Monday, April 23, 2007

Pens sign Aaron Boogaard

The Pens signed Aaron Boogaard to an entry-level contract. Boogaard was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in 2004 and has been playing the WHL for the past 5 seasons.

Aaron is still only 20 years old, and will likely be a fixture for Wilkes-Barre for a few years. He hasn't put many points on the board (only 21 this season - 10 G, 11 A), but has racked up 384 penalty minutes over the past two seasons in the WHL. Can you say Dennis Bonvie replacement?

Hat tip to Will for pointing this out in the comments.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Pens in the World Championships

According to the Tribune-Review, the following players will compete in the World Championships:
  • Jordan Staal - Canada
  • Evgeni Malkin - Russia
  • Sergei Gonchar - Russia
  • Ronald Petrovicky - Slovakia
  • Jarkko Ruutu - Finland
Marc-Andre Fleury might play for Canada, but evidently isn't sure yet.

Jordan Staal sure has come a long way, hasn't he? He'll have a chance to play with his brother in this tournament.

Nice to see Geno playing for Mother Russia despite the way he left there. Hopefully those goofs in Magnitogorsk don't try to kidnap him (I think I'm only partially kidding on this one, sad to say).

I'm also completely shocked that Ryan Whitney isn't playing for Team USA. I guess maybe it's due to his injuries - he was pretty nicked up at the end of the playoffs. I'm also mildly surprised that Ryan Malone isn't there either, given that Team USA will be offensively challenged.

Crosby played with a broken foot

Sidney Crosby had a broken foot for the last month of the regular season. See the Post-Gazette article here (though I'm not terribly impressed with it) and the Trib article here (much better article).

This is just more icing on the respect cake. Crosby sets the tone for this team. The fact that he was able to kick it up several notches in the playoffs despite the problems with the foot is amazing. Remember when Kovalev played with a broken foot? Nothing close to this... but to be fair, we can't really compare the injuries.

Sid will miss the World Championships as a result of the injury.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Senators 3, Penguins 0

Who would have thought that the Pens power play would finish the series on a 0-forever streak? That was the difference in this one. The Senators tried to give the game to the Pens in the first period. They were called for a minor penalty and then proceeded to throw the puck over the glass twice in the next few minutes. The Pens had a 5 on 3 for over a minute to go with extensive power play time, but simply couldn't score. They had clearly made adjustments and were able to get seven shots on the power play in the first period, but couldn't score.

The second period proved to be where the difference was made, just like games 1-3. The Sens managed three second period goals, and the Pens had no answer. It probably should have been worse, but Fleury made several absolutely insane saves. He again was the reason the Pens were even in the game.

In the third, the Pens just couldn't beat Emery. They had several great chances, including a nearly point blank shot by Mark Eaton and some great slappers that Emery was able to glove by Malkin and Crosby.

Give credit to the Senators. They played their butts off. They were clearly the better team throughout the series and they deserve to be moving on. I still don't like them, but I have to respect their accomplishment.

Who showed up to play?
  • Ray Emery - he made every save you could ask of him. As long as the Sens are able to keep the shots and traffic to a minimum in front of him, he'll make the saves he needs to make.
  • The Senators - they simply played their game and never wavered from it. They put consistent pressure on the Pens and didn't back down.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury - he could add a little consistency to his game, but he made some huge saves that he had no business missing. They only thing I'd like to see is him to single-handedly shut down the opposition once in awhile.
  • Sidney Crosby - he is the best player in the NHL, hands down.
Here on Igloo Dreams, we'll have some season reviews, both for the team and the players individually. This was a great season, and it deserves to be talked about once the disappointment clears.

Next up: Golf until September

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Playoff Game #5 - at Ottawa Senators

Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators

Ottawa lead series 3-1.

See, I have it all figured out in my head. Things are setup just right for the Pens, if you think about it. First, they steal game 5 in Ottawa. Somehow find a way to win. Maybe Ottawa eases up, maybe the Pens finally figure things out. Either way, they steal a win in game 5. Then, coming back home, they win game 6, because you can't lose three home playoff games in the same series, right? Once they win game 5 and 6, they go into game 7 with a two game winning streak. Anything can happen. It's feasible, right?


RIGHT??? Why do I only hear crickets chirping?

Um... maybe not, but it's all we have right now. I can believe if you can.

The Pens need to play the same style game they did on Tuesday. They need to out hit the Sens. They need to play with the same desperate intensity. The only thing they need to improve on is simply to score more goals. If the power play isn't working, they need to find a way to get it done at even strength.

I also think that the coaching staff needs to do a great job tomorrow. Michel Therrien needs to be smart about his player utilization. He needs to do a good job matching lines. I know Therrien says he doesn't think about that too much, but you don't want Crosby to see the top combo from the Sens all night long. You want to put Sid in the best position to succeed. Isn't that the job of a coach?

Mike Yeo also needs to have some answers for the Pens on the power play. To some extent, they're generating offense and not scoring, but the Sens also seem to have them figured out. I think it's time to have a different wrinkle available, just to give the Sens a different look. You have to keep them honest.

Since this could be the last game of the series (let's hope not!), let's have a look at those questions again and see how the Pens are faring:

5. Is Marc-Andre Fleury for real? Can he come up big for the first time in his career?

Yes. He is the real deal. He's the reason the Pens haven't been swept. If they can come back, he'll be the primary reason.

4. Can the Pens play their system against the Senators? Can they withstand the offensive barrages that the Sens have thrown against them this year?

The Pens haven't been able to play their system with regularity, or with much success. Period 2 of game 4 was the only time you could see it working well for an extended period. They need to get it back for the remainder of the series, or it's going to be over soon.

3. Can the Pens continue to confound Ray Emery? Will they still have his number?

Emery has become more solid as the series has gone on. I still say he'll struggle with consistent pressure, but the Pens haven't been able to generate that for more than brief spurts so far. Emery has been a product of the system.

2. Will this young team be overwhelmed and intimidated once the lights come on, or will they continue to be blissfully ignorant of their surroundings?

They've been far better at this in the last few games. Game 4 was the first time they looked like the team we saw in the second half of the regular season.

1. Can Sidney carry the Pens to the next level? Will he step it up when he's needed the most?

He'll step it up, no doubt. He can't do it by himself.

Here's hoping this isn't the last preview I'll write this year.

Let's Go Pens!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Senators 2, Penguins 1

The game is over and I'm wanting to flip the channel to something else. Actually, I think that ANYTHING else will be good, just to help get past the downer that was the hockey game. I flip over to the USA Network, and the movie Unbreakable is on.

I think that title is a great way to describe how the Senators must have felt to the Penguins tonight. The Pens did everything they could to win this game.
  • They fixed the problems with the breakout passes, largely by swinging the puck from side to side and hitting a forward through the middle.
  • They absolutely dominated the second period, which had been their downfall earlier in the series.
  • They received great goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury.
  • They stayed out of the penalty box and got great penalty killing when they were on the ice.
Unfortunately, the game came down to a flukey goal by Spezza which bounced off of Staal's stick, and the second goal of the season by Volchenkov. It was a great shot for someone who never scores.

The Pens had all the momentum in the world in the second period, but just couldn't manage to take the lead. Once the Sens had the lead in the third, the Pens had a few chances, but couldn't do anything against Emery.

They left nothing in reserve tonight. They gave everything, but it just didn't get them over the top.

Who came to play tonight?
  • Everyone!
  • Jarkko Ruutu and Ronald Petrovicky - they were a big part of getting things going in the second period. I was mildly surprised that we didn't see them more than once in the third period.
  • Gary Roberts - his forecheck directly led to another goal by Staal.
  • Jordan Staal - this guy has absolutely stepped up his game. He doesn't have the best passing skills yet, but he can cycle the puck, kill penalties and put in the loose pucks in front of the net.
  • Sidney Crosby - just when you think he's topped out, he goes to another level. He split the D several times tonight and created chances where there were none. He needs to keep raising the ante if the Pens hope to get back to Pittsburgh for Game 6.
Who stayed out in the cold?
  • The power play unit - they generated some good chances, but just couldn't beat Emery. They probably could have worked for some better shots, but they did okay with what they tried.
  • Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo - I'm left wondering about not playing Ruutu and Petrovicky more than one shift in the third. I'm also wondering why they didn't change things up on the power play in terms of the scheme they deployed. The Senators had it figured out. Also, dressing Eckman in place of Christensen? I'd rather see Christensen simply because he has a better wrister than anyone on the team, and can contribute offensively at crunch time.
The Pens have their backs against the wall. In truth, I think this might be too much of a wall for them to climb, but I think it'll be fun to watch them try.

Next up: a return to Ottawa on Thursday night to try to stay alive.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Playoff Game #4 - vs Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins

Ottawa leads 2-1.

Everything is a matter of perspective, isn't it? Say, for instance, that the Pens had lost both games in Ottawa and won on Sunday in Pittsburgh. What would we all be saying now? I think it would be something like "a win in game 4 and the Pens are right back in the series, doing what they're supposed to do". Instead, with the win on the road and the loss at home, there seems to be an overriding feeling of disappointment.

I think the Pens can win game 4. I think they will be right back in the series if they do. I think they're done if they don't.

If the Pens are to win the game, they're going to have to do a few things, in my opinion:
  • Out hit the Senators, while staying out of the box. This is made easier by the reduced interference calls if the puck is anywhere near the player.
  • Make better passes out of their own end. I'm not sure if this is a system thing that they're confused by, but we haven't seen this much difficulty all season.
  • When they get the puck to the neutral zone, get the forecheck going. This had been absent for most of the series, and it's critical. It's even more important because it gives a chance for the third and fourth lines to chip in.
  • Get timely scoring on the power play. In their two losses, the Pens had key situations where they couldn't get the badly needed goal past Ray Emery. They have to find a way to score.
  • Hit Bryan Murray with the puck. Okay - maybe that one's not completely necessary, but it sure would be worth it.
The Pens sure could use a convincing win to head back to Ottawa with. That would give them some momentum, as well as assure them of a return trip to Pittsburgh for game 6. Here's hoping it happens.

Let's Go Pens!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Senators 4, Penguins 2

This one was simple - the Pens fell behind the eight ball and couldn't dig their way out.

The Pens jumped out quickly, with Gary Roberts scoring on a chance generated by the Pens getting the puck to the net. Crosby was pummeled off of the puck, leaving Mr Roberts all alone to blow the puck past Emery. It was like pulling back a curtain, only to reveal the bad guy standing behind it, grinning.

Unfortunately for the Pens, that was the high point of the game. They had several good chances to go up 2-0, but Emery was up to the task and kept them out of the net. He played pretty well tonight - he made the saves he needed to.

I think the back-breaker was the essentially short-handed goal the Sens scored to make the score 4-1. The Pens weren't nearly aggressive enough in defending the short-handed rush of McAmmond, allowing him to gain the center of the ice. He made a nice pass to Alfredsson, who had swing out wide for a great one-timer that went top shelf over Fleury.

Overall, great start and then... blech.

Who showed up to play tonight?
  • Sidney Crosby - he didn't let up. If the Pens start to follow his lead as a team, they have a chance in this series. He is the ultimate competitor from what we've seen so far, and has only become better as the playoffs begin.
  • Evgeni Malkin - started to show some signs tonight. I think defending Crosby by jumping on Phillips at the end of the game could be what he needs to get going. At the very least, it shows his heart.
  • Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi - two senior members of the squad playing their butts off. Both logged about 20 minutes of ice time and both provided valuable contributions, though I wish Recchi were able to do more offensively.
Who missed the call from the clue phone?
  • Ryan Malone - only logged 13:31 of ice time, none in the last 6 minutes of the game. He was a -2 with no shots and only one hit.
  • The entire team - they were out hit, out worked and out hustled for most of the game at home. There's no excuse for that, in my opinion. It's obvious these guys want to win. It's just not as obvious that they've figured out how to do it yet.
Next up: a fight for their playoff lives on Tuesday night at the Igloo. Win and they're back in it.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Playoff Game #3 - vs Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins

Series tied 1-1.

This is the game where we get to see just how much the Pens have in the tank. They snuck out of Ottawa with a split, despite being outplayed in both games (though not as badly in game 2). The Flightless Birds need to come out with a vengeance and take the game to the Senators.

Michel Therrien needs to be able to roll four lines, especially after the rough game just 24 hours prior. That means that a contribution from Ruutu, Christensen, Petro or whoever is on that fourth line would be invaluable. So far, Therrien hasn't been afraid to shorten the bench. Let's hope that doesn't come back to bite him.

The Senators have been leaning heavily on their big line (Spezza, Heatley and Alfredsson), all of them playing almost 23 minutes in Saturday's contest. Let's hope that DOES come back to bite Brian Murray.

You'd think that Therrien might be tempted to start Thibault, but given how strong Fleury finished up game 2, along with how valuable a home sweep would be, I can't see it happening.

If the Pens can manage to win game 3, they put the pressure squarely on the backs of the Senators, who would absolutely want to avoid going back to Ottawa down 3-1.

I think they can do it.

Let's Go Pens!

Penguins 4, Senators 3

The Pens were able to come from behind to beat the Senators today. The series is now tied at 1-1 and heading back to Pittsburgh. The game was absolutely critical. Had the Pens returned home down 2-0, you may have been able to stick a fork in them. Instead, they faced adversity and beat it.

The Pens were up 1-0 after the first period. Ryan Whitney managed a lucky power play goal (lucky because it bounced off the leg / skate of a Sens defense and behind Emery.

The Sens scored twice in the second to take a 2-1 lead into the third period. The second goal was particularly nice - a tic-tac-toe play on the power play that you could see coming about three passes in advance. I imagine that Fleury could see it coming too, but was pretty much helpless to do anything about it.

The Pens tied the game early in the third on the power play, thanks to Gary Roberts. The Sens took the lead 3-2 on a nice shot by Chris Kelly that Fleury couldn't do much about. Ryan Whitney probably gave Kelly a bit more room to shoot than he should have.

The Pens then made the vaunted strength of the Senators, the 5 on 5 play, look like a weakness. They notched the tying goal and the winning goal in a 2:10 span that may have restored the CHOKERS!! label to the Sens, but I'm not ready to go that far yet.

The tying goal was the result of a nice hit behind the net by Ouellet, followed up by an absolute Freight Train Hit by Gary Roberts. That freed Ouellet to dish the puck to Staal, who was standing all alone in front of Ray Emery. Staal buried the puck and the game was tied.

The winning goal came following a broken stick on a shot attempt by Alfredsson. Malkin brought the puck up, got it to Recchi, who zipped it to Crosby standing at the post to the left of Emery. Sid knocked the puck in with the shaft of his stick, just above the blade. Not an easy play. A great goal when the Pens needed it badly.

So who showed up to play today?
  • Gary Roberts - he was huge in the later parts of the game, scoring a goal and helping to setup another one. He led by example, and hit everything that moved. Great game by Mr Roberts.
  • Sidney Crosby - scored the goal the Pens needed, when they needed it. He also won 11 of 14 faceoffs, which is superb.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury - made several big time saves. None of them was bigger than the save on Spezza (I think it was Spezza...) with 13 seconds left, when he stopped a nearly point blank shot from right in front of the net. He could easily have been one of the three stars.
  • Penguins penalty killers - they shut down the Sens, allowing only one goal against despite lots of chances against.
Who missed the wake-up call?
  • Eric Christensen - almost more time in the penalty box (4:00) than on the ice (4:45). He didn't play after leaving the ice following his second penalty.
  • Evgeni Malkin - I know he had two assists and played better, but he also didn't play after the questionable penalty on him midway through the third. He could be dominant if he could get things figured out.
The Pens still looked like they were outplayed for large stretches of the game. We'll see how things look at the Igloo tomorrow. They need to win. Preview will be up later.

Next up: the Sens visit the Igloo for a Sunday night contest. Game time is 6:00 on FSN.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Playoff Game #2 - at Ottawa Senators

Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators

Ottawa leads 1-0

Game 2 is going to be HUGE. If the Pens can manage a win in Ottawa, then they have a legitimate shot to win the series. If they go down 2-0, even though games 3 and 4 are at home, I'm not sure they'll be able to come back.

I think it's all going to depend on the mindset of the Senators. They're saying all the right things, but what is going on in their heads? They've been notorious chokers for 10 years, and haven't been up 2-0 in a series in that entire time. They're also coming off a game in which the dominated, maybe making things a little too easy. I think they could be in for a rude awakening.

Here are the questions I asked prior to game 1. Let's see how the answers are looking so far:
5. Is Marc-Andre Fleury for real? Can he come up big for the first time in his career?

Yes - I think he can. He was quite sharp through two periods. I think with a better all-around effort by the team, Fleury can make the big save when called upon.

4. Can the Pens play their system against the Senators? Can they withstand the offensive barrages that the Sens have thrown against them this year?

This is TBD (To Be Determined). They weren't able to avoid the flurry of goals early in the first and in the third. That is what did them in on Wednesday night. Consistency is the key for Game 2.

3. Can the Pens continue to confound Ray Emery? Will they still have his number?

This is an emphatic YES. Get some regular pressure on this guy and I think he'll fold like a house of cards.

2. Will this young team be overwhelmed and intimidated once the lights come on, or will they continue to be blissfully ignorant of their surroundings?

I think they're all too aware of their surroundings and were pretty nervous. Now that they have the jitters out of the way, with a few late goals to show they can score, the train should start to roll a bit.

1. Can Sidney carry the Pens to the next level? Will he step it up when he's needed the most?

Another TBD. I believe he can, but we haven't seen it yet.

Game time is 3:00. Buckle up - it's going to be a rough one.

Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Senators 6, Penguins 3

The Senators came out with an early flurry. The Pens had no answer and couldn't counter-punch until they were down 3-0. The Pens had a critical goal disallowed early in the third period. The Sens added on after that and ran the score to 6-1. The Pens added two goals in garbage time to make the game seem closer than it was.

So who came to play tonight? Here are my thoughts:
  • Max Talbot - You noticed every time he was on the ice. He was a step faster than we're used to seeing (and that's saying something) and he was finishing off every check. You could see why he was playoff MVP twice in juniors.
  • Sidney Crosby - He was blanketed and frustrated for most of the game. That being said, I never saw anyone get a clean hit on him. He also didn't back down from anyone (when Whitney was high-sticked, Sid was the first one to jump on the Senators) and he put in a late goal. I think that'll carry over for him into game 2. Sid was also 19-10 on faceoffs - that's huge.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury - He was hung out to dry by his teammates several times, but he single-handedly kept the game close through the first two periods. One man cannot hold back the flood, and he eventually faltered, giving way to Thibault later in the third. He needs some help from his team.

Who was invisible?
  • Mark Recchi - Mark had the quietest two point night I've ever seen. Other than one good shift in the second, I really didn't notice him on the ice.
  • Evgeni Malkin - If he wasn't busy getting knocked on his butt, Geno was busy losing faceoffs. He won only TWO of EIGHTEEN faceoffs! That has to be the worst performance I've heard of in recent memory.
  • The Team - as a whole, these guys weren't ready for what the Senators were bringing. They couldn't stand up to the onslaught, and couldn't seem to answer the challenge physically until later in the game. Hopefully that sets a tone for game #2.

If things don't change, and change in a big way, this is going to be a quick series. The Pens were outshot 29-12 through the first two periods, and that's despite having some serious time on the power play.

I'm already hating the Senators. Are you? They took every opportunity to apply borderline (ie, cheap) hits, basically trying to bully the Penguins. I'm hoping the Pens get to tell them where to stick it before the series is over. I'd like to say more, but this is an all-ages blog. Blech.

Next up - in Ottawa on Saturday afternoon at 3:00. The Pens start slow in early games - they can't afford that on Saturday or they'll be run out of the building.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Playoff Game #1 - at Ottawa Senators

Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators

This is the first game of the playoffs. It's the first post season game the Pens have played in about six or seven years. I'm jacked to watch.

There are lots of unanswered questions about this team that we'll slowly get to see some answers to. Here are the top five questions that will be answered this series:

5. Is Marc-Andre Fleury for real? Can he come up big for the first time in his career?
4. Can the Pens play their system against the Senators? Can they withstand the offensive barrages that the Sens have thrown against them this year?
3. Can the Pens continue to confound Ray Emery? Will they still have his number?
2. Will this young team be overwhelmed and intimidated once the lights come on, or will they continue to be blissfully ignorant of their surroundings?
1. Can Sidney carry the Pens to the next level? Will he step it up when he's needed the most?

What questions do you have that you're waiting to see the answers to? I know one thing - it'll be fun to watch!

Let's Go Pens!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Penguins 2, Rangers 1

The Pens did enough to win this one, and that's all that really counts. Never mind that they started to go into shutdown mode in the third. They knew that Ottawa had already won and thus, the outcome of tonight's game was inconsequential. That was until Sean Avery and Sidney Crosby decided to compliment each other on their hair, or, I'm assuming that's what they were talking about in such an animated fashion. After that, Crosby was like a man possessed, and the Pens turned it back up a notch.

Two power play goals tonight from the two old guys - Recchi and Roberts (I think of them as the Grumpy Old Men - especially Recchi - he always looks like he's ready to beat someone with his stick... Roberts is just ready to beat on someone... period!) Roberts goal was a change-up if I ever saw one in hockey. It may also have been the slowest moving goal I've seen in awhile. Check out the replay on Recchi's was just a nice shot over the right pad of Lundqvist on a bang-bang play from behind the net.

No goal #30 for Staal or #20 for Ouellet. Both had some great chances - especially Ouellet. Something to shoot for next year.

The Pens finish with 105 points, and who would ever have thought they'd manage this level of success? Not me - I can tell you that for sure. This season has been fun so far. Everything else now is just icing on the cake.

The loss kept the Rangers in danger of earning the 7th seed, though Tampa Bay losing took care of that. The Rangers will finish 6th, while Tampa will play the Devils. Dear God - does anyone want to watch that snooze fest? At least there's now a definite cure for insomnia.

Great game by the Pens. Great season too.

Next up: The PLAYOFFS!!! Likely open in Ottawa on Wednesday night.

Game #82 - vs New York Rangers

New York Rangers (42-29-10, 94 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (46-24-11, 103 pts)

Prior meetings:
Rangers 2, Penguins 1 on March 19th in New York
Penguins 3, Rangers 2 (OT) on March 10th in Pittsburgh
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

The scenario for tonight is very simple. Win the game and hope the Senators lose in regulation or OT. If that happens, the Pens will have home ice for their first round series.

The Rangers have been hot on their way to the playoffs. They've lost only twice in regulation since the beginning of March (Lundqvist has lost only once in regulation). The main reason has been defense and goal tending.

The Pens have won 4 of the 7 games so far against the Rangers and can clinch the season series with a win tonight. That would be nice.

Rangers blog -
I'm not going to single out one blog this time. They're all singing about the Rangers clinching the playoffs. Good for them. I hope the Pens can help out (ie, beat the Rangers in regulation) and force the Rangers into 7th, where they'll have to play the Devils. The Rangers have lost 4 in a row against the Devils.

More than anything else, the Pens need a win to go into the playoffs on a high note, and to give themselves a shot at the #1 seed. It's the last game of the year. You should be watching - the Igloo will be rocking.

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Penguins 3, Senators 2

This one felt like a playoff game, just with a little bit less discipline than you'd expect.

In the first, the Pens get a power play and look horrible. The Sens get one and score within 30 seconds. After that, there were several scrums as the tension started to rise. This is looking like it will be one tough playoff series.

About halfway through the first, Ruutu was trying to finish a check on Jason Spezza, admittedly up high. Ruutu missed his check, but Spezza took a swing at Jarkko, drawing a roughing call. Seeing that he'd earned a trip to the Sin Bin, Jason decided to upgrade to the extended stay and decked Ruutu, who had conveniently swung back around to discuss things calmly with Spezza. One moment of uncontrolled temper later, and Spezza has drawn a second penalty. That's when things get funny - because the refs called a 2:00 rough and a 5:00 fighting on Spezza, they decided after the fact to give Ruutu 2:00 for charging. There was nothing on the initial hit that indicated that Ruutu was getting a penalty as well. It was good old Canadian officiating at it's best.

It didn't matter, because the Pens effectively flipped the bird at the Sens by scoring twice on the major penalty to Spezza, taking the lead 2-1.

Other than a goal in the second on the power play by the Sens, the remainder of the game was good playoff style hockey. The Pens were the team taking too many penalties in the second, as Joe Melichar set a team record this season by taking three minors at one time. He was called for cross checking, but then accidentally clipped Heatly with his stick, drawing both blood and 4 minutes. This was with Scuderi already in the box, so the Sens had over 30 seconds of a 5 on 3 to work with. They scored during the 5 on 3, so they then had over 5:00 of power play time. The Pens drew an even up call to help things out, but they also killed the rest of the Sens power play, which was critical. They never let the Sens take the lead.

The third period was up and down a bit with the Sens getting some great chances. Fleury was up to the task, making several great saves. The Pens stepped it up in the last 2:00, with Crosby drawing a penalty. Malkin made a rookie mistake and gave the Zebras a chance to make an even-up call, but Army and Talbot showed the persistence pays off by putting the puck into the net with 9.8 seconds left. Great goal, great game.

Random notes:
  • Fleury was the #1 star, and deservedly so. He made 35 saves and was spectacular. If he plays like this in the playoffs, the Pens will have a good shot.
  • The Senators tried to set a tone physically, by hitting Penguins everywhere they could. I'm not sure it was very effective - the Pens didn't seem phased by the physicality. They held their ground and didn't back down. Much of that credit has to go to Gary Roberts.
  • The Devils beat the Flyers, so the Pens can finish no higher than 4th, and will play the Senators in the first round.
  • If the Pens earn more points on Saturday than the Sens do (ie, the Pens win and the Sens lose or the Pens have an OTL, while the Sens lose in regulation), then the Pens will have home ice for the series with the Sens.
Next up: the Rangers visit the Igloo on Saturday night.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sabres 4, Penguins 1

I think the technical term for tonight's game would be "blech". There's really no other way to describe it.

The Pens were 0-8 on the power play. That explains everything you need to know about the game. The Pens were just pent up and frustrated all night long. You could tell they really missed Ryan Whitney on the power play. Whitney was out tonight with a sore groin. Recchi played the other point on the power play and it just wasn't the same.

There's really not much more to the game. Fleury kept the score from being worse than it was with several key saves. The score was 2-1 going into the third, so the Pens certainly had their chances.

The Pens should now regroup and get themselves ready for the playoffs. Their chances of catching Jersey or Ottawa are now slim, given that both Jersey and the Sens earned points tonight. Rest Whitney and anyone else that is ailing to make sure they're ready for the playoffs to being next week.

Next up: at Ottawa on Wednesday in a likely preview of the first round playoff match up

Game #80 - vs Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres (50-21-7, 107 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (45-23-11, 101 pts)

Prior meetings:
Penguins 5, Sabres 4 (SO) on March 13th in Pittsburgh
Penguins 4, Sabres 2 on January 5th in Buffalo
Sabres 4, Penguins 2 on November 17th in Buffalo

Playoff position update:
The Pens can finish 2nd in the conference if:
  1. The Pens win their remaining games.
  2. The Devils lose tonight to the Senators in regulation.
The Pens can finish 4th in the conference if:
  1. The Pens win their remaining games, beating Ottawa in regulation.
The Pens have a chance to finish 3-1 against the Sabres, which would be no small feat, considering how the Sabres have played this year. I think the Pens match up well against these guys, mainly because Buffalo likes to play an up-and-down game, which the Pens also love to do. One thing is certain - tonight will be an entertaining game.

We'll likely see Marc-Andre Fleury in net tonight for the Pens against Ryan Miller for the Sabres. Miller is looking to set the team record for wins. The Pens are 2-0 against Miller this year (Biron was in goal when the Sabres won early in the season).

Buffalo has a virtual lock on the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They have a 5 point lead on both Jersey and Ottawa with a game in hand. The Pens, as detailed above, are struggling for either the 2 or 4 seed. They can fall no lower than 5.

Sabres blog - BfloBlog
This is easily one of my favorite blogs to link to. There's always a game preview up (today is no exception), and it's always well written.

Tonight's game will be fun. That's all we know for sure. I'd love to say the Pens will be able to take this one, but I'm a little bit nervous about it. I'm hoping for two points so they can keep their chances of the 2nd or 4th spot alive.

Let's Go Pens!