|Not sure many expected Steve Wagner to lead the defensemen in goal scoring, but the Pens will take it.|
Defense: I don't think anyone expected two defensemen to lead the team in scoring after the first round, but Steve Wagner (3G-1A) and Corey Potter (1G-5A) have done just that. They brought the offense against the Norfolk Admirals in the regular season and did so in the playoffs against them. Here's a list of what the defensemen did in the regular season against the Charlotte Checkers.
Potter - 6 points (1G-5A)
Bortuzzo - 6 points (0G-6A)
Wagner - 4 points (2G-2A)
Strait - 2 points (0G-2A)
Mormina - 1 point (0G-1A)
Hutchinson - 0 points in four games
Offensively, Andrew Hutchinson was shut out by the Checkers in the regular season. Hutchinson has three points (all assists) in six playoff games this year. Bortuzzo and Strait are the shutdown pair and usually get a pass when it comes to offensive production. Strait's goal and assists are a bonus in my book. They need to be at the top of their game defensively against the likes of a Drayson Bowman, Zac Dalpe or Zach Boychuk. The second pairing of Wagner-Potter needs to stay consistent in both ends and Joey Mormina needs to keep playing a strong defensive game.
Goalies: Brad Thiessen is the netminder for the playoffs. His 4-2 record is not from any mishaps on his part. He has only allowed more than 2 goals one time and that was after the Penguins had a big six goal game in Game 6. Both Thiessen and John Curry have played well this season against the Checkers.
Thiessen: 5-0, 10 goals allowed (2.00 GAA), stopped 125 of 135 shots (.926 SV%).
Curry: 2-1, 14 goals allowed (5.19 GAA), stopped 65 of 79 shots (.823 SV%).
Thiessen will be the goalie the rest of the way for the Penguins with Curry backing him up. The Penguins won games down the stretch with great goaltending and defense and will have to continue that route the rest of the playoffs.
Robert Bortuzzo - Brian Strait
Steve Wagner - Corey Potter
Andrew Hutchinson - Joey Mormina
Defense: During the regular season, Charlotte's defensemen contributed offensively and were dangerous. The first round of the playoff series wasn't kind to the Checkers blueliners, as only Brett Bellemore was able to get a goal from the back six. The Checkers regular season offensive leader on defense was Bryan Rodney and he has only managed one assist in his first six playoff games this season. Hopefully, the Penguins will continue to keep their offensive defensemen off the score sheet.
Goalies: Justin Pogge was the starter in the first two games but Mike Murphy has taken over the number one role and went 3-1 the last four games to close out the Hershey Bears in the first round. Murphy missed the end of the regular season and came into Game 3 of last round playing his first game since March 20th.
Casey Borer - Bryan Rodney
Brett Bellemore - Michal Jordan
Justin Faulk - Bobby Sanguinetti
Key match ups, intangibles and my prediction for impact players in round 2 and my pick for the series as tomorrow's game day preview sometime tomorrow afternoon.