Thursday, November 03, 2005

Game Night - Game #13

Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Islanders

Pittsburgh - 2-5-5 - 9 pts - Last in Atlantic
New York - 6-6-0 - 12 pts - 4th in Atlantic

Tonight the Pens play the team directly above them in the standings. A win in regulation would be like a double bonus, since not only would the Pens get two points, but the Islanders would not get any points out of the game. Of course, it won't be easy. The Islanders are another team that is better at home (4-2). Most teams are. Would have been nice for the Pens to win a few of their own home games, eh? But enough crying over that milk that spilled all over the ice.

The Islanders have been an average team so far this year. They've not been more than one game above or below .500 (how's that for consistent mediocraty?) They've also not won any game by more than two goals, and they only did that once (against the Capitals). Their other five wins are by one goal, two of them in OT.

Their power play, which had been hot, has cooled the last few games, going 1-19 in the last three games. The PK isn't bad, but they'll give up some goals. Most of their offense is funnelled through a few players - Yashin, Blake and Satan (that's right - the Islanders have the powers of darkness at their disposal). Zhitnik, their top defensive scorer, also gets involved, especially on the power play - 9 of his 12 points have come on the PP.

Basically, this is a team the Pens should beat if they want to be a playoff team. They are pretty average any way you slice it, and the Pens have talent that is anything but average. If they can play like they did on Tuesday at New Jersey, I think they'll come out on top.

In fact, there will be another similarity, most likely, to Tuesday's game. The last few Islanders home games have been, um.. "sparsely" attended. Weeknight games against Boston and Atlanta have drawn just over 10,000. They did come out to see the Rangers (or, rather, the Ranger's fans made the trip to Long Island), so maybe they'll come out to see the Pens too. Especially since Sidney Crosby has done this. I can't bring myself to look at it, but my wife tells me, with a somewhat red face, that he's done the "beefcake" pose, whatever that means. As long as he puts the puck in the net, it's all good, eh? It would help if he scored some goals too :)


Pat's Wife said...

(yes, it really is Pat's wife). Ok. You had to embarrass me into posting. It surprised me a little that Sidney posed for GQ; didn't appear to be in character, although it did show that a squeaky-clean character and hunky attractiveness are not mutually exclusive. But, being among the elite of the new generation of athlete/entertainers who can market themselves practically in utero, Sidney is showing razor sharp skills in another area of his total prodigy package - the business angle. Not unlike another local Canadian . . .

Anywho, Pat and I were discussing the wisdom of bringing up or keeping down Fleury. I don't agree with a local sportscaster who said that it would be good for his confidence to keep him down for the whole season so that he can experience success from start to finish and through the Baby Pens playoffs. Sounds kind of silly to me. If his problem is lack of confidence in his own skills in high pressure games, that's one thing. If it is general lack of confidence, having the big team believe enough in you to bring you up and give you a real shot and sticking with you as you grow would be the best thing in the world. I am not a student of hockey or of the fragile nature of the goal psyche, and I certainly don't advocate bringing someone up who is not ready to handle the majors. I just have a hard time believing this is the case. I can understand now, early in the season. But Thibault's going to need to be able to do the job on back-to-back games, and Caron has to be able to keep this level of play up. If, as the season progresses, Thibault continues to be less than impressive and Fleury continues to be kept down despite stellar play, the effect on the young goalie (and the fans!) won't be good.

Hope I'm not rehashing an old discussion, but it continues to be discussed here by the sports media.

Pronovost said...

Unless Fleury’s NHL-level contract bonuses would jeopardize the franchise’s viability, I think the Pens are obligated to put the best man between the pipes. One can argue as to whether or not Fleury is that player right now.

The thing that would solve or at least quiet this issue is if Thibault would simply play to his career numbers. We don’t need him to be Patrick Roy. Just play to his career numbers.