The Pittsburgh Penguins season is now officially over, as all of their affiliates and prospects are done for the year. For the second year in a row, the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were eliminated in the Conference Finals, and for the second time in three years it was the Winnipeg Jets affiliate St. John's IceCaps who put a stop to their Calder Cup dreams.
The Baby Pens have never had the honour of hoisting the Calder Cup at the end of the season, and they haven't even been able to reach the Finals since Todd Richards led the team in 2008. But as disappointing as it is, there are still a lot of positives to be found. They have made the playoffs in each of the past 12 seasons, and over their 15 year history have reached the Finals 3 times, the first under Glenn Patrick, the second under Michel Therrien, and the most recent by Richards.
They have been particularly successful under the tutelage of John Hynes over the past 4 seasons, as they have taken 6 series and a 29-27 record while outscoring opponents 141-138. They have had some impressive comebacks in his tenure as well. In 2011 they were down in an 0-2 hole and came back to win 4 straight and advance. And of course last year in 2013 they had the historic run in which they came back from and 0-3 hole to win 4 straight, becoming the only team in AHL history to make that comeback and win on the road.
This year, while still quite an accomplishment to make it to the Conference Finals, was disappointing just in the way the series ended. After a hard fought 2nd round which saw the teams split games back and forth until the Baby Pens held out to take Game 7, they entered the Conference Finals as the scrappy underdogs. However, they quickly fell into a 1-3 hole, and while they did manage to hold on and force the series back to The Rock for Game 6, they were quite thoroughly defeated in enemy territory. Game 6 ended in a 5-0 shutout, the second such massive blowout shutout of the series.
They will be back next year, battling for a chance at reaching the Calder Cup again. But with the uncertainty in the Pens front office and possible coaching and roster changes looming, who can say what the team will look like when they return. Will Coach Hynes be back, or will he finally get his chance to make a mark in the NHL? What roster changes will be seen through trades and promotions to the NHL, or even the decisions involved in free agency. Perhaps the Captain, having set pretty much every existing franchise record in his career, will hang up the skates in the offseason? That will be a sad day indeed. Keep posted throughout the summer, because change is indeed coming to WBS.