At the conclusion of my recap from last week, I took requests for things to watch for during the two WBS home games this week against Binghamton and Hartford. The overwhelming majority of requests focused on Derrick Pouliot, the dynamic offensive defenseman currently assigned to WBS. Long story short…after two games this week, I saw plenty of flashes of the offensive skill that has Pittsburgh fans salivating to bring him up, but I also saw plenty of reasons why his current place in WBS is probably for the best.
WBS PENGUINS VS. BINGHAMTON SENATORS, 10-28-15
WBS wasted very little time continuing their hot streak on Wednesday night, as Carter Rowney dug a puck out of the side wall and fed a neat pass to the streaking Dominik Simon behind him. Simon used a beautiful screen by Tom Kuhnhackl (who also got the second assist) to bury his third goal of the season just 90 seconds into the first period. Binghamton, however, recovered quickly from this goal to take control of the first period, outshooting WBS 13-6.
On several occasions in the first, Pouliot was very eager to join the offense, getting deep into the offensive zone to try to thread a pass. However, more than once Binghamton would pick off these passes and use the space vacated by Pouliot to start counterattacks. That is why, I think, Pouliot is here…teams at this level and at the NHL level start counterattacks very quickly, and the more space you give them, the more dangerous the counterattack becomes. In my opinion, he needs to learn to channel his offensive skills and use them much more responsibly while not abandoning his defensive responsibilities.
In the second period, Kael Mouillerat (fresh from a two-game suspension) joined Conor Sheary on a 3 on 1 break sprung by defenseman David Warsofsky. Sheary and Mouillerat exchanged quick passes on the rush before Sheary fired a shot on goal, which was saved, but Mouillierat cleaned up the rebound nicely to extend the WBS advantage to 2-0 at 1:31 of the second.
After Binghamton’s Chris Carlisle unleashed a wicked slap shot from the point to cut the advantage to 2-1, the depth of the WBS forwards shone brightly as Ty Loney, the son of two-time Stanley Cup champion and former Pittsburgh Penguin Troy Loney, caught a home-run pass from goaltender Tristan Jarry (making his first home start for WBS) and threaded a beautiful pass to Tyler Biggs, playing his first game after injury. Biggs finished beautifully for his first goal of the season, and WBS took a 3-1 lead.
The lead did not last the period, though. Cole Schneider for Binghamton beat Jarry clean after an offensive face-off zone win for a power play goal, then forced Jarry to overcommit to him on a 1 on 1 before sliding a backhander off a skate and in to tie the score at 3 after 40 minutes.
The night ended happily for WBS, as the line of Biggs, Loney, and Jean-Sebastien Dea came together to break the deadlock. Loney threaded a pass to Dea on a 3 on 3 rush, who was trailing behind the forechecker Biggs. Biggs set a lovely screen for Dea, who fired home his second goal of the season to give WBS a 4-3 lead, which they saw through to the end for their fifth straight victory. Jarry ended with 26 saves on 29 shots for his first victory of the season.
3) Ty Loney, WBS; two assists
2) Cole Schneider, BNG; two goals on six shots
1) Jean-Sebastien Dea, WBS; game-winning goal
WBS PENGUINS VS. HARTFORD WOLF PACK, 10-30-15
The Penguins then welcomed former Penguins Brian Gibbons, Jayson Megna, and Tanner Glass to the WB as the Hartford Wolf Pack came to town for a Mischief Night showdown between two of the Atlantic Divison’s best. Hartford proved very early that they were going to be a stiff challenge, providing much more defense and a lot more deflections than Binghamton from two nights earlier, as well as the opening goal from Nick Tarnasky at 6:05 off a brilliant centering pass from Glass. Carter Rowney leveled the game at 11:03 of the first, as he was able to shrug off a Wolf and clean up the rebound of a Tom Kuhnhackl shot. Niclas Andersen last got an assist, as the first period ended 1-1.
Both teams continued a spirited back and forth game into the second period, and the game stayed deadlocked until 17:16, when Scott Wilson (returning from a one-game suspension) scored his fifth goal of the season cleaning up the rebound of a Mouillierat effort. Shortly thereafter, Tom Kostopoulos appeared to make the game 3-1 by deflecting in a goal, but the referee ruled incidental contact and waved it off. Let’s just say this was an unpopular decision, giving the 4,330 in attendance their first opportunity of the season to vent their collective spleens at referees. It was, however, the decision, so the period ended 2-1 WBS.
The game remained 2-1 until 13:11 of the third. With Warsofsky in the box for cross checking, goaltender Matt Murray pulled his own little "anything you can do" by springing Dominik Uher for a 2 on 1 shorthanded break. As 3 Wolves tried valiantly to sprint back to defend it, Uher threaded a perfect pass for Oskar Sundqvist, who deflected it neatly home for his second goal of the season. Wilson put a bow on it with an empty-netter at 18:13, and the Penguins took a well-deserved, very impressive 4-1 decision for their sixth straight win of the season. Goaltender Murray stopped 29 of 30 shots to continue his torrid pace.
3) Carter Rowney, WBS; one goal on four shots
2) Oskar Sundqvist, WBS; one goal on one shot
1) Scott Wilson, WBS; two goals on five shots, including the game-winner
TEAM LEADERS (after the games of October 30)
(all statistics courtesy of theahl.com, compiled after the games of October 30 concluded)
- Goals - Scott Wilson, 6 (tied for 3rd in the AHL with 4 others
- Assists - Wilson, Simon, Pouliot, Sheary, Steve Oleksy (tie), 5 each
- Points - Wilson, 11 (tied for fifth in the AHL with one others)
- Rookies - Dominik Simon's 8 points through 8 games is good for a tie for third in the AHL in rookie scoring.
- Goalies - Matt Murray 5-1-0, GAA 1.83, save pct 94.4%; Tristan Jarry 2-0-0, GAA 2.00, save pct 93.8%
- Special Teams - PK 88.6% (T-seventh in AHL), PP 27.3% (third in AHL)
- Team Points Percentage: 0.875 (1st in Atlantic Division, 1st in Eastern Conference, 3rd in AHL)
THE WEEK AHEAD
- November 4, 2015 vs. St. John’s, 7:05 PM EST
- November 6, 2015 vs. St. John’s, 7:05 PM EST