Penguins and Barons Game Report

By Marc Lapointe

Friday, March 1st, Mellon Arena.

Once again, the rivalry between Pittsburgh and Cleveland resumed with a
really exiting and passionate game. This time we’re not talking about the
Sleelers and the Browns but the Barons and the Baby Pens.

After a slow start in the first, (end up 1-1) both teams picked it up in the
second with 4 goals combined. The Pens scored 2 early and quick goals but
the Barons scored back twice in the period. In the third, the Ohio team took
the lead by an outstanding individual play by Jonathan Cheechoo after a
Brooks Orpik’s late penalty, the game seemed to be in the books for
Cleveland. But that same player who took the late call didn’t think so.
Orpik got out of the box, poke-checked the puck carrier, rushed the puck to the
net and made an unbelievable pass to Tomas Suvory for the game-tying
goal…with only 11 seconds left!

Analysis of some baby Pens and Barons players from the game :

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins :

Shane Endicott : The Pittsburgh Penguins second rounder in the 2000 draft
seems to be a good one. In fact, Endicott is on a dream season this year.
He has 19 goals and 18 assists in 54 games with Wilkes-Barre, and he was chosen
to play in the AHL all-star game. He got a one game call-up by the Big
Pens and even recorded his first NHL point ever! Endicott has good speed,
skating and stickhandling, (still at the AHL level for now), but he has to
learn how to use these skills more effectively. After a nice move or rush,
Endicott sometimes has no clue what to do with the puck. Also, the Saskatoon
native has to improve his shot, as well as his defensive game and more
important, his puck control/pass reception. On the positive end, Endicott is
a versatile player who can play in every situation (as well as different
positions), he also can win important face-offs, play in the traffic and one
day maybe be an offensive force.

Ross Lupaschuck: Even if Lupaschuck is born in the same year than Penguins
prospect Shane Endicott, he is actually more then 240 days younger. That
means 1 year less of hockey to his resume and to his development. After
being a part of the Jaromir Jagr deal, Ross Lupaschuk is now in his first year in
the AHL with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Often consider a
strictly offensive defensemen, the young player is trying to improve the
defensive aspect of his game to make it to the next level. Lupaschuck’s
main problem is that he hasn’t been able to be consistent. For example,
during Friday’s game he looked really great during the first period but got
more sloppy after that. He was pinching really well like usual and he played
some decent defense but he also made a really bad mistake and almost made
his team lose. With about 4 minutes to go The Pens were on the powerplay and
trailing by one goal. Then, after the Barons cleared their zone, Lupaschuck
went for the puck and made a turnaround pass without looking. Result? A huge
scoring chance by the Barons and another key saves by Caron. If Lupaschuck
can get those careless plays out of his game and get stronger he could be
ready for the big league pretty soon. Lupaschuk has all the tools for
becoming a good offensive defensemen, he pinches like crazy, joins the rush,
carries the puck and he has excellent vision. With all the depth at the
Penguins blue line, how long Lupaschuck is gonna wait before having a shot
in the NHL?

Brooks Orpik : Orpik is the typical stay-at-home/hard hitter defenseman. He
hits hard and often and plays some tight defense. The Amherst, NY native is
a big man (6-3, 224) and he uses his size for outmuscling so many AHL
forwards. But like every smart young defensemen Orpik can adjust his game to
the situation. During the game against the Barons he started taking way more
chances when his team needed a tying goal. With less than 3 minutes to go in
the game Orpik got outsped by San Jose’s prospect Jonathan Cheechoo and he
took a “not too bad” penalty considering that Cheechoo was on a partial
breakaway. I already talk about what happens after that in the introduction
and I really think it shows how great of a player Orpik is. It was a really
great head-up play by Orpik as he showed his playmaking abilities.

Alexander Zevakhin : after 3 well-known prospects let’s look at another
Penguins prospect that almost no one talks about. Zevakhin was chosen by the
Penguins in the second round of the 1998′ draft. Only at his second year
overseas, the young Russian is still adapting to the North American’s style
of hockey. During Friday’s game, he impressed a lot with a multi-point game
and some brilliant plays. Zevakhin’s skills consist of incredible
stickhandling, some speed and skating, forechecking abilities and average
defense. At only 6-foot tall and 176 pounds you can understand that he isn’t
much of a physical force, but if Zevakhin wants to have success in the AHL
and later in the NHL he REALLY has to work on his balance. Zevakhin was
falling all over the place on Friday, he deeked opponents but felt right
after the small “legal” slash (or hook) or by a small physical contact.

Thomas Suvory : If Zevakhin is unknown, Suvory is certainly the most unknown
prospect the penguins have. On the Penguins section of Hockey’s Future
Suvory is on the “Others Notable” category and his profile only showed a few
basics. I also can’t find his birth date anywhere on the web but
we know that he didn’t opt-in for the 2000 NHL draft as a 17-year-old.
Suvory might be unknown for us but not for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
numerous fans. In his rookie year in the AHL he ranked fourth in the team
for goals (17) (3PP, 2GW and 3GT) and sixth in points (24) in only 50 games.
Last year in the Slovakian (he is also from Slovakia) highest league he
finished 10th in scoring with 50 points in 53 games and he won the league’s
top rookie award. Not bad for an unknown prospect and a 4th round pick.
Once again he showed his sniper abilities against Cleveland with 2 big goals
including the game-tying goal. He really knows where to be for scoring goals
and he fights his way thought the traffic. Look for him for being a
goal-scorer in the NHL too.

Sebastien Caron : After winning the Memorial cup with the Rimouski Oceanic
in 1999-2000 Caron has been with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for 2
years. He struggled a lot this season but he picked his game up recently. He
is a good butterfly goalie and veteran/teammate Robbie Tallas has good words
for him. Wonder how good he would be with a tougher defense. Is Caron the
Penguins’s future in goal? I have my doubts about it, but he certainly made
some keys saves against Cleveland.

Cleveland Barons :

Jeff Jillson : After been selected 14th overall in 1999 and after 3 super
years at the University of Michigan, Jeff Jillson’s expectations were high.
If the Sharks didn’t have that much depth at their blueline Jeff would
probably never been sent down to the minors (when Mike Rathje signed his
contract). But Jillson was expecting to get some experience and to basically
dominate down there after his 32 games trip with the Sharks where he
recorded 3 goals and 13 points. And that’s about what he was doing in
Pittsburgh. He played a really smart game offensively and defensively, he
carried the puck really well and was making some precise passes.

Jonathan Cheechoo : Impressive is the only way you can qualify Cheechoo’s
game at Mellon Arena. He scored the 4th goal of his team (his 20th of the
season) recorded 4 shots and made some unbelievable plays. His goal was
something to see, he entered the zone with the puck on a 1-on-2, stick
handled through one opponent and took a marvelous and perfect wrist shot from the
high slot. His shot is one of his biggest assets (he also has a hard low
slap shot) but he also has about every offensive-needed skills. That
includes speed, stickhandling, playmaking and hockey sense. However, he
needs some work on his skating, footspeed, physical game (hit and being hit)
and his defensive coverage.

Lynn Loyns : After being 4 years with the Spokane Chief of the WHL, Loyns
finally got a chance from an NHL team as he signed a contract with the
Sharks after a training camp tryout. He is a small forward with a lot of
speed but not much strength. In fact, this year he has been struggling with
the Barons with only 4 goals and 11 points, but he never gave up and showed
a lot of heart. He is one of the best forecheckers I’ve seen in a while and
he uses his speed with and without the puck (searching for breakaways a
couple times). Loyns is only 21 years old but he has to improve his general
skills if he wants to go further in hockey.

Chad Wiseman : Wiseman is another good young forward in the Sharks farm
system. He is a creative player who has fine chemistry with prospect
Jonathan Cheechoo. At his first season at the pro level, he is on a pace for
a 60 points season. Wiseman is also a versatile forward with I would say
“interesting” speed and future. Sharks fan, I don’t think you can be
disappointed by this 8th round, 246th overall draft choice.

The Pittsburgh Penguins also took many “auditions” to many AHL forward this
year and now that Mario is unfortunately gone, one of them is gonna have to
find a place to stay in Pittsburgh.

– Eric Meloche is the obvious choice, he is with the team right now and he
played more than 15 games so far. Meloche hasn’t record his first NHL goal
yet and he blew so many chances of finally doing it (especially in Montreal
against his home town’s team). He played some really physical game and he
helped the team as much as he can. Meloche’s big problem are is rock hands
like Penguins player Dan Lacouture (I wonder how good he would be with some
hands) or Devils’s Turner Stevenson.

– Another candidate would be Tom Kostopoulos who played 7 games with the big
Pens recording one goal at his first game and one assist. He always finishes
his check but isn’t a good hitter like Meloche, but on the other hand he got
a better scoring touch.

– Shane Endicott is definitely the younger candidate and if the Pens wants
to give him some experience he might have another shot with the
back-and-gold.

– Once again you have to consider the feisty Billy Tibbetts who passed by
the waivers a couple times this year.

– Finally, what about the leading scorer in Wilkes-Barre? Martin Sonnenberg
has been a consistent forward on an inconsistent team who is struggling
along the way. He is not that old and the Penguins didn’t give up on him
yet.