Brad Thiessen and Jeff Zatkoff have something in common other than the fact of playing goal for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins: neither is any good at taking credit.
The goaltending tandem won the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award over the weekend for allowing a league-low 178 goals during the 76-game regular season.
For Thiessen, it’s the second time in the last three years that he’s been a part of a goaltending duo earn the honor. In Zatkoff’s case, the award comes along with him leading the AHL with a 1.93 goals against average this season.
But if you ask Thiessen and Zatkoff their thoughts about winning the award, they’ll give the credit to their teammates.
“It’s nice that as goalies we get the recognition for it, but it’s more of a team thing,” Thiessen said. “As a team, we’ve all bought into playing defense and it’s something that (head coach John) Hynes and (assistant coach Alain) Nasreddine preach a lot.”
“It’s more of a team stat than anything – our forwards and defensemen committed to defense,” he said. “It’s a combination of the least amount of shots and not giving up a lot of chances. Anytime you do that you’re not going to give up a lot of goals.
“Brad and I are the beneficiaries, but it’s really a team defense award.”
One that the Penguins have claimed twice in the last three years – the last time for the 2010-2011 season when Hynes took over as head coach. That season, Thiessen and John Curry teamed up to allow a league-low 183 goals over the 80-game regular season.
Overall, Penguin goaltenders have won the award three times in franchise history – the first in 2005-06 by Dany Sabourin.
Like his goaltenders, Hynes is also quick to give credit for the award to the entire team. Still, he also recognizes just how well his goaltenders performed this season and how integral they were to the team defense concept.
“It’s a tribute to them – having a tandem that can give you a chance to win every night,” Hynes said. “It was a pretty competitive situation throughout the year for starts, and it comes down to having two guys that hold up their end of the bargain.”
The Penguins also led the AHL by allowing an average of just 2.34 goals per game, had the top penalty kill with an 87.2 percent success rate, and were tied for first in shots allowed per game with 25.7.
Add it all up, and the Penguins clearly had the best defense in the AHL this season.
“Anytime you have those numbers it’s a full team commitment,” Hynes said. “It’s the five guys that are on the ice – or the four penalty killers. It comes through your goaltenders and the defense corps and forwards are big parts of it.”
- The Penguins held their first of three practices this week at Coal Street before they kick of the first round playoff series this Saturday in Binghamton. For newcomer Derek Nesbitt, who has only played in one game since being acquired from Peoria at the trade deadline, a chance to practice daily and then play nightly with his new team has him excited. “It’s been a bit of a drought for me not having played many games over the last few weeks,” he said. “A good week of practice, watch some video and then play. I’m excited.”
- Hynes said this season’s veterans give the team a different feel heading into the postseason. “This time of year it really becomes their room. Joe (Mormina) has been an excellent captain and he’s been through the wars, along with some of our other veterans who have had Calder Cup experience in other places,” Hynes said. “There’s a bit of a different flavor and we’re going to rely on those guys quite a bit.”
- The Penguins will have the day off today and then resume practicing at Coal Street on Thursday and Friday.
- Wilkes-Barre/Scranton CEO Jeff Barrett donned a chef’s hat and grilled steaks for the players in front of Coal Street after Tuesday’s practice. The Barrett cookout has become a yearly tradition for the team at the start of every postseason.
- The Penguins will play an intra-squad scrimmage at 7 p.m. Thursday at Coal Street.