Sorry for the absence of posts lately, but I’ve been a little preoccupied with the snow the past few days. If you aren’t in town and don’t have access to a news source, Pittsburgh looks roughly like the image above right now. It sucks. But, enough with the snow. I’m sick of talking about it already. Lets get into the nice diversion from real life that is the sports world.
The Pens went on a two game skid over the past few days losing back-to-back games to Montreal and Washington. The 5-3 loss to the Canadiens looks really easy to diagnose when you look at the stat sheet. We were in the penalty box for literally half the game (29 penalty minutes for the Pens). The reality, however, is a little different. The Habs only scored 1 goal on the power play, going 1 for 7. The real reason the Pens lost this game was because Fleury had a bad night. It happens. He let in some softies and was even lifted from the game after giving up 4 goals. It’s not something to be overly concerned about, though. The second game was just weird. The Pens jumped out to a 4-1 lead halfway through the game, and still led 4-2 at the second intermission. It was at that point that they just died. The Caps got a slew of chances in the third period, cashed in on a couple of them, and won in overtime. It really makes you shake your head. I’ve got two theories on why this happened. The first is that the Caps are a very good team offensively, and they got a fire lit under them for the third period. That’s a combo that would be hard for anyone to stop. The second theory is that the Pens were tired. The Montreal game was the night before (the Caps game was at noon). To get to Washington in the snow, they had to fly to Trenton, NJ and bus it. They arrived very late after mostly sleeping on the bus. I think dying at the end of an emotional game like that given their situation is totally understandable. I may be in the minority, but I’m willing to brush this one off a little bit. Plus, if you want to look at the glass half full, it was a tremendously entertaining hockey game that was nationally televised and hopefully brought in some new fans.
As poorly as the Pens have played over the past few days, the Panthers have been going in completely the opposite direction. Against Seton Hall, the Pitt regained its shot, shooting 51.7% from the field. After disappearing in Morgantown, Gil Brown dropped 23 points and Brad Wannamaker had 13. Ashton Gibbs broke out of his slump a little bit and saw the ball go through the net at least while going 3 for 7 on the day. Best of all, Pitt out-rebounded the Pirates 36-27 and only allowed 8 offensive boards. I’m drawing a line in the sand and saying that Pitt’s goal should be to limit opponents to less than 10 offensive boards per game. It’s good that they met it for this game. Overall, the 83-58 drubbing exorcised a lot of demons even though it was against a less than stellar defense. That trend continued against Robert Morris on Monday where the Panthers notched a 77-53 win. It was very close for the first half as the Colonials shot 48% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. They were challenged shots as well, which is why I wasn’t really worried. Sure enough, RMU cooled off a lot in the second half, and Pitt was able to win going away. The Panthers had a 39-26 advantage on the boards (with only 9 offensive boards for RMU, so they still pass the test), but they only held a 16-14 edge at the half. That was a bit troubling. RMU really shot themselves in the foot in this one with their style of play. They were very aggressive defensively, and very physical with the rebounds, and that led to a lot of fouls. Two of their starters were in foul trouble by halftime. It really handcuffed what they could do. So, in general, it looks like the Panthers are starting to heat up again with a rematch against WVU coming up on Friday. I guess all it took was half empty gyms because of a snow storm. STAGE FRIGHT! That’s their problem! But, seriously, it’s good to see the shots start to fall again. I’m still just a little nervous for the long term health of the program that it relies so much on streaky shooting this year.
So that’s pretty much what you missed (besides that silly ‘Super Bowl’ thing. How bout’ that Saint defense, by the way?). I hope everyone out there made it through the storm in good shape (you’ve at least got power if you’re reading this. That’s a start). I’ll be back tomorrow night for a Pens recap. I promise.