The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins opened the Calder Cup playoffs on Friday and Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena against the Norfolk Admirals. Expectations were high after the team won the AHL regular season championship and the East Division title, but the Penguins could not meet the expectations.
WBS dropped their opening games by scores of 2-1 and 2-0 and is now down two games to none to the fourth seeded Admirals. The series heads to the Norfolk Scope this week for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday, with a potential Game 5 on Friday.
If Games 6 and 7 are necessary, they will be played back in Wilkes-Barre on April 23 and 25.
However, before we look ahead to any extra games, let’s break down the keys to success for each team.
Penguins To Watch
Keven Veilleux: The sophomore forward scored Wilkes-Barre’s lone goal over the first two games. It was the first postseason point of his professional career.
Brad Thiessen: Despite the losses, the AHL’s Goaltender of the Year has still kept up the outstanding work. He made 20 saves on 22 shots on Friday and 25 saves on 26 shots on Saturday. He has a 1.53 GAA and .938 save percentage.
Admirals to Watch
Dustin Tokarski: The second year goaltender is in his first postseason, but he is playing like a seasoned professional. Over two games, he has one shutout to go with an 0.50 GAA and .983 save percentage. He was the first star of the game in the opening matchups.
Marc-Antoine Pouliot: The former Penguins forward has scored in each of the first two games. He finished the regular season with a career-high 72 points in 69 games.
Pouliot played with the Penguins in 2006-07, the year the team had a split affiliation with the Edmonton Oilers. He had 31 points in 33 games before being called up to Edmonton.
How the Penguins Can Get Back on Track
Power Play: Much like their big brothers in Pittsburgh, the WBS power play has been dismal in the East Division semifinals. They have gone 0-for-11, and that simply won’t cut it in the postseason.
Offense: Yes, the Penguins lost Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson and Eric Tangradi to Pittsburgh. Since all three of these players were in Pittsburgh for the AHL clear day deadline, they are not eligible to play in the Calder Cup playoffs.
However, the Penguins were finding a way to win without these players for the majority of the regular season, and they must continue to do so now. Other talented players must step up
Brett Sterling is one of those guys.
Sterling was a part of the 2008 Chicago Wolves team that defeated the Penguins to win the Calder Cup. Coming into this postseason, he had 31 points in 40 playoff games.
This year is different. He has yet to score this series and also has a minus-two rating.
How the Admirals Can Stay on Track
Goaltending: Tokarski is a huge reason why the Admirals have put the Penguins on edge. He will need to stay focused and keep up his stellar play.
Home Ice: Right now, the Admirals have home-ice advantage. They are guaranteed two games at home and can get a third should the Penguins squeeze out a win. The Penguins only have two possible home games remaining in this round.
Playoff hockey has not been played in Norfolk since 2007. That year, WBS defeated Norfolk in six games.
That said, 2007 is long in the past. The Admirals fans will be eager to see postseason hockey, and depending on the crowd they get, it could rally Norfolk to put the Pens in an even bigger hole.
Where to Check out the Games
Those interested in listening to the Penguins audio should tune in on 102.3 FM with Penguins radio announcer Tom Grace and color commentator Scott Stuccio.
If you want to hear things from an Admirals perspective, you can tune in on 102.1 FM with play-by-play announcer Pete Michaud.
However, if radio is not your thing, you can also purchase the game on AHL Live for $7 and choose which announcer you want to hear while watching a live stream.
LET’S DO THIS!