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VIDEO: Slideshow of the 2011-12 Season

Thursday, May 31, 2012
Over the past few weeks, I went back through all of my photos from the games I attended this season both home and away and put together a nice little slideshow of my work following the Penguins all over the East Coast. Please share this and subscribe to our YouTube channel!




We will get into the player by player season reviews shortly! Stay tuned.

Looking Ahead to the Team in 2012-13

Friday, May 18, 2012
Took this photo last spring when Reid McNeill was on an ATO with WBS during last year's playoff run. He signed an entry-level contract the other day.
BRIEF TEAM OVERVIEW

Heading into the summer, the Penguins have a lot of decisions to make. With only Marc-Andre Fleury and Patrick Killeen signed through next season in net, the Pens will need to make a decision with Brad Thiessen. Thiessen is an unrestricted free agent, meaning he is free to sign with any team after July 1st if the Penguins can't agree to terms with him before then. You would have to expect he wants to be Fleury's backup. Scott Munroe is also an NHL unrestricted free agent.

On defense, Matt Niskanen Brian Strait, Robert Bortuzzo, and Alexandre Picard are all restricted free agents that will be looking for NHL jobs next season. Niskanen had a good year in Pittsburgh, and the other three were the core in the AHL that helped the WBS Penguins to the second round of the playoffs. 

A lot of what happens with the defense depends on what Pittsburgh does. There's a lot of talk about Paul Martin potentially being moved, but also that Simon Despres and Joe Morrow could make the push to the NHL next season. With six defensemen already signed through next year in Pittsburgh (Martin, Zbynek Michalek, Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Ben Lovejoy, Deryk Engelland) there isn't a lot of room for guys like Niskanen, Strait, Bortuzzo, Picard or even Boris Valabik. All of those guys would need to clear waivers before being able to be sent to the minors next year.

Other restricted free agents on defense include Alex Grant, Carl Sneep. Would be very surprised if either didn't receive a qualifying offer for next season.


There are some unrestricted free agents on AHL contracts: Andrew Hotham, Peter Merth, Joey Mormina and Cody Wild.  Mormina and Wild could be depth additions to the AHL defense because they would add experience to what looks like a very young core in WBS next season (see after the jump).


Up front, there are a lot of decisions to be made in the off season. Right now, the Penguins have 11 forwards signed through next season at the NHL level.

UFA's include Steve Sullivan, Arron Asham, Richard Park, Jason Williams, Colin McDonald, Ryan Craig and Steve MacIntyre.

RFA's at the forward position are Eric Tangradi, Cal O'Reilly, Keven Veilleux and Casey Pierro-Zabotel. Tangradi and O'Reilly will be looking at NHL jobs. Veilleux shouldn't draw attention since he missed all last season with a knee injury. Zabotel won't be back after the controversy with him, wasn't with the WBS Penguins all season.

So there you have it. A look at all the free agents in the organization (hope I didn't miss anyone). If I missed someone leave me the guy I left off the list in the comments section. What are your thoughts? Who would you like to see back, and who do you think you will see back next season?

After the jump, a look at who the Penguins have at the NHL and AHL levels signed through next season.

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.

Penguins Fall Short in Game Seven

Saturday, May 12, 2012
Penguins on the losing end of the handshake line. Good season guys!
The 13th season has come and gone, as the Penguins drop Game Seven to the St. John's IceCaps by a 3-2 score tonight. The IceCaps advance to the Eastern Conference Finals to play the Norfolk Admirals.

Nothing to hang your head about fans. These Penguins battled back from a 3-1 series deficit and took this series the distance. They never gave up in the series and played hard until every last second ticked off the clock tonight in Newfoundland.

Aaron Gagnon scored his second goal of the night 57 seconds into the third period, and the Penguins couldn't tie up the game after Colin McDonald scored his team leading 6th goal of the playoffs.  Only fitting this series came down to a one goal game.

Tough way to end the season for the Penguins. I'm sure the what if's and what could have been are swirling in everyone's minds right now. 

I want to thank everyone who has read the updates on this blog over the course of the season. I also want to take the time now to let you know that although the season may be over, the daily updates and original content is just beginning. Here's what I plan to do in the very near future:

The Playoff Grades for every guy who suited up for a playoff game in a Penguins uniform will post either tomorrow evening or Monday morning. I'll have another post looking at the roster and who's signed through next season and who the free agents will be. I'll probably have multiple looks at it over the summer. I'll also be doing full season recaps of all the players over the summer as well.

So stay tuned! It was an awesome first full season covering this team and big things are planned and already in the works for the off-season and the 2012-13 season.

Penguins Force Game Seven, Win 4-2

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have forced a winner-take-all Game Seven tomorrow night at 6 p.m. EST after a 4-2 win over the St. John's IceCaps. Only fitting the series comes down to just one game. A truly Grade A series.

After the teams came out for the third period tied at two, the Penguins got a greasy goal from Zach Sill, tipping a puck past Eddie Pasquale early in the third period, giving the Pens a 3-2 lead. Paul Thompson beat Pasquale with 3:30 to play on a nifty backhander to make the 4-2 final.

Highlights courtesy of Eric (@ericp55)


More after the jump.

WBS Penguins on "The Rock" 5/11

Thursday, May 10, 2012
Photo courtesy of the WBS Penguins Facebook page.
Not much to report out of the Penguins practice. Beat writer Jonathan Bombulie reported earlier that Brian Strait took part in the roughly 30 minute skate, but his status for returning to the series is still questionable. Sounds like Coach Hynes will make the decision on whether or not to insert him into the lineup for Game Six after the morning skate.

Strait is arguably the team's best defensive defenseman. His return to the lineup would be a huge boost to the WBS blueline. Philip Samuelsson barely sniffed the ice in the third period and subsequent overtimes in Game Five.

The IceCaps also missed their best defensive blue liner on Tuesday night in Arturs Kulda. A big loss for St. John's. Former Penguins defenseman Jason DeSantis replaced him in Game Five. Kulda's status for Game Six is still uncertain.

Other than that I wouldn't expect any lineup changes for either team. We'll have up to the minute updates on the blog's Twitter feed. Follow @H_P_Hockey for pregame lineups and live updates of all the action of Game Six.

It's On To The Rock: Pens Force Game Six

Wednesday, May 9, 2012
For the third straight game, the Penguins and IceCaps were deadlocked after 60 minutes. This time, it was the Penguins hopping over the boards and celebrating.

After 92:08 of exhilarating playoff hockey, Simon Despres played hero tonight. It was his first of the playoffs but none bigger for Despres. Ben Street and Eric Tangradi got the assists on the double overtime goal.


A huge goal for Despres. He caught up with reporters after the game and had this to say:
"This one is very big because we’re on the brink of elimination. Biggest goal of my career, definitely."
So it's on to "the Rock" in St. John's, Newfoundland. The Penguins will get on a charter flight with the IceCaps and fly up to Canada together tomorrow. Game Six is scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m. EST. The Penguins still trail the series, now at a 3-2 deficit, and will need to keep that do-or-die mentality Friday night in hopes of forcing the decisive Game Seven.

WBS Penguins: Down But Not Out

Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Penguins need to dig deep in Game Five
The Penguins come into Game Five down three games to one in the best-of-seven series after dropping two straight overtime games to the IceCaps over the weekend. The good news is that they can start the comeback tonight on home ice in front of the hometown fans.

All time, the Penguins are 15-10 when facing elimination. Let's hope after tonight that is pushed to 16-10.

The series has been much closer than the three to one deficit shows, however.

In the opening game of the series, the IceCaps held a 2-1 lead until a puck handling gaffe by Brad Thiessen with under two minutes to play ended the game in a 3-1 loss. Essentially a one goal game.

In Game Two, the Penguins evened up the series with a 3-1 win of their own, thanks to one shorthanded and one power play goal in the first five minutes of the third period. The Penguins really dominated the play and held a 28-11 shot advantage after two periods before pulling away in the third.

The series shifted to Wilkes-Barre for Games Three and Four. Both ended in overtime losses for the Penguins. Two more one goal games.

In Game Three, the IceCaps held onto a 1-0 lead until an extra attacker goal by Eric Tangradi with 1:02 left to play sent the game into overtime. Unfortunately Brock Trotter notched his second of the night 10:02 into the first overtime for the IceCaps win.

The Penguins came out firing in Game Four, scoring goals on their first two shots and taking a 2-0 lead into the second period. But credit to the IceCaps for not giving up as they tied up the game with two second period goals of their own and after a scoreless third period, ended the game 27 seconds into overtime when Ben Maxwell cleaned up a rebound loose in Thiessen's crease.

By no means is this series over heading into Game Five tonight. A couple bounces the other way and it's a 3-1 series for the Penguins and fans would have their eyes on the Conference Finals.

Instead, the Penguins need to start with one game. Win this game and head back to St. John's for Game Six.

LETS GO PENGUINS!

IceCaps Put Pens On The Brink

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Penguins scored on their first two shots of the game to take a 2-0 lead, but the IceCaps battled back with a strong second period tying the game and eventually winning 27 seconds into overtime. The win gives the IceCaps a 3-1 series lead, putting the Pens on the brink of elimination. Game Five is on Tuesday night in Wilkes-Barre.

Back to back overtime losses the last two nights. Heartbreaking losses, but the Penguins have come back from 3-1 series deficits before. All they can do is take it one game at a time, starting Tuesday night.


Penguins Drop Game Three In OT

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Eric Tangradi tied the score at one with 1:02 to play, sending Game Three to overtime, but Brock Trotter (the Penguin killer) scored his second of the night and fourth of the series 10:02 into overtime to give the IceCaps a 2-1 win and 2-1 series lead.

This series will end in Canada. Games Four and Five are at home, while Six and Seven (if necessary) are on "the Rock" in St. John's Newfoundland. 

Tough loss for the Penguins, but they get a chance for redemption tomorrow at 4 p.m. EST in Game Four.

After good back and forth action to start the game, the IceCaps struck first when Zach Redmond's slap-pass from the point deflected off none other than Trotter's stick and past Thiessen at the 12:37 mark.

The story of the night was definitely IceCaps goaltender Eddie Pasquale, who several times robbed Penguins goal scorers when it seemed the puck had no chance of being stopped. The IceCaps were actually held without a shot the entire second period, and if not for Pasquale's play this game could have had a different result.

The Penguins biggest opportunity, or should I say opportunities, came in the second period when they had two separate glimpses of five-on-three power plays but were unable to capitalize on them. Those probably hurt the most.

Time to dig deep. Tomorrow's game is almost a must-win because you don't want to go down 3-1 in the series and have to win three out of four games up in Newfoundland. Not much time between games, not sure if that will have an affect on either team tomorrow.

STJ @ WBS: Game Three (Series Tied)


Tonight the series shifts to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre. Game Three. Series tied. The Penguins have the home ice advantage the next three games and look to capitalize. Puck drops at 7:05 p.m. EST. I will be live at the game with full coverage on Twitter and a recap here shortly after the conclusion. Follow @H_P_Hockey for in-game updates and all the WBS Penguins news in one spot!

As for the lineups, don't expect many changes, if any. Brian Strait didn't practice and is most likely out for tonight. He's listed as the standard during the playoffs: day-to-day.

The games become increasingly more important this time of year but I'm not sure if there's a bigger game in this series than tonight's Game Three. With the series tied at one, the Penguins can potentially win out their three home games and end the series in Wilkes-Barre. If St. John's takes one game on the road, they know the series has to end in front of their hometown fans as Games Six and Seven (if necessary) are at the Mile One Centre in Newfoundland.

After the jump some awesome pictures from Game Two. Thanks again to @dwancherry for those!

Pens Even Series, Win Game Two 3-1

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Penguins dominate the IceCaps tonight and win Game Two 3-1, sending the series back to Wilkes-Barre for three straight home games starting Saturday. The best of seven series is evened up at one apiece and is now a best of five.

In the playoffs, you need your best players to play their best hockey. And right now Cal O'Reilly and Jason Williams are certainly living up to expectations. O'Reilly had the primary assist on two third period goals, the second of which was an absolute cannon of a shot from Williams. Williams leads the Pens with 10 points (2G-8A) through the team's first seven playoff games. O'Reilly has four points (2G-2A) in his last three games.

Recap of Game Two after the jump!

Photos From Game One 5/2


With special thanks to someone in attendance at last night's game, I have some pictures from last night's Game One to share. Thanks again Dwan Street! @dwancherry on Twitter.

Game Two is tonight at 6 p.m. EST. Follow us on Twitter (@H_P_Hockey) for all the in-game coverage and live updates.

More pictures after the jump!

IceCaps Take Game One, Pens Lose 3-1

Tuesday, May 1, 2012
O'Reilly scored the lone WBS goal tonight.
A whacky start to the series. The Penguins got off to a sloppy start, turning pucks over and unable to getpucks deep. It was a shooting gallery the first 3:09 of the contest until IceCaps forward Aaron Gagnon was whistled for interference, sending the Penguins to their first power play of the series.

Cal O'Reilly didn't score a single goal for the Pens in 21 regular season games, but notched his 4th of the playoffs on the power play 4:42 into the game. Jason Williams got his team leading 8th assist and Colin McDonald got the secondary helper.

Other than that spurt of offense, the Penguins were bottled down in their own zone. They killed off two penalties and Brad Thiessen was the star. Thiessen also stopped Jason King on a penalty shot with 3:08 left in the opening period.

The Penguins took the 1-0 lead into the locker room despite being outshot 20-4.

The Penguins played better in the second period, outshooting the IceCaps 8-7 in the period, but surrendered the one goal lead on a Brian Gibbons turnover that led to a goal by Brock Trotter. Travis Ramsey and Spencer Machacek got the assists on the IceCaps goal that came 7:25 into the middle frame. The Penguins penalty kill improved to three for three as they killed off a Brandon DeFazio high sticking minor in the period.

The Penguins came out firing to start the third period, with a great opening shift by the Pens' fourth line of DeFazio, Zach Sill and Ryan Craig. But after a lengthy delay for a cut in the ice in the Pens offensive zone, Brock Trotter got a lead pass and scored his second breakaway goal of the night, giving the IceCaps a 2-1 lead.

The Penguins continued to battle but were unable to draw even. Then with 1:54 left, Thiessen came out to play a puck and turned it over and it was quickly in the back of the net. 3-1 IceCaps. The Penguins pulled the goalie with 1:20 to go but to no avail.

Game Two is tomorrow night at 6 p.m. EST at the Mile One Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland.