The Binghamton Senators will host the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Game One of the opening round of the AHL Calder Cup playoffs tonight at the Arena. The two intense rivals face-off for the second consecutive season in this opening round with the Senators hoping to have a much better showing compared to last year’s sweep by the Penguins. It won’t come easy as everything is wiped out from the regular season and starting fresh into the ‘second season’ with the more experienced Penguins being hungry in their quest for their first Calder Cup Championship, but have to start their fantasy trip through the road of Binghamton first.
The veteran Pens and their #1 rated defense take on the #1 offense in the youthful Sens as two clubs battling for the first win in hoping to set the tone for the series. I did a Series Preview earlier this week for both clubs as this is the 12th consecutive season for W/B-Scranton in making the post season while it’s the second year in a row for Binghamton but have something the Penguins don’t, a Calder Cup. Ouch!
Youth vs Experience
If this line-up holds true come game time, and if we take all players into consideration including back-up goaltenders, the Senators average age is 22.85 and for the Pens 24.90. Oldest player for WBS is Tom Kostopoulos at 36 years old and the youngest is 19-year-old back up goaltender Matt Murray. For the Sens, Patrick Mullen is the oldest at 27 and both Cody Ceci and Matt Puempel are 20 year olds representing the youngest. So in a nut shell, Penguins have more players with NHL experience under their belt led by 32-year-old Chuck Kobasew‘s 601 NHL games and their top line averages 27.33 to the Senators 21.66. Let’s see if the Senators youthful prevails in the end.
On offense, rookie Ryan Dzingel has an amazing 2 goals and 5 assists in 9 games as Luke Richardson has a hard time keeping the former Big-10 Ohio State University prospect out of the line-up while recently returned Mark Stone and Jean-Gabriel Pageau have a combined 6 points in 2 games played. Kobasew has 11 goals and 2 assists in 12 games for the Penguins since being sent down earlier this month from parent Pittsburgh while Captain Kostopoulos led his club with 22 goals and 25 helpers in 71 games during the regular season.
Timing is Everything
With Dzingel in the line up and Corey Cowick out means Richardson’s coaching staff means business sending a strong message in not playing favorites and going with the hot hand. Afterall, Dzingel does come as advertised in being a Division I finalist in the Hobey Baker Memorial Award seeking out USA’s college’s top ten player’s.
On defense Reid McNeill is now healthy and takes Nick D’Agostino‘s spot for WBS and Mike Sdao takes the injured Chris Wideman‘s place for the Sens.
As far as goal-tending is concerned, W-B/S is going with Peter Mannino while rolling the dice in having Murray serving as his back up over Eric Hartzell. Murray started his first pro game last weekend stopping 23 shots in a 2-0 loss against Utica but it’s still a bold move by head coach John Hynes which I admire. Andrew Hammond will get the start with Scott Greenham in mop up duty.
Best of five
Game 1 – Fri., 4/25 – W-B/Scranton @ Binghamton, 7:05 pm
Game 2 – Sat., 4/26 – W-B/Scranton @ Binghamton, 7:05 pm
Game 3 – Wed., 4/30 – Binghamton @ W-B/Scranton, 7:05 pm
*Game 4 – Fri., 5/2 – Binghamton @ W-B/Scranton, 7:05 pm
*Game 5 – Mon., 5/5 – W-B/Scranton @ Binghamton, 7:05 pm
WBNG-TV12 BEHIND THE BOARDS
Cover photo courtesy of Alicia Strauch. Graphic art insert by Matt Trayling.