WBS Penguins Playoff Grades 5/14

Monday, May 14, 2012
#10 Ben Street (left-front) and #19 Bryan Lerg (right-front) struggled in the playoffs. The two led the team with 27 goals each during the regular season.
The Penguins went 6-6 in the playoffs this season, defeating the Hershey Bears in the first round after a full five game series and falling to the St. John's IceCaps in seven games in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Only four teams in the AHL will be playing hockey longer this season than the Pens.

You could start to think about guys like Brian Strait, Robert Bortuzzo (hurt in Game Seven), and Nick Petersen and wonder if their presence could have changed the outcome. You might as well wonder what a healthy Carl Sneep could have meant this postseason with Philip Samuelsson and Cody Wild both appearing in playoff action.

Let's add one more. What the forward core might have looked like with a healthy Keven Veilleux all season long after what he accomplished the second half of the 2010-11 season?

At the end of the day, this series with St. John's could have gone either way. Two evenly matched teams coming into Game One and it went down to the third period of Game Seven to decide the winner. A couple bounces here and there and some missed opportunities along the way is sometimes all it takes to decide a game in the playoffs. Neither team wants to bow out of the playoffs. The compete level of this series is almost incomparable to any other AHL playoff series I have ever been a part of.

This post will take a look at the grades of the players individually during the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs.

Straight to the grades after the jump.

Brad Thiessen
Playoff Stats: 12 games played, 6W-6L, 2.14 GAA, 908 SV%, 0 SO

Thiessen played all but 4:25 of the playoffs when Simon Despres' stick caught him under the mask and gashed him in the double OT thrilling Game Five. Thiessen got stitched up quickly and came back late in the third period. Can't blame the Pens second round departure on Thiessen. Sure, he had two puck handling gaffes that ended up in goals behind him this past series. The first one, in Game One, came with 1:51 left while the Pens were already behind by one. That one hurt. But the slow rolling puck in Game Five that gave the IceCaps an early 1-0 proved that the Pens weren't going to pack it in and give up.

Overall: A decent postseason. Gave up 27 goals in 12 games, made some big saves at times.


Scott Munroe
Playoff Stats: Played four minutes, twenty five seconds. One save. No goals allowed.

Played 4:25 of the third period in Game Five against the IceCaps while Thiessen was getting stitched up. Tough way to be thrown into the playoffs, with the season on the line, but Munroe made a glove save and the Penguins managed the situation well.

GRADE: Incomplete


Cody Wild
Playoff Stats: 2 games played, 1G, 0A, +1, 0 PIM

Wild spent most of the playoffs as the team's seventh defenseman. Appeared in two games in the first round series against the Bears and was effective. Many thought he should have been playing over Philip Samuelsson but that's for a different discussion.


Brian Strait
Playoff Stats: 2 games played, 0G, 1A, Even, 0 PIM

Strait appeared in two games in the first round. His first game with the AHL Penguins, after being with Pittsburgh for their playoff series against the Flyers, was his only game he was healthy. He took a pretty hard and high hit behind his own net and left Game Three early and didn't play the third period. He came back to play in the do-or-die Game Five but sat out the rest of the playoffs.


Philip Samuelsson
Playoff Stats: 10 games played, 0G, 1A, -2, 18 PIM

A tough playoffs for Sameulsson to say the least. He played well at times but mistake prone at other times. The nine minor penalties in his ten games played was tough too. But his rookie season was a lot of this. Learning the game more and more as he goes. Expect better in 2012-13 though.

Robert Bortuzzo
Playoff Stats:  12 games played, 0G, 1A, +1, 13 PIM

Bortuzzo was relied on the most defensively to shut down the opposing team's most dangerous scorers. Against Hershey, he kept guys like Ryan Potulny and Chris Bourque off the score sheet. Bortuzzo was on the penalty kill and played the important shifts at crucial times in games. Could be the last we see him in a WBS uniform. Bortuzzo will need to clear waivers next season.


Simon Despres
Playoff Stats: 10 games played, 1G, 1A, +1, 2 PIM

Despres scored his first career AHL playoff goal and he will probably never forget it. A double overtime game winner to keep his team playing another day. Other than that Despres played in a good mix of situations including time on both the penalty kill and power play this postseason. His defensive zone performance is getting better and is becoming a more solid two way option. He's good with the puck and skates well for a 6-4 defenseman.


Alex Grant
Playoff Stats: 12 games played, 2G, 5A, +1, 13 PIM

Grant's offensive upside should start gaining attention. He led the team's defensemen in scoring with the seven points and proved his case for a contract next season. Needs to work in his own zone but offensively he is a treat to watch. A great shot and great power play option on the point.


Alexandre Picard
Playoff Stats: 12 games played, 0G, 6A, Even, 6 PIM

With the injury to Brian Strait, Picard was moved into the shutdown pair with Robert Bortuzzo. Picard was the team's best overall defenseman in the post season, in my opinion. He played a bunch of special teams minutes as well as against more dangerous forwards. A solid two-way defenseman at this level.

Grade: A

Joey Mormina
Playoff Stats: 12 games played, 1G, 1A, -2, 10 PIM

Mormina was a depth addition at the beginning of the season but in these playoffs he logged a ton of minutes and was a top three defenseman, in my opinion. He didn't play on the power play but played a lot of the tough shifts on the PK and in the defensive zone. He took five minors in the postseason and paired with Samuelsson might have had something to do with his +/- rating.



Colin McDonald
Playoff Stats: 12 games played, 6G, 7A, +2, 2 PIM

Led the team in goals and tied for the lead with 13 points. You could really tell how hard McDonald was working on every shift. Great effort in the post season from him. Pittsburgh has a decision to make with this guy.


Jason Williams
Playoff Stats: 12 games played, 3G, 10A, +2, 2 PIM

In the playoffs, your top players need to be your top players. Williams was certainly one of those guys. The playoff experience and veteran presence certainly shined on others, but Williams played pretty well leading the team with 10 assists. Not sure if the NHL is still in his future but at the AHL level, he is a scoring threat.


Cal O'Reilly
Playoff Stats: 12 games played, 5G, 4A, +2, 0 PIM

The knock on O'Reilly coming into the postseason was that he couldn't shoot, or score goals. Safe to say that controversy (if you can even call this one) is squashed. O'Reilly scored some big goals this postseason for the Penguins. He's hands down, the best passer and playmaker on the team. Has great vision and can find the open guy. Another decision Pittsburgh will have to make this off season.


Eric Tangradi
Playoff Stats: 10 games played, 4G, 5A, +2, 14 PIM

Tangradi came to the AHL a changed man, so to speak. Instead of him having the "big fish in small pond" expression to his game, he worked hard and did a good job at what he's in this organization for. Using his big body to win puck battles and having a decent set of hands to finish goals off. He was overly physical and took some costly penalties but he's definitely on the right track to the NHL.


Geoff Walker
Playoff Stats: 12 games played, 1G, 4A, -3, 4 PIM

Walker had a good first round against the Bears and a not so good second round against the IceCaps. You can see his confidence wasn't quite with him at times in the later half of the second round and his play showed that. Still a good forward that's reliable in all three zones.


Zach Sill
Playoff Stats: 12 games played, 3G, 1A, +3, 0 PIM

Sill was a workhouse on the shutdown line with Ryan Craig and Brandon DeFazio. Always skating hard, being physical and laying it all on the line. Glad he is signed through next season.


Ryan Craig
Playoff Stats: 12 games played, 1G, 3A, +1, 2 PIM

Captain Craig played solid playoff hockey as a fourth line role player and his actions off the ice probably helped the team just as much as his on ice contributions. A great leader who will hopefully return next season.


Paul Thompson
Playoff Stats: 12 games played, 2G, 1A, -2, 2 PIM

Thompson started off slow but finished the postseason playing his best hockey. Sky is the limit for this forward, was really impressed with his play against the IceCaps in the second round.


Ben Street
Playoff Stats: 12 games played, 1G, 2A, Even, 2 PIM

Scored 27 goals in the regular season, but only tallied one in the postseason. Definitely not a strong showing offensively by Street, but still killed penalties and played hard. Created some offensive chances but couldn't finish.


Bryan Lerg
Playoff Stats: 12 games played, 0G, 2A, -2, 4 PIM

A disappointing playoffs for Lerg. Like Street, just couldn't get it going offensively much at all the entire postseason. Was demoted to the fourth line at one point during the second round. He knows he's better than what he showed during the playoffs and the fans should know that too.


Matt Rust
Playoff Stats: 2 games played, 1G, 0A, +3, 0 PIM

Rust played well in the two games he played in. Scored a nice backhander against the Bears and was the team's third line center before reinforcements came from Pittsburgh.


Brian Gibbons
Playoff Stats: 9 games played, 0G, 0A, -3, 8 PIM

Tough first showing in the playoffs for this rookie. But he has the speed and skill set to be a very dangerous forward. Not a big guy, but quick and elusive. If he hits the gym over the off season I think he could become the next Chris Conner type forward.


Brandon DeFazio
Playoff Stats: 12 games played, 0G, 0A, Even ,6 PIM

One of only two players that didn't register a point in the playoffs. Not a concern though as he was relegated to fourth line shutdown hockey which suited his physical grinding style of play quite well.



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