Tag Archives: Chris Kunitz

Pens 3 Islanders 1

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Game Recap

This seemed like a fairly straightforward win for the Pens.  You improve your playoff position by taking care of the teams you’re supposed to beat.  Especially at home, and that’s exactly what the Pens did here.  I have a few thoughts, though:

  • Kunitz put in a pair of goals.  He hasn’t been as productive this year as most people had hoped.  Maybe this will be a turning point for him.
  • Fleury had a huge game with 37 saves on the day.  He’s not very consistent this year, but when he’s on he’s almost a guaranteed win for the Pens.
  • Tyler Kennedy had a fight about 10 minutes into the game.  I’m not one for fighting in hockey, but this one really seemed to set the tempo for the game.  TK’s always been the spark for the Pens, and he did it again tonight.
  • The Islanders out-shot the Pens by 10, but I think the Pens definitely out-played them.  It was one of those games where the Islanders were racking up the shots, but not getting too many quality looks.
  • At the moment, the only race that really matters is the race between the Pens and the Devils for the Atlantic Division title.  Jersey has a 1 point advantage with two games in hand.  It’s a decent lead, but not insurmountable if the Pens start playing well after the Olympic break.

The Rangers are up next on Friday night.  They got out to a decent start, but have struggled a lot as of late.  I don’t see any reason the Pens can’t get a couple of more points out of that one.

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Pens Catch-Up

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Pens 3 Panthers 2 (SO)

Pens 1 Devils 4

Pens 6 Les Habitants (Canadiens) 1

I apologize for the delayed post here.  It’s been a long week around here, and I’m way too psyched about college basketball starting.  Anyway, the Pens had a tough pair of games over the weekend, and then turned around and got a laugher against the Canadiens tonight.  I’ll take 2 out of 3 in any stretch.  That will absolutely get you to the playoffs.

The weekend started out a bit rough with a tough win against Florida.  We went into the third period down 2-0, and came back to tie it, and eventually win in a shootout.  I don’t think there’s anybody who thinks we need overtime to beat the Panthers.  They had a decent year last year, but they seem to be going right back to the basement this season.  However, they play a real tight trap defense, and it worked to perfection.  That’s the variable in sports.  If you can out-scheme your opponent, you can overcome a talent gap.  I like the fact that we battled and came back in the third period.  That shows a team with a lot of confidence.  A lot of the mistakes we were making were just poor passes.  We stopped that, and good things happened.  What do you know?

New Jersey came out and gave us more of the same trap game, except they were better at it.  Much better.  We really struggled to get an offense set up, and consequently  only scored one goal.  The mistake was made early.  We let them score in the first 10 minutes, and New Jersey will just choke you when they score first.  That’s exactly what happened.  The first goal is extremely important with the Devils.  We did get some shots, especially in the third period, but Brodeur came up big with 33 saves.  When a goalie of his caliber is hot, there’s not much you can do.  I would have like to see some variation with how we attacked the press.  But, in reality with the way the Devils were playing, I don’t think much of anything would have helped.  At least after those two games, we know what the achilles heel of this team is.

Against Montreal tonight, we finally got a break from the press, and took full advantage of it.  To the tune of 37 shots.  Phew.  The Canadiens had 24, by the way.  Talk about tilted ice.  The story of the game was that Crosby got a hat trick.  Nice to see.  Maybe that will spark a scoring streak for him.  I hate seeing Ovechkin run away with the scoring title (even though it’s only because he’s a one man team out there).  Chris Kunitz also snapped his goal drought, which was nice to see.  The best news, though?  We were 2 for 5 on the power play.  I really want to see us play well without Gonchar.  Just because I have a sneaking suspicion that he won’t be around next year.

You’ve gatta love the continued success of this team.  But with the condensed season, and most of the roster in the Olympics, you have to wonder if they can keep this up through the entire season.  I almost want to tell them to pace themselves.  It’s only October yet.  Oh, well.  Columbus is on Friday.  Lets keep this gravy train rolling!

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Pens 3 Hurricanes 2 (SO)

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Game Recap

Another pretty game capped off with a shootout goal by Mr. Chris Kunitz as seen above (side note: the guy right above Chris’ head in the team Canada jersey…is he trying to put a hex on Kunitz?  Seriously?  Besides being something I might do when I was 8, you fail at witchcraft, sir.).  Maybe that will take Chris out of his scoring slump (despite the best efforts of Mr. Voodoo in the stands).  When interviewed after the game, Mike Rupp said “we still have some things to work on”.  It’s hard to agree with that coming from the mouth of a guy with a 6-1 record, but I love the attitude (even if he IS just saying the right things), and I have a feeling I know what he means.  Lets go through the good and bad from this game, and the season as a whole.

We dominated the time of possession.  Aside from a bit in the 3rd, and maybe the first 5 minutes, the ice was definitely tilted our way.  I love that.  I’m a big puck possession guy.  I think hockey’s a weird game where weird things happen, and the more you control the puck, the more those weird things will go in your favor.  This seems to be a great trend through the season.  We’re passing extremely well, and with a few exceptions not turning the puck over a tremendous amount.  Everybody’s pinching the boards, and everybody’s able to handle the puck.  That helps a lot.

Which leads very well into the next bright spot: the balanced play of this team.  We’re a team dominated by its superstars, but everyone’s been getting into the scoring column as of late.  That means that other teams are taking a risk by double teaming a superstar, and it makes us even more dangerous.  You saw this again against Carolina with Mike Rupp scoring.  Every line is dangerous.  Every player can score the puck.  That makes for a really dangerous team.

Not only are we dangerous scoring-wise.  We’re pretty dangerous physically, too.  We’ve been hitting guys a lot more this year, and you saw it no more so than in the Philly game.  We racked up 32 hits against Carolina, and that’s been pretty low.  I’m not a fan of the fighting and the outright dangerous headhunting in hockey, but you have to be physical to win.  And we are.

Now, on to some negatives, unfortunately.  Carolina put up a trap at the blue line.  Hockey strategy says you dump and chase in that situation (because the defender has his back to the corner, you can throw the puck down there and beat him).  We decided more often than not to try to stick handle through the trap.  Now, granted, we have some of the best stick handlers on the planet right now, but why not take what the defense gives you?  Doing it the hard way because it works some of the time is dumb.  It turned into some giveaways yesterday, and if we don’t wise up, we’ll be seeing a lot more traps.

The penalty minutes have started to dry up (finally).  We only had 6 of them last night.  It’s still something to watch for, but it’s definitely becoming less of a problem.  Now, I don’t expect under 10 every game, but it’s nice to see that every once and a while.  Bravo and keep up the good work, Pens.

Unfortunately, we’re still not making other teams pay for their penalties.  We haven’t had a power play goal since Saturday and we’re 5 for 28 on the season (17.8%).  That’s not unreasonable, especially considering the penalty kill has an 83.3% kill rate (generally, if the two numbers add up to more than 100% you’re ahead of the game).  But it can be higher for a team of this caliber.  And the dry spell we’re in is a bit worrisome.

I’ve always heard that learers sandwich criticism in between compliments.  So I’ll end with another nicety.  Fleury is playing spectacular.  He’s 6-0 with a .917 save rate.  That’s insane.  And another reason for our hot start.  If he keeps that up, we’re going to have another really good shot at the cup.

I don’t expect that hot start to continue.  It has to end at some point.  This is too long of a season.  But, you have to love how the team looks right now, warts (as small as they are) and all.  I’m excited to continue watching them for the next few months (and probably deep into the summer if they don’t tail off too much).

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