image from espn.com
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.
image from espn.com
Well, at least we scored a goal this time. That’s about the only thing you can say at this point. The power play was still anemic. We’re getting shots and we’re being physical enough, but there’s still just something missing here. We definitely miss the slew of player that are out right now, and that’s obviously what the major problem is, but let me see if I can pin point a little more what ails this team.
The first thing that stuck out was how many miscommunications and bad plays there were. I saw a number of instances where a player wasn’t looking for a pass, or didn’t get into a spot where he could receive a pass. It just seems like this team isn’t on the same page….which is completely understandable at this point. I’m not sure how you fix it. I think a lot of the new guys look a little wide-eyed at this point. Maybe in another couple of games they’ll settle in. They play the same system with the Baby Pens as they do with the Pittsburgh team, so they should know what their role is. I don’t know.
The other thing I noticed is that we really miss our energy guys: Talbot and Kennedy. Either of them was always ready to come in and provide a spark of energy to the team. When we get down by a goal or two, I keep waiting for that energy line to come out and at least apply some pressure and spark a comeback, and it doesn’t happen. We get down a lot, and have no one that can pick us back up.
Finally, we’re getting some bad breaks right now. Not just with injuries, but with physics. See that picture above? That’s not the one goal we scored. Crosby ended up hitting the post on that shot. If that’s not a metaphor of our current state of affairs, I don’t know what is.
I guess I just have to be patient for the time being. We are literally missing half of the defensemen that started the season. I don’t know how I could possibly expect a team to keep winning while they’re up against that. But it is getting kind of frustrating. Oh, well. Talbot and Malkin skated today. We should start getting some guys back very soon. That will be a very welcomed sight.
image from espn.com
Oh, man. Remember when I said “I almost wish they would pace themselves a little more” a few posts ago? Well, I must be some kind of psychic or something. We played fairly well for the first half of this game, and then totally ran out of gas. Now, I want to give the Kings a lot of credit for this game. They’re much better than any Los Angeles team I’ve seen since some guy named Wayne was skating around. They played fantastic defense. They crowded the front of the net and got some blue-collar goals. That’s what you have to do to win consistently in the NHL. They played fantastic. But make no mistake about it, we were tired at the end of this one and we surrendered the win.
I think an underrated reason that the Kings won this game was faceoffs. They had the advantage 35-23. I can’t remember the last time we got it handed to us like that in the faceoff circle. When you’re controlling the puck from the start of the play like that, good things usually come your way. Especially when you’re winning them in your offensive zone. The Kings took full advantage.
The final point I’ll make about this game is that the power play was again 0-3 and looking abysmal. It’s not that we’re not scoring, it’s that we’re not getting many shots with the man advantage. Or able to set up a cycle for that matter. I’d like to see us be a little bit more aggressive with the man advantage. Or maybe the return of Sarge will make a difference. Who knows? But this unit needs some help. Stat.
This definitely wasn’t our best effort. We laid an egg. But, I guess it’s about time we did that, anyway. Don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you they got distracted by the warm weather (I’ve actually heard that explanation today). They’ve been playing with a lot of energy, and they ran out of steam. It also didn’t help that Tyler Kennedy was out. I bet Bylsma would have loved to send him out there in the third period to spark the team again, but hey. It happens. Lets just get rested up and get back at it against San Jose.
image from espn.com
Well, this was an ugly game to start out our west coast swing, but a win is a win. The game started out pretty rough. Anaheim came out really physical in the first period (hence the 4 penalties), and we just kind of took it. It also didn’t help that we failed to capitalize on any of the power plays. That might have made them back off a bit. In the second period we started to match physicality with physicality and the game went much more smoothly from there (on the scoreboard, at least).
Couple of minor points about the game:
-The power play was once again anemic. 0 for 6 on the night. I realize we’re missing some pieces, but I keep waiting for improvement that’s not coming.
-Fleury let in a bunny. He didn’t get his pads tight enough against the post, and Koivu snuck one in to tie the game in the third period. I guess Fleury is human. If he’s going to do something stupid every once in a while to keep himself humble, I’m glad he did it in a win.
-The Ducks were cycling the puck the best out of any team we’ve played so far. Not even close. The scary part is that I have no idea how they did it. I’m leaning towards this just being an off night defensively, but I’ll have to see.
-Tyler Kennedy is the man. He’s the ball of energy that’s so helpful to have on the bench sometimes. We’re lucky to have him.
-Lots of goals from the points. That’s turning into a trend. We’re getting traffic in front of the net, so this isn’t a problem at all. It’s more of a wakeup call that our defensemen without Gonchar aren’t bad.
We continue the west coast swing up the freeway in LA tomorrow night. If we win, I believe we tie the NHL record for most consecutive road wins to start the season. Just goes to show how well we’re playing right now.