Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bruins 5, Penguins 1

Completely missed this one. Doesn't look like I missed too much.

Hossa is out, probably for a week, with a grade 1 strain of the MCL.

Dupuis got the goal. That made him only a -2 for the night. He was with Malkin and Sykora for three goals against (Geno and Sykora were both, as you might guess, -3). Maybe that line needs a little more time to click. Maybe Therrien won't be that patient.

Conk was pulled, though it was probably more about getting Fleury some work and giving Conk a rest than anything. The goal he was pulled on wasn't his fault - the puck clearly deflected off of Sykora on the way in.

Not too much else to go with on this one. Hopefully the weekend will be better.

Next up: Going to Ottawa on Saturday afternoon. Get ready to work.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Game #65 - at Boston Bruins

Pittsburgh Penguins (36-21-7, 79 pts) at Boston Bruins (33-23-6, 72 pts)

Time for a new hometown, Marian!

Murray's numbers are down, but he can still score.

This is the debut of the Pens' big gamble. Can Hossa et al put them over the top? Will they be able to keep these players long term? Will it be an abject failure if they don't?

Does the opponent really matter for this one? Why yes, they do. The Pens find themselves in a tough game on the road against a hot team that's climbing the standings in the East. Boston has won four in a row, and has points in 6 straight. They also put the nail in the coffin of John Paddock when they shut out the Senators on Tuesday.

The Bruins have managed a power play goal in five straight games. The Pens look at that streak and laugh - they have a power play goal in every game in February. If they get one tomorrow, they'll have a power play goal for every game in the month. Pretty cool.

Sadly, the Pens have another streak they should be cautious of - they've allowed a power play goal in 8 straight games on the road. That will need to stop.

Fleury may get the start tomorrow. It has to be tough to sit Conklin after the way he played on Tuesday. Maybe we'll see Flower over the weekend instead.

Should be an exciting game.

Let's Go Pens!

Penguins 4, Islanders 2 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the road win over the Islanders.

You can read the full review here.

Back in the Times

I wrote another small piece on each of the trades the Pens made yesterday for the NY Times hockey blog. You can see Hossa deal here and the Gill deal here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Penguins 4, Islanders 2

Great win on the road for the Pens tonight. You almost expected them to win this one, which says something about how the team has grown.

The Isles out shot the Pens 50-19. The Pens made their shots count. The Isles weren't able to get enough past Conklin to make a difference.

First period:

Reduced roster tonight, due to the trades made earlier today. The Pens only had 10 forwards and six defensemen.

Penalty parade early on, but nothing doing for either team. The Pens start out killing three penalties, though two of them were pretty short. Nice to get the stat sheet stuffers.

Conklin was brilliant early on, keeping the Pens in the game while the Isles out shot them 13-0.

Malkin said "we don't need tons of shots" and buried the puck on just the Pens second shot.

The Pens quickly decided they needed a challenge, so after Gonchar took a penalty, Whitney shot the puck up over the glass from his own end. The two man disadvantage was over 90 seconds, and Conklin was the Pens best penalty killer.

The Pens go back on the power play late in the first. They gave up two different two on one chances. Conklin was up to the challenge again.

Malkin went busting into the Islander's zone and drew another call, putting the Pens on two man advantage. The second power play unit (Minard, Kennedy and Taffe) wasted no time, scoring on a scrum around the net. Taffe got the goal.

Second period:

Staal was called for a high stick just one minute into the second period. It was Staal's second penalty of the game. The Pens killed the penalty.

Laraque was called for a hook. Sticking with the theme of the night, the Pens killed the penalty. Hearing the boo birds from the limited fans at the game was entertaining.

The Isles had a two on none, but Whitney got back to break things up when the Isles started trying to pass the puck around. It was one of the few times thus far that the Isles didn't get a shot off.

The Isles scored on a redirection by Frans Nielsen. It was his first goal of the year and second of his NHL career. Nothing Conk could do on that one.

Connor James and Nathan Smith finally arrived at the arena, dressed and got onto the ice. That gave the Pens a full compliment of forwards. That was a good thing, because Scuderi took a puck off of his pinky finger and didn't return.

Laraque took his second penalty of the period, but the Pens were able to kill off yet another penalty.

The Pens had two bad turnovers in their own end late in the second. The Isles converted them into two great scoring chances. Conklin was up to the challenge.

Letang took a slashing penalty late in the second. That was the 8th penalty called on the Pens. The remainder of the penalty carried over to the third period.

Third period:

The Pens killed off the rest of the penalty. Islanders were 0-8 on the power play at that point.

Conklin made another two ridiculous saves, one with his head and the other going left to right across his crease. He needs to remain the #1 goaltender until he plays his way out of the job.

Things started to turn a bit more physical around the 10:00 mark of the third period. Expect more of that when Hal Gill arrives.

Staal put what looked like a nail in the coffin, beating Ricky over the right shoulder. Great goal at a great time.

The Isles took another dumb penalty. They can't be surprised these are getting called - the Pens took approximately 36 penalties in the second period.

Connor James scored on a nice move on the ensuing power play.

Malkin tripped up Martinek with 1:30 remaining in the game (I thought Martinek dove, personally). The Isles scored, just to make things interesting.

The Pens clogged things up in the Islanders zone after that - the Isles couldn't get the puck out of their own zone until there were just 13 seconds left. DiPietro never got to leave the ice.

  • All three new guys will be at practice tomorrow, and should all play on Thursday.
  • Gonchar - 23 minutes, Malkin and Malone - 24 minutes, Whitney - 26 minutes.
  • How much will Ryan Malone cost after this season?

Pens obtain Hossa, Dupuis and Gill

As I'm sure you know by now, the Pens made a few trades today.

First, the outgoing players are:

Colby Armstrong - I'm probably the most disappointed to see Colby leave. He was one of my favorite Penguins, mainly because he seemed to be just a regular guy. You have to wonder how Sid will feel about him leaving, but I'm sure Penguins management took that into consideration. I'm also sure that Sid will say and do all the right things - he's the consummate professional.

Erik Christensen - Crusher could never put up the numbers that might have kept him here. The Pens wanted him to succeed, and he has shown flashes, but never over an extended period. I hope the Pens aren't making a big mistake in not waiting a little longer with him.

Angelo Esposito - Now we'll get to see another team try to figure out if there was a good reason why Espo fell so far in the first round. The Pens are still stacked at center, so this wasn't a bad guy to move.

The incoming guys:

Marian Hossa - Wow. Just wow. He's the real deal - a 40 goal guy that shoots the puck (he averages over four shots per game). He'll be lethal playing with Sid, or heck, with just about anyone. For this deal to make sense, the Pens really need to sign him long term. Think they can do that with all of the other guys they have to take care of?

Hal Gill - A solid physical presence who doesn't go to the box very often. He'll clear the area in front of the net, as well as chip in a few points here and there. Nice pickup. Signed through next season.

Pascal Dupuis - He's a bit of a wild card. He can score a little bit, but his numbers haven't quite been the same since the end of the lockout. He has scored 20 goals in one season before. Useless trivia - last year, he was traded for.... Adam Hall!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Game #64 - at New York Islanders

Pittsburgh Penguins (35-21-7, 77 pts) at New York Islanders (30-26-7, 67 pts)

Will Christensen still be on the team when the game starts? I sure hope so!

How would you look if YOU just got hit in the junk with the puck?

The Pens have an important game with the Isles on Long Island, but will all of the same guys still be with the team? The Pens need the two points, especially considering that they're still three game under .500 against divisional opponents.

Will the Isles still look the same? Will they be buyers or sellers tomorrow? They're sitting one point out of the 8th and final playoff spot. Do they think they're good enough to sacrifice some young talent and make the playoffs?

The Pens currently have three goaltenders, and you'd have to think Fleury will get the start either against the Isles or on Thursday against Boston.

As for the game itself, the Pens need to focus on getting two points out of a game instead of one. It's not even relevant to their chances if they do it in regulation or overtime.

The Isles had won six straight before they lost in New Jersey. During the past eight games, the Isles have managed exactly five power play goals. FOUR of them were in the same game! How's that for consistency?

The Isles always seem to be tough on the Pens. Let's hope that doesn't continue tomorrow.

Let's Go Pens!

Branching out

I can honestly say that when I started this blog I didn't expect much.

I certainly didn't expect to write anything for Slap Shot, the hockey blog of the New York Times.

As of today, however, I'll have to change my expectations.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sharks 2, Penguins 1 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the loss to the Sharks. Get ready for a nap.

You can snooze to the full review here.

Sharks 2, Penguins 1 (OT - SO - 3-2)


huh? what? Someone playing hockey?

First period:

Maybe one of the most boring periods of hockey I've ever seen. Other than the Penguins effective penalty kill, there's really not much to talk about. Conklin had a few nice saves, but there wasn't much other than that.

Second period:

This one made the first look exciting. Still nothing doing. Maybe it's just that I was tired when watching the game, but I almost fell asleep.

Third period:

The Sharks score (on a great individual effort by Cheechoo), and now I'm afraid that instead of sending one guy in on the forecheck, the Sharks will just keep all five men back in the neutral zone. These guys make the Devils look daring and offensive.

Shelley ensures he'll never play in the third period again by taking a dumb penalty. Crusher shoots from a bad angle off of a nice pass from Gonchar and scores. Great to see Christensen get back on the good side of things in his first game back.




Crusher starts it off making Nabokov look really bad, scoring pretty easily.

Pavelski managed to beat Conklin with a wrister. I think this shattered Conk's confidence, as all three Sharks did pretty much the same thing (wrist shots, though they went to different places) and all three beat him easily.

Ruutu kept things interesting, but the Letang couldn't get the puck up on his attempt and the Pens went down 3-2 in the shoot out.


I'm still bored and the game has been over for a while.

Next up: Off to Long Island for a date with the Isles on Tuesday.

Game #63 - vs San Jose Sharks

San Jose Sharks (32-21-8, 72 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (35-21-6, 76 pts)

Quick preview today. The Pens should be anxious for the chance to finish up their slate of games against the Western Conference. They are 8-1 against the West so far this year.

San Jose, by comparison, is just 2-5 so far against the East.

The Sharks own the best road record in the NHL, even though they'd lost three straight on the road before beating Philadelphia on Thursday (who hasn't beaten the Flyers lately?)

This is an important game for the Pens. They have a bunch of road games coming up, and this is a quality opponent at home. No word on the starting goalie yet.

Let's Go Pens!

Senators 4, Penguins 3 (OT) - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the loss to the Senators.

You can read the full review here.

If you're reading via an aggregator like Bloglines or Google Reader you'll need to click through to see the highlights.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Senators 4, Penguins 3 (OT)

I know the Sens are a good team, but this was a bad time to give up the extra point to a conference rival. The Pens need to win these kind of games if they want to win a round in the playoffs this year. In fairness, if they were down 3-0 and had tied the score, only to lose in OT, we might be thinking about things differently...

On to the recap!

First period:

The Pens took an early icing call, right at the end of the first shift. I was a bit worried, but they not only got the puck out, Armstrong took off down the ice for a backhand breakaway. He drew the first penalty against the Sens.

Sykora blasted one past Emery. Great goal. Pens lead 1-0.

The Sens looked like they had mud for brains, taking one bad penalty after another. The Pens were able to get a few good scoring chances on each power play (though not a ton of shots), but couldn't beat Emery.

Ray Ray looked pretty shaky early on, but solidified as the period went on.

Conklin made a few ridiculous saves later in the first. Make sure you check the highlights if you didn't see them for yourself.

This period had to be a victory for both teams. The Pens had the lead, but the Sens had weathered the storm (and Penalty Parade) and were only down by one.

Second period:

Army gave the Pens a 2-0 lead with a great slapper over the glove hand of Emery. This is the second time in two games he's been able to blast a puck past a goalie. That would be HUGE if he could find the back of the net more often.

The Armstrong goal was because Commodore tried to step up on Colby out near the red line. I could almost hear the Public Service Announcement going through my head: "This goal was brought to you by the bad judgment of Mike Commodore".

The Senators got into trouble in their own end again. Redden lost a stick and cleared the puck with his hands. Commodore decided that was the time to join the rush. The Pens had a 2 on none (Staal and Laraque) going back the other way when the Sens failed to get the puck deep. Taffe picked up the rebound and tossed it in over Emery, who was down. "This goal was brought to you by the continued bad judgment of Mike Commodore".

The funniest part of the entire goal was the replay they showed of Wade Redden. He had no stick, so he headed for the bench. He stood and watched as the Pens entered the Sens zone, and when Staal was about to shoot, he motioned for a change. That got him off of the ice so he didn't pick up the minus.

You had to know it wasn't going to be this easy to beat the Sens. Steigy and Errey usually aren't bound by such addictions to knowledge, and when you throw in Pierre McGuire... look out! They were so down on the Sens, that they had major changes being made, the coach John Paddock was going to be fired, and the city of Ottawa was evidently going to be wiped off the face of the Earth to save the rest of us the embarrassment.

That, of course, was the kiss of death, as the Sens scored two goals within five minutes. Errey and McGuire were nice enough to declare that this was now a hockey game. Thanks, guys! How about not burying the other team when there are still 30 minutes left to be played?

Third period:

Things were pretty dull, to be honest, for much of the third.

The Pens forgot that Dany Heatley was a 50 goal man, and decided that he could be left all alone, about 10 feet away from Conklin. When he got the puck, you immediately got that feeling like when you're kicked in the *ahem* midsection. You know the pain is coming, but it hasn't hit yet. Heatley doesn't miss from there. Tie game.

Most of the rest of the time was pretty slow compared to the rest of the game. Neither team seemed to want to take any chances, and the zebras put away their whistles.


The tedium that infected the third carried over into the early part of OT, until there were several furious rushes in the last minute or so.

Malone hit the crossbar and far post with a shot and the Pens had at least one other two on one chance.

The Sens ended the game when Alfredsson had the puck in the Penguins end with less than 10 seconds to go. You knew he would score when Steigy said something to the effect of "we haven't called Alfredsson's name all game!" Maybe if the announcers could keep from saying anything even remotely negative about the other team, at least when it's a big game... Anyway, Daniel buried the backhand chance with 3.2 seconds remaining. That hurts.

  • Malkin's point streak came to an end.
  • Gonchar, Letang and Ruutu were all -2.
  • Minard had a nice sequence in the second period with two good shots. He's going to have to do much more than that to get off the Wilkes-Barre Merry-Go-Round on the Pittsburgh side...
Next up: No rest for the weary - the Sharks are here Sunday afternoon at 3:00.

Game #62 - vs Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators (35-20-6, 76 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (35-21-5, 75 pts)

HUGE game - the winner will have at least a tie for the top spot in the East... and I have no time to write a preview. Blech.

Go read the Pensblog preview - they have some info on Fleury and Crosby.

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Penguins 5, Canadiens 4 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the victory over the Habs.

You can read the full review here.

If you're reading this in an aggregator (Google Reader, Bloglines, etc), you'll have to click through to see the highlights.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Penguins 5, Canadiens 4

Great win for the Pens. They had the lead, 3-1, and allowed three straight goals. It looked bad, but the Pens battled back and took the lead, 5-4. They then held off the Habs to earn two points. Here's the recap!

First Period:

Sabu in goal. Last chance for him? Or is it because he shut them out here last time?

Early on, James comes flying down the right side and takes a hip check, which makes the crowd cheer. What they missed is that the man and the puck kept on going. James set Kennedy up right on the doorstep. Tyler might have been a little too close to Huet and he couldn't do too much with it.

Orpik turned Ryder into his own personal whipping boy, clobbering him at least three times on the same shift.

Whitney took a nice pass from Malkin and put a shot on net. It somehow finds it's way through everyone and under the glove of Huet. Great goal for the Pens. Poor one allowed by Cristobal. At least it made the crowd quiet.

The Habs have an extended period of time in the Penguins zone. The Pens, however, dig deep. They didn't take a penalty and they didn't ice the puck. The Habs didn't really have a solid scoring chance during that time, and Sabu eventually caught a shot and held on to earn the face off. That sequence was HUGE - no goal allowed and no penalty taken.

Latendresse hit the crossbar behind Sabourin. Thank you Mr. Crossbar.

Staal took a turnover and drew a tripping call. Pens went on the power play.

On the power play, the Pens weren't able to score, but Malkin and Kovalev got in a bit of nastiness. Should be entertaining to watch...

Ruutu takes a turnover, skates across in front of Huet and shoots the puck off of the shoulder of a Habs defense, past Huet. The silence in the arena was deafening.

Second period:

Army took a questionable hit a full two or three strides after he passed the puck. Talbot decided it was time to start the Max show by fighting with Lapierre. Talbot went with the "peekabo" strategy, letting Lapierre hit the back of his head and then sneaking in a nasty right hand to the jaw of Lapierre. Good fight.

Little Connor James! Take a drink!

Koivu took a nice pass from Kostitsyn and buried it behind Sabu. Where was the defense? Whitney was on the far side waiting for the pass from Sydor who was beat to the puck. How did Koivu manage to come in untouched?

Letang took a stick to the face, putting the Pens back on the power play.

On the ensuing power play, Malone cleaned up the garbage from the Whitney back door play, depositing the puck behind Huet. Great effort.

Malkin had a chance all alone in front of Huet and he missed. After that, you had the feeling the Habs might beat Sabu, but it didn't happen. Great job by the Pens to bear down.

Malkin, Malone and Sykora had a 3 on 1, but didn't score when Malone's backhand attempt deflected just wide.

Ruutu took a bad penalty (hooking with one hand on the stick), putting the #1 power play into action for the first time in the game.

Kovalev shot for the stick of Higgins, who deflected it past Sabourin. It had been a good PK until that point, but he woes in the short-handed situation continue for the Pens.

Third period:

The Canadiens decided to let everyone know this would be a game by tying the game early in the third.

The Penguins decided to let everyone know they liked excitement by almost immediately taking a penalty (Kennedy for hooking). The Habs scored on the power play when the Pens showed a distinct lack of effort in the neutral zone and Sabu stayed way too deep in the crease.

Malkin is pretty obviously tripped by Kovalev. He didn't get the call, and he gave Komisarek a high stick, putting the Habs back on the power play again.

This time, the Pens killed the penalty and Malone snapped the puck ahead to Malkin who buried the breakaway. Tie game! Eat it!

The Habs then turned stupid and took a dumb penalty. The Pens took less than 30 seconds to take the lead. It was a low shot, on the ice, right inside the post. Probably a weak goal for Huet to allow. There have been a few of those tonight.

Now if the Pens can just stay out of the box...

Hamrlik showed the the Canadiens weren't ready to give up the dumb penalty habit. He came in high on Army, and it was completely unneeded. The Pens didn't score, but they did eat 2:00 of time and didn't allow a shorty.

The Pens then put on a clinic of keeping the puck in the offensive zone, with Talbot and Kennedy cycling and killing time.

The Habs pulled Huet and they couldn't do much. Sykora shot for the empty net and iced the puck. Very bad, Peter. It didn't matter, as the Pens got the puck out (Sykora banked it up the ice this time).

The Pens managed to hold on and get the two points. Even better, the Habs didn't earn any points.

  • Minutes for the D - Whitney and Sydor both had their minutes slashed. Orpik, Letang and (especially) Scuderi all received extended playing time. Scuds played over 23 minutes. That is huge.
  • Didn't it seem like Nathan Smith played more than three shifts?
  • The Sens had an OTL, so the Pens are one point behind them going into the game on Saturday.
Next up: HUGE battle for the top of the East at the Igloo on Saturday. Do we see Fleury this weekend?

Game #61 - at Montreal Canadiens

Pittsburgh Penguins (34-21-5, 73 pts) at Montreal Canadiens (33-19-9, 75 pts)

Kovalev has 7 points in the last 4 games.

There aren't many teams the Pens are looking up at in the standings, but the Habs are one of them. I think the Canadiens, while they have a playoff spot locked up, are at a disadvantage against the Sens, Devils and Pens in the standings. Here's why:
  • They have one more game played right now than any of the other three teams.
  • They have 9 overtime losses, which while they are great for earning a point, don't help you in a tiebreaker. Wins matter in a tie, and the Habs have fewer wins than the other three teams as well.
The Pens must win this game, however, to keep the pressure on the Habs. If they finish the season tied with the Habs, they'll need this win to get the higher seed via the tiebreaker. It would really suck to finish fifth again.

The Habs are lethal on the power play (over 25% at home!), so it's imperative the Pens don't take stupid penalties. This may be the weak point for the Pens in this one - they're one of the worst teams in the NHL at killing penalties on the road, with just a 77% kill rate. Blech.

Stay out of the box, boys!

Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Penguins 3, Panthers 2 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the comeback win over the Panthers.

You can read the full review here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Penguins 3, Panthers 2

Great win for the Pens to come back from a 2-0 deficit at the beginning of the third period. They're now tied with the Devils for the divsion lead. The Habs and Sens are ahead of the Pens in the conference.

Malkin is in front of Ovechkin for the league lead in scoring. That's awesome.

First period:

The Pens came out hopping, with each of the first two lines getting a good scoring chance. Then Orpik took a penalty.

No problem, however, as the Pens killed the penalty. Olli missed the net on a great chance (deep breath).

Malkin made Jokinen look like a merry-go-round on a rush. It resulted in a nice scoring chance.

The Pens go on the power play after Army is held. Nothing doing, but a few nice chances.

The Pens put the Panthers back on the power play. Whitney tries to go up the middle on an exit pass, but ends up handing the puck right to a Panther in front of the net. Conklin bailed him out with a great save.

If you're playing the Little Steigy drinking game, Cory Murphy is the latest victim. He's been referred to as "little" twice already tonight.

Staal rang one off of the post... again.

Booth took a great big rebound and buried it in the top of the net. Bad rebound, nice shot.

Kennedy immediately took issue with the goal and starts a fight with Booth. The referees unbelievably called it a roughing penalty and gave Kennedy the extra two for cross-checking.

The Pens killed off three power plays in the first period against a tough Florida unit.

Second period:

Nothing really happened in the early part of the second. The Pens had a power play, but the Panthers put on an exhibition in penalty killing (or the Pens put on an exhibition on how to suck at the power play).

Conklin made a great save on a breakaway by Nathan Horton.

Typing about these power plays is getting to be tedious. I'll summarize for you: Penguins = suck. They simply couldn't get the puck into the offensive zone and set things up. They had to dump every time and the Panthers had a remarkably easy time of clearing the puck.

Oh, the Pens also allowed a short-handed goal on a second breakaway. How is the penalty killing tactic a surprise to the Pens, and how do they not have a strategy to counter it?

Third period:

The Pens take a penalty when Staal knocks down a player in front. They killed off the penalty and then used the end of the penalty to create a 3-on-2. Army took the pass from Malkin and rifled the puck over the glove hand of Vokoun.

The Pens weren't able to do much right after their goal. Errey called out both Sykora and Malkin for diving, saying they were lucky not to get called. Not sure I'm educated enough to have an opinion on that.

The refs then decide that their ego is more important than calling the game fairly, and when Malkin actually IS tripped, he is called for diving. That was embarrassing, more because they also called the trip. If he tripped him, how did he dive? It's the age old question that makes referees everywhere turn red.

The Pens started applying more sustained pressure and you got the feeling that the game tying goal might be just around the corner.

It was. Malkin made a great cross-ice pass to Whitney, who shot the puck at the net. It found it's way in, courtesy of Ryan Malone. Great play by all involved.

Malkin drew another penalty with 1:05 left in regulation. It's almost bigger for the 55 seconds they'd have in overtime.

It turned out not to be needed, as Ryan Malone got his second when Vokoun self-destructed a second time late in the game. I'm not sure if he slammed his stick again, but he should have.

One troubling note - the Pens still can't get extended ice time from their lower line forwards. Laraque, Smith and James all played 7 minutes or less. You have to think the Pens need to roll four lines if they want to compete against the big boys. Getting guys back from injury will obviously help that.

Next up: A trip to Montreal to play the Habs on Thursday night. Should be fun.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Game #60 - vs Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers (27-28-6, 60 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (33-21-5, 71 pts)

Jokinen is always a Penguins killer.

Malkin is one point behind Ovechkin in the scoring race. That's amazing.

The Panthers are fighting for their playoff lives. They're four points out of the last playoff spot as well as first place in their division. They're also not very good. The Southeast division really blows this year.

On the road, the Kitty Cats play a more wide open game. They've scored 88 and allowed 92 in 32 road games this year (compared to 74 and 80 in 29 home games), so expect a game with more offense.

The Panthers have been no further than two games over .500 at any point this season. The power play has been a strength, but other than that, the Panthers have been astoundingly mediocre. This is a game the Pens should win.

Crosby won't play yet. I'm hoping he's not rushing back. He needs to take his time and let things heal well enough. The Pens are almost certainly going to make the playoffs, and they need him in top shape for said playoffs.

When I was going through the stats looking for something to talk about in this preview, I saw an interesting one. I always had the feeling that out shooting your opponent was devalued by hockey pundits. The Pens are 14-7-1 when they out-shoot the opposition - that's a .636 winning percentage. They're just 19-14-4 (.514) when they are out-shot by an opponent. Maybe this one is more important than we realize...

Let's Go Pens!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Penguins 4, Sabres 1 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the road win over the Sabres.

You can read the full review here.

Penguins 4, Buffalo 1

Great win on the road against a team that is on the edge of the playoffs. These are the kind of games the Pens need to keep winning if they want to move up in the standings in the East.

First period:

The Pens had a really slow start. Only Conklin kept them in the game.

Kaleta gets Laraque to retaliate, drawing a penalty. That's a bit unusual (for Laraque to retaliate), but I'd like to see more emotion from Laraque.

Letang starts the PK for the Pens. He's come a long way, eh?

Second period:

Sykora rings one off of the far post. He had Miller beat. Great shot - his slap shot is really heating up. You can see why he's known as a sniper.

Ruutu had a beautiful breakaway goal, taking a pass from Malone as he was coming out of the penalty box. He has that uncanny ability to elevate the puck after his deke. I think that's what makes him so effective on the shootout.

2-0 lead when Sykora chipped a rebound past Miller. Nice garbage goal.

Third period:

The Pens start the period with some domination, both by Malkin's line and by James, Taffe and Kennedy. Really great pressure, but no goals.

Malkin earns the Pens a 3-1 lead with a great effort goal. The Pens brought the puck up the ice, kept it going towards the goal. Sure enough, the puck bounced around and wound up sitting all alone right in front of a wide open net. Malkin hustled his butt off and put the puck into the empty net.

The Pens had an excellent, important penalty kill with less than 8:00 remaining. Malkin then drew a penalty with 5:52 remaining. That's a microcosm of the game.

The Sabres pull Miller, but that only gives Army the chances to notch an empty net goal. That was the game.

  • Conklin was easily the #1 star. He was tremendous tonight.
  • Two garbage goals tonight. That was huge.
  • When I saw James skating with Kennedy, I wondered what Steigy would say, given that James is, at best, as tall as Kennedy (probably smaller). We only had to wait until the third period to hear about the "little energy line". New drinking game! Every time Steigy refers to Kennedy, James, or their line as little, take a drink.
  • I just can't figure out if Steigy means little as in teddy bear, or little as in midget. Maybe it's both.
  • Did you ever think before the season that the Pens second power play until would be Talbot, Kennedy and Taffe? Wow.
Next up: the Kitty Cats come to the Igloo in what seems to be the last "easy" game for a while.

Game #59 - at Buffalo Sabres

Pittsburgh Penguins (32-21-5, 69 pts) at Buffalo Sabres (28-22-8, 64 pts)

Sabres player in a Pens uniform. Perfect for this game!

Buffalo is sitting on the outside looking in at the playoff picture right now by virtue of having one less win than Boston.

The Pens are down in the 5th spot right now. That's the one slot they really need to avoid, because it gets them a matchup against the best non-division winner without home ice advantage.

The question most nights for the Sabres is: which team will show up? Will it be the team that lost 12 out of 13 games (1-7-5) from December 26th through January 21st? Will it be the team that turned that losing streak around and had a 10 game point streak stopped yesterday in MSG (8-0-2)?

The only thing that has been consistent for the Sabres is their penalty kill - they're leading the Eastern Conference on the PK at 85%. The Pens need to get some goals at even strength today. They need to out work the Sabres, who might be tired after losing in New York yesterday.

The Pens won both of their meetings with the Sabres this season, so let's hope they can get the Sabres on the path of another long losing streak.

The game has a weird start time - 6:00. Time to order some pizza and watch the Pens!

Let's Go Pens!

NBA Slam Dunk Contest

I know this is supposed to be a hockey blog, but if you haven't seen the video yet, you HAVE to watch these dunks. This was the best dunk contest since Vince Carter in 2000. "Birthday Cake" and "Superman" are two of the more creative dunks I've ever seen.

Check it out:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hurricanes 4, Penguins 2 - Review and Video Highlights

I only saw bits and pieces of the game tonight, so I'm just going with a few notes:

  • The Pens were out shot 46-22. That smacks of another lack of effort. They were dominated in shots all three periods, so it's not like they collapsed at any specific moment.
  • Therrien seems to be willing to give them a pass right now, so it's tough to be too critical. He said that they were going through a rough stretch, and that losing so many player was catching up with them.
  • Sabourin played pretty well, all things considered. The score could have been much worse. If you watch the embedded highlights, you can hear the Carolina announcers saying Sabu is known for a weak glove hand - I think that's the first I've heard that...
  • Was the Laraque fight any good? I missed that part of the game.

Next up: A rare Sunday night game in Buffalo.

Here are the highlights

Game #58 - at Carolina Hurricanes

Pittsburgh Penguins (32-20-5, 69 pts) at Carolina Hurricanes (28-27-4, 60 pts)

No time for pics today.

The Canes are fighting for first place. It's entirely possible that only the first place team in the Southeast will make the playoffs. My money would be on the Canes, but hopefully that march starts after tonight's game.

The Pens are fighting to regain some hustle and work ethic for a complete game. Both of these were noticeably lacking last night in their loss to the Bruins.

We'll probably see Sabu in goal tonight. That's a much better proposition on the road than it is at home.

Let's Go Pens!

Bruins 2, Penguins 1 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the loss to the Bruins. Check out Conk's saves at the end of the game if you haven't seen them yet!

You can read the full review here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bruins 2, Penguins 1

Bad loss for the Pens. They didn't have much of any effort in the first period, and it cost them the game. Let's do the recap.

First period

Penguins = mud.

They simply didn't work hard enough. The Bruins busted their collective butts and it paid off with two goals that were a combination of good bounces and sheer effort.

Both Gonchar and Whitney committed bad turnovers in their own zone. Gonchar's led to the first goal and Whitney's led to a great chance for the Bruins.

Second period

Much better effort from the Pens, but it didn't matter. They couldn't get the bounce they needed, as things were just a little bit off.

The Pens had three full power play chances and could do nothing but generate a few good chances. They need to cash in.

Third period

The Pens kill the second half of Crusher's second penalty of the night to start the third, and you're thinking that this will give them the momentum they need.

Christensen can't quite finish off what seems like his seventeenth excellent chance of the night. This one went off the heel of his stick. Staal immediately earns a tripping penalty when he collapses in disbelief.

During the ensuing Bruins power play, Malkin take a hip check in the offensive zone short-handed, and the refs managed to call kneeing on Wideman. The replays show there was no knee, but the Pens earn a back-side power play...

...which doesn't matter as they can't generate any kind of consistent offense. Christensen is now second guessing his shot to the extent that he tries to make the extra pass when he has a wide open look. Shoot the puck there, Erik!

Crusher took a elbow from Chara and left the ice.

The Pens FINALLY broke through on the power play. That's a big statement goal by the Pens - they kept getting chances and they never quit trying. Malkin did this one almost by himself with a nasty wrist shot from the right slot that picked the far top corner of the net. It helped that Chara was in front of Thomas.

Conk made three HUGE saves to keep the game at 2-1. He stopped a 2 man breakaway, stopping the initial shot AND the rebound, as well as stopping Kessel on a later breakaway.

The Pens pulled the goalie... and immediately committed a penalty. With all the calls the Pens got during the game, the refs totally missed the most important one, calling Malone for a trip. Malone only tripped his man because he was tripped by Chara. Blech.

  • Laraque didn't see much ice time after his play along the board led to the second Boston goal (two shifts in the second and one in the third).
  • Goligoski made an inauspicious debut. He didn't look out of place, but we didn't see him all that much either.
  • Malkin and Staal were both -2.
  • Bad faceoff night. You think teams are shooting long on Conk not only to keep him from handling the puck, but also because they have a great chance to win the faceoff in the offensive zone?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Game #57 - vs Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins (28-23-5, 61 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (32-19-5, 69 pts)

I AM the Brute Squad (name the movie!)

Geno always looks like he's about to take off.

The Bruins might be the streakiest team in the NHL. Take a look at this:

Oct 5 - Oct 256-3
Oct 27 - Nov 81-3-2
Nov 10 - Nov 296-2
Dec 1 - Dec 61-2-1
Dec 8 - Dec 154-1
Dec 18 - Dec 290-5-1
Dec 31 - Jan 53-0
Jan 8 - Jan 171-2-1
Jan 19 - Jan 315-1
Feb 2 - Now1-4

The Pens have them on a down streak. They need to make sure the Bruins stay there.

Tim Thomas has lost three straight starts, but Auld was in goal for the game against the Canes on Tuesday night, so maybe the Pens will get lucky and face a struggling Thomas.

The Pens look to continue their hot play. They need to get this win before they go back out on the road for three out of four games. They also can nudge closer to the Senators for the top spot in the East.

I leave you now with the Jumbotron Hot Seat video of Max Talbot, just because we can all use something entertaining:

Let's Go Pens!

Monday, February 11, 2008

So where do they go from here?

The Pens have several difficult decisions approaching them. Consider these:


The biggest and most obvious issue in the near future is to determine who becomes the #1 goalie, as well as the backup, when Marc Andre Fleury is ready to return.

Fleury is starting on a 3-4 game rehab stint at Wilkes-Barre. The schedule for the Baby Pens over the next week or so looks like this:
  1. Wednesday, Feb. 13 @ Norfolk Admirals
  2. Friday, Feb. 15 Philadelphia Phantoms
  3. Saturday, Feb. 16 @ Bridgeport Sound Tigers
  4. Monday, Feb. 18 @ Binghamton Senators
  5. Wednesday, Feb. 20 Hershey Bears
  6. Saturday, Feb. 23 @ Syracuse Crunch
  7. Sunday, Feb. 24 @ Hershey Bears
You'd think the Pens won't play him on both Friday and Saturday, so four games would put him ready to come back on Thursday, February 21st. The Pens play back-to-back games on February 23-24. They'll need a second goalie.

So, before Fleury is ready to return, do the Pens make a move with Sabourin or Conklin? When he returns, who is the #1 goalie?

Here's what I think is the likely scenario:
  • The Pens put Sabourin on waivers. If he clears, he goes to Wilkes-Barre. He's on a one-way contract, but at this point of the season, I think the team can stomach the cost.
  • Fleury and Conklin will both get chances to play, as the Pens have back-to-backs for two straight weekends starting February 23-24. Whoever wins the job with their play is the starter. The Pens need that to be Fleury. I don't think Conklin can carry them through the playoffs.
Roster Depth

The Pens have a laundry list of players who were a part of their lineup earlier this season who aren't now, mostly for injury reasons. They include:
  • Sidney Crosby
  • Gary Roberts
  • Tyler Kennedy
  • Adam Hall
The current lineup has been something like this:
  1. Malone - Malkin - Sykora
  2. Christensen - Staal - Talbot
The remaining six are something of a mish-mash:
  • Armstrong - Taffe - Ruutu
  • Laraque - Smith - Beech
(those first three guys are getting more of the playing time, either by playing in odd-man situations, or by being double-shifted)

Assuming there are no more injuries for the point of discussion, who sits when Roberts and Hall return? Does Kennedy come back from Wilkes-Barre?

Here's what I think is the likely scenario:
  • Roberts goes right back on the third line, allowing Ruutu to go back to playing with Laraque. I think that makes Laraque a scratch sometimes as well, especially when the Pens would be hurt by his lack of speed.
  • Hall takes the spot of either Smith or Beech. I think management would like Beech to show something that makes him worth keeping. He has some skill, but he has to earn a spot. If he doesn't, I think he's gone, or a healthy scratch if the team wants to give him a shot through an off-season cycle.
  • Little Tyler (thanks, Steigy) stays in the minors. I think Shero (and maybe Therrien) like having some size on those lower lines, and Kennedy just isn't very big. Everyone else is.
Where does Crosby go?

So, the last question is a nice problem to have - what do you do with Sidney Crosby when he returns? The top two lines are clicking really well. You want to leave that first line intact for sure.

Do you mess with the second line? Staal and Crusher are playing really well together and Talbot is the glue that keeps everything going. On the other hand, they like to play a cycling game and Sid is phenomenal along the wall. He could fit in there really well, as well as setting up Christensen for some great chances (see: Malkin and Sykora lately).

Do you put Sid with two other guys entirely, like Army and Beech (if he shows us something) to give the Pens two #1 lines and a killer third line? Therrien has been playing Staal's line in a defensive posture against the top units of other teams.

Here's what I think is the likely scenario:
  • As much as I like the idea of leaving the top two lines intact, I think you put Sid into Talbot's place on the #2 line (though that would probably make it the #1 line)
  • Talbot would play with Army and Roberts on the third line with Laraque, Ruutu and whoever else is left making up the fourth line (probably some combination of Taffe, Hall and either Smith or Beech).
Any way you look at it, though, these are all good problems to have. The Pens have some real depth right now, both in goal and with their forwards. The weak spot for the team is depth at the blue line, where an injury would really hurt them. That, however, is a topic for another day.

So what do you think?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Penguins 4, Flyers 3

Great win by the Pens today. They seemed to have turned the corner, beating another Atlantic division foe.

Notes version of the recap today, since I typed while I watched the game.

First period

Umberger is the bane of the Penguins. He was the beneficiary of a deflected pass. Truthfully, Ryan Whitney was beat to the spot by RJ. Whitney needs to take the man.

Downie needs to work on his conditioning. He's obviously too tired to bother to finish a fight with Jarkko Ruutu.

Steigy-ism of the day, talking about Malkin: "He is a super duper star".

Great shot from Sykora to find the top corner on his goal. Did anyone else think he sounded like an auctioneer when he was interviewed after the period?

Second period

Great goal by Gonchar, though Biron really should have made the save on that one. I'm sure Sarge won't complain that it went through. It was the ultimate thank you for the really stupid roughing penalty taken by Hartnell.

Things were real quiet in the second. It almost seemed like these teams enjoyed each other's company.

Malkin reminds us again that he's one of the best in the league with a great shot off of a feed from Sykora. The first line is really clicking.

How were there no penalties in the second period? These guys all turned into angels.

Third period

Umberger reminds the Pens that the Flyers aren't dead yet. He pulled the Flyers to within one goal with a great effort, following his shot (and great Conklin save) with another shot that was out of Conk's reach.

The Pens were doing their best to put the clamps on the Flyers when all of a sudden, the Pens were buzzing. Letang took a loose puck out high, skated down and used Hatcher as a screen, beating Biron in the top corner on the far side.

Malkin tried to let the Flyers back in the game, picking up the puck with his hand in the defensive zone after his stick broke. That wasn't terribly bright, because it resulted in a Flyer's power play. Staal helped him out, however, by drawing the even-up call on a blatant hook by Timmonen.

The Flyers pulled the game to within 4-3 when Conklin's stick was caught in the Zamboni door. He was trying to play the puck on the backhand, and the result was it bounced straight to Mike Richards, who fed Hartnell.

Conklin played well again. He made the saves he was supposed to make and kept the Flyers from completing the comeback in the third period.

It didn't matter, as the Pens weathered the storm and beat the Flyers for the first time this season. They're three points ahead of Jersey in the Atlantic, and just three points behind Ottawa for the top spot in the East.

Next up: Boston comes to the Igloo on Wednesday night.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Penguins 4, Kings 2 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the home win over the Kings.

You can read the full review here.

Penguins 4, Kings 2

Nice game by the Pens today to beat a hot team. It wasn't as close as the score indicated. The score was 4-0 after two periods, and was 4-1 until about 1:30 remaining in the third period. Getting it down to two goals allowed the Kings to pull LaBarbera and make it a bit exciting, but they really didn't have a chance.

Sabourin played well enough to get his first home win of the season. More importantly, he came up big in the first two periods when a soft goal could have turned the course of the game. He essentially did a Conklin and made all of the saves he was supposed to make. The Pens defense helped him out by clearing any rebounds and keeping the chances to the outside.

Malkin continues to show everyone he's an elite player in the NHL. If he can continue this kind of effort when Sid comes back, this team can go a long way in the playoffs. The top line of Malkin, Malone and Sykora should be kept together as long as possible - they're really good (even if they occasionally get trapped in their own zone).

The Kings aren't bad, but they were a little flat early on today. Maybe because the start time was equivalent to 10:00 AM on the West Coast. I'm not complaining - it's two more points for the Pens.

The Pens have sole possession of first place and are just 5 points behind Ottawa for the top spot in the East.

I have some pictures from the game that I'll have up tomorrow at some point.

Next up: HUGE game with the Flyers at the Igloo tomorrow at 1:00. It's time to get a win against these guys! No preview for this one.

Game #55 - vs Los Angeles Kings

Los Angeles Kings (23-30-3, 49 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (30-19-5, 65 pts)

Wasn't Cammalleri the guy on the poker show with Talbot?

Conklin is the man.

Kings = dangerous. That's the very simple lesson the Penguins need to remember. It's easy to forget, because they ARE the Kings, right? But consider these fun facts:
  • Last 12 games - 8-3-1.
  • Last five games, all on the road, 3-1-1, with wins in Detroit and MSG.
  • Four of those road games against the other teams in the Atlantic - 2-1-1 (better than the Pens have managed this season).
Now, their offense isn't going to strike fear into your heart, and their power play is decent, but streaky. The PK has been getting it done, however, with only one goal allowed in the past 8 games. That's tremendous, and it's something the Pens will have to crack.

I'll be in attendance at this one, so there will be more pictures, I think. Hopefully this time I won't be eating nachos and miss the fight.

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Bad gas

Yeah, I know this image was part of my photo set from the Pens / Isles game, but I can't stop laughing every time I see it. I think it's the expression on Army's face. Here it is again, in it's own post for posterity. I cropped it to show the offending part.

Armstrong and Ruutu feel Johnson has the worst gas in the league.

Penguins 4, Islanders 3 - Photos from the Igloo!

Here are some photos from the Pens / Islanders game. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Both Colby and Jarkko agree - Johnson has the worst gas in the league.

So the Pens take a 4-3 lead with about 5 minutes left, and what do you see? I'm going to go ahead and say they are Steelers fans who found hockey tickets.

The best part of this photo? Check out Letang giving Conklin the victory face wash.

Staal losing yet another face off. He's not very good at these.

Malkin can stick handle around any goalie... except DiPietro.

Sarge is in command.

Crusher lets go of a shot.

Whitney has startled the linesman.

Letang on the stationary breakout.

Gaining the blue line.

The Isles nearly tied the game in in the third. This isn't the end of the period when the goal was waved off, but it's in the last 5 minutes.

Penguins 4, Islanders 3 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the Pens' much needed win over the Islanders.

You can read the full review here.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Penguins 4, Islanders 3

I went to this one - but it's much harder to remember things to write about when you're actually at the game. I have a bunch of pictures, but those probably won't show up until tomorrow at the earliest.

The Isles struck first when Conklin was caught in no man's land. The puck was in the no-play zone, and so was Conklin. He didn't touch it, and the Isles passed the puck to Comrie, who scored into an empty net. It's one of those goals that you don't see very often but look really, really bad when you do.

The Pens evened the score and took the lead. The Isles kept tying the game, first at 2-2 and then at 3-3. When they knotted the score at three, we really thought it was headed for OT. Kris Letang had other ideas with a beautiful shot that found the top of the net.

That was all that was needed, though the Pens did have to survive a scare at the very end of regulation. The Isles had seemingly put the puck into the net with .4 seconds remaining, but the ref had blown the whistle prior to the shot and waved off the goal. Very fortunate for the Pens.

One other thing I have to comment on is Comrie's fight with Talbot. About halfway through the fight, Comrie pretty clearly stuck his leg behind Max's leg in at attempt to trip him and end the fight. It was a total crap move, especially when the fight just happened to occur as the Pens were entering the Islanders zone on a 2 on 1. I didn't see who started the fight, but I'm guessing Comrie learned some lessons in cheap-ness from Miroslav Satan.

Great win for the Pens - they really needed those points.

Next up: The LA Kings come to town. Don't look now, but the Kings just won IN Detroit. Could be trouble.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Game #54 - vs New York Islanders

New York Islanders (24-24-6, 54 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (29-19-5, 63 pts)


He'll be back before you know it...

The Islanders are El Sucko currently. They have a five game losing streak during which they've managed just five goals. At least they're consistent, eh?

Take a look at the laundry list of players that are a minus for the year:
  • Comrie: -19
  • Hunter: -13
  • Guerin: -12
  • Bergeron: -12
  • Berard: -12
  • Satan: -4
Their top 13 scorers are minus on the season.

The Pens really need to win this game, but they always play the Islanders tight, no matter the circumstance. I'm looking for a close game, with Ryan Whitney scoring the game winner just to prove Lord Therrien wrong.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Devils 4, Penguins 3 (OT) - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the Pens OT loss at New Jersey.

You can read the full review here.

If you're reading in a feed reader, you'll need to click through.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Devils 4, Penguins 3 (OT)

Tonight we have the good:

The Pens are tied for first!

and the not-so-good:

The Pens blew a two goal lead... in the third period!

The good:

Crusher and Staal combined for a goal and TWELVE shots!

The not-so-good:

Crusher and Staal combined to be a -4! They were on the ice for two of the last three goals allowed, including the game winner in OT.

For me, the glass is half full. The Pens are in first place. They did play a mostly good road game (despite the last 10-12 minutes). They're continuing to show everyone that they can play without Sidney Crosby. That is encouraging.

Conklin had another game where he wasn't up to the standard he set earlier. The Pens have lost four of the past six, and in those games, have allowed 18 goals, despite limiting the shots of their opponent. They need more consistency from between the pipes than they have received lately. Of course, since the glass is half full, this is removing the need for controversy when Fleury is ready (I'm kidding.... mostly).

Anyway, sucks to blow the lead and give the Devils two points. That hurts.

Next up: A four game home stand begins when the Isles visit the Igloo on Thursday.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Game #53 - at New Jersey Devils

Pittsburgh Penguins (29-19-4, 62 pts) at New Jersey Devils (29-20-3, 61 pts)

I'm cheating and using the same pics from last week. Heck, they worked back then - why change now?

Gionta hasn't scored a goal since January 10th.

Sydor has been solid the past few months.

Big game in Jersey, much the same as last week. The Pens need this one to keep improving their record in the division and keep the points piling up. There is a four-way log jam forming at the top of the Atlantic, which means the team that doesn't win the division could be seeded just about anywhere for the playoffs.

Nasreddine and Filewich were sent back to Wilkes-Barre. How long will Smith be around? Hall and Beech are both probably ready to play.

Even more amazing, the New York Giants just won the Super Bowl. Hopefully that used up all of the luck for the North Jersey area.

Let's Go Pens!

Penguins 4, Hurricanes 1 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the Pens excellent win over the Canes at the Igloo.

You can read the full review here.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Penguins 4, Hurricanes 1

This one didn't look very good for the first two periods.

The Canes used some luck (preparation + opportunity) to score the opening goal. An attempted pass deflected off of Talbot's skate and straight to Samsonov, who was right in front of Conklin. Ty had no chance and Sergei scored. That goal was the only tally through the first two periods.

The Pens didn't look very good through the first period. They spent four minutes on the power play and still managed to be out shot 15-8. Daryl Sydor said it best between periods when he talked about the guys needing to move the feet. They were getting beat to the loose pucks and not putting themselves in a position to succeed.

The second period started to turn the tide, but it was looking like one of those games where Cam Ward would simply shut the door and not allow it to open. The Pens had several good chances and couldn't manage to get one past Ward.

In the third, Crusher took a pretty vicious cross check to the ribs in front of the Canes net (from Wallin, I think) with no call. Karma came back around to bite the jerky Canes as Erik was able to score on same play after the puck worked back around to him.

Ryan Malone scored what proved to be the game winner by batting a puck out of midair on the backhand that trickled behind Cam Ward, just over the goal line. I had a few issues what that:
  • The ref never saw the puck cross the line (or seemingly even bothered to check upstairs)
  • The same ref ignored the fact that it was a defensemen's glove (Commodore) that cleared the puck out of the net, which would have been a penalty if the puck hadn't crossed the goal line.
What exactly was our clueless zebra watching?

Malkin didn't have his strongest overall game, but he did have a great third period. He scored on a beautiful individual effort to make it 3-1 (though he did try to give it back by taking a hooking penalty just 8 seconds later - I think Therrien lost some hair on that one). Sykora finished off the scoring with another power play goal.

Great game by the Pens. Conklin was great early when he really needed to keep the team in the game, and then did his usual solid job once the Pens took over.

Next up: The Pens return to Jersey for a rematch with the Devils on Monday night.

Game #52 - vs Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes (26-24-4, 56 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (28-19-4, 60 pts)

Ward has never had a save % over .900 for a season

Staal hasn't been a minus player since the Winter Classic

The Canes are hot. They've won four of their past five games, after losing four straight. The main reason they're winning in Cam Ward, who has allowed two goals or fewer in all four wins. Cam has been tough on the Pens since the beginning of last season, allowing just two goals per game. The Canes are 4-1-1 in their past 6 against the Pens.

The Pens are still trying to find their way without Sid. They're 2-2-1 since he went out, and I'd expect more of the same. Army and Hall both may play tonight, but Beech won't. Therrien says he wants to give Beech the best chance to succeed.

This is a big game for the Pens. They're playing a team that has given them trouble recently, so it's a chance to get the monkey off of their back. It's also important to get some quality wins while Sid is out.

Let's Go Pens!