image from espn.com
Pens 3 Rangers 2
Pens 4 Islanders 3 (SO)
Well, the Pens played back to back games on Friday and Saturday. Since I didn’t get a chance to put up a post on the Friday game, I’ll knock them both out right now. The NHL schedule is a bit condensed this year because of the Olympics, so this may not be the last time I do this.
Game one started out with a bang: the raising of the Stanley Cup Championship banner. The Pens jumped out to a quick lead behind Geno before the Rangers tied it up. Halfway through the game, we got a couple of quick strikes and held the Rangers off from there. That makes 6 straight losses in the Burgh for the blueshirts. We came out really physical as you can tell by the hits chart, and, unfortunately, the penalty minutes. The difference in penalty minutes also contributed to the shot differential. When it was even strength, the Pens had a slight advantage. Not much, though. I always make a rough estimate of puck possession time, and in my eyes it was pretty even. The most amazing stat for the Penguins? Just five turnovers. That bodes well for the rest of the season.
Out on the Island, it was a little bit different story. We again took the first goal, but gave the lead back. This time John Taveras, the first overall pick in last years draft, put in the tiebreaker. The Pens come back from a one goal deficit in the 3rd period, and won it in a shootout (behind a pretty move by Crosby no less). We looked much better in this one, however. We really controlled the puck a lot more than the first game, and were dominating the time of possession. Penalties were a huge problem, though. I hope that’s not a developing trend.
You have to love the fast start out of the gates, but these weren’t a pair of exceptional hockey teams. I want to see us against a Philly or a Boston or a Washington before I make any broad statements. But there are some developing trends: the penalties have to come down a bit. We’re taking excellent care of the puck. The more aggressive offense is still working as long as Fleury can continue to make saves. Phoenix comes in on Wednesday, immediately followed by our first real test against the Flyers on Thursday.
image from espn.com
The Pens really flexed their muscle in this one. The Islanders are definitely an inferior team, but with all the players we were resting I’m not sure anyone expected a 5 goal victory. We’ve really looked bad in 3rd periods the past few games. That was not the case at all in this one. Maybe that was because we’re just getting tired, and we played much deeper into the bench this game. If it was just a fatigue issue, maybe a light game like this will be good for us. I think I was more interested in watching Garon then the actual outcome to be honest. He plays the position so much differently than Fleury. He’s doesn’t have the athletic ability of Fleury and he’s not nearly as fast moving laterally (though that’s true of most NHL goalies), but he’s all fundamentals. Garon’s much more of a butterfly goalie than Fleury. He just follows the puck, squares the shooter, and doesn’t give up too much of the net. He does give up some rebounds, however. I think he’s capable of both playing and giving up a huge game. But since he’s so much different to play with, it’s definitely a good thing that the team got a game to get more acclimated to the contrasting styles. Malkin had two assists keeping him tops in the point race. I’m not really into individual awards, but if it’s there for the taking, I hope Malkin finishes it off.
Good win. After about one billion quality chances, we finally put one in the back of the net. You got the feeling that the Islanders were just dodging bullets and eventually we would score, and that turned out to be correct. As I stated before, I love the puck possession game. I think the system we’re playing now really compliments the talent we currently have on the roster. But, as I said before, the challenge will be maintaining the level of intensity we’re currently displaying.
Here’s the game update if you’re curious.
I’ll admit I didn’t watch it. All I could do was refresh a live blog at work a few times. So I’m not going to pretend like I know exactly what happened. (On a side note, who’s idea was it to have a weekday game at 2pm? Even if this is President’s Day, this isn’t baseball where a matinee under natural sunlight is something some fans enjoy. This is in an arena. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, it’s always artificial lighting. All you’re doing is chasing away the 2 fans that actually pay attention to Islander hockey.) Anyway, from what I can tell we didn’t win the battles in front of the nets, we blew some scoring opportunities, and presto, we find ourselves in overtime against a team a good team would consider a breather. I’m not going to make any comment on Bylsma, though. Poor guy’s been on the job for 2 days. I’ll let him at least have a week first. Shootouts are coin flips, and we lost this time. Could have used that point, though.