be named as an AHL All-Star this week, so it isn’t likely.
I don’t want to say after one game into the kids AHL tenure that they are magically a better team with a rookie in goal, but they did snap a five game losing streak on New Years Eve.
Tokarski hasn’t been named to All-Stars yet (no announcement yet) but it certainly looks like Taylor Gauthier is “the guy” at this point in the schedule.
Who’s in goal?
Likely they go Gauthier Wednesday, then Lindberg if healthy Friday, then the better of the two Saturday against Hartford.
Charlotte will probably split Alex Lyon and Mack Guzda. Hartford will probably see old friend Louis Domingue provided he isn’t out first Friday in Utica. If so, then likely Dylan Garand.
Who is running the show?
Mike Dietrich and Jason Williams will be here Wednesday with Tom DellaFranco and Tyler Loftus on the lines.
Friday sees Jordan Samuels-Thomas in with Mason Riley and Tommy George and Sean D’Loughy on the lines. On Saturday, Samuels-Thomas sticks around and is joined by fellow orange arm band wearer Patrick Hanrahan. They are joined by linesmen Jud Ritter and J.P. Waleski.
Bunch of road games starting next Wednesday in Hershey then a trip to North Carolina Saturday and Sunday. Hey! Another Friday off!
Give us a bold prediction…
I’ll give you two. Lukas Svejkovsky gets his first pro goal and Taylor Gauthier gets his first pro shutout.