Saturday, May 31, 2008

Red Wings 2, Penguins 1

Blugh. That's my new word for the day.

Blugh = Blech + Ugh.

I'm not sure of a better way to describe what I watched tonight. The Wings got back to suffocating the Pens, and the Pens got back to not being able to finish the chances the managed to get.

One miserable little backhand shot that slid past Fleury was the difference in this game, and it was all the Red Wings would need.

The Pens got off on the right foot with an early power play goal by Marian Hossa. He nearly added another one in the first, but it ricocheted off of Osgood and the far post / crossbar.

The Wings answered right back with a goal just after their power play had expired on a nice shot from the point by Lidstrom.

The score stayed 1-1 until the third when Jiri Hudler put a backhand past Flower. The Pens had failed to get the puck out of the zone and it burned them.

The game turned on a 90 second 5-on-3 advantage that the Pens were unable to capitalize on. They had several great chances but Osgood was just good enough, and Zetterberg showed why he is considered a great defensive forward by tying up Crosby's stick.

The Pens almost tied it again with less than 20 seconds remaining, but just couldn't beat Osgood.

I'm not going to say the Pens are done, but man, you can see that Detroit has just about stuck the fork in them.

I really didn't want to write this tonight, but then I thought about getting up in the morning and going through it all over again... so I figured it was best to get it out and put it in the past.

Next up: A must-win Game 5 on Monday.

The jersey goes everywhere

Just got a nice photo in my inbox that needs to be shared.

Scott from Johnstown went to China and took his Pens jersey with him. This is a picture from the Great Wall that he wanted to share with all of you.

Thanks for the nice picture, Scott!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Stanley Cup Finals Game #4

Detroit Red Wings (1) at Pittsburgh Penguins (2)

Detroit leads series 2-1.

Well it all hinges on this one, doesn't it? If the Pens can pull out another stirring win at home, they'll be squared away with the Wings heading back to Detroit. If they can't... well, let's just say the Detroit victory parade might go off as planned.

Expect the Pens to stick with the same lineup as Game 3 (no Letang, no Laraque).

Also expect the Pens to stick with the increased confidence they showed in Game 3. They weren't afraid to dump and chase, and their defense seemed to have more time to make plays through the neutral zone.

No word yet on whether Holmstrom will play, but the Magic 8 Ball says that "signs point to yes".

If you aren't glued to the TV (or your seat in or around the Igloo) on Saturday night, there's something wrong with you.

Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Penguins 3, Red Wings 2

Huge. That's the word of the day. Absolutely HUGE.

The Pens found a way tonight.

They found a way to score first.

They found a way to score on the power play.

They found a way to get a goal from an unlikely source.

They found a way to keep Detroit in check.

They found a way to win.

First period:

The Pens got the early power play, and though they didn't score, they managed to get some decent chances against Detroit.

The zebras decided that the early theme of the night was "Reach out and touch someone", because every time it happened, they blew the whistle. Staal was whistled immediately after the Pens' power play expired.

The Pens killed both penalties they were hit with during the first. Excellent penalty killing job by just about everyone.

Sidney Crosby put the team on his back when Brad Stuart turned the puck over in his own zone. The Pens intercepted and Crosby and Hossa charged the net. Sid had it last and he banked it in off the inside of Osgood's leg. Absolutely HUGE goal. If the Pens come back to make this a series, this goal will be the reason why. 1-0 Pens.

Much better period from the Pens, especially since they were out shot early, but managed to come out of the period with the lead.

Second period:

Early in the second, the Pens finally broke through on the power play when Sid was in the right place at the right time. Gonchar made a nice play to keep the puck in the zone and got away a shot from the point. It pinballed through several players before winding up on Sid's stick (which was on the ice in the right place). He banged it into the cage before Osgood could get his glove back to stop it. 2-0 Pens.

Things settled down a bit, other than Holmstrom suddenly turning into a turtle when he goes to the front of the net. When he was hit / pushed in the back, he went down faster than a hungry man at a buffet. Gill was the target of two penalty calls when he hit Holmstrom.

On the second call against Gill, with less than 15 seconds left on the Detroit power play, Johan Franzen made a great individual play to beat Scuderi and made the worlds slowest beeline to the net. What made his goal remarkable was the ability to elevate the puck. Great hands by Franzen. Bad result for the Pens. 2-1 Pens.

Protecting a one goal lead going to the third, you knew this was going to be a HUGE period.

Third period:

The Red Wings unleashed 16 shots in the third. They threw everything possible at Flower.

Hall got a garbage goal when his line (which included Talbot and Roberts at the time) generated some noise in the offensive zone. They got Osgood out of position, and when Osgood tried to get back into the net, Hall banked it off of Osgood's backside from behind the net. I guess this means that if Franzen is the Mule, Osgood is the Ass. 3-1 Pens.

The Red Wings brought the pressure on a more consistent basis. With less than 7 minutes remaining, MFS (Michael Frickin' Samuelsson) threw a shot from the right circle that may have deflected off of Orpik's stick and behind Fleury. 3-2 Pens.

Malkin took a hooking call (which was helped by Kronwall holding onto Geno's stick) with just over four minutes left. The Pens came up with a huge penalty kill. Nothing is ever easy, eh?

After the PK, the Wings were looking to get Osgood off the ice. The Pens kept them bottled up until there were about 30 seconds left. The Wings generated some pressure, but couldn't score.

  • Fleury was great. He wasn't perfect, but he stopped everything he needed to.
  • Can you say enough about Sid after tonight? When his team needed him the most, he led by example. You have to think Mario was smiling in the his box.
  • Hossa came up big with two assists on Crosby's goals.
  • Holmstrom didn't return after his disqualification from ice dancing with Gill in the third.
Next up: You all have plans for Saturday night. That's the next huge game.

Hey! He's getting paid for that!

Here are the first three paragraphs of Bob Smizik's column from today:

No one should be surprised by what has happened to the Penguins in the first two games of the Stanley Cup final, nor should they be astonished if it happens again tonight when they meet the Detroit Red Wings in Game 3 at Mellon Arena.

The Penguins, once so full of all that seemed necessary to become a champion, have been exposed in the first two games of the final. Not exposed as a bad team, but as a team not worthy of the most cherished trophy in team sports.

No one expected this -- not the players, not the coach, not the fans. Everything had been near-perfect. All phases of their game were humming.

So the point of the first paragraph was that it was not surprising that the Pens were destroyed in Detroit. The third paragraph says that this was not expected by anyone. Hmmm... how can you say something is not surprising AND unexpected? Let's go to the listed synonyms for surprising, from -
surprising (vs. unsurprising)
amazing, astonishing,startling,stunning Also See: unexpected
Right. Surprising = Unexpected. So, we all know that Mr. Smizik is still riding the high of thinking he was able to get Mark Madden fired, but really, he makes about as much sense as some of my writing does, and for me this is just a hobby.

I don't make a habit out of discussing the Post-Gazette, but don't you think they could make a better effort when the eyes of the hockey world are on Pittsburgh?

Stanley Cup Finals Game #3

Detroit Red Wings (1) at Pittsburgh Penguins (2)

Detroit leads series 2-0.

So from where I'm standing, tonight is the Game of the Year for the Pens. If they win, they have a chance to go back to Detroit with the momentum and a series tied 2-2. If they lose, the series is effectively over. It's a huge swing either way.

The Igloo should be a madhouse tonight. The fans really need to get behind the Pens and support this team.

Of course, our lovely local paper, the Post-Gazette, is taking this chance to take shots at the Pens:
"Is it too late to pick the Detroit Red Wings in three games?" - Ron Cook - 5/27/08
"History suggests the Penguins have very little hope of winning the Stanley Cup this season. Reality suggests they have absolutely none, unless they can figure out how to make some radical changes during the rest of the series." - Dave Molinari - 5/27/08
"No one should be surprised by what has happened to the Penguins in the first two games of the Stanley Cup final, nor should they be astonished if it happens again tonight when they meet the Detroit Red Wings in Game 3 at Mellon Arena." - Bob Smizik - 5/28/08
Feel free to read the articles to make sure I haven't misrepresented the tenor by taking quotes out of context. As the saying goes, with friends like these...

Maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe it is the job of the beat writer (Dave Molinari) to capture the spirit of what is currently happening. There are also no rules for what a columnist can take a position on. It just seems odd that Don Cherry can say the Pens will win Game 3 while our Pittsburgh writers are busy helping to dig the graves for the Pens.

Anyway, the game itself is the story. Desperation time has set in. The Pens must win. Fleury must be stronger. The Pens must avoid mistakes at even strength. They must find a way to score on the power play.

Sydor seems likely to play. I'm not sure who you sit. I hope it's not Letang - next to Gonchar, he's one of the few that can carry the puck. He's the most likely suspect, though.

Let's Go Pens!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Red Wings 3, Penguins 0

Second game, slight improvement, same result.

It's all the same stuff as Game 1, though they did manage more offensive pressure. The Pens really need someone to step up and score a big goal or two. Hopefully that will come at home on Wednesday.

First period:

Roberts, Staal and Kennedy started the game with some tough play. They punished the Wings in the offensive zone. As with everything else this series so far, it didn't help.

The teams each were whistled for two penalties in the first. Nothing amounted from any of them, but the Pens were able to use theirs to generate their only offense of the period.

Brad Stuart gave the Wings the opening goal with a slapshot from the circle to Fleury's left. He fired a slapper that Fleury got a piece of with his blocker, but not enough. Probably a soft goal. 1-0 Wings.

Later in the first, the Pens got careless with the puck again in their own end and it cost them when Holmstrom threw the puck out in front to Zetterberg. Henrik got just enough on the shot to start it trickling out from behind Fleury's pads. Holmstrom tapped it into the open net. 2-0 Wings.

Second period:

The Pens were able to kill off the remainder of the power play.

After that, there really wasn't much going on. Neither team was able to generate any sustained offense. The Pens did, however, manage a shot on goal at full strength.

Staal, Kennedy and Roberts managed to keep the puck on the offensive side of the red line. It didn't amount to anything, but it was nice to see for what seemed like the first time in the series.

With under 5:00 remaining in the second, the Staal line created the Pens best chance when Lebda tripped over absolutely nothing. Roberts took the puck and made a great pass to Staal. Jordan shot the puck wide, but they almost put in the rebound. It was a great chance, and it was a shame the Pens couldn't take advantage of it.

Malone took pretty weak slash with just over two minutes remaining in the third. The Pens were able to kill it off without too much difficulty.

At the end of two, the Pens were withing striking distance. They were starting to play better and generate some sustained pressure in the offensive zone. Detroit has played about as well as possible, and the Pens were just down 2-0.

You had the feeling that if the Pens could just break the ice and get a goal, this could be a whole new series.

Third period:

Hossa took an amazingly weak "holding" penalty. It probably should have been a square-dancing penalty, because with their arms hooked together, I thought they were ready to do the Do-Si-Do.

Another solid penalty kill for the Pens. With luck, they could use that to spur some offense.

You could see early in the third that the Pens had started to turn the tide. It hadn't translated to any goals, but they were playing more in the Red Wings' zone.

With a little more than half the third left, Gary Roberts drew a tripping call on Dallas Drake. The Pens never needed a power play goal more than right at that moment.

Of course, that would make it the perfect time for Chris Osgood to buy a goaltender interference call. Malone was in the crease, but no one made Osgood flail his arms and fall over like he was shot.

On the four-on-four, Filppula made a great individual play, beating both Letang and Fleury. 3-0 Wings.

At this point, you just wanted the Pens to get a goal. Just one. Break the ice.

With eight minutes left in the third, Detroit gets a power play. We have no idea why. Not only do we get to leave Detroit behind, but we also don't have to watch Versus until next year. Thank God for small blessings.

Near the end of the game, with about a minute left, Sykora collided with Osgood, who again looked like a octopus flopping on the ice, with limbs everywhere.

Next up: The series and season are on the line in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

Stanley Cup Finals Game #2

Pittsburgh Penguins (2) at Detroit Red Wings (1)

Detroit leads series 1-0.

The Pens have not trailed in a series in the playoffs until now. In fact, they've never been tied. They won the first two games at home in each series and jumped out to a 3-0 lead overall in each. Losing the first game was tough, but they have the chance to earn the split tonight.

Is earning the split really that hard of a task? The two meaningful goals scored by Samuelsson were both a bit on the fluky side. They're certainly correctable mistakes. Ruutu could have iced the puck to live to fight another day. Fleury could have swiped the puck to the corner instead of trying to go to Malkin.

If I'm Coach Therrien, this is what I'm telling my players: Hey - when the game mattered, we made a few mental mistakes that burned us. Eliminate those and we have a good shot to win that game. We had a few great goal scoring chances that just didn't go for us. Keep pushing the offense and ramp up the intensity on the defensive end.

Gary Roberts will likely play today. George Laraque will likely sit. He played the fewest minutes of any player on Saturday, and McCarty wasn't interested in dancing with him during Game 1 either.

Lines are also changing. Malone is skating with Hossa and Crosby. Malkin and Sykora get Talbot with them. Third line is Dupuis, Kennedy and Staal. Roberts, Hall and Ruutu are on the fourth line.

I don't know if it's a panic move to shift the lines so quickly, but if you look more closely, the important pieces are intact. Crosby and Hossa are together. Same deal with Malkin and Sykora. Those are the important parts. The third line will be a bit faster with the addition of Dupuis at the expense of Ruutu. The fourth will still be able to hand out punishment.

Hope everyone is having a great Memorial Day weekend. I'm also hoping we can have a great ending to the holiday weekend.

Let's Go Pens!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Red Wings 4, Penguins 0

That was a perfectly crappy way to start a series. The Pens were unable to take advantage of early chances and went on to lose 4-0.

The Pens came out and played well early. They were the beneficiaries of four straight power play chances (though the first was only 9 seconds) in the first period. They managed some good chances and nice scoring opportunities, but they were unable to score. Some of that may have been due to gripping the sticks too tightly, but more of it was because of the play of Chris Osgood. He didn't need to make many saves, but he was excellent when the team needed him.

Late in the first and into the second, the tide started to turn, due to the Red Wings going on the power play, as well as a chance for Dupuis that was stopped by Osgood (again).

About two minutes after the Osgood save on Dupuis, Mikael Frickin' Samuelsson took advantage of a tired Penguins' defense and scored when his wrap-around attempt banked off of Fleury's skate. If Flower doesn't touch it, that puck never crosses the goal line. You can't blame Fleury for that deflection, however.

Mikael Frickin' Samuelsson made it 2-0 Wings early in the second when the puck pinballed off of Malkin straight to the stick of MFS in front of Fleury.

The Pens never gave up, despite their lack of shots on goal, and had a nice sequence late in the third when Hossa rang one off the post, followed immediately by some more pressure from the Pens, to no avail.

The Wings added two more goals at garbage time, one at the end of a power play with just over two minutes left and the other while on the power play with 12 seconds left. If I'm Detroit, I'm not sure I have my top power play unit on the ice in the last 30 seconds, but the Pens need to stop them if they don't want them to score.

I'm more concerned about a few things:
  • The Pens turned the puck over several times in their own zone. The Wings seem to forecheck with two players, but they surely can't be the only team that employs that strategy. This is something Coach Therrien will need to game plan for.
  • The Pens would gain the offensive zone and then get jumped, leading to turnovers. Early on, they looked like they were shooting early to avoid this. As the game wore on, they started holding the puck more and it didn't work out very well for them. I'd rather see them dump it a few times. If they get success with that just once or twice, they'll give the Wings something different to think about.
I think, despite the domination on the scoreboard, that the Red Wings can be beaten. Osgood isn't the best goalie the Pens have seen in the playoffs, but the Pens have to solve the Wings system to get the chance to show that.

Next up: Game 2 is Monday night. The Pens have some work to do before then.

Top Five Playoff Goals - Honorable Mention

Top 5 Playoff Goals, Rounds 1 - 3

I'm running a series on the top five goals scored by the Pens in the playoffs so far. These goals aren't the prettiest, but the ones that had the most impact and made the biggest statement.

Honorable Mention - "Poor Downie"

Max Talbot vs Flyers, Game 2

Game 2 against the Flyers was tied 2-2 in the third period until Steve Downie got involved. He bumbled the puck along the boards, allowing the Pens to keep it in the offensive zone. Max Talbot took advantage of a great opportunity and the Pens were on their way to a 2-0 series lead over Philly.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Stanley Cup Finals Game #1

Pittsburgh Penguins (2) at Detroit Red Wings (1)

It's Go Time.

For the first time since the early 90s, the Penguins will play a game in the Stanley Cup Finals. There are more previews than you can shake a stick at, so I'll keep this one simple. Here are my keys to Game 1:
  • Withstand the Rush - The Wings will come out and try to put these young Penguins in their place. The Pens need to hold their ground and play things tight. Focus on the simple plays early on.
  • Pick on the Little Guy - Even though Coach Babcock will get the last change, the Pens need to take advantage when they pin the 3rd and 4th line of Detroit in their own zone. The Pens have a strong puck possession game in the offensive end - it's time to put that to good use.
  • Protect Fleury - Marc-Andre will be asked to make more quality saves in this series than in the last three combined if the Pens are to have a chance. He'll need all the help he can get. Protect the middle of the ice. Keep the puck to the outside. When the Wings cycle, be patient, and let them keep the puck along the boards where it's hard to score from.
  • Score When Given the Chance - The Pens will need to be opportunistic on the power play, especially in Detroit. The Wings will take penalties. The Pens need to take advantage. In addition, the Pens will need to use their speed to make the Wings pay on odd man rushes.
That's what I think. What do YOU think?

I'm looking for a entertaining, tightly played game. I can't think of a better way to spend a night in front of the TV.

Let's Go Pens.

Top Five Playoff Goals - #1

Top 5 Playoff Goals, Rounds 1 - 3

I'm running a series on the top five goals scored by the Pens in the playoffs so far. These goals aren't the prettiest, but the ones that had the most impact and made the biggest statement.

#1 - "Schedule Your Tee Times"

Marian Hossa vs Rangers, Game 5

Overtime game winner to end a series. Need I say more?

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Check out my Partisan Preview of the Cup Finals on Slap Shot, the hockey blog of the New York Times! I was a bit nicer this time. There's not enough familiarity with Detroit to have strong emotions. Plus, Jerome Bettis is from there - that makes it the Most Perfect Place On Earth, right?

Top Five Playoff Goals - #2

Top 5 Playoff Goals, Rounds 1 - 3

I'm running a series on the top five goals scored by the Pens in the playoffs so far. These goals aren't the prettiest, but the ones that had the most impact and made the biggest statement.

#2 - "Wrap-Around"

Ryan Malone vs Senators, Game 2

Game 2 was a tight affair in the third period. The Pens had blown a 3-0 lead at home and things were getting a little worrisome. Martin Lapointe was nice enough to put the Pens on the power play late in the third. This is what happened next.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Top Five Playoff Goals - #3

Top 5 Playoff Goals, Rounds 1 - 3

I'm running a series on the top five goals scored by the Pens in the playoffs so far. These goals aren't the prettiest, but the ones that had the most impact and made the biggest statement.

#3 - "Announce my Presence with Authority"

Gary Roberts vs Senators, Game 1

Everyone was nervous at the start of the playoffs. Would this year be different from last year? Were these guys ready for the challenge? We shouldn't have worried. Gary Roberts took matters into his own hands, establishing that the Pens were for real in the 2008 playoffs.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Top Five Playoff Goals - #4

Top 5 Playoff Goals, Rounds 1 - 3

I'm running a series on the top five goals scored by the Pens in the playoffs so far. These goals aren't the prettiest, but the ones that had the most impact and made the biggest statement.

#4 - "This is Our Series"

Sidney Crosby vs Senators, Game 3

Game 3 with the Sens was 1-1 going into the third. We hadn't seen the Pens on the road in the playoffs yet, and we knew from the regular season that it was sometimes trouble for them. If this period went poorly, it could be the start of a long series. Sid did his magic off of the opening faceoff and things were off and rolling. The Sens were done.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Top Five Playoff Goals - #5

Top 5 Playoff Goals, Rounds 1 - 3

I'm running a series on the top five goals scored by the Pens in the playoffs so far. These goals aren't the prettiest, but the ones that had the most impact and made the biggest statement. The countdown will show a new goal each day until we get to #1.

#5 - "Eat It!"

Evgeni Malkin vs Flyers, Game 1

Malkin was knocked around in Game 1 against the Flyers, and the biggest hit delivered was at the beginning of this video. The Pens were short-handed, and Geno was plastered. He got up slowly while the puck went back up the ice... watch the video for the rest.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Penguins 6, Flyers 0

The Penguins are going to the Stanley Cup Finals. Just let that sink in.

What can you really say about this game? It was complete domination. There was balance in every facet of their game:
  • Two power play goals
  • Two penalty kills when the game was still up for grabs
  • Balanced scoring from five different players.
  • Everyone was a plus player except for Ruutu and Kennedy (another indication of balanced scoring)
  • Timely goaltending, with a shutout for Fleury
  • Perhaps the most important, putting the Flyers away and not letting them off the mat.
The Flyers picked a bad game to struggle, especially Biron, who wasn't very good at all.

You have to give the Flyers credit in that they could have started some shenanigans in the third period, but they really didn't do anything. They're still cheap thugs when things count, but they acted with some class when things were decided. That was refreshing to see. Maybe Mike Richards is wearing off on some of the other guys.

First period:

The Pens got the scoring started early after Talbot drew a penalty on Knuble, which is the first time I remember mentioning Knuble's name during this series. Anyway, Malone directed in a shot from the right point by Crosby. 1-0 Pens.

Later in the period, Malkin took advantage of Biron, who was without his stick, coming out from behind the net and stuffing the puck between the pads of the goalie. Biron didn't seem to know where the puck was until it was behind him. 2-0 Pens.

After the second goal, Scott Hartnell took an absolutely STUPID penalty, tripping Fleury behind the net. You have to wonder what he's thinking sometimes.

The Pens couldn't score on the ensuing power play, but they did kill off a penalty taken by Whitney to close out the period.

As time was expiring, Ryan Malone was assessed a high-sticking call, which would put the Flyers on the power play to start the second.

Second period:

The Flyers had been handed a gift with a power play on clean ice and a chance to get back into the game. Sadly, this wasn't their day, and they only managed a single shot from the point.

Later in the second, Crosby did his best Hossa impression and swiped the puck with a great back-check on Mike Richards. He took the puck the other way, and eventually it wound up on the stick of Hossa, who blasted it past Biron. Another bad goal for Biron to allow. 3-0 Pens.

If I'm Philly, I think about pulling Biron right then and there. They didn't, and it only got worse.

After a tripping call on Carter, Gonchar flung a puck towards the net that Malone was able to deflect. It went behind Biron. 4-0 Pens.

That goal was probably the back-breaker. The Flyers didn't seem to have much left in the tank after that.

Staal made sure to kick them when they're down by flipping a rebound / loose puck behind Biron with just 58 seconds remaining in the second period. 5-0 Pens.

Any life the Flyers may have had was stripped when an apparent goal was waved off. Thoresen had barreled his way to the net, but the Zebras ruled he had interfered with Fleury's opportunity to play the puck. The NHL is getting more sensitive about protected the goalies. This was probably a good call.

Third period:

The formality: Dupuis has a Hossa shot deflect off of his leg behind Biron. 6-0 Pens.

The fun stuff included listening to chants of "Go Home Flyers!" and "Flyers Suck!" Add that to singing the Goodbye song, and it was a pretty fun time to watch, which is good, because the hockey actually became kind of boring. I'll take that boring anytime if it means the Pens are moving on.

Next up: The Cup Finals will start a few days after the conclusion of the Detroit / Dallas series.

Playoff Game #14 - vs Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers (6) at Pittsburgh Penguins (2)

Pittsburgh leads series 3-1.

The Flyers hold a team meeting after practice on Saturday.

Still sad, Derian?

The Pens put their perfect home playoff record on the line today in a effort to close out the Eastern Conference Finals.

Do you think this one feels different than two weeks ago when the Pens were in the identical situation with the Rangers? I think the Flyers could be more dangerous, but they also don't have the defense and goaltending that the Rangers did.

Gary Roberts may play today. He practiced yesterday in his customary spot on the fourth line.

Both Timonen and Coburn could play today. It wouldn't surprise me if both were out there. The Pens need to take advantage of Timonen if he's on the ice. His foot will be hurting. Make him try to skate with you. Take slapshots that he ordinarily would try to block. Do what you can to throw him off his game.

Both Malkin and Syokra are sick, but both will be on the ice today according to all published reports.

This one won't be easy, but the reward for winning is huge.

Hopefully the last time this year for this video:

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Flyers 4, Penguins 2

Yeah, the Flyers pulled one out. Good for them. In pick-up basketball, we call this the "feel good" game. We didn't really need a feel good game in this series, but we got one anyway.

The Flyers wanted it more during the first period, and the Pens weren't able to respond until it was too late. Even with that, they were still able to pull within one goal. That was the biggest encouraging sign to take from this game - the Pens never quit.

Let's recap!

First period:

Flower had a huge save early on Scott Hartnell. The Flyers were applying the pressure early.

Richards took a cheap shot by hitting Sarge after a touch-up for icing.

There were a few times that a trip could have been called in the first five minutes. Seems like the zebras have decided to keep up their wonderful consistency and put the whistles away.

Finally we got the tripping call, and it was on the Flyers.

On the power play, there was nothing doing until the Pens spent too much time getting cute with the puck. Richards took off on a breakaway. He missed the net, and it sprung Hossa immediately on his own semi-break. He couldn't score either, though he got a shot on net.

After the power play ended, Lupul entered the zone along the right boards and put an innocent looking shot on net. Unfortunately, that innocence was lost when the puck deflected off of Whitney's stick and over the left shoulder of Fleury. Not much Flower can do on the deflections. Bad luck for the Pens, but all the momentum was going to the Flyers early. 1-0 Flyers.

Gonchar was called for touching the arm of Briere (called "holding" by the Zebras), putting the Flyers on the power play. You had the feeling that this PK might give us an idea of how the evening was going to go.

With just three seconds left in the penalty, Briere stepped out from behind the net as a shot was coming from the point. He shouldered Fleury and knocked the rebound into the net. Gill needs to flatten Briere in that situation, if only so we never have to hear the Versus announcers letting everyone know their intention to make out with Danny Briere at the earliest opportunity. 2-0 Flyers.

Letang took a penalty for clipping, putting the Flyers back on the power play. If the Flyers scored here, I'd be tempted to say "game over".

During the power play, Richards, Hartnell, Talbot and Gonchar all took roughing penalties. Things were getting pretty chippy. You have to like that.

The penalty expired without incident, so maybe there would be some life in the Pens after all.

With about three minutes remaining in the period, more post-whistle shenanigans would go against the Pens. Thoresen applied the cross-check to the lower back area of Orpik. Brooks took exception to that and was sent to the box for his efforts. That was not a good call, but you can't retaliate. Better for the Pens to learn that now when they're up 3-0 in the series.

The Flyers scored again on the ensuing power play. They did things the same way, but getting the puck to the net and creating havoc. At this point, the Pens had to hope they could get out of the first period without allowing another goal. 3-0 Flyers.

At the end of the period, the lovely (dumb) Versus announcers were still busy making sweet verbal love to Briere, declaring how wonderful it is when a player responds to being challenged. If it were me, I'd be asking where little Danny was during the first three games. Not as hard to respond after it appears to be too late, eh?

The Pens got their collective butts kicked in the first. The Flyers simply wanted it more, and they took it.

Second period:

Really not much happening early in the second until about 5 minutes in when Sykora and Upshall take minors. On the four-on-four, Fleury showed his head was still in the game by making an astounding save on Briere.

The Pens were applying some more and better pressure, but they were also getting sloppy with the puck in their own end. You could feel Therrien's blood pressure rising through the television.

Really, this was a pretty slow period. The Pens drew a penalty when Carter tripped Malkin. Of course, the fans whined.

The Pens couldn't do anything with their power play. They had a few decent shots, but nothing serious.

The Flyers earned the power play late in the period when Sykora slashed Briere. They didn't score in the first part of the man advantage, but they still had 35 seconds left when the third period started.

Third period:

Nothing doing for the Flyers on the remainder of the power play.

You had the feeling if the Pens could get one early, they could get back into the game.

The Pens managed to muck and grind for a goal on an innocent looking poke by Staal that got past Biron. There was also a great look at the jokes in the stands giving the finger to the Pens. Dumb, Philly fans, just dumb. 3-1 Flyers.

As the third wore on, both Malkin and Crosby were able to setup their teammates beautifully. Crosby setup Dupuis and Malkin setup Letang. Neither could seal the deal and pull the Pens closer, but there was no doubt the Pens were looking like a better team than during the first two periods.

Later in the period, with under six minutes remaining, the Pens third line gains possession of the puck in the offensive zone. Staal took a pass in the slot from Kennedy and ripped it short side on Biron. Probably a bad goal for Biron to allow. Everyone in Philly is thinking about the highest building they know of. 3-2 Flyers.

Time ticked down and the Flyers clamped down. The Pens couldn't muster any serious threat and the Flyers added an empty net goal. 4-2 Flyers.

There was some funny business at the end of the game involving most everyone on the ice more than once. Sunday should be good.

Next up: The Flyers come to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Sunday.

Playoff Game #13 - at Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins (2) at Philadelphia Flyers (6)

Pittsburgh leads series 3-0.

So will the brooms come out tonight? Would anything be better than celebrating in front of those lovely people in Philadelphia? Okay, maybe celebrating in front of 17.132 crazy fans in Pittsburgh... but the Philly thing would still be nice.

Coburn practiced and could play tonight. Will it help? Maybe if he actually WAS Lidstrom...

PFC Downie, the Pens best player the past two games, will likely not be on the ice tonight. He really burned Stevens by messing up again in Game 3 after Stevens brought him back in a show of faith.

Not much has gone well for the Flyers in this series. Let's hope that trend continues.

Let's Go Pens!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Penguins 4, Flyers 1

Tonight we had the on-ice answer to the question on the shirts of the Flyers faithful: Why Not Us! Although they wrote it with an exclamation point, I like to think it's really a deep seeded insecurity that is really a question. Heck, it even sounds whiny when phrased as a question.

Why Not Us? I'll tell you why:
You're a bunch of crybaby fans (see the first penalty to Hatcher) who cheer for a team that think that Vengeance Now is a great slogan. Here's a hint - that slogan belongs in the Indoor Lacrosse League, not the NHL. The Broad Street Bullies were good 35 years ago. They're not coming back. The game isn't about rough and tumble clutching and grabbing anymore. As long as you employ bruisers like Hatcher, Hartnell, Cote and Downie, and play a style that resembles rugby, you'll never be successful.

On the ice, the Flyers simply haven't been good enough to beat the Pens. The Philly guys played a decent Game 2 and weren't bad for much of Game 3. It just isn't enough right now. The Pens are playing too well. Hopefully the Pens can keep things that way (I really believe it's up to the Pens - the Flyers just don't seem to have it).

Anyway, let's enjoy the win and hope the Pens can finish it in four. I don't want to see the Flyers have any life with a victory.

Recap ahead!

First period:

Both teams were noticeably tight as the game opened. The other way to say that is they were trying to measure out the other team and not over commit.

Fortunately for the Pens, Derian Hatcher decided he'd had enough of this reserved nonsense and hooked Malkin from behind, putting the Pens on the power play.

Before I get to the power play, however, I have to say something about the fans in Philly: I've never seen so many people cry so loudly over the first penalty of the game, and it wasn't even a questionable call. Holy cow - if they could have collected all the tears that were shed, they could have solved any drought conditions in the United States.

The Pens decided to try to drown those lovely people from Philly in their own tears by scoring on the very same power play. It was another lucky bounce off of a defensemen, with Biron cheating off of the post when he couldn't see the puck. It's not the first time that's happened. Part of it is a bad bounce, and part of it is a goaltender that doesn't stay at home long enough - he's trying to cheat over to the next shot. 1-0 Pens.

Just a little more than two minutes later, Marian Hossa showed us all why we traded for him. He took the puck from his own blue line all the way through a few Flyers into the offensive zone, where he ripped off a nasty shot along the ice that beat Biron. Great move, and it really got Hossa charged up. 2-0 Pens.

Umberger scored just after a power play for Philly had expired. Prospal went in wide behind the net and dumped it out in front. Malkin didn't tie up RJ and he was able to elevate the puck over a downed Fleury. 2-1 Pens.

Second period:

There really wasn't much to write about for the second, and I mean that in the best possible way for the Pens. They held the Flyers to THREE shots for the period. It wasn't even their shutdown mode - it was just solid two-way play. They were still able to generate some offense. They had some chances. They were also able to keep Philly from seriously threatening.

The only thing missing from the first two periods was a bigger lead. The Pens had several chances to get that third goal but just couldn't do it. Hopefully that wouldn't cost them heading to the third.

Third period:

The third was yet another compliment to the Pens. The Flyers managed 10 shots, but there wasn't really anything serious.

The biggest threat, I thought, came when Fleury played the puck from behind the net straight to Lupul at the half boards. I think if Joffrey had shot the puck right away, he may have beat Flower, who was still struggling to get back in front of the cage. Palindrome didn't do it, either because he didn't see that Fleury was still out of the play, or because the puck was bouncing on him. Either way, threat neutralized.

The Pens were able to add to their lead when everyone's favorite whipping boy, Steve Downie, turned the puck over just inside the offensive zone. Malkin took it the other way. It pinballed around until it wound up on the stick of Sykora, who passed / shot it on the backhand where it wound up on the stick of Ryan Malone, who beat Biron. Ouch. 3-1 Pens.

That goal was scored with 10 minutes left. Then it was time for shutdown mode. From the 11:00 mark to the end of the period, the Flyers managed only one shot on goal closer than 40 feet from the net. They had ZERO shots in the last 150 seconds of playing time (after the missed shot by Briere). The Pens have really done an excellent job of shutting teams down when protecting a lead.

Hossa managed his second goal of the game on an empty netter to give the Flyers fans an early jump on the exits. Pretty considerate of Marian. 4-1 Pens.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Playoff Game #12 - at Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins (2) at Philadelphia Flyers (6)

Pittsburgh leads series 2-0.

I think the same thing applies in this series as the previous series, namely that you'd love to get a split in Philly.

I think Game 3 is the most critical so far in these playoffs. If the Flyers gain momentum and win both games at home, the pressure will be squarely on the Pens coming back to Pittsburgh. If the Pens can earn the split (at a minimum), the Flyers' season would essentially be over.

Braydon Coburn is likely out for Game 3 as he required over 50 stitches to close the gash in his head. His eye was also swollen shut. Ryan Parent will likely start in his place. Parent only played 22 games this year, and wasn't heavily used when he did play. You know what that means? Get ready for another 25+ minute performance from THIS guy:

Derian Hatcher takes a minute to reflect on the importance of Game 3.

The Pens have played pretty well during the first two games of the series. They'll need to step it up if they want to win a game in Philly.

Here are the highlights from the other night. The Kennedy / Upshall smackdown is the first thing in the highlights package. If that doesn't get you fired up, I don't know what will.

Except maybe for this:

Let's Go Pens!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Penguins 4, Flyers 2

Another solid effort by the Pens tonight led to their 15th straight win at home and gave them a two game lead over the Flyers.

Hatcher was inconsolable after the game (yes, this is my new favorite photo).

Great job by the Pens not to let the Flyers ever take the lead. If they had followed up their goal by Richards with another to grab a 3-2 lead in the third, you might have seen the Pens tighten up a bit. Instead, they stayed steady and played their game, despite all of the physical nonsense the Flyers were up to.

Recap time!

First period:

The intensity had visibly picked up on the part of the Flyers. They were a little more chippy, and later in the period "chippy" would translate to "stupid".

Downie was let out of his cage long enough to take a shot at killing someone behind the Pens' net (can't remember who now - maybe Gonchar?) It's really a borderline charge when he pulls that routine - he leads with the shoulder but pistons himself, driving with his legs, almost looking like a Slinky. You can see why he can only be used sparingly - he can't ratchet it down.

The Flyers were struck with further misfortune on their own blue line when Coburn was hit in the face by a puck. It was a deflection on a shot from the point. It wasn't clear where the shot hit him exactly, but there was a bunch of blood. You don't like to see anyone get hurt, but it wouldn't be the worst thing for the Pens for him to be out.

Tyler Kennedy fought with Scottie Upshall. It was an energetic fight, to say the least, but I think Tyler got full value for his effort. I'll try to find video highlights to put up here.

Sid got the Pens on the board at the start of a second consecutive penalty to the Flyers. He was trying to setup Malone in front, but it deflected off of Cukoo and right past Biron who had left the post to slide across towards Malone. 1-0 Pens.

The Pens nearly got another goal later in the period when Crosby appeared to stuff the puck in just over the goal line. It was impossible to tell definitively, and the lengthy replay proved inconclusive.

You could feel the Flyers starting to turn up the stupid stuff.

Second period:

The Pens started taking penalties early in the second period. The second one, by Dupuis, looked like a phantom call - if there was a nudge by Dupuis, it was a small one. It happens sometimes. Nonetheless, the Pens, who had just finished killing a penalty, were right back on the PK.

This time, the Flyers made them pay on a nice pass from Lupul to Carter. Carter batted the hard pass into the empty net on the far side of Fleury. 1-1 tie.

There was some even strength play for the next eight minutes until Hatcher was called for the can opener on Geno (also known as hooking), putting the Pens on the power play.

They needed just 9 seconds to make this one count when Hossa cleaned up the garbage in front of Biron after a shot to the net from Gonchar. 2-1 Pens.

Late in the period, the ultimate double no-no happened - the Pens allowed a shortie in the last minute of the period. Richards anticipated a pass by Malkin across the top of the offensive zone, picked it off and raced in alone on Flower. He ripped off a great shot high over Fleury's glove hand. 2-2 tie.

As the period was ending, I had some bad feelings. The Richards goal is the kind of marker that can turn a game around, and in this case, turn the series around.

Third period:

Some back and forth for awhile, with only one power play (Pens). The refs were putting their whistles away more and more. You started to see more people being finished off up high (around the head area - Hatcher did it to Sid and Gill did it to Briere).

Almost halfway through the period, Downie fumbled in his own defensive zone and couldn't clear it. Hatcher missed on an attempt as well. Roberts took the puck and sent it to Laraque. They puck got in deep and Roberts made a great play to pass the puck right out in front of Biron, just in time for Max Talbot to swoop in all alone and put the puck in over the shoulder of Biron. 3-2 Pens.

On Downie and Hatcher being unable to clear the puck - it couldn't have happened to two nicer guys.

The Pens went into shutdown mode and were effective at keeping Philly from spending significant time in the offensive zone. The Flyers only really had one good chance, even with Biron pulled, but were unable to cash in.

Staal put them out of their misery with an empty net goal. 4-2 Pens.

I half expected to see the Brute Squad for Philly, and so did Therrien, since he put Roberts, Laraque and Talbot out there immediately after the EN. Nothing happened, though, because Philly kept their offensive guys on the ice for the reminder of the game.

  • Flower was rock solid tonight. You can't fault him for either goal, though you'd like to see him make a huge save on the breakaway - those kinds of things will be needed before we're done.
  • Was anyone else nervous with the fourth line twice in the last 8 minutes while the game was still in doubt? I know they scored, but their lack of speed was obvious.
  • Mike Richards is a pretty good hockey player.
  • Nice to have someone like Gill to return the favor on the cheap shots.
  • I get really tired of watching Jason Smith put both hands on a guy from behind. If you reach out with your free hand when you're behind the guy (not facing the boards), call a penalty. It's that simple.
  • Ruutu has to figure out a way to stop his nonsense. It's going to cost them eventually. Play hockey, and let the calls come as part of the game. Jarkko is a good hockey player.
Next up: A voyage to the City of Brotherly Love for Game 3 on Tuesday night.

Playoff Game #11 - vs Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers (6) at Pittsburgh Penguins (2)

Pittsburgh leads series 1-0.

Derian Hatcher take a little "Me Time" after Game 1.

You know the Flyers are going to try and bring it today. They will go to the net hard, they will go to the boards hard and they'll try to throw the Pens off their game by being physical.

The Pens need to counter that by being smart and taking advantage of the chances they get.

This feels like a good game for the role players to step up. You know the Flyers are going to focus on shutting down Malkin and Crosby. A few goals from the third or fourth line guys would go a long way towards winning today. You know they're capable. Make it happen.

Talbot could be back in the lineup. If I'm Therrien, I might leave things the way they are, but they could use Talbot's speed on that fourth line. I'm not sure who you bench. Hall maybe? I think you need Laraque in case of any funny business.

Huge game. The Flyers will have all the momentum if they go back to Philly with a split. They'll be one step away from destruction if they go down 2-0.

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Penguins 4, Flyers 2

Great opening win for the Pens. They looked like the better team for most of the game tonight. They scored some really nice goals, and Biron didn't look very good.

The Whiteout looked pretty good, I thought. I don't mind if the Pens are wearing black while the fans wear white. It's the unity of letting the visitors know they don't have much of any support in the building.

So it was almost business as usual for the Pens. Get the win at home to start the series. Game 2 will be huge - the Flyers will be desperate to get the split.


First period:

First off, the Versus guys really aren't doing very well so far. They started the game without giving the starting lineups, and they didn't mention who was scratched. We got one mention about Timonen, but nothing other than that. Lame.

Both teams were a bit tight out of the gate. That was exemplified best by Ryan Whitney putting a backhand clearing attempt over the glass from his own zone, resulting in the only power play of the first period.

The Flyers managed a few shots, but nothing serious. The Pens killed off the penalty with no damage done.

Geno was flying early in the first, and his speed paid off on a turnover at the Pens' blue line. Malkin took the puck, went to the left to Malone. Bugsy whipped the puck all the way across the ice to Sykora, who deftly flipped a backhand over Biron who appeared to be out of position. You could almost say the shot was Ruutu-like. 1-0 Pens.

The Flyers tied the game when Mike Richards faked a shot, got Fleury to commit and then tried a wrap-around. It would have gone harmlessly through the crease (Richards was about a step short), except that Flower was diving back to stop the attempt and it deflected off of his pads and into the net. 1-1 tie.

Not long after that, the Flyers showed the blueprint on how they're going to have to win games - they got the puck to the net and then ferociously crashed the net. Three players converged on Lupul, allowing Richards to pick the puck out of the pile and easily deposit it over a downed Fleury. 2-1 Flyers.

Just when you started to feel like things might be bleak, Sid redirected a Hossa shot after Biron had played the puck one direction and gone the opposite way to get back around the net. Not a good play by Marty. 2-2 tie.

Fleury was able to make a great poke check save on Umberger on a mini-breakaway. The Pens will need Flower to be huge like that.

Then, with time ticking down in the period, the dagger arrived. The Pens had applied some good pressure, courtesy of Malkin's line, and the Flyers cleared the puck with 15 second left in the period. Before you could say "locker room", Whitney had found Malkin near the right wing boards. Geno took the puck, walked in and blasted a wrist shot that found the net to the far side of Biron. Probably a bad goal to allow, especially considering the time on the clock. 3-2 Pens.

One thing that was obvious to me in the first is that the Flyers weren't able to compete with the speed of the Pens. Both Crosby's line and Malkin's line were flying. The Flyers will need to respond with grit and determination if they want to compete over the series.

First intermission:

Dear Versus,
If you have Game 1 between the Flyers and Pens, why do you put a feature about Brian Rafalski growing up in Michigan on during the first intermission? Who thinks this is a good idea? I like Rafalski as much as the next guy, but a relatively obscure name from a team in the other conference?

Second period:

Things slowed down a bit in the second.

The Flyers were awarded a power play on what looked like a solid hit by Brooks Orpik. Even if it was a penalty, it was worth two minutes to see Hartnell get crunched.

On the ensuing power play, Geno had a short handed chance and was plastered by Mike Richards. He took a minute getting himself up, and then when the Flyers didn't get the puck deep, he stayed behind the defense to see if anything good would happen (this is more commonly known as cherry-picking).

Something good did happen, as the Flyers turned the puck over just inside the Pens' blue line, and Gonchar fed Geno for a breakaway.

Malkin did a move I think could be best described as "EAT IT!" He took a slapshot from 10 feet out that blasted by Biron. Pretty unusual to see a guy do that, but could there have been a more appropriate way to answer the hitting of Richards? 4-2 Pens.

The Pens got their first power play when Carter accidentally hooked Hal Gill. It was inadvertent, but he did put the USS Gill on the merry-go-round and took him for a spin.

The Pens had the power play on the backside of the 4 on 4, but they couldn't do anything with it.

The rest of the period was grind it out hockey. There was some puck possession and some cycling by the Pens, but nothing that amounted to any scoring. Hossa had a nice chance but couldn't stretch out far enough to beat Biron.

Heading to the third, no one had done anything stupid, and the Pens had the Dreaded Two Goal Lead.

Second intermission:

Okay - a feature on Mario Lemieux - that's a bit better, but why couldn't we get features on the players involved in this game? Or get one from each side? Who makes this mystifying decisions?

Third period:

No dice for the Flyers. They were unable to beat Fleury, and until a late bit of pressure, they didn't really challenge him either.

For the first 14 minutes of the third, the Flyers only had three shots on goal. During the remainder of the period, all but one shot was from FIFTY feet or further.

Simply put, the Pens put the sleeper hold on them. Randy Jones hit the outside of the post/crossbar, and Jeff Carter had a decent chance when the puck rolled off of his stick, but there wasn't much else.

Ryan Malone missed the empty net, and there were some shenanigans late. The real question is if the Flyers lose game two, will they try the five on five fight nonsense they did last time?

  • Biron - 21 shots - 4 goals - ouch!
  • Malkin wasn't backing down from anyone tonight. He has the size to take care of himself.
  • Hossa was shrugging guys off like they were flies in the offensive zone.
  • Besides Richards, did you notice anyone from the Flyers having a particularly good game after the first period? I didn't.
  • Ruutu sure does like to stretch out his shifts... it helps his cause that he's on the far side of the ice from the bench.
Next up: A rare Sunday night game - 7:30 at the Igloo. Expect more funny business.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Playoff Game #10 - vs Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers (6) at Pittsburgh Penguins (2)

Two rounds. One loss. This round won't be so easy.

The hatred has been flowing like a river pretty much everywhere. Even a step down from the pure hatred are the amazingly one-sided columns that have been showing up in mainstream outlets (for example, this one).

I may have riled a few Flyers fans with my Partisan Preview for the Times blog, but I don't consider that to be a bad thing. It shows that people are engaged.

But enough about the superfluous stuff. The real action starts on the ice Friday night, and then none of this nonsense will matter.

It should be an excellent series, and the Pens need to get off to a good start at home. One of the things that has helped them develop a stranglehold on each of the first two series was winning the first two games at home. That will be important to continue, because you don't want to let the Flyers have any momentum going back to Philadelphia.

So the keys to Game 1, in my mind, are:
  • Get traffic early and often in front of Biron to throw him off his game. His numbers aren't nearly as good as Fleury's stats, which means his rep may be overblown a bit.
  • Take advantage of the power play chances, because you'll get several.
  • Stay disciplined - don't get called for retaliating
  • Neutralize Briere, especially on the power play, and Umberger
The puck drops at 7:30.

Can't forget this!!

Let's Go Pens!

A Playoff Poem for the Eastern Conference Finals

It's the night before the (Eastern Conference) Finals
and all through the city
every Pens fan was waiting
for the Birds to have no pity

Though the Flyers looked stacked
with size, toughness and scoring
every real hockey fan knows
watching the Broad Street Bullies is boring

A burly tough coach with an accent pretty thick
You could tell in a moment it must be St Mick
More rapid than Flyers his players they came
He whistled and shouted and called them by name;

"Now Geno, now Roberts, now Ruutu and Hall
On Gill, on Fleury on Crosby and Staal"

"To the forechecking corners, keep an eye on the clock
with composure, resilience, stay out of the box!"

He sprang onto the bench as his team notched the winning score
The coach knew he had something special - they still wanted more

And I heard him exclaim, as they skated off the ice
Happy humans all around because Elvis has just left the building

Another preview for the NY Times

I did another partisan preview for Slapshot. This time, the Flyers fans all left comments that they disagreed with what I wrote. I'm really surprised. I thought they'd only have happy thoughts of hugs and puppies for me.

If you want to help me out, and defend the Pens, hop on over there and leave a comment!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Penguins 3, Rangers 2 (OT)

I missed most of this game. Heresy, I know, but it wasn't possible to see the first two periods. What I did see was the Rangers take a 2-0 deficit and tie the game in just about 90 seconds. That was depressing.

Fortunately, the Pens were able to regroup after the Rangers tied the game. Both teams traded chances, but none of them were especially good. Flower stopped a redirected shot by Grandpa Shanahan, and Lundqvist made a left pad save on Hossa.

Late in the third, Chris Drury got the stick up into the face of Ryan Malone and drew blood. That was an automatic four minute penalty that lasted for the last 1:20 of regulation and the first 2:40 of overtime. The Pens got some great chances during the power play, but couldn't beat Lundqvist.

Even though they didn't score, the power play changed the momentum and put the Pens back on the offensive and in control of the game. The winning rush was a botched play. Dupuis and Crosby both lost control of the puck. Girardi tried to kick it to clear the zone, but he kicked it straight to Hossa in the slot. Say good night, Rangers.

Even though it was only Game 5, there was a sense of urgency on the part of the Pens. They really didn't want to go back to MSG for Game 6. Great job to finish them off at home.

Next up: The Flyers in the Eastern Conference Championship. Could there be a more perfect opponent for the Pens?

Playoff Game #9 - vs New York Rangers

New York Rangers (5) at Pittsburgh Penguins (2)

Pittsburgh leads series 3-1.

This one is huge for both teams. The Rangers, obviously, because a loss would send them home. The Pens, because they don't want to go back to New York for a Game 6.

Jagr doesn't seem to mind breaking the unspoken rules of discussing the series. It's okay to think about the next round, I guess, but to actually talk about it on the record?
"I know I'm thinking too far ahead, on the other side, how much confidence would it give you if you do it, for the next round? That would be probably huge. Then you would go to the series with a 1-0 lead already."

Probably not the smartest thing he ever said. He's right, in that you'd get a huge confidence boost, but if I'm the Pens, that quote is on the bulletin board. Jaromir seems to feel that this series is wrapped up somehow...

Talbot may or may not play today. He skated yesterday on his own. I think his absence is really felt out there. The fourth line suddenly becomes MUCH slower when it is comprised of Laraque, Hall and Roberts. That probably limits when Therrien can put them out there.

Today is a day for the big guns to step up and propel the Pens into the next round for a match up with Philly.

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Rangers 3, Penguins 0

The Rangers were able to turn the tables on the Pens tonight. The Blueshirts were the ones that got the great individual effort on the goal by Jagr. They were the ones that got the timely goal on the power play to solidify their lead. They were the ones that had the goalie that made every stop he needed to.

The Pens were just a little bit off. It will be interesting to see how they respond on Sunday. Will they tighten up, or will they keep the loose, determined style they've had so far? This is the first time they've faced adversity during the playoffs.

Recap time!

First period:

The period was a good representation of the series. It was a dump and chase game with a few penalties and a few breakdowns in the defensive end. Both goalies were good, covering up for the blunders of their teammates.

The action was kind of stilted. Both teams tried getting the puck deep, but neither one was able to get much of a cycling game going. There were the aforementioned penalties to break things up, two on the Rangers and one on the Pens.

Both teams had some scoring chances, but overall, there wasn't much else to it.

Second period:

During the second, the Pens weren't getting the puck in deep and the Rangers were starting to take advantage.

Jagr beat Fleury with a wicked wrist shot. He was then plastered by Brooks Orpik. He lay on the ice dazed for a few moments. Unfortunately, no one took the opportunity to skate over to Jags and yell at him to quit falling down and get up and skate. 1-0 Rangers.

The Pens had several golden chances. Malkin had three of them, including a breakaway where he was awarded a penalty shot.

My favorite part of the breakaway was when the defensemen (Girardi?) shoved Malkin from behind, sending Geno straight into Lundqvist. Girardi then acted like he didn't do anything, when the replay was pretty clear on exactly what he did.

Geno couldn't do anything with his penalty shot. He slowed down and just tried a simple quick wrist shot. Not sure what he was trying there, but you had the feeling the bounces weren't going the Penguins' way.

Malone also missed on a breakaway chance (short-handed).

The Rangers were the beneficiaries of three penalty calls during the period. You kind of expected things to magically even out going to the third, assuming the Pens could kill off the remainder of the third penalty they took.

Versus sucked, by the way, in the second:
  • Ruutu took a penalty and we had NO IDEA what he did, because they never showed it.
  • On the Malkin breakaway, they didn't slow down the replay to see when the puck went into the net until the review was over.
How can these guys be so bad at a hockey telecast? Slow down the speed on the breakaway - we're all interested! Doing it after you hear the crowd cheering because the goal is waved off is no good. Show us the penalties the players commit - it can't be that hard! These are the playoffs!

Third period:

The Rangers cashed in on the power play early in the period. Dubinsky took a puck in front of Fleury and did a spinning backhand shot that beat Flower the far post. 2-0 Rangers.

The Pens would make some noise for the remainder of the period, but nothing consistent. They had one huge golden chance when Sykora fluttered a shot over Lundqvist and off of the crossbar. The puck landed and Staal missed a WIDE open net. That pretty much took the air out of the balloon.

What impressed me the most was the chippiness that was shown by Sid and Geno. Hossa took a good open ice hit from Girardi with about six minutes remaining. Crosby and Malkin immediately went right after Girardi. Both of them drew roughing penalties. That may be the only time we ever see both Crosby and Malkin draw a roughing penalty at the same time. It was almost comical to see them both in the penalty box, except that they were ticked.

The Rangers added an empty net goal and Malkin added several attempts to kill Paul Mara. That led to another fracas with both Malkin and Mara getting a misconduct penalty to get them out of the game.

Something certainly lit a fire under both Crosby and Malkin. That's good to see - I think it bodes well for Sunday.

Next up: Huge Game 5 on Sunday at the Igloo.