Seven is Good, but Eight is Great: WBS Wins Again

Not many pucks have gotten past John Curry so far this season.

The Baby Pens have really been dominant in their first eight games.  Three of their wins have come over AHL powerhouse Hershey, a team they have had trouble against in recent years.  After beating the Phantoms up in New York on Friday, the Pens traveled to Hershey to take on the Bears on Saturday night. They didn't seem to have any lag from the bus ride and dominated the Bears 6-2 in a game that was never really close.  All four lines are producing game in and game out and both of the teams goalies have played near perfect every night. 

I don't think 80-0 is realistic but how far will the streak go?  The AHL record for longest unbeaten streak is 31 games, done by the 1948 Cleveland Barons who went 25-0-6 in that span.  For the team, the WBS Pens best start to a season came in 2005 when they started 9-0 and didn't lose their first game in regulation until their 24th game of the season in December, going 20-0-2-1 in that span.

So the Pens have done it before but this year's team is just built a little differently than in years past.  The Pens have two quality goaltenders and 4 veteran defenseman that play solid defensively as witnessed by their league lowest 15 goals against this season. 

The Baby Pens are also very talented and deep at forward too.  They have, in my opinion, eight guys who can be relied upon to score as well as a lot of good two-way forwards who are physical enough to play the body and responsible with the puck in their own zone as well. 

The Pens have to be considered the early front runner to win the Calder Cup this season and here's a good reason why:  The Pens have scored just as many goals shorthanded as they have allowed on the powerplay so far.  The fact that our guys are scoring just as much with one less guy on the ice is very impressive.  I hope they can keep it up and re-write the record books.  Their next game isn't until Friday when they travel to Rochester to take on the Americans. More notes and stats after the jump.

Lineup Notes, Stats and Odds & Ends

With Evgeni Malkin's recent injury the Pens may be losing one of their forwards to call up in the near future.  I think although Tangradi was the last one sent down, maybe the Pens will give Jeffrey a chance if they feel they need an extra forward for their western road trip coming up this weekend.

Brett Sterling still hasn't played since leaving the third period of a game in Charlotte.  Once he returns from injury, which should be within the next week or so, the Pens will really have their full arsenal of players.  A scary thought considering they have gone 8-0 without their lineup remaining intact.

Nick Johnson and Dustin Jeffrey are tied for the team lead in scoring, each with eight points in eight games.  Jeffrey has been seeing time as the teams top center and playing alongside Tangradi and Tim Wallace.  Johnson has been anchored as the team's second line right winger.  His line has been the most dominant as of late.  His linemates Ryan Craig and Chris Conner have been finding the scoresheet on a regular basis.

Joe Vitale, the teams third line center, leads the team in goals (5), game winning goals (3) and shorthanded goals (2).  He's been really active on the penalty leading the Pens penalty kill to a 93% kill rate so far this season.  With the recent addition of Keven Veilleux to his line along with Chris Collins, this third line is nearly as dangerous as the top two lines and just as defensively responisble.

The fourth line has mainly consisted of Zach Sill and Jesse Boulerice with the team's 12th forward ( Bryan Lerg, Geoff Walker, Nick Petersen, etc.).  Sill and Boulerice have been effective in limited action, forechecking hard and even adding offensively the past few games.

Defensively, the Pens have been excellent. The defensmen are joining the rush and helping out offensively.  Andrew Hutchinson has six points (2G, 4A) in his three games in the AHL, while Steve Wagner has five points.  Both have tallied a goal on the powerplay.

The defensemen are also being physical and keeping rebounds out of harms way.  Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Strait continue to impress in their second seasons in the AHL.  Corey Potter has been quiet but not in a bad way, playing his game and avoiding mistakes.  Carl Sneep has made a few rookie mistakes, but also shows potential to develop into a quality defenseman.  Sneep tallied his first pro goal on Friday night in Adirondack.

The two goalies, John Curry and Brad Thiessen, have been near perfect this season.  They are both 4-0 on the season and have been alternating every game.  I don't think Thiessen, who got the start in the first game of the season, is the clear number one yet.  Both goalies are playing well and I don't think they need to change anyhting right now.  Keep alternating the two until one falters.  Here's a quick look at the two goalies numbers through four starts:

Curry - 4-0, 1.72 GAA, .940 SV%

Thiessen - 4-0, 1.96 GAA, .930 SV%

Not a bad predicament to be in right now for the WBS Pens right now as they continue to play with confidence and poise.  Hopefully they can continue to be successful and break a few records along the way.  Look out for the Baby Pens if they (and Pittsburgh) can stay healthy, and if the goaltending continues to be consistent. 

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