Obie’s Observations (The Bus Ride Edition) – Feb. 18, 2015

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We’re bringing back a classic, Penguins fans!  And by “classic”, I mean a segment that had dozens of readers and made its last appearance a little more than two years ago.  No matter how you define the word, Obie’s Observations has returned for your perusal.  Obviously, the content will focus on your Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins with the occasion sidebar here and there.  The team is currently on the bus on its way to Toronto, which gives me plenty of time to tell you what I’ve observed lately…

  1. Gill’s Second Crack at the Wing Position

Sahir Gill’s second go at wing is already going much better than his first stint.  A natural center, Gill was recalled from Wheeling on Dec. 15, 2015. He immediately slotted into the left wing on the fourth line for the Penguins and was pointless in his first three games.  When injuries and call-ups allowed for a return to the pivot position, the points started to come for Gill.  After a lower body injury recently kept the third-year pro out of the line-up for five games, Gill found himself back on the left wing on Sunday versus Portland.  Skating on a line with Carter Rowney and Tom Kostopoulos, he gathered two assists in the contest with one coming on the power play.  Working on the second-line for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton undoubtedly provided Gill more opportunities offensively, but he already looks more comfortable at wing this time around.

  1. O’Neill Finding the Net

I mentioned this during the podcast yesterday, but it bears some further discussion. Before he was recalled to Pittsburgh, one of the most impressive things about Derrick Pouliot this season was his ability to get shots through traffic and on net – especially on the power play.  Not an easy task when you consider both the opposing players trying to block the shot and your teammates’ own maze of bodies and sticks setting screens or looking to redirect the puck.  Still, Pouliot’s bids from the blueline more often than not reached the crease area.  A fair number of those shots found the back of net themselves or were tipped home.  Since ascending to the number-one power play quarterback position for the Pens, Will O’Neill has shown this same prowess.  Whereas early in the season, O’Neill was perhaps more content to grip it and rip it from the point, he has become patient with his shot selection.  It’s a big reason why he’s posted 14 points (2G-10A) in his last 12 games with half coming on the man-advantage.

  1. Missing Uher

It’s been talked about length this week, but that’s not going to prevent me from adding my two cents… …It was announced on Tuesday that Dominik Uher would miss the rest of the season with an upper-body injury. The Penguins are definitely going to miss him both on and off the ice.  Most Penguins fans know about his strong 200-foot game and the defensive shutdown role he played for the team.  For several seasons now, the coaching staff has raved about his stick detail and his ability on the forecheck.  Off the ice, he’s a beast in the weight room and has become a respected voice in the locker room.  What catches you by surprise though is his sense of humor.  For someone who didn’t have the strongest command of English as a rookie just four seasons ago, these days, he has no problem putting a smile on your face with his quick wit.  For a while now, he’s spearheaded a Penguins team tradition.  Whenever the team is pulling out of the parking lot after a road win, Uher shouts from the back of the bus that they need to stop because somebody forgot to pack the two points.  Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has picked up a few more victories on the road since Uher went down and the post-game tradition has carried on, but it just hasn’t been the same.  His brand of Czech-lish was one of a kind.  It was just one of the ways that Dominik’s unique abilities for the team  may prove difficult for the Penguins to replace.

The Post Script

  • This weekend marks the last out-of-division games for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Twenty-two of final 24 matches of the Penguins’ regular season will come against Atlantic Division opponents. Half of those games will played against Hershey (8) and Lehigh Valley (4).  The Battle of Pennsylvania will have a big impact of the playoff hopes and potential seeding for all three teams.
  • Took in Deadpool recently. If you’re Ryan Reynolds fan, definitely go see it. His best stuff since Van Wilder.
  • Last Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead was yet another reminder as to why you never get attached to anyone on that show.
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