Penguins Goaltending Carousel Comes Full Circle With Return of Peter Mannino

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
From left to right: Peter Mannino, Eric Hartzell and Jeff Deslauriers. Middle photo is Highland Park Hockey's own, while the end photos are courtesy Amy's WBS Pens Picture Page. Special thanks to @TaylorHaase87 for the photo edit.

With 14 games left in the regular season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the team's number "true" number one goaltender couldn't be more unclear.

The Tale of the Men Between the Pipes

Jeff Deslauriers has been with the team the entire 2013-14 season from preseason to opening night to Game 63 this Friday night against Syracuse.

Deslauriers seemingly won the starting job out of the preseason, starting the first four games for the WBS Pens before then-backup goaltender Peter Mannino made his first appearance in game five on the 2013-14 campaign on the middle game of a three-in-three weekend.

Deslauriers started the next two games and after a shootout loss to Binghamton, Mannino got his second start in a WBS uniform in a tough 2-1 loss to Norfolk. The Pens went back to Deslauriers for three games, giving him 9 of the first 11 games as the starter.Upon starting Mannino against Albany back on November 8th, the backup goaltender was shelled for five goals on 19 shots in two periods of work.

Hard to believe that one bad game for the backup goaltender in his third start of the season would have such an effect on his season, but it was the last game Mannino was seen in. He backed up Deslauriers for three more games before being demoted to the Pens ECHL affiliate Wheeling Nailers in a swap that saw the Penguins bring up highly touted rookie goaltender Eric Hartzell in Mannino's place on November 18th.

Mannino failed to report to Wheeling and was suspended indefinitely the following day (November 19th). Hartzell backed up Deslauriers in the Pens' next two games before making his AHL debut in the 17th game of the season for WBS on November 23rd in the 2nd of a two-game weekend set at home with the St. John IceCaps. From there both Deslauriers and Hartzell saw stretches of consecutive starts but while on the road for the teams biggest road trip of the season in mid-January, Deslauriers struggled and Hartzell took over.

While the battle for the AHL's top goaltender spot was at its height, Mannino reported to Wheeling and after almost two months of being suspended, he returned to action in the ECHL on January 26th.

Hartzell went on to win the AHL's Goaltender of the Month award for January but struggled in February, being pulled in four of six starts before being re-assigned to Wheeling and swapped for the man who backed up Deslauriers at the beginning of the season - Peter Mannino - on February 28th.

The Crunch hosted the Penguins on the 28th so Mannino joined the team and backed up Deslauriers, who got the start in net. Deslauriers had lost in four of his last five appearances and after allowing three goals on eight shots in 25:23, was pulled. Enter Peter Mannino.

Mannino allowed a goal on one of the first shots he faced just 1:27 after he came on in relief of Deslauriers, but at that point it was 4-0 and the writing was on the wall for a Penguins team that was struggling. Mannino calmed down and went on to stop 18 of 19 in the team's 4-0 loss.

Mannino earned the start the next night in Atlantic City on March 1st and since then has started five of the team's last six games, going 4-0-1 with a 0.98 goals-against average, a .955 save percentage and one shutout.

But with 14 games left in the season, who will the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins ride with in net come late April?

Jeff Deslauriers

Jeff Deslauriers started the season as the team's go-to guy in net going 10-2-2 in his first 14 appearances, before rookie Eric Hartzell came up in late November. It seemed like his performance on the long road trip to the Northeast and subsequent goalie fight in Norfolk was the turning point for Deslauriers so far.

After Hartzell's demise, Deslauriers has been unseated as the team's number one goaltender by Peter Mannino, who has had a heck of a journey this season.

Case For: Deslauriers is the reliable AHL veteran goaltender that started the season as the #1 guy and has been on the team all the way through from pre-season to late March. He's struggled lately but he is the reason the Penguins are where they are right now.

Case Against: The AHL postseason is all about finding that "hot goalie" and riding him to the promised land. Since Deslauriers' fast start, the Penguins have seen Hartzell and Mannino both come in and take the the majority of starts away from #38.

Eric Hartzell 

After starting the season with an injury and subsequent demotion to Wheeling, Hartzell played well and took over in January. Hartzell was also named January's Goaltender of the Month for the AHL, posting a record of 5-2-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average, a .944 save percentage and one shutout.

Unfortunately for Hartzell and the Penguins, the February that followed for the Pens' rookie goaltender is one he hopes to forget. Hartzell was pulled in four of six starts in February, going 1-3-0 with a 4.45 goals-against average, a .838 save percentage and no shutouts.

Case For: Hartzell is considered the future of the three, and if he is recalled back to the WBS Penguins and performs well it could be #31 in between the pipes even as a rookie.

Case Against: He's going to need to turn things around in a hurry as he is currently in Wheeling and has not fared well since his AHL Goaltender of the Month performance in January.

Peter Mannino

Peter Mannino has had a wild journey since signing with the Penguins. He missed the entire preseason, before getting the backup position behind Deslauriers to start 2013-14 after the injury to Hartzell had him playing in Wheeling to get back in game shape.

Mannino only saw two games in October and played well despite going 1-1. He allowed two goals in each game and finished with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage. The only bad game he has played in a WBS uniform came back on November 8th, when he allowed five goals on 19 shots in two periods of work against the Albany Devils.

Mannino was re-assigned to the Wheeling Nailers on November 18th and after failing to report to the Pens ECHL affiliate was suspended by the Penguins. Almost two months later, on January 15th, Mannino's suspension is lifted as he reports to the Wheeling Nailers, appearing in his first game on January 26th, in Wheeling's 3-1 win over Cincinnati. In all, Mannino went 3-3 in six games with the Nailers before swapping places with Hartzell on February 28th.

Case For: Since in the AHL with the Penguins again, he's made the most of his opportunities and is the Penguins are currently riding the "hot hand" in net. He also has the most AHL playoff experience of the three goalies, appearing in a 12-game run with the Chicago Wolves in the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs.

Case Against: Even with how well he has played as of late, Mannino is still probably one or two bad games from being the odd man out. How long can Mannino keep up his current pace before he, like Deslauriers and Hartzell before him, cool off from their hot streak.


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