Friday, April 30, 2010

Penguins 6, Canadiens 3

So what happened?
The Pens were too much offensively for the Habs. Scoring four goals on four power play chances? That's the kind of thing we've been waiting to see for a few years.

The scoring was nicely distributed with three goals from the blue line and three from the forwards. Everything was working for the Pens.

Halak just didn't have it tonight. Listening to Versus and hearing Elliot say he would have started Price had to be one of the dumber things I've heard in a LONG time. On the Goligoski goal, it almost looked like Halak tried to scoop the puck up with his glove and simply missed it. With any luck, this will be a problem for Halak all series long.

Does this remind anyone else of the Carolina series last year?

Who scored?
Gonchar (1), Staal (2), Letang (3), Adams (2), Goligoski (2), Guerin (3)

Any surprises?
I was surprised the Pens were out shot when I looked at the box score. I don't think Montreal had many quality scoring chances, and I think the Pens were trying to be patient.

Where do we go from here?
Game 2 is on Sunday afternoon in the Burgh.

  • Do you start Halak or Price on Sunday?
  • Hopefully Staal is okay.
  • The Habs aren't this bad. The Pens need to expect a tougher game on Sunday.
  • Nice to see a team pay for dumb penalties (jumping Cooke after the clean hit on Markov was a dumb penalty).

Playoff Game #7 - vs Montreal Canadiens

Playoff Game 7
Montreal Canadiens at Pittsburgh Penguins
First game of Round 2

Why does it matter?
The Pens caught a break in getting to face the 8th seed. Time to get the series off on the right foot.

What has been happening lately?
  • Pens - Take a deep breath after the Sens pushed them further than you thought they could.
  • Canadiens - A magical win over the Caps made history on Wednesday night.
Questions to be answered
  • Will the longer layoff for the Pens affect their start in tonight's game? The Pens have been plagued with slow starts several times recently.
  • Can Fleury hold the fort while the Pens try to get to Halak? Flower can be great at times, but he really needs some consistency to his game against the Habs.
  • Can the Pens walk the delicate "quality not quantity" line? Given that Halak can stonewall a strong offensive team like the Caps, the Pens will try to be a bit more patient. Will that patience turn into a reluctance to shoot that we've seen at times this year? It will be a head game, for sure.
Keys to the game
  • Watch out for match ups. You don't want to see Jay McKee as the last defense trying to slow down one of the quick Montreal forwards (like Cammalleri, Gomez or Gionta).
  • Start out strong. The Habs played well on the road in Round 1. Get the legs going early and take control of the series from the outset.
  • Score on the power play. The Habs completely dominated the Caps power play. The Pens can take the air out of their sails with a few tallies on the man-advantage.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Penguins 4, Senators 3 (OT)

So what happened?
Another epic game. This series sure did turn into a good one at the end, didn't it?

The Sens held a 1-0 lead after one period, and it was obvious that the Pens simply were not ready for the start of the game again. They were tentative with the puck and not aggressive with the dump and chase.

Things got worse in the second, and when Alfredsson scored about halfway through the period, the Sens were up 3-0. I was muttering and planning for a Tuesday night hockey game.

Matt Cooke scored about a minute later, and from that point on, the Pens largely dominated the game. The Sens, who had out shot the Pens 23-21 through two periods, suddenly tried to turtle and hope for the best. The Pens out shot the Sens 18-4 in the third period, and the boys from Ottawa got what they deserved. They couldn't protect the lead well enough with that dumb trap and the Pens tied the game.

Despite a few tense moments in OT, the Pens largely carried the play there too. Dupuis put them out of the misery with the series winning goal in OT, which immediately reminded me of Darius Kasparitus (in that they've both won a series in OT for the Pens).

Who scored?
Cooke (2,3), Guerin (2), Dupuis (1)

Any surprises?
I was honestly surprised the Pens had it in them to come back like they did. I thought after the OT game and falling behind 3-0 that we'd be in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

Where do we go from here?
Wait and see who wins the other two series. If the current leaders hold, the Pens will play Boston. They only team they cannot play is Washington.

  • Leclaire was good in making a bunch of saves, but what happened to the Ottawa defense that had become so good at gumming up the works? The Pens blasted them with shots, especially over the last three games.
  • Flower wasn't spectacular, but he made most of the saves he should and made several big saves at the right time.
  • The PK came up big tonight, killing off both of the Sens chances.
  • Gonchar deserves a nice rest after another 30 minutes of ice time tonight.
  • I still can't get past 18-4 in the third period. That isn't playing like you want to force a Game 7.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Playoff Game #6 - at Ottawa Senators

Playoff Game 6
Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators
Penguins lead series 3-2

Why does it matter?
Because the Pens want to avoid a Game 7, where anything can happen.

What has been happening lately?
  • Pens - One bounce in OT sent the series back to Ottawa.
  • Senators - One bounce in OT has the Sens feeling like they're back in the series.
Questions to be answered
  • Can the Pens avoid the slow start that has plagued them in both of their losses in this series?
  • Can Fleury not allow a soft goal? I'm calling Regin's third period goal soft - he was out near the blue line and beat Fleury cleanly without any screen I can remember.
  • Can the PK get through a game without allowing a goal?
Keys to the game
  • Keep firing on Leclaire. He looks susceptible to rebounds since he seems to wind up sitting on his backside frequently.
  • Keep it simple early on - north and south with an emphasis on finishing checks.
  • No dumb penalties (I'm looking at you, Mike Rupp and Matt Cooke).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Senators 4, Penguins 3 (3 OT)

So what happened?
Epic game. It had something for everyone. Ottawa jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The Pens battled back and took a 3-2 lead in the third. Regin blasted one past Fleury to tie the game and we went to OT. There was a goal by the Sens that was disallowed (kicked in), and Geno hit the post later. In the third OT, Carkner took a shot from the point that hit something on the way in and found it's way past Fleury.

Sucks to lose one like this.

Who scored?
Letang (2), Kunitz (2), Crosby (5)

Any surprises?
Once Sid scored to give the Pens the lead, I thought they were going to roll. It was surprising to see the Sens tie the game.

Where do we go from here?
A tough Saturday night match in Ottawa.

  • I'm exhausted after watching this game. I've got nothing.

Playoff Game #5 - vs Ottawa Senators

Playoff Game 5
Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins lead series 3-1

Why does it matter?
Because the Pens have a chance to finish off the Sens and get some rest heading to the second round.

What has been happening lately?
  • Pens - Things looks a bit iffy heading up to Ottawa. Sure is a different picture now, isn't it?
  • Senators - if I'm the Sens, I can't be too disappointed. It's not as if they've been really bad, other than parts of Game 4.
Questions to be answered
  • Now that they have the chance, will the Pens show the killer instinct?
  • Can we have a stop to the dumb penalties, and can we get some good results by the PK?
  • Assuming that Fedotekno plays, how will he respond to being scratched? He could be valuable to the Pens going forward.
Keys to the game
  • Whichever goalie plays for Ottawa, get to them early and make them uneasy.
  • No let down if you get a lead.
  • Keep rolling the lines. Now that there's a reasonable certainty that the Pens will take this series, keeping the top guys from wearing out will pay dividends down the road.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Penguins 7, Senators 4

So what happened?
The Senators managed to generate some offense, but it was too little, too late. The Pens simply have too much firepower for Ottawa to contain.

The first period was tight, with only Geno's power play goal giving the Pens a 1-0 lead. Elliot was playing well and it was a one-shot game. Then the wheels fell off of the wagon for Brian Elliot. The Sens allowed three goals in about 150 seconds. Elliot was yanked, trailing 4-0.

Leclaire didn't do much better, and while the Sens made a little bit of noise, they could never get closer than a two goal deficit. They needed some miraculous goaltending, and what they got from Leclaire was anything but.

I was disappointed to see Cory Clouston put Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu on the ice with 90 seconds left. Everyone in the building knew why they were out there. That's the kind of stupid stuff that needs to be kept out of the game of hockey. Maybe in the playoffs, penalties at the end of games need to carry over to the next game, or at least any misconduct penalties should carry over (Neil, Ruutu and Carkner all received 10 minute misconduct penalties).

Who scored?
Malkin (4), Crosby (3,4), Cooke (1), Talbot (1), Kunitz (1), Staal (1)

Any surprises?
The forwards were not taking long shifts tonight. Great job by HCDB to roll the lines.

Where do we go from here?
A chance to put the Sens out of their misery on Thursday.

  • Talbot played a great game. He's really rounding into shape.
  • Hopefully Kennedy is okay.
  • Great goal by Kunitz, absolutely ripping a Crosby pass from the goal line past Leclaire.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Playoff Game #4 - at Ottawa Senators

Playoff Game 4
Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators
Penguins lead series 2-1

Why does it matter?
The Sens will have themselves convinced this is their last stand: win or hear the fat lady warming up. They'll probably play like it, too. The Pens need to be ready, because they won't have seen desperation like this since last year in the playoffs.

What has been happening lately?
  • Pens - Just rounding into playoff form, and looking really sharp.
  • Senators - I think they're done - they can't generate enough offense and aren't deep enough.
Questions to be answered
  • Can Fleury keep playing at a high level?
  • Can the PK shut down the Sens?
  • Can the Pens keep their cool when the Sens try to ratchet up the nonsense?
Keys to the game
  • Stay consistent. The Pens have established a good groove. They need to keep it simple and keep it going.
  • Don't worry about the match ups. While Sid has been frustrated, he has been able to find ways to produce.
  • Secondary scoring. The quickest way to take the Sens out of the series is to get some offense from the third and fourth line.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Penguins 4, Senators 2

So what happened?
I think the Pens have flipped the switch for good on the Sens. There were some stretches where the Sens brought some pressure, but most of the game was slanted towards the Pens. They finished their checks, they were relentless in both the offensive and defensive zones, and they converted on their chances. The Senators simply could not match the offensive output.

I'm not going to say this series is over, but if the Sens don't find a way to generate some offense, it won't go past Thursday.

Who scored?
Ponikarovsky (1), Malkin (3), Crosby (2), Guerin (1)

Any surprises?
The ice time leader for the Sens? Erik Karlsson. That's an awful lot of pressure to put on a 19 year-old defenseman. It also says a lot about the state of the blue line for the Sens.

Where do we go from here?
A win on Tuesday essentially finishes off the Sens, if they're not done already.

  • Ponikarovsky still hasn't found his niche. He's not playing many minutes, and when he does get on the ice, he's not there for long. I'm guessing HCDB doesn't trust him defensively yet.
  • The Pens did allow two more power play goals. They need to toughen up the PK if they want to go deeper than Round 2 in the playoffs.
  • Fleury sure isn't doing much to help us remember Game 1 - that seems like a different goalie out there.
  • Great game by GoGo, logging over 8 minutes of ice time in the third period when the game mattered the most.

Playoff Game #3 - at Ottawa Senators

Playoff Game 3
Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators
Series tied 1-1

Why does it matter?
Remember how the Senators wanted to win one game in Pittsburgh? The Penguins can undo all of that damage today with a win in Ottawa. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that a win today would be a big dagger in the Sens chances in the series.

What has been happening lately?
  • Pens - Game 2 was more reflective of recent Penguins playoff hockey.
  • Senators - They can't be feeling good about their chances unless they can find a way to ramp up the offense.
Questions to be answered
  • Can the Pens keep up the physical pace they set in Game 2?
  • Will HCDB be able to avoid the Phillips / Volchenkov match up? Better yet, do they care about avoiding it?
  • Can Flower put together strong starts in back to back games?
Keys to the game
  • Withstand the storm - the Sens are going to bring it early in the game. Get through the first 10 minutes and then go to work.
  • Keep hitting - even if the Sens can match up better, that sets up well for the Pens with Kunitz and Guerin being able to forecheck, and punish, Phillips and Volchenkov.
  • Second line scoring - Geno's line needs to produce at even strength if the Sens get the match up they want with Sid's line.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Penguins 2, Senators 1

So what happened?
Letang got a shot on net.

Really, it's as simple as that.

With about four minutes left in the third in a 1-1 game, Crosby was dancing with the puck beneath the goal line, and the Sens slowly started to sag towards the net. After going back and forth three or four times, Sid got the puck out to Letang at the point at the same time as Bill Guerin (doing his best grazing cow impression) wandered in front of Elliot. The Ottawa goaltender never saw the shot, and Letang didn't miss.

It didn't start out quite as nicely, with the Sens scoring just 18 seconds into the game on a great shot by Regin over the glove hand of Fleury. The good news is that they kept trying to pick on Flower over the glove hand, but kept missing the net.

Sid tied the score at 1-1 on a rebound of a Kunitz shot up high on Elliot.

Who scored?
Crosby (1), Letang (1)

Any surprises?
You knew the Pens were going to come out with some motivation, but 52 hits? Wow! Every single player on the bench for the Pens tonight was credited with a hit.

Where do we go from here?
The Pens will get a chance to prove they turned the tide in Ottawa on Sunday.

  • Personally, I couldn't be happier for Kris Letang. It seems like he misses the net constantly, so for him to score when this much is on the line is tremendous.
  • Elliot wasn't as shaky tonight, though he did bobble the Kunitz shot up high, which allowed Sid to score.
  • Flower was great tonight, keeping the Pens in the game by making the saves he should make.
  • Hopefully Leopold is okay (he was crushed by a hit from Sutton). If not, we'll see McKee on Sunday.

Playoff Game #2 - vs Ottawa Senators

Playoff Game 2
Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins
Ottawa leads series 1-0.

Why does it matter?
The Pens badly need a win at home to even the series before going back to Ottawa on Sunday. The hole has been dug - now the Pens have to find a way out of it.

What has been happening lately?
  • Pens - An inconsistent effort in Game 1 that left most disappointed.
  • Senators - They have to be feeling like they stole Game 1, given how shaky Elliot was. They did lose Michalek for the rest of the series, which will further reduce their depth.
Questions to be answered
  • How long is the leash on Flower? Can you get away with yanking him in the playoffs given how often he was yanked this year?
  • Can the Pens lock down the PK? I know one of the Sens power play goals was a fluke, but still, they netted two in three chances. That's the game right there.
  • How will the Pens respond to adversity?
Keys to the game
  • Don't lose focus.
  • Step up the energy level and keep it going for 60 minutes, especially on the dump and chase (which is necessary because of their trap).
  • Don't be too worried. Four goals against a team playing the trap will win the game most times. Lock down the defense a bit and keep going.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Senators 5, Penguins 4

So what happened?
The Pens were facing a shaky goalie tonight and were unable to take advantage. In fact, for much of the first two periods, they were unable to do much of anything.

Clearly this team was not ready for what the Senators brought to the table. I'm not sure if the problem was mental on the part of the players, or the game plan on the part of the coaches, but they were unable to consistently break the trap. I'm leaning more towards the players, because the dump was there, and Elliot doesn't come out of the net much. Either the forwards were unable to get any speed to retrieve the puck, or they weren't able to get numbers in place after the first guy got in.

Fleury didn't play particularly well, and was especially poor on the Neil and Ruutu goals. On the Neil goal, he went down on the short side, and on the Ruutu goal, he was not able to keep the pads together coming from left to right.

The really disappointing part is that the Pens were a stupid bounce goal (Kelly's goal was off of a bounce off of a partition while Fleury was behind the net) from getting the game tied and going to OT.

Who scored?
Malkin (1,2), Adams (1), Goligoski (1)

Any surprises?
The really poor first period was a complete shock. How can what we saw on the ice be a surprise, and how could they not have been ready for it? No shots in 16 minutes will get you bounced from the playoffs pretty quickly.

Where do we go from here?
This is where HCDB proves his mettle as a coach. The Sens have thrown down the gauntlet and showed their hand. Bylsma now has to come up with a way for the Pens to counter the trap and get more shots on net. I think Elliot is going to struggle, especially during the games in Pittsburgh.

  • If you want to see a shining example of how to play a three-on-two, see the Regin goal when Spezza took the puck wide on the right and fired a shot (on net) for the right pad of Fleury. Flower kicked it out, right into the middle of the ice.
  • If you want to see how not to play a three-on-two, both Fedotenko and Adams fired shots from the exact same place (as Spezza) and both missed wide of Elliot, leading to a Senators breakout. Take something off of the shot if you have to - just get the thing on net! You're going against a shaky goalie - force him to make plays.
  • The Pens seemed to go wide on the far side of Elliot several times, which makes you wonder if they saw something in how he challenges. Adam's goal was a shot to the far side (though it was on the backhand).
  • The third line (Staal, Kennedy and Cooke) was a collective -6 on the night. That line has to do better.
  • On the plus side, the power play looks like it could be a difference maker right now.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Playoff Game #1 - vs Ottawa Senators

Playoff Game 1
Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins

Why does it matter?
This is the Pens chance to show that the inconsistency that plagued them this season was nothing to worry about. The Sens were on the other extreme - they were either consistently good for a stretch or consistently terrible. Let's hope the latter holds for this series.

What has been happening lately?
  • Pens - Trying to get everyone healthy to start the playoffs. It looks like everyone will go, with Kunitz being the question mark.
  • Senators - They will be without Kuba and Kovalev. The loss of Kuba hurts, as he was their ice time leader during the regular season.
Questions to be answered
  • Which Fleury will show up? Can he regain his playoff form from the last two seasons?
  • Can the Pens stop Alfie and Spezza?
  • What happens if they drop one of the games in Pittsburgh? How will they react to adversity?
Keys to the game
  • Get to Elliot early. Don't let him get comfortable back there.
  • Don't get wrapped up in any nonsense. I know you see less of that in the playoffs, but if Ruutu or Neil get you thinking about them instead of winning the game, you're losing the battle.
  • Focus on the details. Finish the checks all game long. Make sure on line changes before jumping on. Make the extra effort on the back-check. These are the things that can win the series.

2010 Playoffs - Round 1 - Ottawa Senators

The Pens have played the Senators twice in the playoffs in the past three years, losing in 5 games three years ago and then sweeping them two years back.

The past history doesn't matter now, though if I could have one request... when the series goes back to Ottawa, can we please have this guy back again? I need something to laugh about..

Without further ado, here are my keys to the series.
  1. Goaltending - Marc-Andre will need to be sharp. Elliot is getting his first taste of the playoffs. I think the edge here obviously goes to the Pens, but getting to Elliot early to rattle his confidence would be a good idea.
  2. No Kuba - this will be huge for Geno, who likes to torture the Sens. Kuba led the Sens in ice time this season, and while Volchenkov and Phillips will try to shut down Sid, Geno will get to go up against guys like Sutton, Karlsson, Picard and Carkner. Can you say "Advantage, Penguins" in Russian?
  3. Watch out for the secondary scoring - The Sens have some depth at forward, despite Kovalev's injury. Michalek, Fisher and Kelly can all chip in. Ruutu, Cullen and Neil make them tough to play against.
  4. Cheat on the D - Ottawa's defense really doesn't shoot the puck very much. Only Karlsson comes close to averaging two shots per game. The Pens can take advantage by watching for the point men of the Sens trying to make the extra pass.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Penguins 6, Islanders 5 (OT)

So what happened?
Wow - what didn't happen? Sid had points on the first five goals for the Pens and entered the third period needing three points to catch Sedin for the Art Ross. The Pens also held a three goal lead. I can't have been the only one thinking "let the Isles make it interesting so Sid keeps pushing." Of course, I wasn't expecting the Pens to give up that three goal lead in the third (two of them on crazy deflection shots) and take the game to OT.

Once they hit OT, it didn't really matter what the outcome was, because the game result was meaningless. Having said that, it was nice to get the W.

Sid did earn a share of the Rocket Richard trophy by tying Stamkos with 51 goals on the season. I'm glad to see Sid earn that. I'm even happier that he didn't have to share it with Ovechkin.

What exactly was Geno doing with three minor penalties?

Who scored?
Malkin (27,28), Godard (1), Crosby (50,51), Leopold (11)

Any surprises?
Godard scored!!! If Craig Adams had put one in too, I'd be checking for the impending Apocalypse.

Any change in the standings?
Conference: 4th

Who's next?
The Sens, hopefully without the gladiator walking through their locker room as part of their intro.

  • I see Leopold and still think back to Scuderi. Jordan brings more offense without sacrificing too much in the way of defense (Leopold was a minus player in just three games after joining the Pens).
  • Nice to see Tangradi. In our completely-too-short-to-make-any-meaningful-judgement observation, he looks like a 50 goal scorer.
  • Hopefully Geno has the PIM out of his system. He can't put the Pens short handed (and take himself out of the game) in the playoffs.

Game #82 - at New York Islanders

Game 82
Penguins (46-28-7, 99 points) at Islanders (34-37-10, 78 points)

Why does it matter?
It doesn't, really. The Pens have nothing to play for. They're going to be the 4th seed in the East and will play Ottawa in the first round. The only thing that matters is watching to see if Sid can score two goals to pass Ovechkin, who did not score in the Caps season finale.

What has been happening lately?
  • Pens - A disappointing loss to the Thrashers put the Pens securely in the 4 spot.
  • Islanders - To say they've been smacked around lately would be kind. They've lost two straight, giving up 7 goals in each one.
Questions to be answered
  • Will Sid hit 50 goals? He has 15 points (4 + 11) in his last 7 games.
  • Can the Pens avoid injury to anyone else? Orpik, Cookie and Kunitz are all dealing with ailments of various sorts.
  • Will we see the debut of Eric Tangradi?
Keys to the game
  • Just get through the game - get some work in and don't get hurt. Think of this as a scrimmage to help as a tune-up for the Sens.

Thrashers 1, Penguins 0

So what happened?
The Pens simply couldn't score (they hit two posts). They were stoned by Hedberg, who always seems to play well against them. What is it about these former Penguins? Anyway, they did just about everything right with a good defensive effort and good offensive zone time. They out shot the Thrashers 33-22 overall, and won that battle in each period. The PK also killed off 7 chances for the Thrashers.

Despite losing the chance for the #2 seed, I feel pretty good about the way the Pens are playing right now. The goals will come.

Who scored?
No one.

Any surprises?
It was surprising to me that the Pens could go from scoring 7 in a game to getting shut out.

Any change in the standings?
Yep - Jersey won, so the Pens will finish 4th in the conference and play Ottawa in the first round.
Conference: 4th

Who's next?
A meaningless finale against the Islanders. Maybe Sid can get his 50th.

  • Not good by Geno in taking two minor penalties. The second one was particularly bad as it came with less than 4 minutes left in the game and while the Pens were surging.
  • HCDB really had to shorten the bench. Sid, Geno and Staal all played significant minutes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Game #81 - at Atlanta Thrashers

Game 81
Penguins (46-27-7, 99 points) at Thrashers (34-34-13, 81 points)

Why does it matter?
It's looking likely that the winner of the Atlantic division will have the #2 seed. That should be the focus - home ice through two rounds (should they make it through the first round).

What has been happening lately?
  • Pens - The Pens took care of business in exemplary fashion against the Isles on Thursday.
  • Thrashers - Atlanta wilted down the stretch (7 losses in 9 games) and cost themselves a playoff spot in the process.
Questions to be answered
  • Will Sid hit 50 goals? He has 15 points (4 + 11) in his last 6 games.
  • Can the power play keep going? Don't look now, but they have 5 goals in 15 chances over the last three games.
Keys to the game
  • No mental lapses!
  • Simplify the game. Go north and south, get pucks to the net and crash. That will be what drives success in the playoffs when teams tighten up.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Penguins 7, Islanders 3

So what happened?
It was a great evening at the Igloo. All of the Pens' alumni were in the house and the Pens seemed to turn back the clock to the 90s in terms of their scoring.

The game was pretty close early on, and would have been much closer if not for Fleury. He made several amazing saves during the first two periods, most notably three in quick succession with the Pens on the power play early in the second period.

Sid was originally credited with Guerin's first goal, but he went to the official scorer after the game and had it changed to Bill. It would have been his 50th, and it is just another example of the exemplary character that Sid possesses.

The only real trouble spot for the Pens tonight was the defense. They allowed the Isles to get tons of great chances early in the game. If not for Flower, this could have been a different game.

Who scored?
Orpik (2), Goligoski (8), Malkin (26), Crosby (49), Guerin (20,21), Kennedy (13)

Any surprises?
The Pens scored first, and it was just 23 seconds into the game!

Any change in the standings?
Yep - both New Jersey and Buffalo lost, so the Pens, while still in 4th, are tied in points with the Devils. It was the best possible outcome for the evening.
Conference: 4th (tied with New Jersey, behind due to tie breaker)

Who's next?
On the road to another key game in Atlanta on Saturday night.

  • Not sure how many folks realize this (they mentioned it in the post game show), but Bill Guerin is the first player in NHL history to score 20 goals with 7 different teams. Congrats to Bill.
  • Nice job balancing the ice time by HCDB. Only three guys with more than 20 minutes (Gonchar, Eaton and Staal).
  • Nice job also by the PK to kill off a 5 minute major during the third period.
  • The power play had a multi-goal game, and generally looked good. That could be really big heading into the playoffs.

Game #80 - vs New York Islanders

Game 80
Islanders (34-35-10, 78 points) at Penguins (45-27-7, 97 points)

Why does it matter?
Winning the division would be a good idea. Three wins to close out the season is critical to doing that.

What has been happening lately?
  • Pens - The results just weren't there against the Caps on Tuesday.
  • Islanders - Five wins in their past six games. They play well when there's no pressure.
Questions to be answered
  • Can the Pens take care of business? This is a team they should beat.
  • Is this a good time for Flower to regroup? Fleury has been strong against the Islanders this year.
  • Can Sid step up? He has 8 points (3 + 5) in four games against the Isles this year.
Keys to the game
  • Win at even strength. The Isles have done nothing special on special teams recently, but they have been winning.
  • Realize what's at stake. The Pens need to keep their intensity even if the Isles don't have it.
  • Get healthy for the playoffs. As important as the #2 or #3 seed is, it's not as important as having everyone at full strength for next week.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Capitals 6, Penguins 3

So what happened?
If you've seen a game this year against the Caps or Devils, then you know what happened. The result was the same. Ten games against those two teams... ten losses. It's not even worth discussing the specifics.

Yeah, I'm mailing this one in.

Who scored?
Crosby (48), Leopold (9,10)

Any surprises?
Not really - this one played out like you thought it might based on recent history.

Any change in the standings?
Jersey won, so the Pens are getting themselves behind the eight ball as far as winning the division. That could lead to a second round match up with the Caps.
Playoff seed: 4th (two points behind New Jersey)

Who's next?
Last home game ever at Mellon Arena against the Islanders on Thursday night.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Game #79 - vs Washington Capitals

Game 79
Capitals (52-15-12, 116 points) at Penguins (45-26-7, 97 points)

Why does it matter?
Pens. Caps. That's enough, isn't it?

What has been happening lately?
  • Pens - A tenacious comeback win over Atlanta.
  • Capitals - Three straight wins amid a blueprint for defeat handed out by RJ Umberger.
Questions to be answered
  • Was Umberger right? Will a team that bottles the Caps up in their own end have the upper hand? We won't get the answer today, but we will in about a week...
  • Which PK will show up for the Caps - the one that has killed 9 straight chances over three games, or the one that allowed 6 goals over 16 chances during the previous four games?
  • Can the Pens keep winning to keep the pressure on Jersey?
Keys to the game
  • Keep your heads up. You know O-Face will be running around.
  • Take it seriously - this is the last good warm up for the playoffs (the next three opponents are the Isles, the Thrashers and the Isles again).
  • Get the puck deep and keep it there. The Caps, per Umberger, like to float and poach. Try ill advised passes just inside the blue line (Geno) and you're going to be chasing someone on a breakaway.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Penguins 4, Thrashers 3 (OT)

So what happened?
The Thrashers made some key mistakes, and it cost them two points.

Jim Slater took a completely unnecessary holding penalty with about two and a half minutes left in the game. I know Thrashers coach John Anderson didn't like the call, but there was no reason at all for Slater to put himself in that position. All he needed to do was shadow Leopold and maybe try to hit him after he touched the puck. He *clearly* grabbed him with his free hand and spun him around a little bit. Completely dumb, and honestly the type of mental mistake we've been used to seeing the Pens make. The Pens made them pay and tied the game at 3-3. There went the two points.

It was nice to see a team that turtles to protect a lead get burned by it. The Thrashers managed just 6 shots on net at even-strength during the second and third periods combined. They tried to trap it up and got burned by it.

Who scored?
Malkin (25), Kennedy (12), Gonchar (11), Leopold (8)

Any surprises?
Every time the Pens would score to tie the game, the Thrashers would take the lead right back. It was surprising that the Pens seemed to have a mini-letdown in those situations.

Any change in the standings?
Jersey won and Buffalo lost, so the Atlantic division winner is in the Driver's Seat for the #2 seed.
Playoff seed: 4th (tied with Jersey, but behind them by virtue of a tie breaker)

Who's next?
(To the tune of the Oreo commercial) O, O, O, Who's that dork with the stupid gold shoelaces?
He's coming to the Igloo on Tuesday. The Pens need to be ready.

  • Think they missed Sarge and Geno? Wow.
  • Fleury had a nice game overall with several great saves to keep the deficit at one goal.
  • Sid had a three point night and was a +2.
  • Kunitz left the game with an injury and did not return. Hopefully he's okay...

Game 78 - vs Atlanta Thrashers

Game 78
Thrashers (34-32-12, 80 points) at Penguins (44-26-7, 95 points)

Why does it matter?
The Thrashers are playing for their playoff lives, and their schedule looks to be preventing them from getting into the playoffs. After today's game, they play the Devils and Caps before finishing up with the Pens again, this time in Atlanta. That means they'll be desperate to earn two points today. That's actually good news for the Pens, who need to find a way to match the intensity of their opponent. That has been lacking in their game for a bit now.

Also, the Pens are all tied up with the Devils with each team having 5 games remaining. They cannot finish in a tie, because the Devils would win the tie breaker (since they've owned the Pens this year).

What has been happening lately?
  • Pens - A very lethargic effort against Tampa resulted in a shutout loss.
  • Thrashers - Recent losses to Carolina and Toronto make it seem like they're not ready to get into the playoffs.
Questions to be answered
  • What is the mental state of this team? Are they ready for the post season?.
  • Will Geno and Sarge return? It looks like they'll play today.
  • Which forward do you sit? Mike Rupp? Max Talbot?
Keys to the game
  • Get into the game early. I don't know if a fight would help, or just hitting anything that has the puck, but they have to do something to get into it.
  • With Sarge back, get some production out of the power play. The Thrashers have been excellent on the PK lately, so this will be a good test.
  • Look for Sid when there's a chance to score. The Rocket Richard trophy would be nice.