Just like last year, the B-Sens playoffs ended with a whimper against the Penguins (losing the series 3-1, as the AHL has five-game series to open the playoffs for whatever reason). Three of the games were one-goal decisions and there are a few things that stand out to me about the series (Jeff Ulmer has offered his thoughts as well).
1. Four of the five Penguins who dominated in the series were older players (30s), most with a ton of NHL experience: Tom Kostopoulos (630), Chuck Kobasew (601), and former B-Sen Andrew Ebbett (200); goaltender Peter Mannino is a six-year AHL vet.
2. Lack of secondary scoring: once Wilkes-Barre shut down Mark Stone and Stephane Da Costa, Binghamton was not able to generate enough offence. With Mike Hoffman and Matt Puempel unable to participate, secondary scoring dried up from Cole Scheider, Shane Prince, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (one wonders if the team might have benefitted from keeping Andre Petersson in that respect).
3. Defensive struggles: new additions Alex Grant and Patrick Mullen did not make the difference needed (the former in particular); I believe Chris Wideman played with an injury so his struggles didn’t bother me as much; Cody Ceci, just like in the NHL, needs to put more work in.
4. Penalties: while officiating is extremely erratic, the B-Sens followed their parent club in taking a ridiculous number of penalties–wearing down their PK players and their goaltender. I believe the organisation does not do enough to punish players who continual take stupid penalties (case in point: Chris Neil).
5. Goaltending: Andrew Hammond could not win a game for his team this series, which was something they clearly needed.
In the end there was no single fatal flaw–a lot went wrong for Binghamton. The result does not take away from what was a very successful season. Ottawa has always treated its AHL-affiliates as a development project where winning is nice, but not something to do at all costs. The older Wilkes-Barre lineup was much more suited to winning in the playoffs, as team’s that win championships in the AHL always have an abundance of older players leading the way. Whether or not the experience of losing aids anyone’s development is unknown (I’ve never seen a study on it, so anything anyone says about it is purely speculative). The same, oddly, goes for winning. Players with Calder Cup rings do not receive any sort of definitive development boost either.
The team has lot’s of rosters decisions to make for next year, but will at least begin jettisoning some dead weight (Tyler Eckford, Ben Blood, Wacey Hamiltion, and Jim O’Brien at least). There’s still a lack of depth on the blueline, although if they can bring Mikael Wikstrand over (which seems unlikely given his contract with Frolunda) that would help exponentially.
This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)
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