Obie’s Observations (Bus-Ride Edition) – Apr. 22, 2015
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are on their way to the Ocean State today after another dramatic overtime victory last night at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. Daniel Sprong’s second goal of the match was the game-winner in the extra session, giving Wilkes-Barre/Scranton the 4-3 win. The Penguins may not have home-ice advantage for this series, but they effectively used their time at Mohegan Sun Arena to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Atlantic Division Semifinal. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will try to close out the Bruins as the series shifts to Providence, but, in the meantime, here are a few things I have observed lately…
- Sprong Springs Back
Yesterday was Daniel Sprong’s second appearance with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. After being eased to action in Game 1, the rookie hopped onto the ice as part of the unit that would start off a power play early in Game 2. It was an opportunity to see what kind of magic this offensively-skilled forward could make happen. Instead, disaster struck as his pass to the point was picked off by Noel Acciari and taken other way for a shorthanded goal that broke the scoreless tie less than three minutes into the game. Whereas others with lesser mental fortitude might have hung their shoulders after such a mistake, Sprong simply put his head down and continued to work. His forechecking pressure caused a turnover that Kael Mouillierat returned to Sprong for the game-tying goal at 6:49 of the second period. He wasn’t done there. With the Penguins and Bruins then in overtime for a second consecutive evening, Sprong drove the net to beat his man to the far post and knocked in another Mouillierat centering pass. It might end up being the biggest goal of the series. The story of Sprong’s professional career is still be written, but if he continues to show the kind of resilience that was on display in Game 2, that tale will be a happy one.
- Penguins Physicality
It is no secret that the hitting picks up in the playoffs and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton have taken that adage to heart in this first-round series versus the Bruins. Providence has a number of offensive talents in their forward grouping that are crafty with the pucks. The Bruins defensemen look to make that quick first pass to the forwards so they can transition quickly and get through the neutral zone with speed. The Penguins have done remarkably well establishing their forecheck to give the Bruins neither the time or space to break out of their own zone cleanly. The relentless pressure is taking its toll. During one stretch in the second period of Game 2, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forced three straight turnovers in the offensive zone as result of Bruins defensemen blindly passing the puck away to avoid a hit. In addition, the Penguins are hammering Providence’s forwards at every possible chance. The physical nature of the series thus far seems to be getting under the skin the Bruins and kept their offense at bay for the time being.
- DeSolid DeSmith
It’s hard not to like Casey DeSmith’s story this season. Initially relegated to the third spot amongst the trio of goaltenders in Wheeling at the start of the year, fate has cast DeSmith as the number-one starter for the Penguins over the final weekend of the regular season. He continued that role for the first-round match-up against Providence and he has thrived. He’s made some highlight reel saves at times – his robbery of Max Talbot on a pair of chances in Game 1 stand out as the prime example – but mainly he has just been solid. His has good lateral movement and he’s sound positionally. On a Bruins chance in the second period last night, DeSmith lost sight of the puck, but was in the right position to make a pad save on shot on the near post. He has been as big a factor as any in the Penguins being up 2-0 in the series.
The Post Script
- The guys who have been to the playoff before and know what it takes to have success are the same players who have elevated their games for the Penguins. And it’s exactly the names you’d expect – Tom Kostopoulos, Carter Rowney, Steve Oleksy, Dustin Jeffrey and Kael Mouillierat just to name a few.
- That the Penguins have held the Bruins’ top-ranked power play unit to just one goal through six regular season meetings and two playoff games is one of the more surprising stat lines of this head-to-head match-up. The recipe for success here the postseason has been a pretty simple one though: pressure the puck-carrier, block shots and have your goaltender make saves.
- As always, 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.