Chirps from Center Ice

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

2017 Division Final Previews

There are eight teams left in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs. Sadly, the Penguins aren’t one of them. Of those that remain though, we are going to take a look at how they did and how they match up against their opponent.

Let’s start in the Western Conference first.

     San Jose (P1) vs. San Diego (P2)     
Pacific Division Finals

How the Barracuda got here: San Jose survived a scare in the Stockton Heat, beating the Heat in five games with a shorthanded goal and in overtime to boot.

How the Gulls got here: San Diego got past Ontario in five games but in the final game the Reign started their third string goaltender which went about as good as you’d expect, and San Diego advanced.

How they match up: Pretty evenly, actually with each team winning five over the other in the regular season.

Key player so far for San Jose: Ryan Carpenter, whose seven points in the postseason not only leads his San Jose side but the AHL Playoffs in whole. You know that the Gulls will be keying in on him this series.

Key player so far for San Diego: Jhonas Enroth’s 1.82 GAA and .945 SV% is impressive considering that the series with Ontario went the full five games.

Prediction: San Jose in seven. Perhaps the Heat exposed a flaw in the Barracuda that the Gulls can expose more and it’s San Diego that gets by, but I like the unfettered way that Roy Sommer’s group plays that has got them the Pacific Division and Western Conference Championships so far.

     Chicago (C1) vs. Grand Rapids (C2)     
Central Division Finals

Note: This series started Wednesday and I tweeted my prediction a few hours before to preserve it. See below.

How the Wolves got here: Needed five games to get past the resurgent Charlotte Checkers in a series that was over in a week.

How the Griffins got here: The only unblemished team left, they swept away the Milwaukee Admirals in three games last round.

How they match up: The one matchup the Wolves did not want was Grand Rapids, who went 8-2 against Chicago in the regualar season.

Key player so far for Chicago: He’s the league MVP for a reason. Kenny Agostino.

Key player so far for Grand Rapids: Jared Coreau is unbeaten in net for the Griffins so far.

Prediction:

     Syracuse (N1) vs. Toronto (N2)     
North Division Finals

How the Crunch got here: Went down in Game 1 against the St. John’s IceCaps and pulled it from the brink in Game 2 down a pair of goals. Syracuse scored twice to tie it then won in double overtime to force it back to Syracuse tied 1-1. The Crunch would win Game 3 then Game 4 in overtime to advance.

How the Marlies got here: Same story, different verse for Toronto. Shutout in Game 1 by Albany, won Game 2 big to tie the series coming back to Toronto and won in one overtime in Game 3 and three overtimes in Game 4.

How they match up: Throw everything away in the regular season away with these two because it’s an entirely different group of Crunch players. This may be the most evenly matched series out of all the division finals games.

Key player so far for Syracuse: Matt Taormina was named Defenseman of the Year this past season and so far has lived up to the award. Four points so far for him.

Key player so far for Toronto: Taormina will probably be staring across at fellow blueliner Justin Holl, whose six points and +5 rating cannot go without notice.

Prediction: Syracuse in six. Crunch fans waited a long time for all the pieces to come home from Tampa Bay and now that they are, it’s Syracuse’s spot in the finals we think is theirs to lose. Toronto keeps in interesting, but goes out in six games.

     Hershey (A3) vs. Providence (A4)     
Atlantic Division Finals

The only one and two seeds not to advance with all the other one and two seeds was Wilkes-Barre and Lehigh Valley, proving how tough the Atlantic Division really was.

How the Bears got here: Not by winning on home ice, that’s for sure. Hershey lost both games at Giant Center to Lehigh Valley in a series where the home team never won.

How the Bruins got here: They did not shock the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, not by a long shot. That series was dangerously even and the Bruins took out the regular season champion Penguins in five games.

How they match up: Bruins went 3-3 against the Bears, with a win in the shootout.

Key player so far for Hershey: Stanislav Galiev is a point a playoff game player for the Bears and not someone first on your list of players to shutdown, but at the end of the night he is one you wish you did.

Key player so far for Providence: Zane McIntyre straight up stole Game 5 from the Penguins, stopping fifty shots.

Prediction: Each team took out a higher seed expected to advance over the other. But Zane McIntryre is going to continue to be a difference maker for his team and will stymie the Bears offense. Going Providence in six.

If you still have a team going in this, good luck.

2016-17 Season in Review – Part Two

In continuing with the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguin Season in Review, we continue with the second half of the season. If you missed Part One it’s here or you can scroll down if you didn’t link in direct.

This one nearly touches 4,000 words, so it’s going to take you a while. Hell, you have all summer. Click through the jump if you didn’t link in direct.

Read more of this post

2016-17 Season in Review – Part One

The season ended a lot quicker than the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins would have liked to on Sunday in Game 5 against the Providence Bruins in the Atlantic Division Semifinals.

But instead of rehashing that painful memory all over again, let’s take a look back at the Penguins season in whole, starting on that Saturday night in October in Wilkes-Barre, opening night against the Hartford Wolf Pack. The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins had a very successful regular season for themselves. In this first of a two part series, I look back at each game the Penguins played in the regular season up to the midway point of the season. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.

It’s a meaty piece, over 2500 words here, so settle in and let’s take a look back at the year that was after the jump…

Read more of this post

Hit ’em With The Hein! — Pens LOSE 2-1

   button_adk200       vs.       WBS

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I don’t know what to say.

I had a feeling, around December or January, when the call-up started happening and the Penguins maintained first place overall in the AHL and the Eastern Conference that this year was going to be different.

This was the year I thought. Our Cup to lose I said to a select few.

In the 30 team American Hockey League, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins were the best overall team in it during the regular season. They won the Atlantic Division, the Eastern Conference and the Kilpatrick trophy.

But none of that mattered in the postseason. Ask any favored team going into a playoff series. Golden State Warriors in basketball. The Atlanta Falcons in the third period of the Super Bowl past.

In the postseason, you aren’t playing the 30 team AHL schedule any longer, your focus is one opponent.

For the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, it was the Providence Bruins.

I went through the stats that one afternoon and looked at how dead even the two teams were in every facet. Goaltending, Offense and Defense, it was almost a dead heat.

I gave the advantage to the Penguins, as did many others, and erroneously selected them to advance in four games.

A masterful, herculean, down right impossible effort by Bruins goaltender Zane McIntyre Sunday afternoon, stopping 50 shots sent his way. Danton Heinen scores twice, once in the first on a power play after a too many men on the ice call, the third in the series called against the Penguins and then late in the third with seven minutes to play. J-S Dea pulled one back for the Penguins on a later power play but the Penguins fate had already been sealed. Penguins fall 2-1 in Game 5 and bow out of the playoffs in the first round. The are the first regular season champion since the 1995-96 Cornwall Aces to not advance in past the first round of the AHL playoffs.

They failed to score on a double minor right after the Heinen first period goal, already down one, and McIntyre settled into groove that stole one for the number four seeded Providence Bruins, who finally overcome the postseason nightmare which is the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. The ghosts of a 3-0 blown series lead a few years ago and a sweep last year die a cold death on the ice at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.

I don’t think there is anything left here to recap. Penguins shot themselves in the foot with a too many men on the ice call that the Bruins capitalized on :09 later on, couldn’t convert a double minor high sticking call on Tom Kostopoulos immediately after, put a mountain of shots on Zane McIntyre and could not advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Seth had some nice quotes here which I think sum up the game and the series for me. Your mileage may vary.

To sum, the Penguins offense sputtered when it had a 2-1 series lead when the clock struck midnight Friday morning.

But to be fair, these teams were evenly matched and were built from goaltender on out.

And sometimes you get beat.

Three stars were all Providence, Jordan Szwarz was third with two assists, Danton Heinen was second with two goals and Zane McIntyre was first with 50 saves on 51 shots.

I will have a Year in Review piece on the blog thus week. I’ll probably go back and look at what I got wrong in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs and try to predict Round Two sometime later this week.

Things will be quiet here until the end of the playoffs after that unless there is breaking news like a guys signing overseas or someone signing on for next season. My offseason moves chart will probably go up at some point within say a month or so.

I will most likely have the AHL Free Agent Big Board again around July 1. I’ll crowdsource it again like I did last year. Apply today!

Thank you.

Thank you to the Penguins for another good season of content here on the blog. It’s easy when you are good and the Penguins were this season and that made for some goofy and awful puns and some overall good times during the regular season. Thank you to Brian Coe in the front office, the braintrust that makes all of this social media go. Voices of the Penguins Mike O’Brien and Nick Hart had another stellar year as a tandem. You will go to bed tonight bummed that the Penguins didn’t win the Calder Cup they were favored to win, but remember this, the team that beat the Penguins doesn’t have a broadcaster, and has little to no social media presence whatsoever.

Thank you to you, the reader, who reads this blog religiously either by stopping me on the concourse, finding me on Twitter or Facebook and saying how you enjoy the blog or by subscribing via e-mail. Growing a reader base doesn’t come overnight. It takes work, hard work, to grow a base of people who consider your stuff on par with the print media. For that I say thank you.

Thanks to Seth Lakso of the Citizens’ Voice and Tom Venesky of The Times-Leader for another stellar year of coverage of the team. Another thing to consider when you turn in for the evening and begin to start your summer, the newspaper business is a fading industry. Most towns don’t have a full time beat covering their minor league team. Ask any Texas, Hershey, Binghamton, Hartford, or Rochester fan off the top of my head what it’s like having to go to the internet to read a final score of that night’s game. Wilkes-Barre has two beats that religiously follow the team.

So that’s all she wrote.

One final video from the best in the business…

Thank you again. Enjoy your summer, and Let’s Go Pens!

RAPID RECAP – Pens LOSE 2-1

Seasons over folks. 

A mammoth effort in goal, stopping fifty shots by the Penguins in a decisive Game 5 and two goals by Danton Heinen were enough in a one game series that does the Penguins in here. 

Penguins got caught with too many men in the first, Bruins scored :09 into that. Penguins couldn’t score on a double minor in the first. That was it. 

Penguins got a power play goal by J-S Dea that gave the home side life, but McIntyre stood on his head in the game and the Penguins closing minutes moments, Wilkes-Barre never found an equalizer. 

Full piece in a bit. 

Atlantic Division Semifinal Game 5: Providence Bruins (Series Tied 2-2)

vs.     15PRO

Atlantic Division Semifinal — Game 5

AHL Game: A5

Who: Providence Bruins

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 3:05 p.m.

Series: Tied 2-2 (Best of Five)

Media Kit

Last Game: Friday in Wilkes-Barre, the Bruins forced a decisive Game 5 after jumping out to 3-0 lead in the first, a 4-0 lead early in the second and held on to win 4-2. Jake DeBrusk scored twice for Providence. The Penguins went 0-for-6 on the power play.

What to watch for: Penguins need a better effort this afternoon if they want to advance in all facets. Getting the lead first and striking on the power play will be or should be key in this one. For Providence, they will want to replicate the same effort in Game 4 today here in Game 5. It’s going to be a tough task for both sides. Look for a game more like Game 3, which was a defensive chess match.

Referee(s): Jake Brenk / Tim Mayer

Linesmen: Kory Nagy / Jud Ritter

Twitter: @wbspenguins / @AHLBruins

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins // /providencebruins

Instagram: wbspenguins / ahlbruins

Beat Writers: @CVSethLakso / @TomVenesky // @MarkDivver

Broadcasters: For WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS and Nick Hart @_NickHart // For PRO: None

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep

Radio: For WBS: WILK NewsRadio / For PRO: None

Television: AHL Live

Penguins on the Brink — Pens LOSE 4-2

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Bounces, bounces, bounces.

If you have read this blog long enough, you know that I always look to seek out the positive in all the negative. All tonight, a 4-2 Penguins loss in Game 4 of the Atlantic Division Semifinals which forces a Game 5 Sunday afternoon at 3:05 against the Providence Bruins, it was a game of bounces.

First period. Tim Erixon attempts a pass to Teddy Blueger in front of Casey DeSmith’s crease, Blueger mishandles the puck and spills it right to Wayne Simpson who scores 1:15 into the game.

Then you are chasing. When you chase you get desperate. When you get desperate you make mistakes.

Too many men on the Penguins at 5:01. Providence power play.

Penguins kill it. But then Oskar Sundqvist takes a tripping call. The Bruins player he tripped may have oversold a bit, but it’s a penalty nonetheless.

Bruins cash this time. Colton Hargrove sweeps home a puck laying in front of DeSmth to make it a 2-0 lead. Did Kevin Porter push the puck across erroneously? Hard to tell on the one replay I saw.

Penguins start to push, Derrick Pouliot takes a hard snapshot which is blocked, he is caught flatfooted and an odd man rush ensues and Jake DeBrusk scores on a nice goal that puts Wilkes-Barre in a deep, 3-0 hole that they, despite a push at the end, were never able to dig out of.

Bounces, bounces, bounces. Did it start at the turnover in the games first two minutes? Or did it come from the face that the Penguins, who were 2-for-5 on the power play the night prior in Game 3, go 0-for-6.

Nevertheless, Game 5 for all the marbled goes Sunday at 3:05.

Casey DeSmith opposed Zane McIntyre.

Lines were…

Tom Sestito – Kevin Porter – Tom Kostopoulos
Garrett Wilson – Oskar Sundqvist – Josh Archibald
Dominik Simon – Teddy Blueger – J-S Dea
Troy Josephs – Sahir Gill – Jarrett Burton

David Warsofsky – Tim Erixon
Derrick Pouliot – Barry Goers
Cameron Gaunce – Ethan Prow

Casey DeSmith – Sean Maguire

Lineup Notes: Two for the Penguins. Adam Krause and Ryan Haggerty out for Troy Josephs and Sahir Gill. Before you point fingers, the fourth line was the only line which was even this evening. Providence made four changes. Three guys were banged up. From Mark Divver from The Providence Journal Rob O’Gara (lower body), Ben Marshall (upper body) and Peter Mueller (facial injury) were out for Chris Casto and Linus Arnesson on defense and Colton Hargrove and Ryan Fitzgerald up front. New guy Zach Senyshyn played last night but was scratched for the Bruins.

First Period: Described above, Penguins found themselves in a 3-0 hole after one period of play. I said in my Gameday setup that the Bruins would play fast and loose and it was the Penguins that were playing loose and tried to win the game in the third period with time running out fast.

Second Period: Penguins had two cracks at back to back penalties but couldn’t push noting across nor get a decent setup to cut the deficit to two.

Instead, a Tommy Cross shot was deflected in by Jake DeBrusk for his second of the game for a 4-0 lead. This goal will not stand up as the game winner, but it’s a different story in the third period if it’s 3-2 instead of 4-2.

Teddy Blueger atoned for his turnover in the first with a goal after Dominik Simon forced a turnover that made it 4-1.

But Jarrett Burton took his second penalty of the period and that ended up being a momentum crusher.

Third Period: Penguins continued to push, pulled one back on an Ethan Prow deflection of a Cameron Gaunce shot that made it 4-2. Providence took a penalty right after that but the Penguins could not score on the power play to make it 4-3 and after a timeout with DeSmith pulled, were never able to get another goal.

Three Stars: 3) Dominik Simon (two assists, +1) 2) Colton Hargrove (goal, -1) 1) Jake DeBrusk (two goals, +2)

Hard to disagree. Hungry players stepped up for a team in desperate need of a win.

Prepare your sphincters appropriately.

Around the Conference: Lehigh Valley and Hershey play Game 4 Saturday. Syracuse eliminates St. John’s in Game 4 in overtime 2-1. Toronto beats Albany in triple overtime 2-1 on a shot by Justin Holl that eliminates the Albany Devils in four games.

Video highlights…

Next blog post will be the Gameday setup at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Let’s Go Pens!