Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (7-6-0) is starting to find some continuity and have won seven of its last nine contests, following last night’s impressive 2-1 win over Springfield who had come into last night’s game 8-2-1 and on a seven game unbeaten streak.
The buzz out of last night’s game is all about the play of top forward prospect Beau Bennett who had a breakout game with his first career 2-goal night.
Bennett scored two second period goals and one observer told me the puck was just following Bennett all night, calling it his most impressive game of his professional career.
How he scored via WBS.com: “Bennett skating down the left wing of the Springfield zone, Bennett winged a pass to the top of the near circle for Riley Holzapfel. Holzapfel waited for the Falcons defense to pass by before returning the puck to Bennett, who whistled a shot past goaltender Curtis McElhinney at 8:20. Holzapfel and Bennett clicked again with 4:32 left in the second after a nice keep-in at the point by defenseman Dylan Reese. Holzapfel quickly slapped a shot from the right sidewall that McElhinney turned away with his blocker. The rebound came to a wide-open Bennett for the easy put-back and his third goal of the season.”
Bennett is now tied with Paul Thompson for the team-lead with 9 points and while there’s been some ups and downs through the first month of the season, the Penguins I’m told are very pleased at where Bennett is right now. Bennett has flashed tremendous ability as a playmaking winger but the Penguins feel he is going to grow as a shooter, following wrist surgery last winter. If Bennett can develop his overall offensive game to the point he needs to, the Penguins feel Bennett could become an ideal winger for Sidney Crosby in a couple years because of his vision and playmaking ability.
Crosby always played well with wingers who drive to the net and win battles in the corner like Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, but if he had a playmaking winger who could see the ice at a high level, Crosby would put up 60+ goals. There’s no surprise he meshed well with Steve Sullivan whose overall offensive game was suspect but he was an excellent playmaker.
— Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff has been a great signing by assistant GM Jason Botterill who targeted Zatkoff from the start of free agency on July 1. Zatkoff made 25 saves on 26 shots in Wednesday’s win, improving to 5-5-0 on the season. Zatkoff has posted a 1.91 goals against average and .931 save percentage.
— Another pickup by Botterill that is paying early dividends is centerman Riley Holzapfel who is second on the team with 8 points.
— Eric Tangradi is tied for the team-lead with 6 goals but has a team-worst minus-5 rating and he is pointless in his last 5 games.
— In a rare move, Brian Strait was a healthy scratch Wednesday night, regarded as a coaches decision.