ECQF Series Preview: #WBSPens vs. #BSens

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins begin their quest for the 2014 Calder Cup Friday night with Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against division rival Binghamton Senators. 

The Penguins swept the Senators in the first round of last year's playoffs and the BSens are looking to repay the favor this year. These two teams have built quite a rivalry in the past two seasons and I'm sure this playoff series meeting will only add more fuel to the fire.

I'll be live from Binghamton this weekend for Games 1 and 2 with all the latest in-game updates and post game recaps/analysis right here at Highland Park Hockey - The Town & Country Gazette's source for daily American Hockey League coverage. 

You can also follow along on Twitter: @H_P_Hockey.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Schedule

Friday 4/25 - Game 1: Penguins @ Binghamton at 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday 4/26 - Game 2: Penguins @ Binghamton at 7:05 p.m. ET
Wednesday 4/30 - Game 3: Binghamton @ Penguins at 7:05 p.m. ET 
Friday 5/2 - *Game 4: Binghamton @ Penguins at 7:05 p.m. ET 
Monday 5/5 - *Game 5: Penguins @ Binghamton at 7:05 p.m. ET 
* = if necessary

KNOW YOUR OPPONENT - Binghamton Senators

Regular Season Stats

BSens: 44-24-3-5, 96 points, First Place East Division

Season series: BSens went 5-3-0-0 vs WBS in regular season.

A position-by-position breakdown of both teams and I offer my prediction for the series after the jump.


BSens - Andrew Hammond (25-19-3, 2.81 GAA, .910 SV%, 1 SO)
Penguins - Peter Mannino (11-4-1, 1.56 GAA, .932 SV%, 4 SO)

Andrew Hammond has come in and continued to improve throughout his rookie season. His numbers on the season don't reflect how well he has played down the stretch, and winning 25 games as a goaltender in the East Division should not be overlooked.

Peter Mannino has had one heck of journey this season. He started the season as Jeff Deslauriers' backup with WBS only to lose the spot to Eric Hartzell in mid-November. After failing to report to the Pens' ECHL affiliate, Mannino was suspended and didn't play in the organization for some two months before reporting to Wheeling in January. Upon the demise of Eric Hartzell, Mannino returned to the AHL in Febraury and took over.

Edge: Penguins. Hammond is a talented rookie but Mannino has been on top of his game the last two months since returning to the AHL. Mannino also has some Calder Cup Playoff experience, having participated in the 2010 playoffs while with Chicago.



Mark Borowiecki (2G-6A) - Patrick Mullen (8G-24A)
Fredrik Claesson (3G-26A) - Alex Grant (9G-28A)
Chris Wideman (9G-42A) - Cody Ceci (2G-17A)


Reid McNeill (1G-4A) - Simon Despres (6G-16A)
Scott Harrington (5G-19A) - Brendan Mikkelson (8G-30A)
Brian Dumoulin (5G-16A) - Barry Goers (1G-6A)

The BSens were active at the trade deadline bolstering their blue line and added two great players who have fit in well in Patrick Mullen and ex-WBS defenseman Alex Grant. They already have puck moving defenseman Chris Wideman and up and comer Cody Ceci, along with their veteran leader in physical defenseman Mark Boroweicki. The BSens blue line is solid all the way around.

The Penguins organizational strength is on the blue line and the AHL Penguins have several prospects they will rely on in this postseason, namely Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin and Reid McNeill. Brendan Mikkelson is the veteran presence on the WBS blue line and is paired alongside promising rookie Scott Harrington, who many consider to be near NHL-ready already.

Edge: BSens. Without Philip Samuelsson, arguably the Penguins' best shutdown defender, the Pens face a tough task trying to contain a potent BSens offense.



Matt Puempel (30G-18A) - Stephane Da Costa (18G-40A) - Mark Stone (15G-26A)
Shane Prince (21G-27A) - Jean-Gabriel Pageau (20G-24A) - Buddy Robinson (15G-16A)
David Dziurzynski (13G-12A) - Derek Grant (12G-10A) - Cole Schneider (20G-34A)
Wacey Hamilton (4G-16A) - Ryan Dzingel (2G-5A) - Garrett Thompson (1G-2A)
Corey Cowick (12G-13A) - Darren Kramer (2G-2A)


Anton Zlobin (8G-11A) - Andrew Ebbett (13G-27A) - Chuck Kobasew (11G-2A)
Harry Zolnierczyk (18G-18A) - Nick Drazenovic (13G-29A) - Tom Kostopoulos (22G-25A)
Dominik Uher (7G-17A) - Zach Sill (3G-3A) - Adam Payerl (5G-6A)
Pierre-Luc-Leblond (2G-4A) - Mike Carman (6G-8A) - Bobby Farnham (7G-7A)

The BSens haven't had much trouble scoring goals this season and it's easy to see why - they're loaded up front. Their top-six is as good as any other team's in the league. Matt Puempel, Stephane Da Costa, J-G Pageau, Mark Stone and Shane Prince have been trouble for the Penguins and the rest of the BSens opponents all season long.

The Penguins forward core boasts a ton of experience in their also very skilled top six, along with size and grit in the bottom six. Captain Tom Kostopoulos could be entering the final postseason of his career, and nobody wants to bring the first Calder Cup championship to Wilkes-Barre more than TK - he signifies what Penguins hockey is all about.

Edge: Slight edge to the Penguins. The BSens have the high end talent, but the Penguins experience and size can't go unnoticed.

Key Match Ups

The most intriguing match up will be if the Penguins defense can slow up the BSens offense and ware them down. The shutdown line for the Penguins looks to be that of the Uher-Sill-Payerl line. Can they stop Da Costa, Puempel and company?

Special teams always play an important role in the playoffs as every shift and every play gets magnified in the postseason. Again, it will be the BSens high end power play against the Penguins PK. The BSens have torched the Penguins in the regular season with the man advantage. The key for the Penguins will obviously be to stay out of the penalty box and limit the BSens' chances.

Peter Mannino vs. Andrew Hammond. Mannino might have the more difficult task at hand among the two goalies, but it will be interesting to see how the goaltending match up turns out. Can Mannino continue his dominant pace? How will the rookie Hammond hold up in his first postseason action?


It's a classic case of an elite offense versus an elite defense. In the regular season, the BSens offense proved too much for the Penguins defense for the most part and especially so in Binghamton.

But it's the postseason, where teams play the match ups shift in and shift out. On paper, it looks like the Penguins have a slight edge with more size, grit, experience and a more sound defensive structure. It's the type of formula the Penguins have relied on and have been successful with.

If the Penguins are to win this series, it will be because they stuck to their style of play. If they try to get in an offensive shootout with the BSens, it will be an early exit and an early summer for the Pens.

My pick: Penguins in five, unless they can't steal one of the first two games this weekend in Binghamton. Easier said than done, but if the Penguins can avoid spotting the BSens an early lead and limit their penalties they should have a great chance to keep things low-scoring and grind out three wins.


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