Before the AHL’s second season - the Calder Cup Playoffs, begins, let’s take a look back at the 2012-13 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ regular season.
Pre-Chad Kolarik, the Penguins offense struggled to produce goals. It appeared that the losses of Bryan Lerg, Ben Street, Colin McDonald, Jason Williams and Geoff Walker - the team’s top five scorers from last season, had a major impact. But this year’s Penguins had several newcomers who could pick up the slack, mainly Trevor Smith, Riley Holzapfel and Beau Bennett while he was here. But something was missing - namely a player who could light the lamp regularly. That’s the void that Kolarik filled. He averaged a point per game with the Penguins since being traded from Connecticut, and after a string of 2-1 games the offense turned the corner. The late season acquisition of 26-goal scorer Derek Nesbitt simply turns the offense into a potent force, but let’s not forget that the Penguins offense registered one of the lowest goal totals among all playoff teams.
Grade - B
No team in the league has allowed fewer goals than the Penguins. Led by veterans Dylan Reese, Alex Grant and captain Joey Mormina, the Penguins blueline bought into head coach John Hynes’ system and executed it flawlessly. The team routinely held opponents to a single goal, or less, and in the second half of the season they clamped down relentlessly to hold a lead. Even on the offensive side the blueliners produced, led by Reese, Grant and rookie Brian Dumoulin. Throw in the resurgence of Philip Samuelsson, who developed into one of the most consistent defenders, and things couldn’t have gone much better for the Penguins blueline.
Grade - A
In his first season with the Penguins, Jeff Zatkoff led the league in goals against average and was among the leaders in save percentage, wins and shutouts. Surprisingly he didn’t make the all-star team, but Zatkoff could be considered the Penguins MVP. And don’t forget about Brad Thiessen, who served as Zatkoff’s backup for much of the season but still posted 16 wins and four shutouts. Not bad all the way around.
Grade - A
Overall the power play was mediocre, ranking in the bottom half of the league while connecting at a roughly 15 percent clip. But with the arrival of Kolarik, the team possessed a very formidable top unit. Add to the mix Smith and Holzapfel, along with Grant’s booming slapshot on the point and all of a sudden the power play doesn’t look half bad.
Grade - B
There is none better in the AHL. Led by Warren Peters, Zach Sill and Brian Gibbons (does anyone steal the puck better?), the Penguins penalty kill was about as reliable as one could get. Even when facing a two-man advantage, the penalty kill prevented goals with ease - at least that’s how it seemed.
Grade - A