Another Thursday and another six-hour bus ride on the agenda. This time, our trip north stays south of Canadian border as we make a three-game, three-day swing through New England. On the horizon this weekend are three North Division opponents, two of whom are trying to track the Penguins in the standings. It’s an opportunity for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to pick up some points and perhaps begin to pull away from the pack. Following the three-game set, the Pens will have just 20 contests left on their regular season slate. As always, here are some things I’ve been observing lately…
- Strength Down the Middle
With the return of Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bonino, Oskar Sundqvist was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on this afternoon. It may just be one player returning, but it’s amazing how one player can impact the depth of the line-up. Assuming Sundqvist stays at his natural center position, now the Penguins top three down the middle are Kael Mouillierat, Carter Rowney and Sundqvist. I’d stack that trio up against any in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. Plus, it gives the options. You can place Jean-Sebastien Dea as a dangerous fourth-line center or move him on the wing for his natural scoring ability. A group of wingers that includes Dea, Dominik Simon, Josh Archibald and Tom Kostopoulos – just to name a few – has to potential to be impactful as well. The point being, the addition of Sundqivst gives the coaching staff some tough, but good decisions to make this weekend.
- Tough Luck for Jarry
Statistically, Tristan Jarry is having a stellar season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, but the rookie goaltender has not had any luck earning a “W” over the last month. Though he had two tough outings at the end of January, Jarry’s play has been on par over his last four starts. Two of those games ended up as overtime losses as a result of a breakaway goal and one tally on the power play. Tuesday night versus Hershey, he made plenty of stellar saves, but the Penguins were ultimately unable to keep up with the Bears. If Jarry maintains this level of play, the wins will come and soon.
- Chemistry is a Beautiful Thing
When a particular line is absolutely able to find that chemistry on the ice, it’s like watching magic. The ESP-esque ability of a player to know where his linemate is going to be and get him the puck. The stickhandling move and shot that appears out of thin air. Early in the season, Scott Wilson, Kael Mouillierat and Scott Wilson displayed that brand of wizardry. Lately, it’s been the line of Sahir Gill, Carter Rowney and Tom Kostopoulos. They have been responsible for all of the Penguins goal scoring over the last two games and have generated chances just about every shift on the ice. With Gill missing practice today, hopefully it’s not too long before this line is reunited and conjuring up those goals once again.
The Post Script
- Good story coming out Portland this week (well, technically Connecticut). All-Star goaltender Mike McKenna and his wife, Rachel, welcomed their first child, Adeline, to the world on Feb. 22. Two nights later, he was in net for the Pirates in Hartford, where made 35 saves in a 1-0 win over the Wolf Pack. Not only was it his second shutout of the season, but it moved him past Jhonas Enroth into second place on the Pirates all-time win list. Not a bad 48 hours for Mr. McKenna.
- Jurassic World has made it into the movie rotation for this bus trip. When are these dinosaur parks going to learn? It never works out well. That being said, I want one of those hamster ball touring things for my every day life. Especially if Jimmy Fallon is providing a running commentary of everything I see.
- Nick Hart and I will have a special Trade Deadline podcast next Tuesday.
- Finally, tweet at us using the hashtag “#WBSPenguinsLive” during the games this weekend with your questions or comments (@MikeOBrienWBS & @_NickHart) and listen in to see if your tweet makes it on air.