Chirps from Center Ice

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

2016-17 First Quarter Grades

I decided this year to bring back the Quarterly Grades after a year long hiatus. Really, it’s because I need something to write about during a nearly week long layoff between Wilkes-Barre / Scranton games, so they are back for another year.

Here’s how it works. Anyone who played a game in these first 19 games, where the Penguins sit in first place in the Atlantic Division with a 13-4-2-0 record, good for 28 points or .737 percentage points, however you want to calculate it, gets a mention. Players with six or more games played get a grade.

Here you go, starting with the forwards, rolling in alphabetical order…

Forwards

Josh Archibald: 19 GP, 3-4-7, +6 — Look, I realize that the ‘GRK’ line has carried the offense and the defense has carried the mail in that category, but when the Penguins do lose, it’s because the opposing team shuts down the ‘GRK’ line and the defense lets a few in. Players like Archibald need to start filling in more offensively other than just 7 points in 19 games. If Archibald can start cashing on his chances, this Penguins team will be unbeatable. Grade: C

Jarrett Burton: 9 GP, 1-0-1, -1 — Burton finally found the scoresheet last Friday in Bridgeport, his only offensive contribution in nine games for the Penguins. You’d like to see more, but such is life for a fourth liner. Grade: C-

Jean-Sebastien Dea: 18 GP, 6-1-7, even — Was scratched last Friday in Bridgeport and took it to heart, coming out Saturday night at home against the Sound Tigers on a tear. Was the best player on the ice. Can’t grade a player based off of their last game played, but if Dea continues this, he will be among the likes of the Guentzel’s, Rowney’s and Porter’s as players in line for an NHL call-up. Grade: C

Thomas DiPauli: 8 GP, 1-0-1, +1 — Eight games played coming off of an injury suffered in training camp. DiPauli is still finding his legs and learning on the fly on how to play in the American Hockey League. He will get there. Grade: C

Reid Gardiner: 16 GP, 3-2-5, -4 — A castaway that signed after an impressive preseason after gaudy numbers in Junior. 5 points in 16 games is just fine for an undrafted player battling about six or seven players for playing time on the Penguins third or fourth line. Grade: B

Sahir Gill: 13 GP, 0-5-5, -3 — In a similar situation with Gardiner. That is, a player battling to become a consistent piece in the Wilkes-Barre lineup. Lower grade than Gardiner because of his AHL experience. Grade: C+

Jake Guentzel: 16 GP, 7-10-17, +14 — Best player on the team, was called up to Pittsburgh last week and his impact was immediate. When he is not scoring, he is setting things up to get a goal, or forecheck to get the puck out of the zone. Should be up for the duration full time, yet may be victimized by the salary cap and get sent down once Chris Kunitz / Patric Hornqvist heal up. Grade: A+

Ryan Haggerty: 11 GP, 1-2-3, -2 — In the bottom pairing with the likes of the Dea’s, Gill’s, Gardiner’s and Burton’s of the Wilkes-Barre offense. Haggerty has battled some injury, but would welcome some more playing time. Grade: C

Tom Kostopoulos: 19 GP, 6-6-12, +7 — Playing on a line with Guentzel and Rowney has reinvigorated Kostopoulos. 12 points through 19 games shows that this 18 year veteran has till got it. Grade: A

Patrick McGrath: 9 GP, 0-1-1, -2 — Plays that sandpaper style game that watchers of the game in decades past yearn for. Sadly, the game is evolving to a point to where knuckle throwers like McGrath are left behind. But nine games played and one assist shows that McGrath, in the right situation, belongs in the lineup. Grade: C+

Kevin Porter: 17 GP, 4-5-9, +2 — Like Garrett Wilson, this veteran’s 9 points through 17 games leaves the fan wanting more. Team is tops in the Atlantic and near the top of the AHL overall, so it’s nitpicking when you have the ‘GRK’ line doing all the work. Grade: B

Carter Rowney: 18 GP, 5-8-13, +8 — At times he’s been slightly overshadowed by the likes of Guentzel, but he’s played on the top line in Wilkes-Barre with the aforementioned Guentzel and Tom Kostopoulos. His NHL time will come. Grade: A

Dominik Simon: 16 GP, 3-3-6, -1 — We think Dominik Simon is going through a sophomore slump after a great rookie year last season. 6 points in 16 games is terribly underwhelming. Grade: C-

Oskar Sundqvist: 17 GP, 6-9-15, +7 — I don’t think that having Sundqvist down here in Wilkes-Barre is necessarily a bad thing. In contrast, up in Pittsburgh, he would be a third or fourth liner and his talent wasted. He’s going to have to pay his AHL dues before a permanent call up to the NHL, and he is doing just that at this time. Grade: A

Garrett Wilson: 19 GP, 3-7-10, +7 — For someone who spent 20+ games in the NHL last year, 10 points through 19 games is a bit under achieving. At times, you barely notice him, and that can be a bad thing. Grade: B

Defensemen

Tim Erixon: 11 GP, 0-2-2, +2 — Erixon is probably still dealing with a nagging type injury or, the Pittsburgh brass wants more live looks at younger prospects in Prow and Bengtsson. Just 11 games played. Grade: C

Cameron Gaunce: 19 GP, 0-5-5, +12 — Among the leaders in the AHL in +/- at +12. Can chip in offensively here and there. Paired with Chad Ruhwedel. Grade: A

Barry Goers: 6 GP, 0-1-1, even — Goers’ six games played barely puts him over the rule where every player with at least 6 games played gets a grade. You know what you are getting with Goers, steady defense, nothing flashy, occasionally an error. Grade: C

Reid McNeill: 14 GP, 1-1-2, +2 — Was in a logjam defensively so was traded to the St. Louis Blues for Danny Kristo in a straight up AHL player trade. We wish him the best. Grade: Incomplete

Steve Oleksy: 10 GP, 1-3-4, +1 — Recalled to Pittsburgh and recorded his first point with the NHL Penguins Saturday, an assist. With how loaded the Wilkes-Barre blue line and collectively, team is, you don’t really miss his presence. Grade: B

Ethan Prow: 12 GP, 0-4-4, +2 — Wilkes-Barre has a reputation of breeding NHL caliber defensemen. Prow is on this assembly line. He’s given the coaching staff confidence in him enough to become a consistent player night in and night out. Watch him skate with the puck. His ceiling is sky high and it is going to be a treat to watch him to continue to develop. Grade: B+

Chad Ruhwedel: 19 GP, 2-7-9, even — Wilkes-Barre’s best offensive defenseman, with 9 points through 19 games. Paired with Cameron Gaunce for most of the quarter. With the defense near the top in the AHL, no valid complaints here. Grade: A

David Warsofsky: 10 GP, 2-4-6, +1 — Warsofsky found his way back to Wilkes-Barre after being claimed off of waivers by the New Jersey Devils last season and was reacquired in the offseason. After a brief NHL cup of coffee with Pittsburgh earlier this season, Warsofsky has battled a few injuries but remains a quality player for the Wilkes-Barre defense. Grade: B

Goaltenders

Casey DeSmith: 6 GP, 5-0-1, 1.65 GAA, .938 SV% — Has better numbers than his counterpart Tristan Jarry but is the solid number two backup. With how gaudy Jarry’s numbers are, DeSmith’s are even gaudier. Six games is a small sample size yes, but we will be keeping a close eye on whether DeSmith can sustain the numbers. Grade: A

Tristan Jarry: 13 GP, 8-4-1 1.99 GAA, .926 SV% — Has gotten double the starts as DeSmith with 13. For now, is the number one in Wilkes-Barre and has a solid backup in DeSmith. Among the league leaders in wins, goals against and save percentage. Grade: A+

Incomplete

Players with five or less games played go here. No grades, just blurbs. On Danny Kristo, only his two games are noted in his statistics.

Lukas Bengtsson: 5 GP, 0-1-1, -1 — Finally recovered from Lyme Disease and is slowly working his way back to playing form. With the history of injuries the Pittsburgh organization normally suffers around this time of year, Bengtsson can look forward to increased ice time. How he does in that situation remains to be seen at this time.

Adam Krause: 1 GP, 0-0-0, even — Played one game then was shipped to Wheeling of the ECHL, where he is flourishing. This is a better use of his talents than wasting away as a healthy scratch every night.

Danny Kristo: 2 GP, 0-0-0, -2 — Came over in the AHL trade for Reid McNeill and in two games, hasn’t found the scoresheet. In fact, he was a healthy scratch Saturday against Bridgeport. That’s not exactly a resounding sign of confidence for a player who came lauded for his 20+ goals scored in the past three seasons.

Stuart Percy: 5 GP, 0-2-2, +1 — Percy’s biggest knock is that he can’t stay healthy. I said that when he was acquired on Day 1 of NHL Free Agency and his five games played through 19 team games proves that theory.

Derrick Pouliot: 3 GP, 0-0-0, -1 — Played three games in late November on an NHL conditioning stint. No points and a -1. He’s all yours, Pittsburgh.

Comment if you think I got something wrong.

Wheeling Wrap 11/29

It’s noon Tuesday and time for another edition of the Wheeling Wrap, where I take a look back at the week that was for the Penguins ECHL affiliate in Wheeling, West Virginia.

With Thanksgiving a mere distant memory, people put turkey on their menus. For the Wheeling Nailers, it was rabbit. Swamp Rabbit. The Nailers played a pair of games against the New York Rangers / Hartford Wolf Pack affiliate Greenville Swamp Rabbits.

On Saturday, the Nailers were dealt a 3-2 overtime defeat at the hands (paws?) of the Swamp Rabbits. Josh Shalla and Jordan Kwas picked up goals for the Nailers but it was Joe Houk’s goal at 2:13 of overtime that gave Greenville the win. J.P. Anderson took the loss, stopping just 32 of 35 shots. Anderson was previously 4-0 in four straight starts with a 1.50 GAA and a .947 save percentage coming into the game and was the hot hand.

Sunday afternoon, the Nailers hosted the Swamp Rabbits for a rematch. They ended up getting swept by Greenville and lost 5-3. Doug Carr jumped back in net after sitting the last five contests and did not fare so well, stopping just 20 of 25 shots. Derek Army, Garrett Meurs and Jordan Kwas all netted goals in the losing effort for the Nailers.

Greenville never trailed at any point during the two game series.

The Nailers slip to fourth in the North Division with 20 points and a 9-5-2-0 record.

Wheeling travels to Reading later today, Wednesday, for a meeting with the Royals. Reading sits in third in the North Division with 20 points, so Wednesday’s matchup will be one for sole possession of third place. Wheeling then returns home to host the Utah Grizzlies of the Western Conference for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday. Utah is in last place in the Mountain Division with just 6 points.

AHL Power Rankings: Week 7

It’s Week 7 here at the Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings and, as the calendar flips to December, there is a serious logjam at the top this week.

Take for example, the Hershey Bears, who have taken points in their last six games. But that only has Hershey in tenth in this weeks Rankings. Are there really nine teams better than the Bears? Maybe, but there were four teams that didn’t move at all in this weeks Rankings.

There is a new number one this week as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms loss on Saturday to the lowly Hartford Wolf Pack is enough to knock the Phantoms off the top spot. I am not going to give away the new number one team, you will just need to click through the jump if you didn’t link in direct to see who it is.

Read more of this post

Dirty Dea’s — Pens WIN 1-0

BRI         vs.         WBS

0                                              1

J-S Dea was a healthy scratch in Friday’s game in Bridgeport against the Sound Tigers. It was the first time in a while that Dea had been a scratch. The usually reliable Dea is a staple in every Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins game. But not last night.

Normally coaches do this to send a message to a player that isn’t performing.

J-S Dea got the message, loud and clear.

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, one of the stingiest defensive teams in the AHL, finally get their first shutout of the season and end the Bridgeport Sound Tigers four game win streak with a 1-0 win. Tristan Jarry started the game and stopped all 24 shots faced.

A frustrating game from the Penguins perspective through two periods. They were doing everything right, getting power plays and such but were not able to solve starting goaltender Stephon Williams at all and the power play was not clicking, up to an 0-for-28 stretch.

Williams came into the night with an 0-2 record against the Penguins with a .809 SV% and a 5.47 GAA. Just awful numbers against a team not known to fill up the net on a night by night basis. He nearly won the game for his team, but it was the Penguins, using tried and true system of defense, coupled with strong play in net by Jarry that was the decider in this game.

Lines were…

Dominik Simon – Kevin Porter – Tom Kostopoulos
Thomas Di Pauli – J-S Dea – Reid Gardiner
Garrett Wilson – Oskar Sundqvist – Josh Archibald
Patrick McGrath – Jarrett Burton – Ryan Haggerty

Derrick Pouliot – Chad Ruhwedel
David Warsofsky – Barry Goers
Cameron Gaunce – Ethan Prow

Tristan Jarry – Casey DeSmith

Lineup Notes: Carter Rowney took warmups but was a surprise scratch. He is day to day with an upper body injury as told to the WBS media by Clark Donatelli postgame. Dea and Haggerty were in for Danny Kristo and what was to be Patrick McGrath. Kristo, highly touted in the trade for Reid McNeill, was a heathy scratch in just his third game as Penguin. Barry Goers was in for Lukas Bengtsson on the blue line. Derrick Pouliot was in for his final game of his conditioning stint. He is expected to be recalled back to Pittsburgh either Sunday or Monday.

First Period: About as even as you could get for the Penguins and Sound Tigers. Just eight shots a piece. The Penguins hit a post on a power play but that was all for excitement from the Penguins perspective.

Second Period: Williams was dialing in. The Penguins couldn’t get anything past him. They were getting a lot of shots and limiting Bridgeport to just one about half way through the period. Pens would continue to have power plays handed to them but were not able to cash. Story to this point was the Penguins inability to crack on the power play, Williams’ stellar play in net and the Penguins defense with Jarry bending but not breaking against a Bridgeport attack that, if you give them a lead, they are hard to beat.

Third Period: Williams continued his stellar play, robbing Dominik Simon with the glove early on. The Penguins were getting another power play though, and this time they cashed when J-S Dea knocked in a puck legally with his stick under the bar on Williams in a big pileup. Williams then delivered a cross body block on Dea, which caused a melee.

Dea’s goal, originally credited to Kostopoulos, came with :01 left on the power play.

Seth with tweet of the night….

Later, Dea got his pound of flesh when he can opened Williams who came out to play a puck. He flipped the Bridgeport net minder on his can, then had to fight Kyle Burroughs. Burroughs received an instigating penalty to go along with a misconduct and a fighting major. Dea only got five for fighting and two for goaltending interference. This is important because Dea’s fight does not count against the, “10 fights gets you suspended” rule.

Not to say that Dea will ever get suspended for fighting ten times in the AHL, but we strive to educate and inform here at Chirps from Center Ice.

Pens had to kill a Chad Ruhwedel trip with about six minutes left to play, did, then weren’t able to score on an empty Bridgeport net but it mattered little.

Three Stars: 3) J-S Dea (goal, even) 2) Tom Kostopoulos (assist, even) 1) Tristan Jarry (24 save shutout)

Tom Kostopoulos was announced as the goal scorer at the time of the goal announcement, it wasn’t until after the game that they flipped it to Dea, so I wonder if you can flip three stars. My guess is no.

Around the Division: Providence loses to St,. John’s 4-3 in a shootout. The Bruins came back from three goals down to force extra time….Hershey sweeps Springfield 4-3. The Big Bear Machine is warming up….Hartford beats Lehigh Valley 3-1.

Standings: Penguins (.737 percentage points) — Lehigh Valley (.694) — Hershey (.684) — Bridgeport (.667) — Providence (.526) — Springfield (.500) — Hartford (.395)

Wheeling Update: Greenville beats the Nailers 3-2 in overtime. The two teams rematch tomorrow.

Neat little tidbit from Nick Hart…

Video highlights…

The Week 7 AHL Power Rankings hit the blog at 4 p.m. Monday and the weekly Wheeling Wrap will be here Tuesday at noon. Anything newsworthy will be sprinkled in during the week.

Let’s Go Pens!

RAPID RECAP: Pens WIN 1-0

It took them 18 games, but one of the best defensive teams in the AHL finally gets a shutout. A 24 save shutout by Tristan Jarry, a late power play goal with one second left in it and the Penguins are back to winning ways. 

Tom Kostopoulos or J-S Dea scored the power play goal. House announced Kostopoulos, my eyes saw Dea. 

On Dea, he was scratched last night and took the message to heart. He was everywhere tonight. 

More later. 

GAMEDAY: vs. Bridgeport 11/26

vs.     bri14

Home Game: 10

AHL Game: 262

Who: Bridgeport Sound Tigers

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 7:05 p.m.

Media Kit

Last Game / Last Meeting: Last night in Bridgeport, the Pens lost 3-2 in overtime. Eamon McAdam stopped 33 of 35 and stifled the Penguins at times. Josh Archibald tied the game late in the third, but it was Connor Jones’ overtime goal that won it for the Sound Tigers.

Record: For WBS: 12-4-2-0 (26 pts., 2nd place Atlantic Division)  — For BRI: 12-5-0-0 (24 pts., 3rd place Atlantic Division)

Why you should care: Pens will need to score the first goal tonight in the rematch if they want to have success tonight. They chased Bridgeport all night last night when the Sound Tigers struck just a minute into the game.

Referee(s): Stephen Reneau

Linesmen: Tom DellaFranco / Bob Goodman

Twitter: @wbspenguins / @WBSGameDay / @TheSoundTigers

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins // /soundtigers

Instagram: wbspenguins / thesoundtigers

Beat Writers: @CVSethLakso and @TLTomVenesky / @fornabaioctp

Broadcasters: For WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS and @_NickHart / For BRI: Alan Fuehring @AlanFuehring

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep

Radio: For WBS: WILK NewsRadio / For BRI: I don’t think Sound Tigers games are on radio. Here’s the link to Mixlr where you could here the Sound Tigers call if you want to.

Television: AHL Live

Promotion(s): None

Other Game to Watch: Springfield and Hershey rematch tonight at Giant Center on the back end of their home and home series this weekend. Last night it was the Bears winning 5-2 in Springfield. Do the Thunderbirds get revenge tonight?

Next Five Games: @ STJ 12/3, @ STJ 12/4, HER 12/9, HER 12/10, @ BRI 12/11

Two on One – Two for One — Pens LOSE 3-2 (OT)

   button_adk200       @       BRI

  2                                         3

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins are drawing opponents on the up and up right now.

The Hershey Bears are the defending Eastern Conference Champs and whitewashed the Pens 4-0 on Wednesday, this after coughing up a two goal lead to these very Penguins in the third period last Saturday.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers are a pesky team that, the last time these two teams met, would not go away seemingly and came into the contest Friday night winners of three straight.

Make it four.

A 3-2 overtime win for the Sound Tigers tonight where all three goals were scored on two on one rushes. The Penguins could not solve goaltender Eamon McAdam all night it seemed but manufacture a point anyway. Good teams do this.

The Pens had come into tonight’s game against Bridgeport 4-0 and outscoring their opponents by a 16-6 score coming off of a loss the prior game. The winner in net for every single one of them? Casey DeSmith. DeSmith started tonight for the Penguins and took the overtime loss.

Lines were…

Dominik Simon – Carter Rowney – Tom Kostopoulos
Garrett Wilson – Oskar Sundqvist – Josh Archibald
Thomas DiPauli – Kevin Porter – Danny Kristo
Patrick McGrath – Jarrett Burton – Reid Gardiner

Derrick Pouliot – Chad Ruhwedel
David Warsofsky – Tim Erixon
Cameron Gaunce – Ethan Prow

Lineup Notes: Oskar Sundqvist and Domink Simon returned from injury. Simon missed about a week, Sundqvist missed just one game…J-S Dea was a healthy scratch. Lukas Bengtsson was scheduled to start the game but was a late scratch in favor of Tim Erixon. Others were Sahir Gill, Ryan Haggerty and Barry Goers. Stuart Percy is still listed as an injury scratch.

First Period: Steve Bernier’s goal at exactly one minute of the first period was all the scoring in the period. It was a quick two on one that Bernier had and took the shot that beat DeSmith just one minute into the period.

Pens ended up 2-for-2 on the penalty kill for the first period. Bridgeport’s first power play was bad, registering just one shot on goal and their second one was better, registering four. Wilkes-Barre had one power play and couldn’t get anything past goaltender McAdam.

Second Period: Penguins did everything right this period. They started the period coming out strong with pucks at McAdam, got an early power play, then Jarrett Burton scored his first of the season off of a perfect pass by Dominik Simon…

Fourth line came though for the Penguins. Great shot by Burton.

Penguins looked like they were going to turn the tide in their favor. Immediately after that goal by the Penguins, the Sound Tigers took a penalty. Wilkes-Barre did everything but score. Goaltender McAdam lost a stick, as did another Bridgeport player. They forced the Sound Tigers into an icing after the power play expired.

So what happened after that?

Bridgeport scores to go ahead 2-1. Tanner Fritz setup Ross Johnson on a two on one to reestablish the lead for the Sound Tigers.

A team that the Penguins couldn’t put away the last time these two teams met had not trailed this game going into the…

Third Period: Penguins are in a 0-for-24 slump on the power play. Gotta think that one or two of them would have helped them in this game. They could not score one the only penalty awarded by the officials in the period.

Eamon McAdam continued to make saves he had no business making, three shots quick in on him in close that he turned away.

Josh Archibald scored from a low angle that finally beat McAdam to put the Penguins even with the Sound Tigers at 2-2. Wilkes-Barre managed to manufacture a point out of essentially nothing, as McAdam wasn’t giving them anything.

Overtime: Connor Jones scored the third two on one goal for the Sound Tigers in overtime. Danny Kristo inadvertently took out Casey DeSmith in the areas allowing Jones to score the game winner. After a brief review by referees Geno Binda and Terry Koharski, the goal stood.

Here is the goal. Sorry for not cutting up every goal tonight. My brother was in and wanted to watch the game with me streamed to the TV vs. me in a corner with a cat on the computer…

Three Stars: 3) Devon Toews (two assists, +2) 2) Josh Archibald (goal, +1) and 1) Connor Jones (game winning goal, +1)

Around the Division: Providence gets over .500 for the first time in a while and beats St. John’s up in Newfoundland by a score of 2-1…Hershey beats Springfield 5-2 in Massachusetts. These two teams rematch tomorrow night in Hershey…Lehigh Valley puts away Binghamton 4-3. The Senators had come back each time on the Phantoms but weren’t able able to put Lehigh Valley away…Albany beats Hartford 4-3 in overtime.

Standings: Lehigh Valley (.735 percentage points) — Penguins (.722) — Bridgeport (.706) — Hershey (.667) — Springfield (.529) — Providence (.528) — Hartford (.361)

Wheeling Update: Wheeling was off. They play Greenville for a pair starting Saturday.

Teams will bus overnight to Wilkes-Barre and rematch at Mohegan Sun Arena at 7:05. Gameday setup for that will be up at 3.

Let’s Go Pens!