Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins: Snakebitten and Winless
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have not gotten off to the start they would have liked. Not in the win-loss column, anyway. The Baby Penguins are 0-4 through four games, but strangely enough, this team feels like one of the most talented in the league.
To give an idea of what that looks like, recall James Neal in 2011, immediately after being traded to Pittsburgh. It was repeated a thousand times that he only scored 2 goals in 23 games, but at no point did any of us watching him think he was a bust. He got open on the ice, he got into good shooting positions, and for whatever reason, his stick would break at the worst possible time or a defender would lay out and make a great shot-block on him. He obviously knew what he was doing and you could tell he was going to be good. It just wasn’t clicking for him yet. He was snakebitten.
Fast forward to the 2012-2013 Penguins, and you get the same sense watching them. The players are talented. The team is competitive. They just keep running into hot goalies or bad bounces. It’s not an excuse, that’s just how it’s been for the young team.
I would be lying if I told you I could give a full detailed recap of every game so far (mostly because AHL Live just kind of doesn’t work), but there are a few bright spots evident amid the losing streak.
Philip Samuelsson – I owe an apology to Mr. Samuelsson. At the end of the preseason, I declared that he hadn’t shown enough to guarantee himself a roster spot. Samuelsson promptly went out and became maybe the best defenseman on the team over the first four games. He is fearless in his puck retrieval, play with reckless abandon (in a good way) all over the ice, and looks confident and comfortable.
Beau Bennett – Pittsburgh’s #1 forward prospect is showing his potential so far in his young pro career. He handles pucks with speed and precision. His vision is phenomenal. He can make blind passes to guys who don’t even know they’re open. As we said in preseason, once Bennett gets into a groove with his linemates, he is going to start putting up points. Bear in mind that his body of work as a professional is miniscule, but it’s hard not to get excited for Bennett’s future in Pittsburgh.
Joe Morrow – Much like Beau Bennett, Morrow looks like a star already. He was the perpetrator of a boarding major and game misconduct over the weekend, but don’t let that mislead you. Morrow was a man among boys in junior hockey and he was used to throwing his weight around with regularity. That isn’t the style that made him a first-round draft pick, and it’s not the style that will make him an NHL star one day. Morrow is going to make his name by skating, carrying the puck, and unleashing his booming slapshot.
From the perspective of a fan just waiting for NHL talent to develop, you can be excited about Wilkes-Barre. Bennett and Morrow are going to be Pittsburgh Penguins, and they are going to be very good. From the perspective of an AHL fan hoping to see a Calder Cup Championship, don’t fret. This Penguins team is talented and well-coached. A couple of lucky bounces may be all they need to turn it around and be as good as they can be. They’re on a losing streak right now, but as soon as that turns around, look out. This team could make some noise.