It is my belief that a significant reason why WBS has been able to jump out to such a good start is the physical health of the organization up through the middle of December. Without injuries, WBS has been able to maintain a stable roster with stable lines and stable pairings. With stability comes chemistry; combine that with solid coaching, enough skill, and top-tier goaltending, and you get the best record in the league. All of those are now challenged, with Mike Sullivan in Pittsburgh and injuries starting to hit the main roster. I was very curious to see how WBS would handle it.
WBS AT LEHIGH VALLEY, 12-16-15
Following Pittsburgh's 4-1 loss to Washington on Monday the 14th, it was discovered that Marc-Andre Fleury had been concussed. During the game, forward Beau Bennett was also injured, leading Pittsburgh to recall goalie Matt Murray and forwards Conor Sheary and Kevin Porter. Despite these subtractions, WBS opened their week with a midweek engagement at Lehigh Valley and gave interim head coach Jay Leach his second victory with a 3-0 shutout of the Phantoms. Tristan Jarry, now the clear top goalie for WBS, won the shutout with 17 saves, while Clark Seymour (taking the spot of Steve Oleksy, diagnosed with an upper-body injury following WBS's prior trip to Lehigh Valley), Jean-Sebastien Dea, and Bryan Rust provided the goals.
3) Jean-Sebastien Dea, WBS; one goal
2) Clark Seymour, WBS; game-winning goal
1) Tristan Jarry, WBS; 17-save shutout
WBS VS. TORONTO MARLIES, 12-18-15
What a matchup this was. The two top teams in the Eastern Conference going at it in the WB on a Friday night. Although WBS had lost Jarry following the Lehigh Valley game to injury and started ECHL callup Brian Foster, Toronto came into this game with goalie problems of its own, resorting to its own backup, Antoine Bibeau.
The game started out in typical WBS fashion for this season, with goals by Seymour, Scott Wilson, and Derrick Pouliot scoring goals to give WBS a 3-0 lead 2:22 into the third period and WBS extending its shutout streak to 225 minutes. Then, in uncharacteristic fashion, the shutout streak fell to pieces along with the WBS lead as Toronto scored three shorthanded goals within 2:34 (former Penguin Mark Arcobello, Nikita Soshnikov, and Rich Clune) to tie the game. The game eventually went to a shootout, where Dominik Simon, Wilson, and Dea could not connect, while Arcobello and William Nylander could not score either. The shootout fell to Soshnikov, who beat goalie Foster to give Toronto the extra point and a 4-3 win.
3) Richard Clune, TOR; game-tying shorthanded goal
2) Scott Wilson, WBS; goal, assist
1) Nikita Soshnikov, TOR; shorthanded goal, winning goal in shootout
WBS AT SYRACUSE CRUNCH, 12-19-15
The parade from WBS to Pittsburgh continued in the aftermath of Pittsburgh's ugly 6-2 loss to Boston on Friday, as Daniel Sprong (poor kid) was returned to his QMJHL team in Charlottetown. To fill the roster spot now open, Pittsburgh recalled Scott Wilson, which left WBS without its two top goalies and two of its top 3 scorers as the team traveled north to Syracuse for its final game before the Christmas break.
So naturally, WBS dispatched Syracuse. Powered by goals from Tom Kostopoulos, Will O'Neill, and Tom Kuhnhackl, WBS rode a 30-save shutout performance from Brian Foster to post a 3-0 victory to move themselves to 21-5-1at the holiday break.
Despite the call ups, despite the coaching change, WBS still holds the second best record in the conference and the league, recording shutouts in four of their last five games (by three different goalies, mind you) and not allowing an even-strength goal in approximately 300 minutes. Pretty good.
3) Matthew Peca, SYR: no goals, no assists, no shots, no penalties, -1. I don't get it either.
2) Will O'Neill, WBS: goal
1) Brian Foster, WBS: 30 saves on 30 shots, shutout
(Stats are as of December 19, 2015, compiled from theahl.com after the games of December 19 concluded)
Goals - Scott Wilson (currently in PIT), 15 (T-1st in AHL); Dominik Simon leads currently active WBS players with 11 goals, tied for 13th in AHL
Assists - Conor Sheary (currently in PIT), 19 (T-3rd in AHL); Simon leads currently active WBS players with 16 assists, tied for 15th in AHL
Points - Dominik Simon, 27 (3rd in AHL); among active WBS players, Derrick Pouliot ranks second on WBS with 17 points (5 goals, 12 assists)
Rookies - Dominik Simon now leads all AHL rookies in scoring with 27 points in 27 games.
Goalies - Matt Murray (currently in PIT) 12-4-0, 1.84 GAA (3rd in AHL), 93.8% save pct (T-2nd in AHL), four shutouts (T-1st in AHL)
Tristan Jarry (injured) - 8-1-0, 1.50 GAA (1st in AHL), 94.0% save pct (1st in AHL), two shutouts
Brian Foster - 1-0-1, 1.44 GAA, 95.0% save pct
Power Play - 20.3% home (8th in AHL), 17.3% away (11th), 19.0% overall (8th)
Penalty Kill - 86.0% home (13th), 89.6% away (2nd), 87.6% overall (4th)
Team Record: 12-2-1 home, 9-3-0 away, 21-5-1 overall, 43 points
Team Points Percentage: 79.6% (1st in division, 2nd in conference and league)
Miscellaneous: 98 goals scored in 27 games (3rd in AHL); 53 goals allowed in 27 games (2nd in AHL)
THE WEEK AHEAD:
Merry Christmas, and here's wishing you all a very safe and happy holiday season!