image from espn.com
This one was a lot like the Pitt/Georgetown game last night. Both featured teams from Pittsburgh and DC that are at the pinnacle of their sport. Both games spent about 2/3rds of the contest in a tight battle being played at a very high level. Both games saw the Pittsburgh team loose focus for a minute and not be able to come back. The Pens and Caps were tied 3-3 after 2 periods, but the Capitals put in two goals at the beginning of the 3rd, and played defense until the horn blew. Both teams played a fantastic games overall. It’s just something you have to be thankful you got to witness, and then move on. A lot was being made of this game because of the budding rivalry and whatnot. I just didn’t see it. It’s just another regular season game. Yeah, it stinks to lose to the Caps. It stinks to lose to anyone. But this game was never the Pens goal. That has always been to give some company to those Championship banners in the rafters (I think Ovechkin is pointing at them in that picture above. I guess he doesn’t quite know what they are yet), and this game had little impact on that goal.
If you really cared about the star matchup, however, you weren’t disappointed. Ovie had a pair of goals. Crosby had one for himself, and Malkin had 3 assists. Once again, I’m not sold on whole points race thing. Yeah, I’m sure the guys are competitive about it and want to win, but once again it has nothing to do with the ultimate goal. I’m sure Ovechkin would trade his scoring title last year for Sid’s Stanley Cup ring in a heartbeat. But I guess it’s still a little fun to root for your guy in the good vs. evil battle.
Overall, I think we played well. I’d even venture to say that we out-played the Caps for most of the game. The difference is the 5 minutes in the third period where we blinked. That’s all. You can’t let up for a second against a good team like the Capitals, and we made that mistake. It happens. Next up is the Flyers on Sunday. Yet another rivalry game. They’re always fun. But, still relatively meaningless in the regular season. So we’ll see. Philly’s really been turning their season around lately. I’d love to stomp on their progress a bit.
image from espn.com
Man, what a weird hockey game. I mean, this had a little bit of everything in it. A penalty shot (seen above), a hit that will most likely get a suspension, a hat trick, a rare goalie penalty, and a blown lead and recovery just to name a few. I mean, what more could you ask for? Geez.
First and foremost, this was a game to get some monkeys off of the Penguins back. Malkin broke his scoreless streak with a freak goal in Vancouver. I was kind of hoping that seeing the puck go into the net would maybe start something for him, and boy did it. He came out and scored a hat trick tonight. More than that, he scored his usual type of goals: sniping on the power play. It was a great sign. Speaking of the power play, that also kicked itself out of a funk tonight going 4 for 7 on the night. That was probably the best sight.
We did give up a big lead, however. We stockpiled a 4-1 lead in the second period, and somehow let it slip back to a tie game in the third. I’m not sure exactly what happened. The Islanders definitely turned up the intensity, and we couldn’t match it. But we did eventually hit our stride with Malkin’s second goal and the game was over from there. That’s a little bit worrisome, but with the backup in net (Fleury has a broken finger), it’s understandable.
The big news after the game is the hit on Pascal Dupuis. I haven’t been able to find a video of it, but the basic gist of it is this: Dupuis was behind the net protecting the puck and waiting to make a pass. Andy Sutton winds up and hits him as hard as he can. Dupuis’ face slams into the corner of the boards and he’s bleeding pretty hard and seeing birdies for a while. It’s a boarding penalty that was especially bad because it was unnecessarily hard. It’s happened before, and the standard punishment has been 2 games. However, I thought for sure Gonchar would be suspended for his hit against the Wild and was not, so you just never know with the NHL. You can see a replay of the hit in the game recap I link to up top and make your own decision.
That’s about it. Crazy game, but maybe it can be a springboard towards getting things on the right track. If we can get the power play and Malkin working again, we’ll be a very dangerous team with or without Fleury.
image from espn.com
Pens 3 Flames 1
Pens 3 Oilers 2
Pens 2 Canucks 6
Well, there’s only one way to describe this swing through western Canada: bi-polar. The Pens entered the three games coming off a ‘taking care of business’ win in Toronto and an awful game in Minnesota. Fleury continued his up and down play by following up one of his worst games against the Wild with one of his best against Calgary. He played well enough to win in Edmonton, and was out in Vancouver (until it got out of hand). But I just don’t understand where these lapses are coming from. Some people seem to think it may be because he’s thinking too much about the next time he’ll be in Vancouver. Others seem to think that he’s lost motivation after winning a cup. I have no idea, but something is going on between his ears that’s taking away his consistency, and I’d love to know what it is.
Calgary was a classic game where Fleury stole it for us. He faced 38 shots and stopped 37 of them. The ice was heavily slanted in the Flames favor all night (we only got 27 shots ourselves). We just continued the bad play from St. Paul. I have no idea why. The good news from this game is that the power play woke up a bit. We actually went 1 for 5 in this game as opposed to 0 for 6 in Minnesota. I know, I know. Baby steps. The only other notable thing in this game was how Sid continued his hot streak, putting in yet another goal. Maybe he was just trying to impress the young lady in the crowd seen above. Can we put her on the payroll?
We started out the game in Edmonton the same flat way as Calgary and Minnesota. I think with the late night (stupid west coast games starting at 9:30) and the Pens down 2-0, a lot of Pittsburgh fans turned the game off. It could have been much worse if Edmonton wasn’t such a bad team themselves. You know how pitiful this game was? There was 7 total shots by both teams in the first period (4 for Edmonton and 3 for the Pens). I didn’t realize that that was possible. I mean, with all the talent on our roster we should have one guy with 7 shots in a period. Wow. It wasn’t until Tyler Kennedy scored a few minutes into the 3rd period that we woke up. The Pens scored 3 times in 7 minutes and came back to win, shoving it in the face of all those whose bedtime is 11:30 or so.
I was kind of hopeful that the momentum from the Oilers game would carry over into the Vancouver game, but unfortunately we ran into a brick wall. That brick wall being our backup goaltender, John Curry. Now, to be fair, Curry is a recent call up from the Baby Pens, and he’s only played in 3 career NHL games. But, he just played awful. Really really awful. He let in 5 goals in 14 shots, and some of them were such bunnies that he would have benched even if he were still in Wilkes Barre. It was so bad that it didn’t really matter how well the position players played, we just weren’t going to win that game. Period. The one bright spot is that Evgeni Malkin broke his streak without a goal. He didn’t try to. The puck just kind of bounced off his skate after a bad pass. But I’m sure he’ll take it. It goes to show what happens when you go to the net. I’m just a little disappointed that he has to wait until Tuesday to try to build on that.
Overall, it was a miserable trip. We were out-played for most of it. We got some good and some bad goaltending. The power play is still a mess, though we did try some new line combinations. But there were some bright spots: Malkin broke his scoreless streak…..kinda. Sid found some new people to give restraining orders to. Fleury did have a good game in Calgary. So, when all is said and done, getting 4 of 6 points out of this swing is not too bad. It could have been much worse. The Islanders are in town on Tuesday. We’re not in bad shape in the conference standings, but it would be nice to get some things back working again against a bad team if we could.
image from espn.com
Well, I had a bad feeling about this game, and it was well grounded, but not the way I expected. I thought that the Wild had some great defensive specialists still on the team despite a change in philosophy. Well, the Wild didn’t play a good defensive game at all. I guess the game plan made much more of a difference than I thought. But, that’s what you get from a western conference team I don’t see very often. We certainly had our chances, but Nik Backstrom came up huge for the Wild tonight. Any time you out-shoot a team by 14 and still lose, you have to tip your cap to the opposing goalie.
But more specifically than not just cashing in on chances, the power play was the biggest reason we lost today. We went 0-6. 0. For. 6. That’s just inexcusable. Now, the power play is a well documented problem this year, and everyone seems to be chipping in their ideas as to how to fix it. That’s why I’ve been keeping a little mum with suggestions. But something has to change. I haven’t noticed any kind of mix-ups to try to fix this problem, and it’s beginning to be a gaping achilles heel. The only other major complaint I have from this game in Gonchar’s major penalty in the third period. Cal Clutterbuck gave him a nasty hit that he didn’t like. So, Sarge took a run at him and of course got caught for a major penalty and possibly a suspension for a hit to the head. Now, I’m aware of the hockey code, but that’s just dumb. He really hurt his team doing that. Luckily, the Wild couldn’t put it in the net on the ensuing 5 minute penalty, but it was still 5 minutes in the third period of a one goal hockey game that we weren’t able to really attack. Not to mention that a suspension is probably forthcoming which will hurt us even more. I know you can’t let stuff like that go or else it will keep happening to you, however, you have to pick your spots better. One last downer is that Malkin continues to disappear (he’s on a huge scoring drought if you’ve been living under a rock), but I’m not too worried. He’s always been hot and cold. He’ll be back eventually. Hopefully it’s in time for the playoffs.
Overall, it wasn’t a great result, but I liked the effort. We got a decent amount of pucks on net. We probably deserved the W. We just got some bad breaks, and the power play deserted us. That happens. Malkin will get better. That I’m sure of. The power play has no reason to be playing as bad as it is. I’d like to see some experimentation just for the sake of trying, but I haven’t the first clue of what to try. Just a bad day in general. It happens. But there was one bright spot. At least I could smile picturing how the Wild looked minty fresh in their alternate jerseys.
image from idiomsbykids.com
So, a big apology to all yinz guys aht there n’at. Due to some technical problems over here, I haven’t been able to update in quite a few days. So I’m just going to put all the Pirates and Pens stuff I missed in one big gigantic post to catch up again.
The Buccos won 3 out of 4 down in Washington. Our starting pitching looked really good. Our bullpen…..not so much. Fortunately, the Nats bullpen was worse. They currently have the highest combined ERA in the history of major league baseball. Not the highest ERA so far this year. Not the highest ERA in the past 10 years. The highest ERA in the HISTORY of the game. Ouch. So that got us the 5-2 record that I was looking for in the Colorado/Washington series. It also put us 2 games under .500. Not too shabby. We then proceeded to go to Chicago and loose all that momentum. We were shut out for two straight games. We almost got swept, but a rare 2-run inning against Bobby Jenks in the top of the 9th gave us a win in game 3. We’re sticking around in the windy city for another series against the Cubs. Lets hope that momentum carries over.
The Pens have been playing out of their minds lately. And by Pens, I mean Geno Malkin. The guy has 5 goals in the past 2 days. It’s incredible. This is why the Pens are so dangerous. We always have someone stepping up. Be it Sid, Malkin, Staal, Fleury, or someone else. One superstar does not have to shoulder the burden. Plus, we get some random scoring from the role players to put us over the top. Another developing trend is 3rd period scoring. We’ve put 6 3rd period goals in against Carolina in the past two games. I know two of them are empty netters, but that’s definitely showing that the Pens depth is becoming an issue for Carolina. They’re getting worn down at the end of games. They play a good style to neutralize us. They forecheck extremely well, they’re physical on the boards, and they’re extremely quick. We’re not getting quite the puck possession advantage we did in the first two series (though we still definitely have an advantage). However, that’s a high bar to keep up with. As I said before the series: Carolina will go as Cam Ward goes. And he’s not going very well right now.
So that about raps it up for now. I guess the next post will be Tuesday night after the Pens game. See yinz then.