Chirps with Chirps
For as hot as the Pittsburgh Penguins have been to start the year, Wilkes-Barre Scranton has been equally as dominant. Today we spoke with Jason Iacona of Chirps from Center Ice to talk Gibbons, Despres, and all things WB/S. Follow him on twitter: @nafsnep
1. Brian Gibbons has been on a tear this year. Dive into his numbers and tell us what you see from him, especially in looking at this year to last year.
Iacona: Gibbons is simply finishing his chances this year as opposed to years past. His 5-10-15 through November 4 is good for 3rd overall in the AHL in scoring. He’s also the beneficiary of having linemates such as Chris Conner who can keep up with him on the ice. Biggest difference from this year to last is his maturity, finishing his chances and the familiarity of systems inputted by Head Coach John Hynes.
2. Every time I watch or listen to a WB/S game, I’m hearing Brendan Mikkelson’s name. With the obvious logjam this team has defensively, where does he fit into this organization and what have you seen from him this year?
Iacona: I think with the arrival of Olli Maatta, everyone on the defensive depth chart takes a step down. Mikkelson will be the first call up from WBS if there is a need. He’s our power play quarterback (1-6-7) and he’s also clutch, scoring two game winning goals for the Penguins, both in overtime.
3. Is the influence of Tom Kostopolous on this team visible in the on-ice product?
Iacona: Not necessarily. But in the same breath as I say that, when Kostopoulos was out with injury a week ago, the Penguins lost both of those games, so I guess the answer boils down to yes. The Penguins are playing with grit and determination, something Kostopoulos is known for that defines a Captain.
4. Simon Despres is the forgotten about part of the Penguins season this far. Assess how he’s handled his demotion and what type of role he’s played for the team this year.
Iacona: I don’t want to pick on him, but if you watch him carefully, you definitely can see why he’s down here. There was one play Saturday in Hershey where he was not smart with the puck and that led to a goal for the Bears. He’s had his lapses, for sure, which may be why he’s used in even strength situations for the most part.
5. What’s the biggest part of Wilkes-Barre’s 8-1 start to the year?
Iacona: Third periods. The Penguins are outscoring their opponents 19-5 in the third period. I also don’t think there’s anything that rattles this team that I have seen this year. Saturday against Hershey was a prime example. Two bad goals to give up in the first period. They come back in the second and steamroll the Bears by out-skating, outhitting and out-shooting Hershey in the period.
6. Who are your three stars for the season thus far?
Iacona: 3 – Jeff Deslauriers 7-0-1 with a 2.33 GAA and a .905 SV%. He didn’t have a job when training camp started. Tomas Vokoun is sidelined with injury, Jeff Zatkoff goes up and the WBS goaltending situation becomes a big unknown. Deslauriers steps in and has outperformed expectations to date.
2 – Tom Kuhnhackl 5 goals in 10 games played. No ill effects from season ending shoulder surgery that sidelined him last year so far.1 – Brian Gibbons Gibbons is playing like an all-star right now. I’m hoping he gets a call-up to Pittsburgh to showcase how far he’s come, but with the play of Jayson Megna and the health of Beau Bennett improving it may not happen in the immediate future. That of course benefits Wilkes-Barre, but I am fine with that.
Thanks to Jason for speaking with us. Make sure you follow him on twitter and bookmark his site!