WBS Penguins 2009-2010 Half Season Report

WBS Penguins 2009-2010 Half Season Report
Bt: Ali Myers

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hit the halfway point of the 2009-2010 season on Friday night when they played the Binghamton Senators in their 40th game. There are 80 regular season games in the AHL.
Where does WBS stand after 42 games played? Let’s take a look at some statistics:

Overall Record:
20-20-1-1 (42 points): 4th place in East Division; 11th place in Eastern Conference

Goals For/Against:

Power Play:
15.9% (18th in AHL)

Penalty Kill:
83.9% (11TH in AHL)

John Curry: 31 games played; record of 16-13-1-1 with one shutout. GAA of 2.54; save percentage of .904
Adam Berkhoel: six games played; record of 3-3-0-0 with one shutout. 2.97 GAA; .892 save percentage
Brad Theissen: six games played; record of 1-5-0-0. 3.34 GAA; .893 save percentage

Top Scorers:
Dustin Jeffrey (13 goals+30 assists=43 points)
Mark Letestu (13 goals+22 assists=35 points)
Luca Caputi (13 goals+12 assists=25 points)

Player Development:

Pittsburgh Call-Ups
When it comes down to it, the AHL’s primary job is to develop players and get them ready for the NHL. The Pittsburgh and WBS relationship in this area is excellent. As of today, seven players on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton roster have seen varying amounts of time in Pittsburgh: Luca Caputi, Chris Conner, John Curry, Deryk Engelland, Chris Lee, Mark Letestu, and Ben Lovejoy.

Wheeling/WBS Player Movement:
Among the players who spent time in Wheeling of the ECHL and played key roles with WBS at some point are: Adam Berkhoel, Lane Caffaro, Zach Sill, and Brad Theissen. Joey Haddad and Alex Grant have seen time with WBS, but are still primary ECHL players who have work to do on their games before they will be ready to join the AHL Penguins on a full time basis.

Season Analysis:

Halfway Point Ratings (scale of 1-10):
Coaching: 5
Defense: 8
Goaltending: 7
Offense: 7
Player Development: 9
Special Teams: 5
Overall Ranking: 6.8

After a convincing 4-2 opening night win against Syracuse on October 3, some thought the concerns about this season’s Baby Penguins’ squad were misdirected. The team had come together and put in a full effort in front of an enthusiastic crowd. John Curry was looking like the solid goalie that led WBS through playoff runs in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009.

However, the excitement that many had on October 4 has almost disappeared. The Penguins dropped both games the following weekend when they faced Hershey and Bridgeport. In November, the team failed to get any points in a three in three with Rochester, Syracuse, and Hershey. They traveled to Glens Falls, NY to play the Adirondack Phantoms for two games in December and again lost back to back games. On December 13, they were headed for overtime when the Phantoms scored with 0.01 seconds to go. This past weekend, they again failed to win any games in a three-in-three weekend with Binghamton, Hershey, and Springfield. The loss against Springfield, a last place team, has left many wondering if the team really has what it takes to compete with stronger teams and make the playoffs.

Yes, there have been highlights, but right now; it is difficult to think of Curry’s 60th win in a Penguins uniform, or the November 11 game against Portland where three Penguins scored their first professional goals and there were five fights; or even the lone win against Hershey on October 23rd.

The Penguins get back into action after the AHL All Star break on Friday with a game in Syracuse. What do they need to do from that point forward to save a season that is going downhill in a hurry?

There are only about 3-5 players that work hard for a full 60 minutes every game. Everyone else seems lost for either all or most of the game. Although WBS has dealt with call ups and injuries, every AHL team goes through the same thing at some point. It seems there are very few players on this team, if any, who will step up and fill in for their absent teammates. If they are stepping up their games, it isn’t showing.

The players also have to stop taking so many penalties. When one teammate is already in the box, the Pens should take caution to not end up in the box and grant the other team a 5-on-3 opportunity. Many players have also taken repeat penalties in one game. Even if an opponent is getting under their skin or the officiating is less than spectacular, the Pens have to control themselves and not let the penalties ruin their game.

Off-Ice Behavior:
The Penguins must also stay disciplined off the ice to maintain a good chance at making the postseason. For the last three seasons, various players have gotten into trouble for different off-ice incidents. Hopefully, Dustin Jeffrey’s team issued punishment in November is the last we have heard of these problems for this season and beyond. I am not trying to say the team cannot go out and have fun, but they need to control themselves and think of their reputations while they are enjoying their time off. Behavioral problems take the focus off the team’s efforts and cause concern about where the players’ priorities lie.

Fast Starts:
Slow starts have ailed the WBS Penguins more than I can count this season; especially when giving up the first goal in a game. Whether they give up too many shots or too many goals to start off, it is not proving to be a recipe that wins games. WBS will need to come out fast and match their opponents’ pace if their opponent starts fighting back from behind. Taking the foot off the gas will only lead to more problems.

Playoff Positioning:
If the Penguins want to make the playoffs for the eighth year in a row, the time to start on the path towards the postseason is now. According to AHL rules, if the 5th place team in the Atlantic Division has more points than the fourth place team in the East, the Atlantic team with more points will cross over to play in the East Division playoffs. The Penguins have 42 points in the East Division, but the teams in 4th-7th places in the Atlantic already have more than 42 points. The second half of the season must be about consistency, generating offense, and minimizing mistakes.

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