A string of injuries, a struggling defense and a tremendous amount of “bad luck” tie the Pens and their affiliates together with inconsistent success. Each of them desperately needs to improve their records if they hope to make it to post season play.
The latest example of bad luck came when goaltender Tom Barrasso was handed a 4 game suspension by the NHL, for carelessly using his stick and breaking the forearm of center Yanic Perreault. Jean-Sebastien Aubin was called up from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to fill the void.
Aubin has been rather impressive this season, but is no match for Barrasso in terms of puck-handling skills. When you’re a team who struggles in the defensive zone, it’s nice to have a goalie that can play the puck. On the bright side however, Aubin did prove himself with 5 solid outings prior to being sent down to the American Hockey League.
It’s uncertain whether Aubin or Skudra will put in the most ice time during Barrasso’s absence, but Aubin is by far the favored candidate.
Pittsburgh’s loss, is now also Wilkes-Barre’s loss. They too have been left without a preferred number one. Statistically speaking however, Aubin has struggled in the American Hockey League this season. Prior to December 1st, he was 0-4. Thankfully, hard work did not go unmerited that evening as 27 saves and a team full of determination inevitably led to an overtime victory.
WHERE WE ARE AT:
The Ice are now 17-8-4-0 after finishing their six-game road trip. This puts the Ice in second place in the Central Division and 3rd overall in the WHL. The first half of the trip saw them go through Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Swift Current. This road trip saw the Ice play the top two ranked teams in the CHL. The Calgary Hitmen are ranked number one and the Swift Current Broncos are ranked number two (at the time this article is written.) The road trip seems to be where the Ice play their best game having only lost 3 of their road games so far this season. The Ice are 9-2-4 on the road. The 3 losses are to Lethbridge (2) and Swift Current. The second half of the road trip saw the Ice match up against the Calgary Hitmen, Seattle Thunderbirds and the Portland Winterhawks.
POWER PLAYS AND PENALTY KILLS:
The difference in play is strongly evident when you look at whether a team is at home or on the road, or if they are leading the game or playing catch up. When you look at the Ice’s power play percentages, you can see that the Ice are evidently stronger on the road than they are at home. The Ice are 5th in the league with their “on the road” power play, but are ranked number 12th for their power play on home ice. Their penalty kill is very similar. On home ice (9th in the league) and on the road (2nd in the league.) You can thank the excellent goaltending by Dan Blackburn for about 2/3 of the penalty killing.
NEWS & NOTES:
Sometimes in the world of professional sports we get so caught up in the state of the game we forget the underlying facts. As I visit sites on the Internet and listen to a million unemployed GM’s I soon realize that many of them simply have no idea what they are talking about. They talk about the Rangers prospects and obviously the first two to come up are the Rangers crown jewels, 1999 first rounder’s Pavel Brendl and Jamie Lundmark. Perhaps the most disturbing thing is how uninformed they are about the situations of these two very talented but very different players. They assume that they are simply draft day busts by looking at the stats, but the simple truth is that to understand where these kids are coming from you must look far beyond the numbers. Fortunately there are some observers (including the Ranger’s brass amongst others) who have realized this, but for the rest of the pack the answer simply isn’t clear to them.