Brian Dumoulin was one of the key ingredients of last year’s history-making comeback against the Providence Bruins. A rookie blueliner during the 2012-13 season, Dumoulin picked up three points, including the game-winning goal, in Game Five against the Bruins; netted a power play goal to send Game Six to overtime; and assisted on Chad Kolarik’s decisive tally in Game Seven to help turn a three-games-to-none deficit into a series victory for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
But Dumoulin isn’t dwelling on the past as the Pens get ready to face Providence once again this year.
“That was part of last year. And even though we had success against them last year…this is a whole different team,” Dumoulin said of the Penguins, who have just eight players left on the roster that competed in last year’s series. “That’s one good thing about having the long week before we play, is being able to look at them and see their tendencies. We’ve been really working hard this week to get to know them better.”
Head coach John Hynes agreed that the extended layoff between games (a full seven days for the Penguins) was a bigger benefit to Wilkes-Barre than last year’s results.
“The more you play a team, the more you understand where they’re at. We haven’t played them a lot,” said Hynes, whose team went 1-2-0-1 against the Bruins this year. “Going into the series you really have to understand what the strengths of that particular team are.
“Last year we had a lot of respect for Providence, but early in that series they took it to us on the power play, they took it to us on the forecheck.”
Another lesson learned from last year is to have a short memory when it comes to the first round.
“Maybe we didn’t do a good enough job last year of ending [the Binghamton] series and then really understanding the differences in Providence,” Hynes stated. “It’s putting the Binghamton series to bed quickly, taking the lessons from that. But also now really trying to reinvest mentally into Providence’s strengths and the things we need to do against those guys.”
A DEPTH OF KNOWLEDGE
In last year’s postseason, Hynes used several players who were relative newcomers to the team.
• Reid McNeill appeared in just three regular season games with the Penguins before making the jump to playoff hockey.
• Christiian Minella suited up for just eight regular season contests, then made his AHL playoff debut during the Providence series.
• Dominik Uher appeared in just two of the Pens first nine playoff games last year before pulling on his sweater for Game Seven in Providence.
• And Peter Merth didn’t dress for a single regular season contest with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the 2012-13 campaign, but jumped right into Game Four of the Bruins series.
This year, Hynes has used three players on tryout contracts during the playoffs – goaltender Matt Murray and forwards Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust.
He thinks the availability of these newcomers can be a great benefit as the playoffs stretch on.
“As this continues to move forward and series continue to go on and games get a lot tighter and harder, eventually you want to be able to make decisions that you think give yourself the best chance to win,” he said. “We like some of the younger guys we have in on ATOs and have really helped us, and we still have a veteran scratch every night that clearly can be in the lineup.”
SEEDS OF DOUBT
The Manchester Monarchs finished the regular season with a stellar 105 points, while the Springfield Falcons hit the century mark as well.
Neither team made it out of the first round of the playoffs.
Add the Penguins semi-upset of the Senators in the opening round (Binghamton had just four more points than Wilkes-Barre/Scranton), and the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference find themselves enjoying early summer breaks.
“I think it’s odd a little bit that all three of the top seeds have been knocked out,” said Hynes, whose team now holds home ice advantage despite being the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. “But I think it also…shows you the depth of the conference. It didn’t matter who got in, it was the fact that if you could get in it was an extremely competitive field.”
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