It feels good to be back after a well-needed vacation. Through the course of that vacation, though, I did not turn off my WBS Penguins alerts, so anything that went on for WBS during my vacation, I still saw.
I regret that choice. Here’s why.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 23: WBS 3 @ Springfield 4 (OT)
On Black Friday, WBS returned to the site of Tristan Jarry’s goalie goal to take on the Springfield Thunderbirds. On the heels of a 25-11 shot advantage in the second period, the Thunderbirds took a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes. Ethan Prow scored his 5th of the season at 11:26 of the third to send the game to overtime, where Springfield converted a Sam Lafferty delay of game penalty carried forward from the last minute of regulation as Jacob MacDonald scored his 6th of the year at 1:16 of overtime to win 4-3. Anthony Peters took the net and stopped 39 of 43 shots in the losing effort. Joseph Cramarossa scored his first for WBS this season at 4:21 of the second, then Teddy Blueger scored a power play goal at 7:54 of the second to round out the WBS scoring.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 24: Hershey 3 @ WBS 2
The second game of this Thanksgiving 3 in 3 went the way of the Hershey Bears, who used goals by Jayson Megna, Sergei Shumakov, and Mike Sgarbossa to win 3-2 on WBS’s Hockey Fights Cancer night. Scoring goals for WBS were Thomas DiPauli (his 4th of the year) at 12:28 of the second and Kevin Czuczman (his first) with only 45 seconds to play. John Muse took the net on this night and saved 31 of 34 shots in the losing effort.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 25: Providence 4 @ WBS 2
Zane McIntyre stopped 32 of 34 WBS shots in the Sunday 3 in 3 conclusion, and Providence used goals by Ryan Fitzgerald, Peter Cehlarik, and Ryan Donato to overcome Adam Johnson’s 5th of the year and build a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes. WBS clawed back to within 1 through Jarrett Burton’s 2nd of the year at 15:56 of the third, but Jakub Zboril’s empty-netter at 19:57 of the third doomed WBS to another winless weekend. Peters took the net again and only faced 18 shots, but he only stopped 15 of them in the losing effort.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 28: WBS 3 @ Hershey 1
WBS got off the losing side of the ledger midweek at Hershey, as Thomas DiPauli scored his fifth and sixth goals of the season in the first period, supported by an Adam Johnson power play goal at 4:52 of the second. Hershey made it interesting with a Jayson Megna goal 28 seconds into the third, but Peters in net stopped the other 10 shots he faced in the third period to finish with 26 saves on 27 shots in the victory.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30: WBS 0 @ Rochester 1
On most nights, 29 saves on 30 shots would be enough to win a game. That’s what John Muse managed on Friday in Rochester, conceding only to Victor Olofsson at 3:59 of the second. Problem is, Muse’s opposite number Scott Wedgewood stopped all 35 WBS shots he faced to earn a 1-0 shutout.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 1: WBS 4 @ Toronto 7
WBS closed out this week with a visit to the defending champions in Toronto. Things started out well enough, with Adam Johnson’s 7th of the year and Anthony Angello’s 8th of the year giving WBS a 2-0 lead after 3:09. From there, though, Toronto scored the next six goals, fueled by three power play goals in the span of 1:31 in the first period.
Let’s recap that.
- 4:42 of the first: Tim Erixon penalty, holding the stick
- 5:40 of the first: Chris Summers penalty, tripping
- 5:50 of the first: Chris Mueller power play goal, 10th of the year
- 6:02 of the first: Jean-Sebastien Dea penalty, tripping
- 6:56 of the first: Trevor Moore power play goal, 11th of the year
- 7:21 of the first: Pierre Engvall power play goal, 6th of the year
Following that, Jeremy Bracco scored at 10:26 of the second and again at 7:28 of the third, supplemented by a Josh Jooris shorthanded goal 16 seconds into the third.
Down 6-2 in the third, WBS clawed back with an Ethan Prow power play goal, his sixth of the year, and Linus Olund’s third of the year, but they could get no closer than 6-4 as Morgan Klimchuk hit an empty WBS net at 19:14 to close out the scoring.
Anthony Peters went the distance, closing with 24 saves on 30 shots in the losing effort.
WBS finds itself below .500 as December opens, with a record of 9-10-4 and a points percentage of .478 to sit seventh in the division. Through 23 games, the power play has converted 15 goals in 97 opportunities for a percentage of 15.5%, last in the Atlantic Division and 21st in the AHL, but the penalty kill has conceded 26 goals on 98 opportunities for a shocking percentage of 73.5%, last in the AHL.
For my money, that’s completely unacceptable. Going back to the 2005-06 season, which is the earliest season on the AHL’s website that keeps these stats, the WBS penalty kill has never finished a season below 80%, routinely finishing between 81 and 85%, with a few seasons in the high 80s. The power play percentage is probably a little low, too, even though it’s in line with WBS’s historical finishes, but to now have a kill percentage that is worse than one goal allowed for every four chances is a disturbing regression that absolutely needs to be improved by any means necessary (personnel changes, scheming changes, even coaching changes) for this team to have a chance to extend its playoff appearances streak.
Teddy Blueger leads the Penguins with 16 points (6 goals, 10 assists), which is tied with 14 other players for 64th in the AHL. Following Blueger in the team scoring rankings is rookie Sam Lafferty’s 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists), defender Ethan Prow’s 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists), Thomas DiPauli’s 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists), Anthony Angello’s 11 points (8 goals, 3 assists), and Adam Johnson’s 11 points (7 goals, 4 assists).
Not terrible individual statistics through 23 games, but it still adds up to a team that is under .500.
Charlotte still sets the pace in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference with a record of 17-6-1 through 24 games and a percentage of .729, but they now trail the .750 percentage of San Jose (12-3-3) for the league lead. Lehigh Valley checks in at second with a percentage of .667 (13-6-2), followed by Springfield at .643 (12-6-3), Bridgeport at .625 (13-7-4), Providence at .545 (10-8-4), Hartford at .543 (11-9-3), WBS at .478 (9-10-4), then Hershey at .457 (10-12-1).
WBS returns to the ice this weekend for another trio of games in 3 days, starting on December 7 with a visit from the Cleveland Monsters at 7:05 pm EST. Bridgeport then comes to town for a very rare Saturday afternoon contest, game time 3:05 pm EST. WBS then visits Hershey on December 9 at 5:00 pm EST to close out the weekend.
Perhaps the return of Jean-Sebastien Dea to the Penguins organization can set the stage for some kind of resurgence. Something needs to, or this 20th anniversary season is on track to end with a flop.