Saturday, March 31, 2007

Maple Leafs 5, Penguins 4 (OT)

If there's blame to assign for this one, it's on Steigerwald.

The Pens went down 4-1 midway through the second. Some of the blame for that would have to be at the doorstep of Jocelyn Thibault, who got the start in goal. He didn't make all of the saves he needed to. To be fair, however, I think he was the scapegoat for the Pens being out worked by the far more desperate Leafs.

Marc-Andre Fleury comes in and immediately solidifies things, aided by the Leafs stupidly shutting things down and staying back. The Pens start to chip away, with Max Talbot notching a goal. The score is 4-2 going into the third.

The Pens get one with less than 5 minutes left and then get the game tying goal with only 4 seconds remaining, capping a furious sequence in the Leafs end. The game goes into OT.

Each team has chances in the extra session. I'm not sure how the Pens failed to score at the beginning of the OT, with several chances around the net, and the Leafs have several good chances as well.

With just over one minute left in OT, Steigerwald says something to the effect of "Marc-Andre Fleury is a guy that you don't want to see in the net if you're on the other team - he's that good." In a matter of seconds, Kaberle throws the puck at the net from out near the blue line. It goes all the way through everyone without touching anything. Game over. Leafs win.

The Pens did manage a point, which is good. It keeps at least some heat on the Devils, so that should they lose a game, the Pens might be able to capitalize. I'm not holding out much hope for that, however, as the Pens have games left against some pretty tough competition - Buffalo, Ottawa and the Rangers. At least it'll be a good warm-up for the level of competition in the playoffs.

Next up: Buffalo visits the Igloo on Tuesday night.

Game #79 - at Toronto Maple Leafs

Pittsburgh Penguins (45-23-10, 100 pts) at Toronto Maple Leafs (37-29-11, 85 pts)

Prior meetings:
Pens 6, Leafs 5 (OT) on February 10th in Toronto
Pens 8, Leafs 2 on January 20th in Pittsburgh
Pens 4, Leafs 1 on December 29th in Pittsburgh

The Pens need a win tonight to keep pace with the Devils and Senators. Getting home-ice advantage for at least one series is key for the Pens. They play much better at home, especially on special teams.

The Leafs have been somewhat hot lately overall, but at home they've been lethal. They haven't lost at home since their Buffalo game on March 3rd. The most recent two home games (against Carolina and the Sabres), they've outscored their opponents by 10-2.

Special teams have been a bit of a struggle for the Leafs lately. The power play hasn't had a multiple goal game since January 27th (!!) and their PK has been sporadically leaky.

The Pens, on the other hand, have a red hot power play and penalty kill. The power play has 7 goals in it's last 16 chances, while the PK has allowed only two goals in the last 7 games, stopping 27 of 29 chances.

The Leafs need the one more than the Pens do, so it will be a good test to see how the Pens respond to a team that has their back to the playoff wall.

Leafs blog - Bring Back Potvin
Check this one out for a nice summary of exactly what needs to happen for the Leafs tonight. They're hoping the Flyers to beat the Rangers. I'm hoping for that too. Now that the Pens are in the playoffs, I'm cheering like crazy for the Rangers not to make it.

Should be a good one tonight. The atmosphere will be like a playoff game, just like several games in recent memory. I think the Pens pull it out and sweep the Leafs for the first time in almost 10 years.

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Penguins 4, Bruins 2

Pens win another game on the road. Let's look at the accomplishments they've racked up recently:
  • A 100 point season. Who ever though they'd get to this level before the season started? Not me, that's for sure.
  • All alone in first place in the Atlantic with four games left. If the Devils lose tomorrow night, then the Pens will control their own destiny for first place in the Atlantic.
  • Sid now has 116 points, 12 more than Joe Thornton. He's likely going to win the scoring title.
  • Sergei Gonchar has 64 points, and is tied for the NHL lead among defense men with Niedermayer.
  • The Pens have been below .500 only once this year (2-3 after the November 18th game against Jersey). The last time they were at .500 was December 7th when they were 11-11-5. Since that time, they have been astounding. Their record since December 7th is 34-12-5. Totally unexpected and wholly amazing.
I know this post wasn't really about the game, but I thought it was time for a little perspective. Great game, though. Christensen continues to surge and Crosby continues to do his thing.

Next up: at Toronto on Saturday. That'll be huge, as the Leafs desperately need the win.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Game #78 - at Boston Bruins

Pittsburgh Penguins (44-23-10, 98 pts) at Boston Bruins (35-35-6, 76 pts)

Prior meetings:
Penguins 5, Bruins 0 on March 25th in Pittsburgh
Bruins 5, Penguins 4 (SO) on January 18th in Boston
Bruins 4, Penguins 3 (SO) on November 22nd in Pittsburgh

First, player news for the game:
  • Gary Roberts, as of Wednesday night, is not expected to play in this one. He didn't practice today.
  • Ronald Petrovicky will play in place of Roberts.
  • Tim Thomas will be back between the pipes for the Bruins. Let's hope the Pens can keep at him - he's been successful against the Flightless Birds in the past.
The Pens need to keep things simple. Play a solid road game. Nothing fancy. Just grind it out.

The power play has been red hot, but you could see they had a little more trouble when the Caps turned aggressive on the PK, trying to take away time and space. The Pens didn't adapt well to that, though it may have been because they already had three power play goals that game. Expect more of the same from the Bruins, and especially in the playoffs, no matter who they play.

The Bruins are coming off of a win over the Senators (in Ottawa), so clearly they're capable of putting together a solid game. The last time they won back to back games, though, was at the beginning of March. If the Pens can avoid the slow start, and don't take the Bruins lightly, they'll be OK.

Bruins blog - Bruins Nation
Check out their review of the loss to the Penguins, along with some word of a practice without pucks that followed their Sunday debacle.

The Pens need the win to keep up with the Devils in the division. I know it's currently Tampa in the 7th spot, but that could easily change since only three points separate 6th from 11th. Get the #2 spot, Pens!!

Let's Go Pens!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Penguins 4, Capitals 3

The Pens got off to a slow start against the Caps. There were two blown coverages, leaving Semin and Gordon all alone in front of the net with the puck. Both buried the biscuit to give the Caps a 2-0 lead. Michel Therrien called timeout and had a little discussion with the team. I'm glad I can't lip read, because I think I would have felt stung through the television by what he said.

The Pens came back out and owned the game from that point forward. They scored on their first three power plays (again), and were up 4-2 before the end of the second period.

In the third, the game slowed down, and while the Caps did score with the extra attacker on the ice, it was on a pretty blatant case of goalie interference. Easy to bury a slapper when the goalie is ridden out of the net.

Donald Brashear may be one of the dumbest hockey players I've seen. He gets plastered on a totally clean hit by Brooks Orpik, takes offense at getting hit, and takes a roughing call. The penalty is over, he comes out of the box. With the puck in his own end, instead of playing defense and getting the puck out, he goes straight for Laraque (who Therrien smartly had on the ice to greet Brashear). Whitney put the puck into the net just as Donald was dropping the gloves. Pens lead 4-2. Game over. Great job, Donald. Georges ended the fight quickly with a decisive showing.

Otherwise, great game after the slow start. That's something the Pens need to correct. They can't count on being able to come back against playoff teams. In fact, I think we can count on a good team to be able to use a 2-0 lead far better than the Caps did.

With the win, the Pens are in the playoffs. I know this is just a formality, but it's nice to think that the Pens will have meaningful games to play in April for the first time in a long time.

Next up: at Boston on Thursday.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Game #77 - at Washington Capitals

Pittsburgh Penguins (43-23-10, 96 pts) at Washington Capitals (26-37-13, 65 pts)

Prior meetings:
Penguins 3, Capitals 2 on February 18th in Pittsburgh
Penguins 2, Capitals 0 on February 3rd in Pittsburgh
Penguins 5, Capitals 4 (SO) on December 11th in Washington

Let's take a look in the Wayback Machine. Back to December 11th, when the Pens played the Capitals. The Caps were 13-10-6 through 29 games and the Pens were 12-11-5 through 28 games. The Pens were down 4-0 and came back to win the game in OT. Let's go back to what I said in the game review way back then:
Like I said at the start, this was a TREMENDOUS comeback from a 4 goal deficit. I'm hoping we're looking back on this road trip (and this game in particular) as the time when the season turned around for the Pens and propelled them into the playoffs.
Ow - I just sprained my shoulder.

Since that game, the Pens are 31-12-4 while the Caps are 13-27-7. I'm not going to say the season turned on that game alone, but when you come back from a 4-0 deficit, that sure can have a long lasting impact.

That said, this won't be an easy game by any stretch of the imagination. The Pens are just 4-5 in their last nine road game, including two losses last week to the Isles and Rangers. This is the first of three in a row they'll play on the road. To quote my Calculus teacher (another trip in the WAAAAYYY back machine), this will be "an opportunity to show what you've learned", though she was talking about a test.

The Caps are just bad lately, but they've been playing on the road. In their last 8 games, they've only won two. The two wins were their only two home games in that stretch, and they outscored their opponents (Toronto and Tampa Bay) by a combined 12-2. That's nothing to sneeze at. The Pens will need to be really careful and play a tight road game.

Caps blog - Japer's Rink
Go there to check out this article. No, really - go look, and do it now. You couldn't make this stuff up (but you could give some ideas to the Yinzers).

This will be a tough one, but if they Pens are serious about passing the Devils, they need the win badly.

Let's Go Pens!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Penguins 5, Bruins 0

The Pens absolutely demolished the Bruins today in a game that wasn't as close as the score might indicate. This one could easily have been 8-0 or 9-0. There were several missed chances and great saves by the Bruins backup goalie.

The game didn't start out that easily. The Pens took three penalties in the first 11 minutes of the first period and killed off all three power plays. The Bruins were buzzing early on the power play, but were unable to beat Marc-Andre. He didn't make many huge saves, but he made all the ones he needed to, and was able to control the rebounds.

The Pens seemed to feed off of that, and when they got their own chances on the power play, they converted. They were 3-3 in the first period alone.

From the middle of the second period onward, the Bruins were mailing it in, as noted by NBC analyst Pierre McGuire. This made it pretty easy for the Pens to coast to their biggest margin of victory since their 7-2 pasting of the Coyotes back in late January.

The Pens have a three game road trip coming up, and they really need to play well. They play in Washington, Boston and Toronto. All three of those teams are on the outside of the playoffs looking in, though the Leafs are currently just two points back. It's important to get 5 or 6 points from this trip if they're serious about passing the Devils for first place in the Atlantic. The first tiebreaker for the playoffs is wins, and right now the Pens have one fewer win than the Devils, and the Devils have a game in hand.

Next up: the aforementioned Capitals on Tuesday night in Washington.

Game #76 - vs Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins (34-34-6, 74 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (42-23-10, 94 pts)

Prior meetings:
Bruins 5, Penguins 4 (SO) on January 18th in Boston
Bruins 4, Penguins 3 (SO) on November 22nd in Pittsburgh

The Bruins have been struggling. They've lost 7 of their last 9 games, including yesterday afternoon in a shoot out against the Rangers. They've also been struggling on the power play, maybe more than the Pens lately. They've been blanked in 9 of their last 11 games. The Penguins, by contrast, have been shut out on the power play in 5 of their past 6. Neither penalty kill is much of anything special (though the Pens have been playing better of late), so both teams will have a chance to get some offense going.

This is a difficult game for the Pens. The Bruins are effectively out of the playoffs, as they're 10 points back with only 7 games remaining. They'll be a loose bunch, and the Pens have had their struggles against the Bruins lately. It's important to continue to vanquish the demons and beat teams that they've struggled with lately. With three straight games against Boston and Washington, the Flightless Birds should be earning 5 or 6 points in those three games.

The Pens are two points behind the Devils, who won their game last night against Florida. A win today, and things are all tied up (though the Devils will have a game in hand).

Bruins blog - The Bruins Report
Check out this blog for a writeup of yesterday's loss to the Rangers. The Bruins seems to like blowing leads in the third lately.

This game will be a litmus test for the Pens. Can they get up for a team that's not in the playoffs? Can they skate well for two straight early starts? Can they find their offense? I'm hoping for three "Yes!" answers.

Let's Go Pens!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Penguins 2, Thrashers 1

Great game. Not terribly exciting, but the Pens did what they needed to win the game.

The story of this one was the goal tending. The better of the two goalies, in my opinion, was Lehtonen. He was outstanding. He made lots of really difficult side-to-side saves seem really easy. He never really seemed out of position. His only real mistake was the totally fluky goal scored by Jordan Staal, who really wasn't trying to do anything but chip the puck along the boards behind Lehtonen.

Thibault was also great today. I still think he allows way too many rebounds, but he was solid. He was always in position to make the save, and was squared well to the shooters. I don't even remember thinking that he was sagging back in his crease. He's played well lately. That's a HUGE plus for the Pens going towards the playoffs.

With this win, the Pens have tied the Devils for first play in the Atlantic division. The Devils are playing later tonight, so we'll have to wait and see how long that lasts.

Next up: tomorrow at the Igloo versus the Bruins, on national television at 12:30.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Game #75 - vs Atlanta Thrashers

Atlanta Thrashers (39-26-10, 88 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (41-23-10, 92 pts)

Prior meetings:
Thrashers 4, Penguins 2 on December 27th in Pittsburgh
Thrashers 4, Penguins 3 (SO) on December 21st in Atlanta
Penguins 4, Thrashers 3 (OT) on December 9th in Atlanta

The Pens have lost two straight games after surging last week against some of the top competition in the Eastern conference. They'll need to regain their edge if they hope to overtake the Devils for the division lead (and #2 spot in the playoffs).

The Pens have been blanked on the power play in four of the last five games. They'll need to be able to convert with the man-advantage to beat the Thrashers. I'm not sure what it is about teams from the South, but the Pens have struggled lately against the Thrashers, Lightning and Panthers. They've turned the corner somewhat against the latter two, but haven't been able to get things going in the right direction against the Thrashers.

Thrashers blog - Talking Thrash
This one is a nice general Thrashers blog. They note that Jon Sim will miss the game against the Pens. This makes the Thrashers even less of a physical team. The Pens need to take advantage of that, because they certainly ARE a physical team if they want to be.

Early game times this weekend. This one starts at 1:00. I'm looking for a victory. If things fall right, the Devils will lose and the Pens will be tied for the division lead going into Sunday. We can only hope.

Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Blog hiatus

This blog is on hiatus for about a week or so.

Grrrrr.... right in the middle of the best part of the season. Sucks, I know. I'll be back in no time to write some more.

Until then, check out the fine Penguins blogs I've highlighted on the right sidebar.

Hopefully when I return the Pens will have a playoff seed locked up!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Penguins 5, Sabres 4 (OT - SO - 2-1)

Great game. Great day for hockey in Pittsburgh. I can't throw enough superlatives at what today has meant for the future of the Penguins. The game wasn't bad either. :)

First off, this one should never have made it to overtime. The dump in by the Sabres (Hecht, I think) with about 20 seconds left was from behind the red line by at least three feet. It wasn't even close. That should have been blown dead for icing (the Pens touched the puck first) and the face off moved back to the Sabres end. I'd be willing to bet they wouldn't have tied it, or at least would have had a much harder time.

As for everything else, this was a high intensity, playoff style game. The action was end to end, with very few lulls. The Pens were able to get the better of them, fortunately. The Pens dominated as far as shots are concerned, out shooting the Sabres by a wide margin (38-19). The Sabres were able to do just enough to stay in the game.

Crosby and Christensen were both able to pull of sick moves in the shootout. They essentially did the same thing, but from different sides. Christensen faked forehand, got Miller moving, and pulled back to the backhand. Once Miller started moving and Erik had control enough to pull it to the backhand, there was an empty net to put it into. Crosby did the opposite.

I'm out of time, so that's all I have to say about this one. Great game, great day!

Next up: at New Jersey tomorrow night. Ugh. From high flying end to end to Zzzzzzzzzzzz....

Game #69 - vs Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres (44-19-5, 93 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (37-21-10, 84 pts)

Prior meetings:
Penguins 4, Sabres 2 on January 5th at Buffalo
Sabres 4, Penguins 2 on November 17th at Buffalo

Tonight is a celebration. It's a chance to cheer now that the home team will remain in Pittsburgh. It's also a chance to celebrate a likely return to the playoffs, on national TV (okay, calling Versus a national channel might be pushing it a little bit). Who better for an opponent than the current #1 team in the East? If the Pens manage to win this one, it will create some great momentum.

The Sabres have been struggling. They've lost three in a row. If they lost tonight, it would be the longest losing streak since they lost 6 straight during late March last year. Maybe a trend?

The Sabres have taken only three penalties in the last three games, including one game without a single penalty. They've also been unable to notch a power play goal in those same three games. Is it me, or are the refs putting away the whistles again? It would be interesting to look at the penalties that have been called lately...

Sabres blog - BfloBlog
They have a nice preview of tonight's contest up and available for reading.

The Pens will have their hands full tonight. The Sabres will be frustrated with having played New Jersey and Minnesota and will be glad for the chance to open things up. The Pens need to be careful not to let things get out of hand, and play a tight game at home.

Let's Go Pens!

Pens have new arena - staying in Pittsburgh

I'm sure you've heard the news by now that the Penguins have a deal in place to stay in Pittsburgh. Here's a link to the Post-Gazette article.

It's essentially the same as Plan B. Given that is the case, why did it take so long? That's a question that, while no longer terribly important, will be answered once the details of the plan are laid out for the public to see. Something tells me it has to do with a certain table-thumping government official.

This is terrific news for the region. The new building will open in time for the 2009-10 season, though the city is already a few months behind schedule with building demolitions.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Penguins 3, Rangers 2 (OT)

The Pens played their typical role of Cardiac Kids quite nicely today. They started off slowly, and finished with a flourish.

The Rangers were up 2-0 after two periods. Both goals were nicely placed, up over the shoulders of Marc-Andre Fleury. He probably should have stopped the second one, but those will go in sometimes. The more significant item for the first two periods was the Pens inability to cash in on the power play. They had multiple opportunities, and for most of the game (including the 1:57 to start the third period), they had more power play opportunities than they had shots on goal during those chances.

In the third, the Rangers continued to take bad penalties. The Pens finally started to make them pay. Malkin double-clutched a slapper (because there was no one in front of the net - he appeared to be waiting) and then simply powered it past Lundqvist, who would probably like that one back. Lundqvist had been playing like a goalie that was going to frustrate the Pens all night (and he did, for most of it).

Later in the third, the Pens were on yet another power play, and Malkin took a shot from the right slot area. Crosby, who was on the far post (on the opposite side from where you usually see him), caught the puck out of the air, put it down and put it into the empty cage. Great coordination required to catch a Malkin shot (though Geno could have been shooting it wide on purpose, I guess).

In OT, the Pens caught a break with Colby Armstrong shooting the puck off the stick of Malik and up over the left shoulder of Lundqvist. Game, set and match.

Random thoughts:
  • The Pens really need to work on the consistency. They can't count on being able to come back all the time and can't afford the slow starts.
  • Ryan Hollweg makes some highly questionable hits. He's waiting for people to be vulnerable near the boards and then trying to kill them. It's not quite Cam Janssen, but it's pretty close. He's another one the NHL is going to have to crack down on.
  • Great to see the power play stick with it and tie up the game for the Pens.
Next up: the Sabres come to the Igloo on Tuesday. HUGE measuring stick.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Game #68 - vs New York Rangers

New York Rangers (33-27-7, 73 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (36-21-10, 82 pts)

Prior meetings:
Penguins 4, Rangers 3 (SO) on March 1st in New York
Rangers 3, Penguins 2 (SO) on December 7th in New York
Rangers 2, Penguins 1 (OT) on November 25th in Pittsburgh
Penguins 3, Rangers 1 on November 18th in Pittsburgh
Penguins 6, Rangers 5 on October 12th in New York

This is the sixth meeting this year between the Pens and Rangers. The Pens have won three, and considering they still play the Rangers twice, would like to set a precedent by making it four.

The Pens sit just 9 points ahead of the 9th place Rangers. A loss would really hurt. The Pens need to solidify their position. They also need to get the offense cranked back up. Aside from the Ottawa comeback, the Pens have managed three goals or less in every game since February 19th (the Islanders game that ended the point streak). They need Crosby to get back on track, and the power play to put up a multiple goal game.

Rangers blog -
They have a nice article about the way the Rangers have been playing lately and their youth movement. Nice to see when everyone else is still talking about Chris Simon's hit (or chop, I guess I should say).

The Rangers have been quite stingy defensively lately, so the Pens will need to use their speed and transition game to get some quality chances. Lundqvist is always tough on them. I still think the Pens come out on top.

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Penguins new arena update

Negotiations have broken off tonight, according to John Fedko of WPXI Television here in Pittsburgh. However, progress has been made, and negotiations will resume on Wednesday.

They're certainly taking their time in getting back together, aren't they?

This is good news, though.

Still no word...

It's currently about 11:30 pm (EST), and the Pens are still meeting with government officials in Philly. They've been talking since about 7:00.

This means that no one is pissed enough to walk away just yet. That's a good sign, I guess. I wish I could be more optimistic, but after the slots license debacle... I wouldn't put anything past the state.

I'm going to go watch Pitt try to beat Marquette in the Big East Tournament. Hopefully one local team will win tonight!

Devils 4, Penguins 3 (OT - SO - 1-0)

Quick review tonight -

The Pens were down, but kept coming back. They were down 2-1 after two periods and Gonchar nailed a short-handed goal to tie it at two. Zajac broke the tie and then Ouellet scored after a nice steal by Malkin with just 2:38 left in regulation.

In the shoot out, the Pens couldn't score, and Fleury wasn't perfect, allowing a goal to Elias. His move wasn't quite as unusual as the St Louis backhand, but going out way wide threw off Fleury enough to allow him to slip the puck past.

The Pens were badly out shot, 39-24, against a team that likes to sit back. That tells me that they weren't patient enough, and allowed the Devils to dictate the pace and style of play. They're going to have to learn from this and get better for the playoffs, especially if they face Jersey or Tampa Bay.

Disappointing tonight, but good to get a point.

Next up: at the Igloo against the Rangers on Saturday. Early start - 1:00.

No news yet on Philly meeting

In case you hadn't heard, the Pens are meeting with Governor Rendell today in Philadelphia. Commissioner Gary Bettman is also present.

Supposedly, the meetings today will lend a sense of closure to the process, and that a decision will be made one way or another. I'm not sure I buy into the "it's the end" spin, but it wouldn't be a surprise if an agreement was reached today, so long as wonderful Governor Rendell can keep from acting like a spoiled baby, slamming the table with his fists and pointing fingers in people's faces.

Let's hope it gets done.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Game #67 - vs New Jersey Devils

New Jersey Devils (40-19-8, 88 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (36-21-9, 81 pts)

Prior meetings:
Devils 1, Penguins 0 on February 27th in Pittsburgh.
Penguins 5, Devils 4 on February 16th in New Jersey
Devils 3, Penguins 0 on December 26th in New Jersey
Devils 5, Penguins 2 on December 1st in New Jersey
Penguins 4, Devils 2 on October 25th in Pittsburgh
Devils 2, Penguins 1 on October 18th in Pittsburgh

Here we go again. The Pens are within 7 points of first place in the Atlantic, which is two points closer than they were the last time these two teams met last week. The Pens could use a win to give themselves a fighting chance to catch the Devils for first place in the division. Why is that so important? Because right now it's the difference between playing the Islanders and the Senators in the playoffs.

The Pens have been struggling on the power play. They are just 2-28 in their last five games with the man-advantage. That's not likely to change against the best penalty kill in the Eastern Conference.

The Devils have lost three straight games (two in OT) and are struggling a bit right now. It's probably a good time to catch them, especially with their resident lunatic, Cam Janssen still out of the lineup for his completely unnecessary hit on Toronto's Tomas Kaberle.

Devils blog - Drop the Puck
This new (?) blog has a nice open letter to the city of Pittsburgh. They're much nicer than I would be - I'd just come out and call the Gaming Control Board flat out stupid in their decision.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the Pens are over the hump. Crosby has a break out night and the Pens win.

Let's Go Pens!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Penguins 5, Senators 4 (OT - SO - 2-1)

I can't believe I'm writing a post about a Penguins victory tonight. Holy crap!

The Pens were as dead in the water as a team could be. They got the first goal, but were quickly put in their place by the Sens. The Pens seemed to have that awestruck look in their eyes during the first period. The Senators took advantage by running traffic in and around Marc-Andre Fleury, who was thrown off his game. He yielded to Thibault to start the second, and Jocelyn allowed what would have to be called a bad goal, putting the Pens down 4-1. I thought that was the ballgame.

Then, things started to change a little bit. The Senators had an extended 5 on 3 power play (for almost two entire minutes) but couldn't score. Then the Pens changed the momentum slightly. I was thinking it was just to set a tone for the next time the teams met. However, the Pens used the momentum to carry into the third period, where they out shot the Senators 11-2.

Jordan Staal got things turned back in the right direction with a short handed goal. With said goal, he set the NHL record for short handed goals by a rookie. Pretty impressive. The Pens added two more goal in the next three minutes to tie the game.

Neither team was able to take the lead again, though both had several chances. I had that nervous feeling... where I thought for sure that Ottawa was going to get the goal to put them into the lead again. It never happened.

When they got to the shoot out, I was more worried about Thibault in net, as he was 0-2 in save chances this season. He stopped the first two shooters, while Christensen (of course) beat Emery. Then Thibault let in one to McAmmond, and it was Crosby time. He deked with the puck several times and basically made Emery look stupid. Pens win.

As bad as the team played for the first 30 minutes of this one, I thought there was no way they had any chance of coming back. I'm glad I was wrong.

Next up: vs New Jersey on Thursday at the Igloo. Would it be okay if Laraque ran over Brodeur just this once?

Game #66 - at Ottawa Senators

Pittsburgh Penguins (35-21-9, 79 pts) at Ottawa Senators (38-23-5, 81 pts)

Prior meeting:
Senators 6, Penguins 3 on November 10th at Pittsburgh

Short preview - no time today.

There are three games left this season between the Pens and Sens. If the standings stay the way they are, there will be more after that. If the season ended today, the Pens and Sens would square off in a first round series. That doesn't bode well for the Flightless Birds, as they tend to get the stars in the eyes when playing the Senators.

The Pens haven't won a game against the Senators since November 22nd, 2003. It's time for that to change, but it won't be easy. They'll need the big guns to light it up (Crosby, Malkin, et al) and Fleury to be on top of his game.

Let's Go Pens!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Penguins 4, Flyers 3 (OT - SO - 2-0)

This review is late... so I'll keep it brief.

Christensen scored two sick goals, both top shelf on that nasty wrist shot. You'd think that other teams would have this scouted by now, but even knowing it's coming, I'm not sure there's anything you could do. If he gets the puck in the slot area with an opening and the goalie is deep in the crease, all Erik has to do is pick his spot.

Roberts nabbed exactly the kind of goal that you'd think - he chipped in a rebound by going to the net. He's really filling the role that the team expected John Leclair to fill.

Fleury allowed a total soft one by Coburn, but his teammates bailed him out by tying the game. He then repaid them with some inspired play in the shoot out.

Great to get the win when the team clearly didn't have a complete game.

Next up: at Ottawa on Tuesday. Tough game.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Game #65 - vs Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers (17-37-10, 44 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (34-21-9, 77 pts)

Prior meetings:
Penguins 5, Flyers 4 (SO) on February 8th at Philadelphia
Penguins 5, Flyers 3 on January 13th at Philadelphia
Penguins 8, Flyers 4 on December 13th at Pittsburgh
Penguins 5, Flyers 3 on November 20th at Philadelphia
Penguins 3, Flyers 2 on November 13th at Pittsburgh
Penguins 8, Flyers 2 on October 28th at Philadelphia
Penguins 4, Flyers 0 on October 5th at Pittsburgh

I can't tell you how much fun I had compiling the list of the Pens seven prior victories over the Flyers. It's a beautiful thing to see the Penguins on the left side of each of the scores above, isn't it?

Having said that, the Pens are going to have to bring their "A" game to the Igloo against the Flyers. You know those lovely fellows from Philly aren't going to want to go 0-8 against the Pens. You also know they'd love to put a dent in the playoff hopes of the Flightless Birds. They managed to pepper Boston with 55 shots the other night in a win. Let's hope the Pens can keep the defense going well enough to prevent that kind of outbreak.

Flyers blog -
The Flyers bloggers have seemed to lose some enthusiasm for writing about their team. Can't say I blame them - I remember what it was like last year writing about a dismal Penguins team. However, takes special notice of how quickly Peter Forsberg's foot has healed now that he's in a playoff race. It's like magic!

The Pens are going to need a strong effort to get a win against the Flyers. They'll face new Flyers goalie Martin Biron, who played the Pens and earned a win earlier this year. Let's hope the Pens can avoid a similar fate.

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Hurricanes 3, Penguins 2

This was a playoff style game. It was very intense and fast moving, especially in the first period. The reasons for the Pens loss were very simple (and few):
  1. No production on the power play. The Pens needed to throw a different look at the Canes, as noted by Steigy at the end of the broadcast. They kept the same five guys on for the majority of their seven opportunities. Roberts and Laraque both logged a little bit, but for the most part it was Malkin, Crosby, Recchi, Gonchar and Whitney. I kept waiting for the second unit with Christensen and Ouellet, or for Staal to get out there with the top unit to stand in front, but it never happened.
  2. Thibault. He WAY overplayed a shot in the first and barely got back to stop a shot by Brind'Amour. Then, just a little bit later, he did exactly the same thing and couldn't get back to stop the shot into the empty net by Scott Walker. Then, in the third, he didn't freeze a puck that everyone watching (including Errey) knew he should have frozen, as the guys on the ice were already tired. That led directly to the decisive goal by the Canes.
The Pens threw everything they could at the Canes, but there weren't any truly good scoring chances that I can remember. The Canes just mucked their way to a win once they got the third goal.

Disappointing to lose one like this, but the team is obviously competitive in these games. They're just a good bounce or two away from winning.

Next up: at home for the finale against Philly on Sunday. It's a chance to go 8-0 against the Flyers!

Game #64 - at Carolina Hurricanes

Pittsburgh Penguins (34-20-9, 77 pts) at Carolina Hurricanes (32-27-7, 71 pts)

Prior meetings:
Canes 5, Penguins 1 on October 14th in Pittsburgh
Canes 6, Penguins 2 on November 11th in Carolina
Penguins 3, Canes 0 on January 2nd in Pittsburgh

No time to write. Suffice it to say this is one the Pens need this one to stay up in the standing in the East. Things are getting a bit tight, with only 10 points separating spots 5 and 10.

The Canes just lost a home and home with the Sens, so I'm sure they'll be good and ticked. The Pens need to be ready.

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Penguins 4, Rangers 3 (OT - SO - 1-0)

The Pens win a HUGE game with a third period comeback. They were down 2-0 going into the third, courtesy of two quick goals late in the second by New York. The first one was a fluke, bouncing off of Scuderi's skate after a hard rebound. The second was less of a fluke - it was simply a nice shot by Nylander.

The Pens got two shorties in the third, one by Staal and one by Army. Staal is now tied for the NHL record for short-handed goals by a rookie. The Rangers took back the lead for a little while on the same power play that Army nabbed a short-handed goal, but Sergei Gonchar tied the game again with the power play expiring.

Fleury was great tonight, making several key saves at key times.

In the shootout, Christensen hit the post, but Fleury stopped all three Rangers. Crosby converted to give the Pens the win. He went to the 5-hole on Lundqvist, which is all the more impressive given that the Rangers goalie is terrific at taking away the low shots.

This one was a great confidence booster for the Pens. They're floundering a bit right now, but they're sticking to their system and not panicking. They managed to gut out two points tonight.

Mark Eaton was hurt early in the first, but no word on the nature or extent of the injury (it's the dreaded "lower body injury"). I wouldn't expect him to play tomorrow night.

Next up: at Carolina on Friday. Another key game on not much rest.