Brett Sterling will need to lead the scorers on the Pens in the playoffs.
The AHL announced the playoff rosters for all 30 teams this morning. A look at the WBS Penguins roster reveals little surprises.
Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins: 18 games remaining
45-17-0-0, 90 points, 1st place
Best goaltending duo in probably the entire league with Thiessen (27-6, 1.87 GAA, .924 SV%, 6 SO) leading the league in most goalie categories.
The Pens also have a solid defensive core, partly responsible for why the WBS Pens have given up the least goals in the league.
Losing Dustin Jeffrey to the NHL and Nick Johnson and Eric Tangradi to a technicality, the forward core is a little thin and can ill-afford any more injuries or call ups. Still have Brett Sterling, Tim Wallace, Ryan Craig and two ECHL forwards that can score in Ben Street and Nick Petersen.
Only other concern I have is the offensive defensemen becoming a defensive liability. Especially Andrew Hutchinson, who is a -4 since returning from a knee injury in January. Steve Wagner has played better defensively as of late but I would not like to see those two (Hutch and Wags) as a pairing unless the Pens are on a power play.
A breakdown of the rest of the AHL's East Divison after the jump.
Hershey Bears: 16 games remaining
39-21-1-3, 82 points, 2nd place
The Bears went out and got ex-penguin Nolan Schaefer to fill out their goaltending position. Schaefer hasn’t has good numbers in Providence this season, but has been good against the Pens while with the Bruins and was a 26-game winner last season with the Houston Aeros.
The Bears have won back to back Calder Cup Championships and know what it takes to win it all. They have a good mix of veterans and young guys, as well as a good mix of grinders and scorers.
The Bears have 4 20-goal scorers on the roster right now, more than any other team in the league.
I’m not sold on their defense or goaltending, which is what wins championships isn’t it?
With both Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth banged up and inconsistent, Braden Holtby might finish the season in Washington and not be back for the AHL playoffs. I’d rather face Schaefer. The Bears have allowed four or more goals in eight of their last 18 games since the AHL All Star break
The Bears haven’t fared well against the Pens this season, with a 1-6 record and outscored 28-13 in the season series.
Charlotte Checkers: 15 games remaining
35-22-2-6, 78 points, 3rd place
The Checkers have had nine different forwards score at least 12 goals for them on the season. They also scored the most goals of any team in the division.
Although Brad Thiessen was the AHL Goaltender of the Month of February, I’m sure Checkers rookie goalie Mike Murphy was a close second. He went 7-0-0-1 with a 1.84 GAA, .940 SV% and 2 shutouts last month.
The Checkers are another team the Pens have manhandled this season, with the Checkers record against the Pens currently at 1-5.
The Checkers have allowed 29 more goals than any other team in the East Division playoff race.
Norfolk Admirals: 17 games remaining
31-19-8-5, 75 points, 4th place
The Admirals were the first team to hand the Pens back-to-back losses and won the first three meetings between the teams.
With 10 guys on the team in double digits for goals scored, the Admirals have a balanced scoring attack.
After starting the season 6-11-0-1, Admirals goalie Dustin Tokarski has gone 10-4-3 in his last 17 starts.
The Admirals are the 3rd most penalized team in the AHL. Their lack of discipline could come back to haunt them in the postseason.
While the Admirals have defenseman that can score, none of their top 3 scoring defenseman have are on the plus side of the +/- statistic.
The Admirals have lost the last four meetings with the Penguins, so it’s safe to say that the Pens have had the Admirals number lately.
Binghamton Senators: 18 games remaining
33-22-3-4, 73 points, 5th place
While only 4 teams in each division make the playoffs, the Binghamton Senators can "cross over" into the other division in the Eastern Conference if they have more points than the 4th place team, which they lead by five points. I think that fans of all teams in the East division are hoping for that scenario to play out.
While they got off to a bad start this season, they’ve been arguably the hottest team in the AHL since the All Star break going 9-2-1-1.
Although there is still time, their slow start will probably keep them from having home-ice advantage in the playoffs. Home ice is definitely important in the playoffs.
Goaltender Barry Brust has been good as of late but has been very inconsistent (especially early in the season) and could lead to their demise if he can’t continue to play at the level he is at now.