The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins completed the 2010-11 regular season with the best record in the American Hockey League.
A mix of great coaching, sticking to systems, playing with grit and heart, and overcoming the odds have led the Baby Pens to what would be their most successful season in franchise history.
Their 19th ranked power play is something that will be relied on to improve, but with the 8th ranked penalty kill league-wide, the Pens are primed to shut down the Ad's powerful man advantage.
A 58-21-0-1 mark is something to boast, as their opponents for this first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs are their new bonafide rivals.
And just happen to be the respective farm team of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Norfolk finished fourth place in the East Division, with a 39-26-9-6 record. Their powerplay is one of the best in the league, ranking 9th out of all 30 teams.
The Admirals play almost a similar brand that the Penguins do in terms of forechecking and toughness.
But their reliance on high-end forwards and not enough consistency on defense will be their downfall.
Jon Cooper is the head coach of the Norfolk Admirals.
We had to Wikipedia that, no bullshit.
Pooper has a large track record in terms of US junior silver medals, and Robertson Cups.
His forte over the years has been teaching the young prospects how to develop with specific practices and attention to detail.
This is the big leagues, bub. Pay attention to Zach Sill running your 3rd round draft pick through the hot-dog stand on the lower concourse.
John Hynes is the man behind all of the WB/S success you have experienced while logging onto the Wilkes-Blog this year.
He is a strict, never give up-type mentality coach with a pitbull like ferociousness.
Hynes, in what is just his first head professional coaching experience won the 2011 Pieri Memorial Award (AHL Coach of the Year).
His ability to maintain a winning record and attitude at the rink while losing his top three scoring options in Dustin Jeffrey, Eric Tangradi, and Nick Johnson is what is impressive.
He teaches and preaches the same identical system that Pittsburgh brings — "grind bitches down".
Also, don't forget that former Penguin D-man banger Alain Nasreddine rides shotgun to Hynes as the assistant coach.
His epic last-second goal against the Canadiens in '06-07 should be enough to take out the Admirals alone.
Headlining this group of Norfolk's forwards is former WB/S Penguin, Marc-Antoine Pouliot.
This gap-toothed clown finished 6th in the entire league in individual scoring, with 72 points (25g, 47a) in 69 games.
Pouliot, once drafted in the first round by Edmonton, was once projected to become a legitimate NHL top 6-forwards.
Well, he's one of those guys who just isn't good enough for "The Show", so he plays in the minor leagues and tears it up.
They also have "Linda" Blair Jones, another munson from Saskatoon who can't even take a regular shift in the NHL.
But he's a point-per-game scorer this season again in the minors, and he especially likes scoring on the Penguins in particular:
7 points (4+3) in 7 games.
The rest of their roster is mostly made up of no-talent hack goons who enjoy throwing cheap shots, taking out knees — all that good stuff.
But more about them later…
"The Ticket" Brett Sterling was the big free-agent signing this past off-season that got everybody believing.
Well, he sniped 27 goals for Wilkes and even got called up to the NHL where he potted 3 G's in 7 games.
This is the first line winger that will be relied on at even-strength and on power plays to bring the offense every night.
Known as a strong playoff performer, there is no reason why Sterling shouldn't be able to carry the boys by himself.
The second big name to focus on out of the group up front is team captain Ryan Craig.
Craig was brought in the off-season as well from this very Norfolk squad, and he has had a grade-A campaign thus far himself.
Craig exemplifies everything that Wilkes-Barre/Scranton hockey is about. He bangs bodies, executes the system flawlessly, and can both score and fight on any night.
He leads both on and off the ice, and plays both on the power play and penalty kill.
Pretty much he's going to kill somebody in this series.
Keven Veilleux is a huge wildcard in this series. BeastMode is going to be a star that no one fucks with in Pittsburgh one day.
A future possible 30-goal scorer, he also enjoys fighting. He's the player to watch that could turn the tide of the whole series.
Tim Wallace is a goal-scoring threat with a mean streak that will see first line minutes regularly.
Grinders Geoff Walker and Joe Vitale have the potential to out-hit and out-work their opposing match-ups.
Rookie prospects Bryan Lerg, Ben Street and Nick Petersen have been scoring at a high pace as of late, and look to continue that into their first ever AHL playoff series.
The two veteran defenseman that were brought in during free agency have solidified themselves as the backbone of this team.
Andrew Hutchinson and Corey Potter are the two leaders of the back pack that can clear their zone, get the job done and move the puck up the ice.
Both of them man points on the power play, and Potter as of late has come alive as a pure offensive demon back there.
Second-year pros Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Strait are listed as second pairing.
These two have developed some uncanny chemistry with each other and have been matching up against the other teams top lines for two years now.
Strait is a Scuderi-type player who is shutdown city, and loves using his pokecheck to do so.
Bortuzzo is a big, strong 2-way skater who can chip in with assists and drop the gloves at any time.
The third bottom pairing will be made up of a group of Steve Wagner, Carl Sneep and Joey Mormina.
Top prospect Simon Despres can join the team, but his QMJHL juniors team is in the midst of a playoff series themselves.
He can head to Wilkes-Barre when the Saint John Sea Dogs are eliminated.
Norfolk's D-corps is a mixture of vets, prospects, and local bums.
They have Vladimir Mihalik, a 6'8" monster who isn't very tough for his size.
Mike Verance is a pylon who is abused nightly, and Radko Gudas is one of the dirtiest players in the league.
Their number one defenseman is 7th-year pro Troy Milam.
The Penguins don't have an edge in goaltending, they have the goalie.
Brad Thiessen is the best goalie in the entire league, as evidenced by his Goaltender of the Year award.
.922 save %
His numbers speak for themselves.
Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus are the two goaltenders who oppose the Penguins.
Tokarski is Tampa Bay's number one prospect on the farm, but as a 22-year-old he could be considered shaky at best.
We expect Janus to get the first start in net.
Edge: Anus' Cool Runnings helmet.
The bottom line is that no team can stop WB/S' winning attitude and work ethic right now. You just can't.
Sterling, Craig, Hutchinson, Potter, Thiessen. Here are your Calder Cup favorites.
Prediction: Pens in 5.
See for yourself how the rivalry started this season