Minor Distractions - Looking Forward to the Weekend

Justin K. Aller

A big weekend for the Penguins affiliates and prospects as they continue their playoff push.

It is set to be a busy weekend for the organization, not only are the Pittsburgh Penguins set to start Round 2 of the 2014 NHL Playoffs against the New York Rangers this weekend, starting the series at home on Friday and Sunday, but their minor league affiliates are also working their way through the post season.

AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

The Baby Pens are still working their way through the 1st round against the Binghamton Senators. They currently lead the series 2 games to 1 and look to finish off their opponent in Game 4 at home on Friday. So far all 3 games have ended in OT, a tough match up between two talented rivals.

They managed to score 3 goals a game, which is currently the 6th highest in the playoffs. However, they are in unfamiliar territory as the team that won the award for fewest Goals Against during the regular season has already allowed 8 Goals, which is the 7th most in the playoffs. However, they are controlling possession throughout the series, so far outshooting the BSens 87-71.

Special Team has been a big factor in their struggles, as they scored just 1 PP goal on 13 chances, and even managed to give up a shorthanded goal in the process. At 7.7% they have the #13 PP in the playoffs. Their PK has somehow managed to be even more inert, allowing 3 goals on just 9 opportunities, although they did manage 1 shorthanded goal of their own. However, at just 66.7% they have the worst PK in the playoffs. Bingo, on the other hand, has the top PP and #4 PK. WBS has been struggling when it comes to the special teams battle, but fortunately the Baby Pens managed to win it at even strength.

As mentioned, they have allowed an uncharacteristically high amount of Goals Against, mostly due to some unfortunate turnovers and special teams breakdowns, so Peter Mannino isn't looking as bullet proof as he did during the regular season. He has a 2-0-1 record with a 2.32 GAA and .899 Sv%, which is unfortunately the 2nd worst Sv% during the playoffs. He has been backed up in all 3 games by prospect G Matt Murray, while Eric Hartzell has been a healthy scratch and Jeff Deslauriers is out with an injury.

Brian Dumoulin leads the team with 3 Assists, which also makes him tied for 2nd overall in Points, and he is a respectable +1. He even managed to be tied for #5 D throughout the league. Scott Harrington is the only other D on the scoreboard with 1 Assist, and he is a +2. The rest of the D, Reid McNeill is a +2 and Brendan Mikkelson a +1 while both Simon Despres and Barry Goers are an even 0. Philip Samuelsson remains injured, while Nick D`Agostino and Harrison Ruopp have remained scratched.

Up front we have Chuck Kobasew who leads the team with 2 Goals and 4 Points as well as being tied for the lead with a +3. He is tied at #3 in the league in both Goals and Points, so while he hasn't looked good at the NHL level he has made a major impact on the WBS roster. Next we have Andrew Ebbett wit 1 Goal, 2 Assists, and a +2. Then Mike Carman has 1 Goal, 1 Assist, and a +2 while playing in just 1 game. Tom Kostopoulos and Adam Payerl both have 1 Goal, 1 Assist, and a +3. Nick Drazenovic has 1 Goal and a +1, but he played just 2 games as he took a turn as a veteran scratch. Anton Zlobin has 1 Goal and a +2 while Harry Zolnierczyk has 1 Goal and a -2. Conor Sheary has 1 Assist and a -1 playing in just 1 game, while Carter Rowney has 1 Assist and a -1 playing in all 3 games.

The rest of the forwards remained off the scoreboard. Bobby Farnham and Zach Sill both played all 3 games and were -1. Dominick Uher played all 3 games and was an even 0. Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond played just 1 game and has goose eggs across the board. Spencer Machacek played just 1 game, being the veteran scratch twice, and is a -2. Josh Archibald, Scott Wilson, and Bryan Rust have all remained scratched.

ECHL Wheeling Nailers

Down in The Wheel they are gearing up for the start of Round 2. They host the Greenville Road Warriors on Saturday and Sunday before heading on the road Tuesday and Thursday.

They faced Greenville 3 times this season, winning the first two and then getting shut out in their 3rd meeting. However, Wheeling leads the series 10 goals to 8 while also leading shots 111 to 96. Mike Condon, who currently leads the playoffs in GAA and Sv%, was in net for all 3 games, so he is familiar with the opponent. During those 3 games, Wheeling managed to go just 1 for 15 on the PP and 2 for 12 PK.

Greenville is not an opponent to take lightly, as they just managed to take out the #2 seed Kalamazoo Wings. Wheeling so far in the playoffs has 11 Goals For, #11 in the league, while Greenville is tied for #4 with 14 Goals. However, Wheeling wins the defensive battle as the lead the league with just 4 Goals Against while Greenville allowed 13, 8th in the league.

Special Team we have Wheeling going 3 for 18 on the PP, which at 16.7% is #3 in the league, whereas Greenville is way down at #14 after going 0 for 14. Wheeling stopped all 13 PP chances they faced, with a perfect 100% being tied for the league lead, whereas Greenville is #13 at 85.0%. That certainly bodes well for Wheeling's chances in the series.

Other Prospects

The last remaining Penguins prospects are playing in the WHL playoffs. Derrick Pouliot and the Portland Winterhawks are set to face Tristan Jarry and the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL Championship. The series opens Saturday and Sunday in Portland before heading to Edmonton Tuesday and Wednesday.

They faced one another just once this season, with Edmonton winning 5-4 in an OT shootout while leading shots 42-37. During that game Pouliot had 1 Goal, 2 Assists, and a +2 while Jarry stopped 33 of 37 for a .892 Sv%. Portland may have lost a close game, but they won the special teams battle going 1 for 4 on the PP and 2 for 2 on the PK.

So far Portland leads the playoffs with 68 Goals For, although Edmonton is right behind them at #2 with 58 Goals For. On the other end of the spectrum, Edmonton allowed just 27 Goals Against while Portland allowed 33 Goals Against. If we look at it per game, that makes Edmonton #1 in the league and Portland right behind them at #2. So it is going to be quite the epic showdown between two equally talented powerhouse teams.

Special Teams we have Portland who went 24 for 90 and at 26.7% is #3 in the WHL whereas Edmonton's 14 for 64 is #5 at 21.9%. However, Portland has allowed 3 shorthanded goals while Edmonton has only allowed 1. On the PK Edmonton allowed 7 goals on 48 opportunities, which is #3 at 85.4%, while Portland allowed 13 goals on 62 opportunities, which at 79.0% is #10 in the league. And Edmonton scored 2 shorthanded goals while Portland scored 1. So once again, it could really go either way.

The end of year WHL awards were recently announced, with Pouliot winning the Defenseman of the Year and Jarry being the runner up for Goaltender of the Year. Over in the KHL, Alex Pechursky and the Metallurg Magnitogorsk won the Gagarin Cup. Lastly, in Sweden Oskar Sundqvist and Skelleftea AIK won the SHL Championship.

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