February was interesting month for the WBS Penguins. The Pens went on to finish 8-4 in February, even after losing the first two games of the month and missing up to their top seven scorers at times. Much of their recent success has had to do with playing tighter defensively which is why I started with these guys. With the trade deadline on Monday I'm going to hold off on posting Part 2: Forwards until Tuesday.
My Defenseman/Goalie of the month: Brad Thiessen
The individual report card of the defensemen and goalies after the jump.
Defenseman/Goalie of the month: Brad Thiessen
Grade: A+ (And I don’t bring that one out often)
Season Stats – 34 games: 26-6, 1.90 GAA, .924 SV%, 6 SO
February Stats – 10 games: 8-2, 1.28 GAA, .943 SV%, 3 SO
After a "slight knee tweak" caused Thiessen to miss some time in January as well as the starting goaltending spot in the AHL All Star game, Thiessen came back and immediately made a difference, anchoring a team missing its top seven scorers at one point. He gave up either one goal or none in all but two appearances, and stepped in for John Curry in Saturday’s game against Norfolk and shut them out, stopping all 17 shots. His season stats were already impressive but he has clearly taken over the number spot from Curry and not because Curry hasn’t played well. Thiessen has just played incredible this season.
John Curry - Grade: C+
Season Stats – 31 games: 18-10, 2.50 GAA, .903 SV%, 1 SO
February Stats – 4 games: 0-2, 2.95 GAA, .875 SV%, 0 SO
Curry had a rough February to say the least. After losing back to back starts in the team’s first two games of the month, he watched Thiessen start the next 8 games before relieving Thiessen for the third period of last Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Binghamton Senators. Curry was given the start for Saturday’s tilt against the Admirals but pulled after allowing two goals on 10 shots in roughly 26 and a half minutes. Not too much blame should be placed on Curry though. Both of his losses were 3-2 games (one was 4-2 with an EN goal) and of the six he allowed, four were power play goals. Curry needs a strong finish to the season if he wants to be the guy in net come playoff time.
Brian Strait - Grade: A
Season Stats - 55 games: 2G, 6A, +16, 41 PIM
February Stats - 10 games: 1G, 1A, +4, 4 PIM
Strait continues to be one of the best defensive defenseman on the team along with his partner Robert Bortuzzo. After a scoreless January, Strait’s goal and an assist in ten games is just fine. His play has also caught the eye of Pittsburgh enough to give him his first call up to the NHL in which he played three games. He won’t light it up offensively but he will bring physical, smart positioning in the defensive zone and a rock solid penalty killer on the blue line. Congrats to Strait on his first tour of duty in the NHL.
Robert Bortuzzo - Grade: A
Season Stats - 59 games: 4G, 19A, +21, 90 PIM
February Stats - 12 games: 2G, 3A, +5, 13 PIM
Since scoring two goals in the All Star game, Bortuzzo has continued to play well being arguably the best defenseman on the team right now. He’s taking less unnecessary penalties and playing just as physical and good in his own zone. He also matched his season goal total this month, adding two goals in his last six games.
Steve Wagner - Grade: A-
Season Stats (59 games): 5G, 21A, +16, 35 PIM
February Stats (12 games): 1G, 5A, +5, 4 PIM
Wagner has scored at least six points in each of the last three months. While he has made some bad decisions with the puck at times this season, he’s an offensive defenseman routinely on the Pens power play unit. Wagner currently has a five game point scoring streak with assists in each of his last five games.
Corey Potter - Grade: A-
Season stats - 56 games: 2G, 25A, +26, 42 PIM
February stats - 12 games: 0G, 6A, +8, 6 PIM
After scoring both of his goals so far on the season during January, the pucks haven’t been going in for him in February. Got the primary assist on the game winner of a 3-2 win over Manitoba at the beginning of the month. Potter has been paired with Wagner for the most part, but with WBS playing seven defensemen while their top seven scorers .
Joey Mormina - Grade: B-
Season stats - 43 games: 1G, 7A, +15, 42 PIM
February stats - 11 games: 0G, 1A, +2, 12 PIM
Not a good month offensively for Mormina but in his defense it’s not what he brings to the table. He’s a big physical stay at home defenseman. The one assist isn’t much of a surprise but as a 6th/7th defenseman when the team has all of its regulars on the roster, Mormina needs to continue to work hard if he wants to be a part of the team when the playoffs start. His 6 minor penalties during the month was the tied for the most minors taken by a defenseman during February, along with Andrew Hutchinson.
Carl Sneep - Grade: B-
Season Stats - 52 games: 4G, 10A, +18, 39 PIM
February Stats - 10 games: 1G, 1A, Even, 7 PIM
Sneep seems to be getting more comfortable in the AHL after 50 games into his professional hockey career, and his play has reflected that. The offensive production wasn’t there this month, after scoring two goals and four assists last month, but he also is splitting ice time more than usual with seven dressed defensemen throughout most of the month. Interesting stat on Sneep that I found:
In the three months he registered less than 10 shots his offensive totals were two goals and two assists. In the previous two months when he was shooting the puck he has scored two goals and added eight assists. Seems simple right? All in all, Sneep needs to get back on track next month.
Andrew Hutchinson - Grade: C
Season Stats - 34 games: 4G, 17A, -4, 18 PIM
February Stats - 12 games: 1 G, 3A, -1, 12 PIM
I know Hutchinson missed nearly a fourth of the season with a knee injury. I also know he had three goals and 11 assists in his first 17 games. Either he is not 100% recovered from his previous injury or he just isn’t getting it done. He’s only had one goal and six assists his last 17 games and only four points in his last 12 games. I gave his -6 performance in January a pass because it was his first few games back after a 19 game absence. But he needs to get back to what he was doing before he got hurt, when he was far and away the best offensive defenseman on the roster.
- Andrew Hutchinson needs to step it up. I know he missed 19 games with a knee injury but he hasn't been good defensively and his offensive upside which he is more known for has tapered off since his injury. I hope he can get back on track because to me he just doesn't seem 100% still. Just my opinion
- While Curry and Thiessen have been splitting games to this point, I think its safe to say Thiessen has taken over the number one spot right now. He started 9 February games to Curry's 3. It will be interesting to see how these two goalies fare the last 20 games.
- Bortuzzo and Strait have been pretty solid all season to this point. Other than Simon Despres, I would think these two are at the top of the list as far as defensive prospects in the organization. Hopefully they all stay in the organization past tomorrow.