Thiessen Shuts Out Checkers, Series Even 1-1

Saturday, April 30, 2011
Ryan Craig's empty net goal sealed the deal on the 3-0 win tonight.
Tonight was one of the best performances I have seen in a long, long time from the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. They skated hard, hit everything that moved and just flat out out-worked the Charlotte Checkers tonight en route to a 3-0 win in Game 2. The series is now tied one game apiece and heads to North Carolina for three straight games on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The WBS Penguins went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen tonight and it worked quite well. Ben Street, who didn't return after the first period in Game 1, didn't play tonight. Nick Petersen reportedly had left the team to attend a funeral and missed tonight's game. Jesse Boulerice was a surprise late scratch. Paul Thompson and Carl Sneep got in their first AHL playoff game tonight and I thought both played well, especially Thompson who got an assist on the game winning goal.

Recap and final thoughts after the jump.

Game Thread: Round 2, Game 2 CHA @ WBS

I'm picking Nick Petersen to have a big night tonight! Post who you think will be the first star and the final score of the game in the comments section.
Join in the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Charlotte Checkers in Game 2 tonight. Charlotte stole the first game Thursday night 3-2, but the WBS Penguins aren't about to go in an 0-2 hole in the series. You can now follow in-game updates on the blog's Twitter feed. Puck drops at 7:05. Let's do this!

Follow the blog on Twitter if you aren't already. My goal is to have 500 followers by the end of the playoffs!

WBS Penguins Look to Even Up Series

If Ben Street isn't ready to go tonight, Bryan Lerg or Paul Thompson could take his place.
After dropping the first game of the series 3-2 to the Charlotte Checkers, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins will try to avoid going down 2-0 in a playoff series for a second straight round. They battle the Checkers again in Game 2 tonight at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza before the series shifts to the Time Warner Cable Arena in North Carolina for three straight games next week (Mon., Wed. & Fri.).

Get caught up on injury news and be updated before the drop of the puck for tonight's game. The game thread will be up at 6:30 p.m. EST. Puck drops at 7.

Checkers Steal Game 1, Beat Pens 3-2

Thursday, April 28, 2011
Andrew Hutchinson got on the scoresheet tonight, but the Penguins need more from him.
The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins are not a good playoff team in the early goings of a series. They are now 5-7 in Game 1's at home after tonight's loss and trail the Checkers 1-0 in the best of seven series. The Penguins didn't lose tonight because they played badly. They just couldn't finish some of their chances and Charlotte did.

Recap after the jump.

Game Thread: Round 2, Game 1 - CHA @ WBS

Join in the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Charlotte Checkers in the first game of Round 2 tonight. . You can now follow in-game updates on the blog's Twitter feed. Puck drops at 7:05. Let's do this!

Follow the blog on Twitter if you aren't already. My goal is to have 500 followers by the end of the playoffs!

Round 2, Game 1: Series Intangibles & Predictions

Someone has to step it up tonight for the WBS Penguins. Read to find out who it could be.

Special Teams (Playoffs)

WBS Penguins: PP% - 6 for 32 (18.8%) Checkers: PP% - 4 for 33 (12.1%)

Both teams struggled on the power play early in their respective first round series, but both have found their stride with the man advantage. The WBS Penguins were held without power play goals in Game 1 and 2 (0 for 11) but finished the last four games with at least one power play goal in each (6 for 22). The Checkers went just 1 for 17 in the first three games but have rattled off three power play tallies in the second three games of the first round. Both teams have had recent success, but with Corey Potter and Steve Wagner producing offensively, it's only a matter of time before Andrew Hutchinson can get it going on the power play. Advantage: Penguins

Penguins: PK% - 25 for 29 (86.2%)  Checkers: PK% - 26 for 27 (96.3%)

The Charlotte Checkers gave up only one power play goal in the first round against Hershey and that was in Game 1. The Checkers have since then killed off 25 straight penalties and its a big reason why they made it past the first round. The Penguins penalty kill was great in the first four games, going 18 of 19 on the PK, but allowed three power play goals in the previous two games. Jones, Ritola, Harju and Pouliot were dangerous for the Admirals but Dalpe, Boychuk, Sutter and Bowman present even more in the dangerous scorers area. Advantage: Checkers

The Penguins have plenty of talented forwards in a wide range of strengths. The lines are pretty well balanced in the top three lines and all three have the potential to be quick, hard working, physical and create offense. The Checkers have the depth up front to compete against any team in the league right now with regular season scoring leaders featured on the fourth line. Sure the Penguins don't have the likes of Tangradi, Johnson and Dustin Jeffrey but perhaps one of Charlotte's most dangerous scorers was held off the AHL playoff roster, that being Jerome Samson. The Penguins can out-work and out hit the Checkers but comparing all four lines of both teams, the Checkers appear more dangerous on paper. We'll have to see how they match up tonight. Advantage: Checkers

The Penguins have given up 11 goals in the first six games of the playoffs as compared to 17 allowed by the Checkers in their six game series with the Hershey Bears.  Both teams have offensive defenseman that can score with Hutchinson for WBS and Rodney for Charlotte. Both led their respective teams in the regular season but have gotten off to slower starts than expected. Look for these two guys to have an impact on the series. Defensively, I'm not sold on the Checkers being able to shut down the Penguins from scoring goals. Compared to the Admirals who had six or seven quality defensemen in the lineup, the Checkers six weren't that impressive to me in the regular season. We'll find that out within the first two games. Advantage: Penguins

Brad Thiessen has been solid in net all season and there are many reasons why he was named a first team all-star and goalie of the year. Justin Pogge was easily rattled in Wilkes-Barre and he only lasted two games in Hershey. Mike Murphy has come in and done well and isn't a bad goalie, but he is coming off of injury that caused him to miss about a month. With an average blue line in front of him, Murphy is really going to have to be on his game. This one is easy. Advantage: Penguins

My insights and predictions after the jump.

Breaking Down WBS/CHA Part 2 - Defensemen & Goalies

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Not sure many expected Steve Wagner to lead the defensemen in goal scoring, but the Pens will take it.

WBS Penguins

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.

Projected Lines:
Robert Bortuzzo - Brian Strait
Steve Wagner - Corey Potter
Andrew Hutchinson - Joey Mormina
Brad Thiessen

Breaking Down the WBS Penguins & Charlotte Checkers

Geoff Walker and Keven Veilleux have been a formidable pair of wingers down the stretch.  Will they be able to out work and out hit Charlotte?

In the first segment of breaking down the match ups in the East Division Finals between the Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins and Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes), we'll analyze the forward core of each team. We'll look at some of the strengths and weaknesses and key match ups to look for from both teams with the front 12.

WBS Penguins
The Penguins, who managed only nine goals in their first five playoff games, rattled off six goals in Game 6's series clinching 6-3 win over the Admirals. Sure two of those goals on Saturday night were empty net goals, but it was a good sign to see the forwards in the first period of that game really make a statement. They really controlled the play in that period because they played their game. All four lines were hitting, playing well in their own zone and creating offense. They'll need much of the same every night if they want to continue forward in the playoffs.

WBS Lines
The forward lines have been pretty stable. Tim Wallace (injury), Joe Vitale (family), David Marshall (healthy) and Bryan Lerg (injury) have all missed time but all played in at least four of the six games.

  • Wallace missed the first two games of the series and has played since. He's worked the rust off and has three points in four playoff games this year.
  • Joe Vitale missed Game 3 in Norfolk to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Vitale made it back for Game 4 and has been in the lineup since.
  • Bryan Lerg hasn't played since Game 4 in Norfolk.  Head coach John Hynes has described Lerg's status as "day-to-day" so not much coming from the team. Hopefully the time off before Thursday's Game 1 will be enough to get Lerg back to 100%.  Lerg did miss time at the end of the regular season after leaving the ice in Hershey, but was ready for Game 1.
  • David Marshall has been the 13th forward lately but has played in five of six games due to time missed by those three forwards. He hasn't played badly in his five appearances but hasn't done enough to be put in the lineup ahead of two other current fourth line forwards Ben Street and Jesse Boulerice.
Projected Lines:
Keven Veilleux - Ryan Craig - Geoff Walker
Brett Sterling - Joe Vitale - Nick Petersen
Chris Collins - Zach Sill - Tim Wallace
David Marshall-Ben Street- Jesse Boulerice

Scratches: Andy Bathgate (black aces), Ryan Schnell (black aces), Bryan Lerg (DTD)

Lerg could very well be ready to play in Game 1, which would change the lines a bit. He was the only Penguins player missing on Tuesday.

WBS Penguins Will Host Charlotte in 2nd Round

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins 2nd round opponent is set. After defeating the defending champion Hershey Bears in Game 6 last night, the Charlotte Checkers advance to the 2nd round and will play the WBS Penguins in the East Division Finals. A look at the series schedule shows the same format as last round. The Penguins host games 1 and 2, and be the road for games 3, 4 and 5. The Pens also get the last two games of the series at home if necessary. Here's the schedule for round 2. Let's Do This!

Thursday, April 28 — at Penguins, 7:05
Saturday, April 30 — at Penguins, 7:05
Monday, May 2 — at Charlotte, 7:00
Wednesday, May 4 — at Charlotte, 7:00
**Friday, May 6 — at Charlotte, 7:00
**Saturday, May 7 — at Penguins, 7:05
**Monday, May 9 — at Penguins, 7:05
 ** = if necessary
Check back on the blog later today as I will start to breakdown the match ups.

Wagner's Hat Trick Lifts Pens Past Admirals

Saturday, April 23, 2011
It's on to the 2nd round! The Pens will play the winner of the Charlotte/Hershey series.
The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins did what their NHL club could not today: finish off their opponent at home. The Penguins took advantage of a quick start and early power plays and jumped out to a 2-0 lead just 3:58 into the contest. Both goals were power play tallies from Steve Wagner. The Pens out shot the Norfolk Admirals 13-6 in the first period but before the period ended history was made. Wagner completed the WBS Penguins first ever hat trick by a defenseman, a natural hat trick, with 1:24 left in the first frame.

Game Thread: Round 1, Game 6 - NOR @ WBS

Hopefully we will see something like this at the end of tonight's game.

Join in the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Norfolk Admirals in Game 6 tonight. A win for the Penguins ends this series and sends them to the East Division finals against the winner of the Hershey/Charlotte series. You can now follow in-game updates on the blog's Twitter feed. Puck drops at 7:05. Let's do this!

Follow the blog on Twitter if you aren't already. My goal is to have 500 followers by the end of the playoffs!

Norfolk @ WBS Penguins: Round 1, Game 6

I've said it way too much but Nick Petersen is going to be the real deal!
After winning all three games in Norfolk this week, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins have a chance to end the series tonight at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. The road team has won every game in this series, as well as the team that has scored first. The WBS Penguins are hoping to end that streak at home tonight.

Nick Petersen was the hero of last night's game. He scored both of the team's goals in the first period and both were on the power play. Brett Sterling and Andrew Hutchinson picked up assists on both of Petersen's goals and Brad Thiessen stopped 23 of 24 for the 2-1 win.

Bryan Lerg did not play last night and I'm wondering if he was 100% recovered from the lower body injury he suffered in Hershey in the 2nd to last game of the year. There aren't any updates on Lerg right now which isn't surprising. I will be live tweeting the game tonight from the blog's Twitter feed @H_P_Hockey so I will let everyone know if he takes the warm up and plays.

Other than Lerg, the Pens should have basically the same lineup. David Marshall played last night but if Lerg can go he will likely be the odd man out. Expect the same six defensemen and of course Thiessen in net.

For the Admirals, they got Blair Jones and Mattias Ritola back from Tampa Bay for last night's game and Mike Angelidis returned to the lineup. Recently signed Carter Ashton also played up front for the Admirals. Expect to see the Admirals usual 11 forwards and seven defensemen lineup tonight.

The Pens lead the series 3-2 and can clinch it tonight with a win. Don't think Norfolk is going to come into Wilkes-Barre with anything other than 110% effort tonight. They're fighting for their playoff lives and we saw what happened at the NHL level between these two organizations this afternoon. Let's hope that doesn't repeat itself tonight.

WBS Penguins Win 3rd Straight Over Admirals, 2-1

Friday, April 22, 2011
I must have said it a thousand times but Nick Petersen is the real deal. Look out! His two goals tonight were no fluke.

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins came into Norfolk, Virginia down 2-0 in the best of seven series and facing three straight road games against the Admirals. It's safe to say the Penguins took care of business in Norfolk and now control their own destiny, up three games to two with Game 6 tomorrow night in Wilkes-Barre and if necessary Game 7 on Monday. What a week for the WBS Penguins.

Both WBS goals came in the first period and both came on the power play. Nick Petersen tallied both goals and both on great effort from behind the net. Brett Sterling and Andrew Hutchinson recorded assists on each goal and gave the Pens a lead they would never look back on. They held the Admirals to just three shots in that first period and made a statement in the first 20 minutes of play.

The teams played a scoreless second period and WBS out shot the Admirals 11-9 and kept the two goal lead going into the final frame.

Brad Thiessen made some unbelievable stops tonight, especially when he stacked the pads and robbed an Admirals shooter in the third period. While the defense had trouble getting pucks out of the zone much of the night, the Pens got solid play from the defense when it mattered most and Thiessen was a brick wall in net.

The Admirals found a way to beat Thiessen with 10:15 left on a Mark Barberio power play point shot but were unable to find the equalizer. The Pens defense kept the Admirals pinned down and didn't let Dustin Tokarski off the ice for an extra attacker until the last 35 seconds or so. The Admirals had a good chance with 9 seconds left but Thiessen shut the door and the Pens take a 3-2 series lead back to Wilkes-Barre with a chance to wrap up the series tomorrow night in Game 6.

Game Thread: Round 1, Game 5: WBS @ NOR

Thanks to @franki2003 for this picture of the Scope this afternoon!
Join in the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Norfolk Admirals in a pivotal Game 5 tonight. The teams are tied at two in the best of seven series.The Admirals took the first two games but the Penguins struck back, winning the last two meetings in Norfolk. You can now follow in-game updates on the blog's Twitter feed. Puck drops at 7:30. Let's do this!

Follow the blog on Twitter if you aren't already. My goal is to have 500 followers by the end of the playoffs!

WBS Penguins @ Norfolk: Round 1, Game 5

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins will play their 3rd and final game in Norfolk tonight in Game 5, with the series tied at two wins apiece. After tonight the series shifts back to Wilkes-Barre for Game 6 on Saturday night and if necessary, Game 7 will be on Monday.

The WBS Penguins shouldn't see any lineup changes tonight. Joe Vitale made it back to Norfolk after leaving the team to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Tim Wallace has played the last two nights and isn't showing any signs of pain or injury. Carl Sneep practiced with the "black aces" yesterday and I don't see him playing tonight. David Marshall could be the healthy scratch again tonight, although I wasn't overly impressed with some forwards so he might get a chance over someone like Nick Petersen or Jesse Boulerice. You'll probably see Marshall, Andy Bathgate, Ryan Schnell and Paul Thompson as the healthy scratches up front with Sneep, Viktor Ekbom and Alex Pechurskiy as the other guys not playing tonight. A look at the expected lines:

Brett Sterling - Ryan Craig - Tim Wallace
Chris Collins - Joe Vitale - Bryan Lerg
Keven Veilleux - Zach Sill - Geoff Walker
Nick Petersen - Ben Street - Jesse Boulerice

Brian Strait - Robert Bortuzzo
Steve Wagner - Corey Potter
Andrew Hutchinson - Joey Mormina

Brad Thiessen

The Admirals have battled the last two nights with a depleted forward core but won't be able to use that excuse tonight as both Blair Jones and Mattias Ritola have been sent back to the AHL and will play tonight. Former 1st round pick Carter Ashton was also added via an ATO and could play tonight if Paul Szczechura and Chris Durno are unable to play. Mike Angelidis, who hasn't played since Game 1 will be another game-time decision for the Admirals.

Don't be surprised to see more than six defensemen play tonight for Norfolk. They dressed seven in games 1 and 2, eight in game 3 and nine defenseman played Wednesday night in game 4.

Final Thoughts
  • The team that scores first is 4-0 and the road team is also 4-0. Let's hope that stat stands true tonight and the Pens can get on the board early.
  • Where Game 3 was almost a must win for WBS, tonight is almost a must win for Norfolk. If the Admirals lose tonight they have to go back to Wilkes Barre and beat them twice in a row at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza again.
  • No surprises here but this game is going to come down to who can finish their offensive chances (power play and turnovers) and if the Penguins can continue to get a strong defensive effort from their defensemen with limited turnovers and miscues.

WBS Penguins Even Series With 4-2 Win

Thursday, April 21, 2011
Surprised that this is Ryan Craig's first AHL playoff run?

The team that scores first? 4-0. The road team in this series? 4-0. After dropping the first two games at home to the Norfolk Admirals, the Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins have battled the last two nights to tie up the series at two. The pivotal Game 5 is scheduled for Friday night, once again at the Scope.

Game Thread: WBS Penguins @ Norfolk GAME 4

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Join in the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Norfolk Admirals in the Game 4 of the best of seven series.The Admirals took the first two games but the Penguins aren't going anywhere. A win tonight evens the series at two and forces a Game 6 in Wilkes Barre. You can now follow in-game updates on the blog's Twitter feed. Puck drops at 7:15.

WBS Penguins @ Norfolk: Round 1, Game 4

Keven Veilleux has been one of the best forwards on the team down the stretch.

Game thread at 6:45 p.m. EST. Puck drops at 7:15. Let's do this! Also let's get the blog's Twitter feed to 500 followers!!

The Penguins have a chance to tie up the series and regain home ice advantage with a win tonight. You probably won't see any lineup changes from Game 3's roster. Tim Wallace should play, Brad Thiessen and the defenseman will play. The only lineup change could be Joe Vitale back in the lineup. Vitale missed Game 3 for the birth of his first child. Keven Veilleux has scored two of the team's three goals and is really solidifying his spot in the top six role full time at the AHL level. The Penguins will need to be physical tonight and ware down Norfolk's forwards and defenseman with good defense and a relentless forecheck.

Lerg Leads WBS Penguins to Big Win in Game 3

Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Bryan Lerg's goal midway through the 3rd period proved to be the game winner.
The chance of the game came eight minutes into the third period in a tie game.  Pierre-Cedric Labrie took a double minor high sticking penalty on Steve Wagner and the Pens were given a golden opportunity.

Norfolk made the first half of the power play disappear but one Penguins forward found room for another big time goal. Andrew Hutchinson took a puck from goalie Brad Thiessen and set up Bryan Lerg with a quick snipe power play goal, giving the Penguins a 2-1 lead with 9:40 left in the game.

The Penguins and Admirals battled to the end. The Admirals pulled Dustin Tokarski in the final moments but were unable to tie the game and the Penguins get back in the series now down two games to one. Game 4 is tomorrow night with Game 5 now penciled in Friday night. 

Game Thread: Playoff Round 1 Game 3: WBS @ NOR

Andrew Hutchinson needs to have an impact on tonight's game.

Join in the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Norfolk Admirals in the Game 3 of the best of seven series.The Admirals took the first two games but the Penguins aren't ready to put themselves on the brink of elimination. You can now follow in-game updates on the blog's Twitter feed. Puck drops at 7:15.

WBS Penguins @ Norfolk: Round 1, Game 3

Brett Sterling needs to find a way to create goals for his team tonight.

The Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins look to bounce back from two home losses to start the series with Game 3 tonight in Norfolk.  The Admirals are in a very good spot right now, not only up two games to none in the best of seven but having the next three games at home with a chance to knock out the AHL's best team in the first round. Expect the Penguins to come out flying, this is a must win game for the Pens tonight.

As for lineup changes, Norfolk's Mike Angelidis missed game 2 with an apparent upper body injury. Not sure if he returns tonight but the big news is the suspensions handed out between these two NHL teams. Norfolk needs to call up a forward for their game 4 tomorrow night in Tampa Bay.Tampa Bay has recalled Mattias Ritola and Blair Jones, both won't be in tonight. Big break for the WBS Penguins!

The WBS Penguins should see Tim Wallace back in the lineup tonight for game 3. Wallace had been favoring a lower body injury over the last few weeks and is excited to be in the lineup and not in the crowd.  Joe Vitale is reported as not available for tonight's game as his wife is giving birth to their first child. That should be the only lineup changes for WBS. Brad Thiessen will be in net. The six defensemen will remain the same and the forwards will see Wallace instead of Vitale and possibly Paul Thompson instead of David Marshall.

The projected lines:
Geoff Walker - Ryan Craig - KevenVeilleux
Chris Collins - Bryan Lerg - Tim Wallace
Brett Sterling - Ben Street - Nick Petersen
Jesse Boulerice - Zach Sill - David Marshall/Paul Thompson
Robert Bortuzzo - Brian Strait
Corey Potter - Steve Wagner
Andrew Hutchinson - Joey Mormina
Brad Thiessen

Patrick Killeen Sent Back to Wheeling, Curry Ready?

Monday, April 18, 2011
With Patrick Killeen sent back to Wheeling either John Curry is ready or Alexander Pechurskiy will be the backup goalie for Game 3.
Patrick Killeen was in attendance at Wheeling's practice this morning. This would suggest he won't be making the trip to Norfolk and that John Curry is ready to return to the lineup. Coach Hynes had described Curry's absence from this week as "maintenance days" prior to the start of the playoff series.

If Curry isn't healthy enough to back up Brad Thiessen, who by the way will be the goalie from here on out, then I guess that leaves Alexander Pechurskiy as the WBS backup for Tuesday night. Either way, Thiessen will be the starter in net and one of those two will be backing him up.

Should get an update tomorrow morning after the team's morning skate in Norfolk before Game 3 from The Scope. Look for updates on the blog's Twitter page for game day updates and check back for the game preview tomorrow morning.

Let's Do This!

An Inside Look at Why the WBS Penguins Are 0-2

Sunday, April 17, 2011
The Penguins need to be more physical against the Admirals in Game 3.
With two days off between games I figured I would give my insights on why this weekend might have seemed to be a disaster by fans, players and everyone involved with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins organization. I'm going to list a few things I noticed while at both Game 1 and 2 that could help explain why they lost the first two games. I'm also going to talk about a few things that the Pens were able to do and what they can try to do to improve their chances to win.

WBS Penguins Lose 2-0, Trail Series 2-0

Saturday, April 16, 2011
These guys really need to find a way to step-up their game in Norfolk if they want to continue playing hockey past Wednesday.

Another disappointing performance from the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins tonight gives the Norfolk Admirals a 2-0 win tonight and a two games to none lead in the best of seven series, which now shifts to Norfolk for three straight games down at The Scope.

Game Thread: Norfolk @ WBS Penguins Game 2

Ben Street has been playing on a line with Brett Sterling and Nick Petersen.

Join in the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Norfolk Admirals in the Game 2 of the best of seven series.The Admirals took game one but the Penguins aren't ready to spot the Admirals a two game lead. You can now follow in-game updates on the blog's Twitter feed. Puck drops at 7.

Norfolk @ WBS: Round 1, Game 2

Chris Collins and Jesse Boulerice especially, played well last night in my opinion. I hope the rest of the team will show the desire like these two did last night.

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins don't have to wait long to get back on the ice for a rematch. After dropping the first game 2-1 last night, the WBS Penguins will host Game 2 tonight at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.

Admirals take Game 1, Win 2-1 Over WBS Penguins

Friday, April 15, 2011
Tonight was Ryan Craig's first AHL playoff game. I think it's safe to say he wasn't happy with his team's performance tonight.
The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins dropped the first game tonight, 2-1 to the Norfolk Admirals on a night where the Penguins looked flat and unaware of where the puck was most of the night.

The teams played a scoreless first period before Mattias Ritola roofed a puck past Thiessen 5:23 into the 2nd. The real dagger in the side came with 93 seconds left in the middle frame when a Ritola shot from outside deflected off of former Penguin Marc Antoine Pouliot and past a screened Thiessen.

The Penguins played a better third period, out shooting the Admirals 13-6, but were unable to convert on any of their power play chances tonight. Keven Veilleux tapped home a rebound of a Geoff Walker shot with 1:47 left to make it a game but too little too late. They couldn't get the equalizer and drop the first game in the best of seven series.

Tomorrow the Penguins get a chance to even up the series before heading to Norfolk for three straight games. I'll throw up a preview sometime tomorrow afternoon. Fans need not be discouraged though, the Penguins just didn't get to their game tonight. Expect them to come out firing on all cylinders tomorrow night.

Game Thread: Playoff Round 1 Game 1: NOR @ WBS

This series will surely be a grudge match. Expect things to be physical the entire series. These two teams don't like each other (22 fights in the past seven matchups).

Join in the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Norfolk Admirals in the first game of a best of seven series.You can now follow in-game updates on the blog's Twitter feed. Puck drops at 7.

Let the Games Begin: Penguins & Admirals Tonight

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins begin their quest for the franchise's first ever Calder Cup Championship tonight in Game 1 of the East Division Semi-Finals against the Norfolk Admirals.

The Penguins team website has a ton of great stats and information here. I put up a post a  few days back about the basics on both teams here.

The WBS Penguins have a clear advantage on defense with AHL goalie of the year Brad Thiessen in net, while the Admirals have an edge with their offensive forwards, featuring former WBS Penguin Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Blair Jones, Johan Harju and Mattias Rittola.

I think an important thing to watch will be how the Penguins forwards can do against Norfolk's defense and goaltending. The Admirals cooled off down the stretch while the Penguins stayed dominant.

As for a prediction, I think the Penguins end this series at home in Game 6. The Penguins defense should be able to slow down Norfolk's offense enough that they can win low scoring defensive type games like they have been down the stretch. They will need to rely on strong goaltending from Brad Thiessen and shutdown defense from their defensive studs in Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo.

As always, game thread will be up a half hour before the start of the game. Thread at 6:30 p.m. EST. puck drops at 7. Let's Do This!

WBS Penguins Practice Update 4/14/11

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins were back at it this morning at the Coal Street Rink for their last morning practice before the playoffs start up. Everyone practiced today except John Curry, who coach John Hynes told me would be ready for tomorrow night's game. He called Curry's absence the last two days as maintenance days to rest up and be ready for Friday.

I got a much more vague answer when I asked about Tim Wallace and Bryan Lerg, which isn't surprising now that it's playoff time. I talked with Wallace after practice and he didn't sound overly optimistic about his return to the lineup. He gave me one of those looks like he wasn't sure. He told me "I hope so".

Bryan Lerg, on the other hand, is more likely to be in the lineup tomorrow night. He stayed out on the ice after the regulars left and worked on some shooting and skating before Hynes came over and asked him how he felt. Lerg gave the nod signaling he was good to go and then came off the ice. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to talk with Lerg when he came off.

After the regulars left, Andy Bathgate, Brian Gibbons, Ryan Schnell, Viktor Ekbom, and goaltender Alexander Pechurskiy came out for some work with coach Hynes and Bill Guerin. I was very surprised with Pechurskiy's ability to speak English after he came off the ice and signed a few autographs.

A complete breakdown of the Penguins and Norfolk Admirals matchup will be up later this evening. Be sure to check that out. Tomorrow the race to 16 wins begins for the Penguins. Let's do this!

WBS Penguins Practice Update 4/13/11

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Tim Wallace has returned! But will he be ready for Game 1 Friday?
Tim Wallace was back on the ice this morning when the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins took to the ice for practice at the Coal Street Rink. While he didn't participate in any contact drills, Wallace looked sharp and didn't show any signs of pain from his lower body injury.

WBS Penguins Add BC Forward Brian Gibbons

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins have announced the signing of Brian Gibbons to an amateur tryout. Here's some info on Gibbons via the team's website:
Gibbons, 23, recently completed his senior season at Boston College (HE), where he totaled 51 points (18+33) in 39 games. The 5-8, 165-lb. native of Braintree, MA has compiled 164 points (56+108) in 160 career games at Boston College.
Sounds like Gibbons is a small forward, comparable to a Chris Conner, that can create offense. I hope to talk with Gibbons at tomorrow morning's practice to give more insights about who he is as a player.

The Penguins also released Reid McNeill from his amateur tryout today. McNeill didn't see any action and was brought in to get a feel for what pro hockey is all about. I'm sure he'll be back with the Pens sometime in the future.

Gear Up for Round 1 & The Race to 16

This bracket is from the AHL's league website.

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins canceled their on-ice practice this morning and I was told they were doing some off-ice work. I would guess this was done for many reasons. First off and probably most important, it gives some of the guys who missed action this weekend (Wallace, Wagner, Walker, Lerg and Curry)  an extra day to rest their ailments. It also serves as a day to go over game film of the opponent, the Norfolk Admirals. It all gives head coach John Hynes a chance to talk to his team and make sure they all know the deal on what they are going to work on the next two days.

So no updates on the guys today, unfortunately. I will still be attending practice Wednesday and Thursday and can try to get an update then.

After the jump I'll briefly analyze the first round series between the Pens and Admirals, a topic that will be looked at all week in anticipation of Game 1 on Friday.

Three Goal Third Ends Regular Season With Win

Sunday, April 10, 2011
Nick Petersen scored two goals tonight. I've been saying it for weeks that he's going to catch fire.

Through two periods the game looked and felt like a season finale that didn't mean anything. The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins were trailing 2-1 and really looked like they were going through the motions. I'm not sure what was said in the locker room but the Pens came out and took over in the third period, registering 21 shots on goal including three that hit the back of the net in route to a 4-2 win over the Adirondack Phantoms.

And with that the regular season is over. The Penguins won a ton of awards from the league this year and finish with a record of 58-21-0-1. With the Norfolk Admirals beating Connecticut this afternoon, the Penguins will play their first round series against the Admirals. The series will start on Friday, April 15th, with the first two games being played in Wilkes-Barre. The series will feature a 2-3-2 with the home team (the Pens) getting the first two and last two games of the series at home, if necessary.

Game 80 Preview: Adirondack @ WBS Penguins

Bryan Lerg got some revenge on Braden Holtby last night, scoring with a rocket of a slapshot.

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins close out their season this afternoon against the Adirondack Phantoms at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. It feels like not too long ago the Pens were just getting underway. What a season it has been for this team. Best record in the league, best goalie in the league and best coach in the league.

Before the puck drops at 3:00 p.m. EST, the team will have an award ceremony to honor some of the players for their achievements this season.

Beatdown in Chocolate Town, Pens Win 4-2

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins took care of business tonight, and the 4-2 score really doesn't reflect how one-sided tonight's game was.  The Pens have now swept the Bears in Hershey and made a statement should the two teams meet in the East Division's 2nd round.

This game featured the rough stuff early in the first period with Zach Sill and Jesse Boulerice dropping the gloves seven seconds apart. Ryan Schnell took care of Phil Oreskovic in the second period.

The first goal wouldn't be scored until the final minute with David Marshall getting a goal with 13.3 left. But the Penguins would take control of the game in the second period with three unanswered goals in a span of 5:37. First it was Brett Sterling with his team leading 27th goal. Nick Petersen made it 3-0 exactly 30 seconds later and really took the air out of the crowd and the Bears.

Bryan Lerg made it 4-0 and the Pens never looked back. Hershey would score two late goals to make it look like a close game but anyone who watched tonight's game will tell you that the Penguins were clearly the better team. 

The win gives this Penguins team the second most points in a season in the entire history of the AHL. While the game doesn't mean much in terms of the standings it was definitely a feel good win over a much hated rival.

The only bad news is that Bryan Lerg left the game in the third period with an apparent lower body injury. He did not return and was seen limping down the tunnel to the locker room.

The Pens gave some guys rest as Ryan Craig and Andrew Hutchinson sat and Viktor Ekbom and Andy Bathgate made his pro debut. All in all, a good win considering the Pens were without 5 of their regulars.

I'll throw a pregame post for tomorrow's game in the morning. The thread will be up at 2:30 p.m. EST.

Game Thread: WBS Penguins @ Hershey 4/9/11

Buckle up! It could be a rough and tumble kind of night.

Join in the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Hershey Bears tonight at the Giant Center in Chocolate Town. The game will be a sellout! You can now follow in-game updates on the blog's Twitter feed. Puck drops at 7.

Game 79 Preview: WBS Penguins @ Hershey Bears

Robert Bortuzzo (#15) and Brian Strait (#7) have been the shutdown defensive pairing for the WBS Penguins all season.

For those who missed last night's game, you do not want to miss any of the action tonight. While the result of the game means nothing in terms of the standings, these two teams hate each other and last night showed that.  Keven Veilleux has been suspended for two games for his actions last night, while Hershey Bears agitator Steve Pinizzotto was left unscathed. I expect some carry over rough stuff in tonight's contest in Hershey.

Geoff Walker, who left the arena in a sling last night, probably won't play tonight. No need to rush a guy back into the lineup when the games mean little to nothing. So enter David Marshall and heavyweight Ryan Schnell for tonight's contest and you could see fireworks. I'm sure the line combos will be altered a little bit so here's my best guess as to what they might look like for tonight's game.


That fourth line could start some trouble tonight. The defensive pairings should be the same and expect John Curry to get the start in net tonight.

Not going to re-post the usual format for tonight since you can easily check them out here.

Tonight's game at the Giant Center is sold out but I will be watching the game live from home and will have in game updates on the blog's Twitter feed. Follow @H_P_Hockey for all WBS Penguins news and info.

WBS Penguins Fall 2-1 to Bears

Friday, April 8, 2011

While most people expected the Penguins-Islanders game to be a bloodbath, the Penguins-Bears game tonight got very close to being just that.  Both teams had already wrapped up their playoff position heading into tonight's game and things got physical early and often with a lot of after the whistle scrums.

The game might not have meant much but there were a few injuries on both sides. Geoff Walker received a heavy slash that went uncalled and didn't return. He also didn't come back on the ice at the end of the game for the "jersey off the backs" promotion. Hershey's Mathieu Perrault fell awkwardly behind the net after a Joey Mormina check and had to be helped off the ice with an apparent knee injury.

Game Thread: Hershey @ WBS Penguins 4/8/11

Join in the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Hershey Bears tonight at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. The game might be a sellout! You can now follow in-game updates on the blog's new Twitter feed.

Game 78 Preview: Hershey @ WBS Penguins

Only three games remaining in the regular season!

The Penguins and Bears begin the first of back-to-back meetings this weekend in games that don't mean anything in terms of playoff positioning for these two teams. The Pens are stamped as the #1 team and the Bears #2 in the East Divison. What these games could do, however, is allow for one club to make a statement heading into the postseason. These two teams could very well meet in the second round of the playoffs.

I will be at tonight's game and will have live updates on tonight's game on the blog's Twitter feed @H_P_Hockey.  The game thread will be up at 6:30 p.m. EST. Puck drops at 7.

Thursday Practice Update 4/7/11

Thursday, April 7, 2011
The team held a shootout at the end of today's practice for Arpil's "juice boy". See who took home that award!
 Another day, another practice this morning at the Coal Street Rink in Wilkes-Barre. Not much has changed from yesterday. Tim Wallace didn't practice again today and speaking with head coach John Hynes after practice, told me Wallace will not be in the lineup this weekend. Hopefully the two weeks off will help him be ready for next Friday's Game 1 of the playoffs.

Every other injured Penguin practiced today. Brett Sterling, Joe Vitale and Joey Mormina should all make their return to the lineup tomorrow night against Hershey.  Steve Wagner practiced with the team today but didn't partake in the contact drills. Hynes told me Wagner won't play tomorrow but could play later this weekend.

I will put up a game preview for Friday night's game sometime tonight or early tomorrow. Be sure to check back for that. Game threads for all of this weekend's games will be up 30 minutes prior to the start of each game. You can now follow this blog on Twitter @H_P_Hockey. I suggest you do so.

WBS Penguins John Hynes Named Coach of the Year

Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Not much of a surprise here, Hynes has earned this award.
The AHL has announced today that WBS Penguins head coach John Hynes has been awarded the Louis A.R. Pieri award for the league's outstanding coach. In just his first year as a head coach, Hynes has led the Penguins to the best record in the league, as well as the best record in franchise history.  Couldn't have happened to a greater guy. The players bought into him from day one and clearly it has shown.

Hynes has led the Pens to the best record, but not without any bumps along the way. At times up to seven of his top forwards were unavailable due to injury or recall but that didn't stop Hynes from adapting to his new players and getting the most out of them while they were in the AHL.

All in all, a great season for Hynes and the Penguins but I'm sure if you ask them they aren't satisfied with everything accomplished so far. There's still a few things left the Penguins would like to do.

WBS Wednesday Practice Update 4/6/11

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins took to the ice around 10 a.m. for practice and there were a lot of bodies on the ice. Other than Tim Wallace, all of the guys who have been out of the lineup returned.

The biggest news that was reported by me earlier in the morning is that the WBS Penguins have added forward Andy Bathgate and defensman Reid McNeill, both Penguins draft picks in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Both stayed after practice with Steve Wagner and Ryan Schnell for some extra work.

WBS Penguins Tuesday Catch Up News

Tuesday, April 5, 2011
DeFazio played at Clarkson University before coming into the Penguins organization.
First off, Brandon DeFazio's weekend stay in the AHL is over. He was re-assigned to Wheeling to lead the Nailers on what hopefully is a long playoff run. Their playoffs start tonight.

In place of DeFazio, Ryan Schnell is back in Wilkes-Barre and should get some playing time this weekend. Schnell adds muscle to the lineup and will be good to have this weekend. Both teams the Pens are playing against this weekend (Hershey x2 and Adirondack) have nothing to play for. Adding Schnell is a good idea just in case things get physical.

In other news yesterday, WBS Penguins forward Ben Street was named CCM ECHL Rookie of the Year for the 2010-11 season. Playing in just 38 games before being called up to Wilkes-Barre, Ben Street posted 24 goals and 27 assists for 51 points, including eight power play goals. He's had nearly as much success in the AHL this season posting 21 points (12A, 9A) in 33 games with the AHL Penguins.

Brad Thiessen continues to rack up recognition from the AHL, as he was named the Baz Bastien Award winner for the AHL's outstanding goalie. Read about Thiessen here.

Thiessen Racking Up Awards, Adds Baz Bastien

Thiessen Named 2011 Baz Bastien "Goalie of the Year"
I think it's safe to say that Brad Thiessen is having a career year. Thiessen's 34-7-1 record this season broke the team's record for wins in a season set by John Curry. He is first in the AHL in wins (34) and shutouts (7) while being second in the league in goals-against average (1.93). Here's a list of Thiessen's accomplishments in the 2010-11 season, his second year of professional hockey:
Two-time Reebok/AHL Goaltender of the Month
One-time Reebok/AHL Player of the Week
Voted the starting goaltender for the 2010-11 AHL All Star Game
Voted to 2010-11 First Team AHL All-Star 
Now you can add the Baz Bastien Award for outstanding goalie as voted by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 teams. All that's left for Thiessen is the Les Cunningham Award (League MVP), which will be announced on April 8th, and of course the Calder Cup Trophy. All the awards aside, Thiessen has really stepped up this season and deserves all of the attention he is getting right now.

Woof! Petersen, Veilleux Lead Pens Past Crunch 5-3

Sunday, April 3, 2011
Brad Thiessen set a franchise record today with his 34th win of the season.

It was "Pucks and Paws" day and fans were allowed to bring their dogs inside the arena. Weird I know. Those who brought their canines to the OnCenter were seated behind the visitors net.

Today was Nick Petersen's day and he set a franchise record with five assists in the 5-3 win. Good things seemed to happen whenever he was on the ice. I've said it weeks ago that once Petersen was taken off the fourth line and placed on a line with some skill players (no offense to Jesse Boulerice) that he would catch fire.

Game Thread: WBS Penguins @ Syracuse 4/3/11

Join in the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Syracuse Crunch this afternoon at the Oncenter in Syracuse. You can now follow in-game updates on the blog's new Twitter feed, effective 4/1/11.

Game 77 Preview: WBS Penguins @ Syracuse

Corey Potter has been producing offensively the last few weeks. Just what the doctor ordered: More defensemen getting on the score sheet.

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins finish their three game weekend with an afternoon matinee in Syracuse against the Crunch. After capturing the Macgregor Kilpatrick trophy last night, the Pens look to continue their success and go 3-0 this weekend. The Crunch are coming off a 3-0 loss to Adirondack last night and although they won't be making the post season, they will be looking to disrupt any momentum the Pens may be building.

I will be at the game in Syracuse and will "live tweet" from @H_P_Hockey if possible. The game thread will be up at 2:30 for those to chat during the game.

WBS Pens Win 4-3 in OT, Clinch Best Record in AHL

Saturday, April 2, 2011
The Penguins clinched the league's best record tonight!

The fans began to get restless about three minutes into overtime when Corey Potter chose to back it up in his own zone and let the forwards change, but it was easily the best decision made on the night. Potter would pass the puck to a fresh Geoff Walker and he did the rest, skating around, between and through the Amerks down the left wing side and finished the coast-to-coast play with a toe drag and then a backhander into the net. Game over, Pens win.

The win gives the Pens their 55th of the season and the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy, awarded to the league’s regular-season points champion. It's the first in team history for the Pens.

More after the jump.