The Binghamton Senators and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins open up in Round I of the 2013-’14 AHL Calder Cup playoffs as we draw up a comparison focusing on both teams in this short five game series. Number one offense vs. number one defense go head to head as these two clubs are getting ready to roll up and down I81. Senators have home ice advantage as the reward for winning the East Division as they finished with a respectable 24-8-2-4 record at the Arena while the Penguins were 21-14-1-2 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Let’s take a peek at the numbers for these two hated rivals during the regular season and see who comes out on top.
Binghamton got the best of W-B/Scranton in winning five out of eight overall and were perfect at home 4-0-0-0, while away they were 1-3-0-0 as the lone win was in overtime. Total offense had the Sens in front 27-21.
The potent Senators offensive attack is led by rookie Matt Puempel and his 30 goals as the club had 12 players in double digits scoring in the regular season compared to Wilkes-Barre having just six led by Captain Tom Kostopoulos‘ 22. Binghamton was #1 in the AHL with 276 goals averaging 3.63 per game while the Penguins were 19th with 206 averaging 2.71. In goal’s against, Senators ranked 23rd giving up 232 for a 3.05 average as the Pens were #1 holding their opponent’s to 185 tallies averaging a league best 2.43 per game. Forget what’s on paper, the reality is Binghamton has scored at least four times in five victories against the Pens in eight meetings this season.
Huge upside for the Senators which is too much for the Penguins.
With the addition of Cody Ceci to an already good core should further bolster the blue line featuring Alex Grant, Fredrik Claesson, Captain Mark Borowiecki, Patrick Mullen and Mike Sdao. Chris Wideman is currently sidelined with his knee, so we’ll see how the rest of the week goes for his recovery as he’s scheduled for practice sometime this week. W/B-Scranton counters with Simon Despres, Barry Goers, Nick D’Agostino, Brian Dumoulin, Brendan Mikkelson and Scott Harrington. A big piece of the puzzle that is missing is Philip Samuelsson, who is out injured and will miss the series. In addition Reid McNeill had been out, but practiced this week and might be available.
If Samuelsson was healthy, I might reconsider, but gotta go with the Senators.
Andrew Hammond is in a position to carry the club on his shoulder’s and needs to be focused and sharp. Scott Greenham will back up Hammond with late addition Chris Driedger being the third man. Veteran Peter Mannino, who started in last Friday night’s loss against the Sens, was riding a personal streak of 13 consecutive starts allowing two goals or less before that collapse. Eric Hartzell and injured Jeff Deslauriers are the other Penguin goaltenders but new rookie Matt Murray might back up Mannino in Friday’s game.
Mannino is not about to have a repeat performance like his last start.
During the regular season Penguins were 28th on the power play at 13.7% while the Senators ranked fifth with a 20.7%. On the penalty kill Binghamton had a 80.6% placing them in 23rd as W/B-Scranton finished 13th averaging 83.1%. Senators led the league in short-handed tallies with 16 but the Penguins were right behind them with 14.
Pretty much a toss-up.
- Pens come in losers of three straight while the streaky Sens, winners of their last two, are primed for another winning streak as this couldn’t have panned out any better. You want to enter the playoffs on a high note with momentum on your side which carries confidence and not use losing as an excuse in trying to break that streak.
- Borowiecki practiced this week and should be ready to compete as Binghamton has a solid blue line of players already but needs his toughness in protecting the forwards. He’ll most likely will be paired up with Mullen.
- Pens have some dirty players and I’m sure they will be gunning for some Sens forwards as Harry Zolnierczyk and Nick Drazenovic as well as Bobby Farnham will be doing their best in fulfilling that role just like when Zolnierczyk laid his knee on Wideman’s in last Friday’s game that took him out early.
- History relevancy comes to play as this the third post season series between the two clubs with the first having Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coming back against a Jason Spezza led club in the lock-out season of 2004-’05, from being down 0-2 to winning four straight and advancing into the second round, which still hurts today if you ask some of the B-Sens’ faithful including myself for many, many reasons. Last year they swept the Senators in three games also in the first round. This year, Ottawa missed the playoffs and we have players back where as last season, they were up aiding Ottawa in beating Montreal in the first round.
Penguins know if you make a mistake the Senators will blitz you hard and make you pay scoring at will as they wait for you to blink first before reacting in some cases. Binghamton can score in bunches and the home ice fans help swing any momentum up for grabs as the team runs with it in unison. They are not known for their comebacks so an early jump bodes well for the Senators as they look to even the score from the previous season. W/B-Scranton on the other hand, are a relentless group as this is the last team I wanted to face in the first round. However, Binghamton is ready to break out and put a string of W’s together. There’s just far too much talent for them to break down and fail in order for then to advance. Let’s hope so anyways.
Prediction: Binghamton in Four.
Cover graphic courtesy of Matt Trayling. Insert pic courtesy of Alicia Strauch.