Saturday, October 30, 2010

Penguins 3, Hurricanes 0

So what happened?
A great all around team game by the Pens, coupled with some solid play between the pipes (and a few lucky bounces) led to a shutout victory.

Who scored?
Dupuis 2 (3, 4), Talbot (2)

The Good?
  • The first two goals were earned by taking the puck to the net. On the first one, Dupuis was on the left with Sid on the right. Pascal just kept going towards Cam Ward. The defenseman never took Dupuis, expecting the pass, and Pascal put it past Ward. Talbot's was similar in that he kept going, and different in that he sort of missed the puck and that threw Ward off enough to let the puck go through. If Fleury gives up that goal, everyone is screaming.
  • Johnson was excellent. He was following the puck extremely well.
  • Goligoski and Lovejoy were each a +3.
  • Asham looks like he'll fit in just fine.
  • Sid went 13-5 in the faceoff circle and the team was 36-16 as a whole (that's domination).
The Bad?
  • No Geno, though he did try things out in the warm up. To me, that means he's not too far away.
  • Letang left with an injury to his hand. It looks like it was still hurting from blocking a shot last night against the Flyers.
  • Too many penalties taken by the Pens. They can't allow six chances on the power play and expect to win.
Anything Ugly?
  • Some of those penalty calls were amazingly bad. Almost makes me want to check how the refs (Furlatt and Kimmerly) are with the Pens historically.
    Any surprises?
    • Eric Godard played the second-most minutes of his Penguins career (8:51). It helps that the Pens had the lead, but still, Bylsma's commitment to four lines is excellent.
    What's their record now? Any important move in the standings?
    The Pens are now 6-5-1. The Flyers won tonight too, so the Pens are tied for first in the Atlantic and second in the East.

    Who's next?
    The Pens are off until Wednesday, when they head to Dallas to play the Stars.

    Game #12 - at Carolina Hurricanes

    Game 12
    Penguins (5-5-1, 11 points) at Hurricanes (5-4-0, 10 points)

    Why does it matter?
    Carolina is a tough team to play against, especially for the Pens. A win is badly needed.

    What has been happening lately?
    • Pens - Four wins in a row, but five straight allowing a power play goal against.
    • Hurricanes - The Canes haven't been consistent yet this year, trading wins and losses for most of the season.
    Questions to be answered
    • Can the Pens rebound from a disappointing loss last night?
    • Will Johnson (the assumed starter) be able to pick up where he left off? If he does, what does that say about future playing time?
    • What is wrong with Geno?
    Keys to the game
    • Stay the course. The level of play (from what I saw) last night was good. Keep working.
    • Be aware of offense from the blue line. Babchuk and Pitkanen have played well so far.
    • Speed kills and the Canes have a bunch of it. Have the legs going early.

    Flyers 3, Penguins 2

    So what happened?
    I only saw the last 10 minutes of the game, so all I know is that they were unable to get enough pucks on net and unable to get any good amount of traffic in front of Bobrovsky. The penalty kill let them down at a critical time and they were unable to recover. If you want an example of what a Penguins goal should look like right now, look at the Flyers power play goal in the third period.

    Who scored?
    Letang (3), Kennedy (2)

    What's their record now? Any important move in the standings?
    The Pens are now 5-5-1. They are tied for first place in the Atlantic.

    Who's next?
    A quick turnaround with a game tonight against Carolina on the road.

    Friday, October 29, 2010

    Game #11 - vs Philadelphia Flyers

    Game 11
    Flyers (4-4-1, 9 points) at Penguins (5-4-1, 11 points)

    Why does it matter?
    Any game against Philly is an important game. This one is especially important because the Pens need to right the ship after losing two in a row.

    What has been happening lately?
    • Pens - Four wins in a row, but five straight allowing a power play goal against.
    • Flyers - Two wins in the last three games, including a six-goal outburst on Tuesday against Ryan Miller.
    Questions to be answered
    • Can the Pens stop the Flyers power play? Philly doubled their PP goal total with three on Tuesday night, while the Pens have allowed a power play goal in every game except two.
    • If Fleury is going to play tonight, how will he do at home? He still doesn't have a win at home, and hasn't played at Consol since October 13th.
    • Will any of the nastiness return to this series? The last two games have been close to outright friendly.
    Keys to the game
    • Find a way to score on the power play.
    • Keep Mike Richards more worried about diving and whining that winning. Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke can help here by getting under his skin.
    • Attack Timmonen and Coburn - both are a team-worst -3 on the season.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    Lightning 5, Penguins 3

    So what happened?
    Bad turnovers and sloppy play haunted the Penguins after they had built a 3-1 lead in the first period. They were outworked by the Bolts and individually out-hustled by Martin St. Louis in the third period. Fleury wasn't bad, but he wasn't good either. His defense certainly didn't help him out.

    Who scored?
    Hall (1), Cooke (2), Dupuis (2)

    The Good?
    • Two short handed goal on the same PK in the first.
    • Fleury stopped a Sean Bergenheim breakaway and the subsequent penalty shot.
    • Craig Adams tied a career high with three points. He also eclipsed his season goal total from last year when he scored in the first.
    The Bad?
    • The power play looked good, but they REALLY needed to come up with a goal tonight. They finished up 0-5.
    • Fleury allowed a few that really should not have gone in.
    • Does it seem like Orpik doesn't have his legs back yet?
    • Jeers to the Lightning media for not giving Craig Adams the third star. He deserved it.
    Anything Ugly?
    • Taking seven minor penalties is ugly. Combine that with numerous turnovers and sloppy play in general and you have an undisciplined mess. Some of that had to be due to the 1-3-1 defense, but not all.
      Any surprises?
      • If you had told me that Stamkos wouldn't score a goal and the Pens would chase Smith, but still lose, I may have thought you were crazy.
      What's their record now? Any important move in the standings?
      The Pens are now 5-4-1. They are still alone in first place in the division but everyone else is catching up.

      Who's next?
      Forget about sunny Florida - it's back to the Burgh for Philly on Friday.

      Game #10 - at Tampa Bay Lightning

      Game 10
      Penguins (5-3-1, 11 points) at Lightning (5-2-1, 11 points)

      Why does it matter?
      This game is a measuring stick for the Pens. The Lightning are one of the top teams in the East so far this year.

      What has been happening lately?
      • Pens - Four wins in a row, but five straight allowing a power play goal against.
      • Lightning - They've lost two of their last three after losing at home on Sunday.
      Questions to be answered
      • Will we see Fleury?
      • Can the Pens keep Stamkos off of the scoreboard? Tampa has won every game when he scores and lost every game that he hasn't.
      • Will we see Mike Smith in net for the Bolts? He's undefeated this year.
      Keys to the game
      • Limit the offense of the Bolts. They're not winning because of their defense and goaltending - they're winning because they're scoring a bunch of goals.
      • Keep them off of the power play. They have had four games with multiple goals on the PP, and they're 4-0 in those games. They were shut out in the other four games on the PP - their record there? 1-2-1.
      • Pick your spots to attack - some of the guys on the Lightning have been pretty bad at even-strength (Hall -5, Malone -7, Gagne -8).

      Monday, October 25, 2010

      Tangradi and Hutchinson sent down

      According to the official website, both Eric Tangradi and Andrew Hutchinson were sent to Wilkes-Barre.

      This isn't a surprise for either player. Tangradi was playing the fewest minutes of the forwards, and Hutchinson was the most recent call-up from Wilkes-Barre.

      I think Tangradi has a future with the Pens in a top 6 role. He has the size and strength they desperately need. You want him playing tons of minutes in Wilkes-Barre instead of barely cracking 10 minutes per night in Pittsburgh. He'll be back.

      This means that one of the injured forwards, most likely Jordan Staal, will return on Wednesday in Tampa.

      Sunday, October 24, 2010

      Blues 1, Penguins 0 (OT)

      So what happened?
      The Pens lost the opening faceoff in OT and the Blues never gave up the puck. Erik Johnson put a shot past Brent Johnson that he'd probably save 9 times out of 10, and that was that. Really, other than some activity on the power play for each team, and the last few minutes of the third period, that was all that happened.

      Who scored?
      No one.

      The Good?
      • They got a point. It feels kind of hollow, but I'm sure they'll be glad they got something out of it.
      • The Pens held St. Louis to just 24 shots, well below their season average.
      • The offense put 19 shots on Halak in the second period, but none of them were of the "golden scoring chance" variety, in my opinion. Maybe that's because Halak looks so casual in his movements in the crease.
      The Bad?
      • Stat of the game - Geno on faceoffs - 0 wins, 1 BIG loss. To start OT, he jumped, forcing Sid to get kicked out of the circle. Geno went in and lost. The Blues only briefly lost the puck from that point on.
      • The brief time they lost the puck was when Paul Martin had it in the corner, only to have Oshie strip him of the puck and set up the winning goal. Not a good play by Martin there.
      • This game was an example of how a hard-hitting, defensive game can be deadly. Most of it was like watching paint dry as there were very few shots, and no one seemed to be able to get their legs moving or attack with speed.
      Anything Ugly?
      • The whole OT sequence was pretty ugly.
        Any surprises?
        • I was mildly surprised to see Johnson in net.
        What's their record now? Any important move in the standings?
        The Pens are now 5-3-1. They are in first place in the Atlantic and tied for first in the NHL (with four other teams).

        Who's next?
        A few days off until a trip to Tampa to play the Bolts, who are tied with the Pens atop the Eastern Conference right now.

        Saturday, October 23, 2010

        Game #9 - at St. Louis Blues

        Game 9
        Penguins (5-3-0, 10 points) at Blues (3-1-2, 8 points)

        Why does it matter?
        This is a tough road game against a young team that has confidence right now, especially at home. They also have a goalie that will be familiar to the Pens, and not in a good way.

        What has been happening lately?
        • Pens - Four wins in a row, but five straight allowing a power play goal against.
        • Blues - A win over Chicago last night snapped a three game losing streak.
        Questions to be answered
        • Who will we see between the pipes for both teams? My guess is Fleury and Halak (Ty Conklin is the backup for the Blues, so it should be interesting either way).
        • The Blues have not been good on faceoffs. Can the Pens take advantage?
        • Can the Pens avoid allowing a power play goal? This question is going to stay here until they manage to blank someone.
        Keys to the game
        • The Blues haven't been taking many penalties, so take advantage of the chances you get.
        • No matter who the goalie is, get traffic in front.
        • Stay aggressive and don't try to get too cute on offense. Get shots on net with traffic and crash.

        Thursday, October 21, 2010

        Penguins 4, Predators 3 (OT)

        So what happened?
        This is an early nominee for regular season Game of the Year. It was fast and physical all over the ice. There was something for everyone: special teams play, great saves, great hits and great skill. The difference was Sid and Geno, who combined for 17 (!!!) shots. The Predators just didn't have an answer for them.

        Who scored?
        Malkin (3), Crosby 2 (5,6), Letang (2)

        The Good?
        • The Pens matched the speed and intensity of the Predators. They didn't back down or tighten up when the intensity ratcheted up a few notches.
        • Marc-Andre played a good game. He made some key saves at crucial moments and his defense helped him out for the most part.
        • Sid and Geno were unstoppable, and Bylsma had them playing together for large chunks of the game. It was good to see HCDB adapt to what was happening on the ice and stack his top line.
        • The lines were rolling, and they needed to be. Tangradi was the low man in terms of minutes, and he played almost 9.
        The Bad?
        • I'm going to say that if Geno keeps playing really long shifts, it will bite the Pens in the butt eventually, especially if he does it in the third period again.
        • Can someone besides Geno go after the other team's pest next time? It was nice to see Malkin take a shot at Tootoo, but I'd much rather see anyone on the third and fourth line do it.
        • Rinne pretty clearly cheated off of the post on Sid's bad-angle goal. If he hugs the post there, Sid doesn't score.
        • The Preds first goal was a letdown by the Pens' defense. The puck went side to side across the top of the crease (about a foot outside of the blue paint). No one stopped the puck and no one had the man on the far side (Legwand) who buried it.
        Anything Ugly?
        • No - this was easily the most entertaining regular season game I've seen in a LONG time.
          Any surprises?
          • Nashville only had 21 shots on net. Not only did it feel like more, but they were averaging 34 coming into the game.
          What's their record now? Any important move in the standings?
          The Pens are now 5-3-0. They are tied with the Isles for first place, not only in the Atlantic, but also in the Eastern Conference. Not bad for a team that lost their first three at home.

          Who's next?
          Off to St. Louis for a Saturday night game.

          Game #8 - at Nashville Predators

          Game 8
          Penguins (4-3-0, 8 points) at Predators (3-0-2, 8 points)

          Why does it matter?
          This game is supposed to feature the return of Marc-Andre Fleury. His level of play will determine how far this team can go, maybe more than anyone else.

          What has been happening lately?
          • Pens - Three straight wins and a red hot power play.
          • Predators - The Preds have been playing close games so far, winning two and losing two in OT.
          Questions to be answered
          • Who will start in goal, Fleury or Johnson?
          • Can the offense continue to put the puck in the net? Nashville has allowed at least 34 shots in all of their games except one, so you have to figure the Pens will get their chances.
          • Can the Pens avoid allowing a power play goal?
          Keys to the game
          • It's a team game in Nashville - no forward plays more than 19 minutes per game, and none less than 10 (save Wade Belak if he plays). That means keep your shifts short and make good changes, because you know their legs will be fresh.
          • Use speed to draw penalties - the Predators have been weak on the PK so far this year.
          • Keep getting shots on net. The Pens have been doing a good job of that so far, especially on shots from the D.

          Monday, October 18, 2010

          Penguins 5, Senators 2

          So what happened?
          The Pens jumped out to a big lead (3-0 at the end of the first) and never looked back. The Sens scored a few to make it interesting, but the Pens had essentially shut it down by that point.

          Who scored?
          Letestu (4), Crosby (4), Malkin (2), Dupuis (1), Letang (1)

          The Good?
          • The Pens didn't take the foot off of the gas until they were up by four in the second period. That is encouraging. In past years, they would have been happy with the 3-0 lead and laid back.
          • Johnson continued his hot play. He's your starter right now until he loses a game, I think.
          • The young defense is playing well. Hutchinson played more minutes than Lovejoy and Engelland, but all three played decent minutes.
          • The power play had another multi-goal game. I think we can consider them hot right now with the man advantage.
          The Bad?
          • Tangradi only played about 10 minutes despite the blowout. I think he's ticketed for Wilkes Barre whenever an injured forward is ready.
          • I know Sid stands up for himself, but the last thing you want to see is him trading shots with Matt Carkner with a three goal lead in the third period. Just skate away, Sid... please.
          • Probably a nit-pick, but was there any reason for Engelland to fight with a 3-0 lead in the first? You know why Neil wants to fight, but if I'm the Pens, you don't want to do anything to give the Sens a jolt...
          Anything Ugly?
          • Nope - this one was out of reach early, and the Sens didn't really show much while the game was still in doubt.
            Any surprises?
            • Letestu continues to score. Did anyone see this kid being this good early on?
            What's their record now? Any important move in the standings?
            The Pens are now 4-3-0. They'll be in first place at the end of the night, but it remains to be seen if they'll be tied with the Isles.

            Who's next?
            The Predators in Nashville on Thursday.

            Sunday, October 17, 2010

            Game #7 - vs Ottawa Senators

            Game 7
            Senators (1-3-1, 3 points) at Penguins (3-3-0, 6 points)

            Why does it matter?
            The Pens have quietly won three out of four games. They need to keep that going and earn their first in in regulation at Consol.

            What has been happening lately?
            • Pens - A successful weekend that featured wins over the Islanders and Flyers.
            • Senators - Nothing has gone right for the Sens so far this year. They're looking to turn a close game into a win (three of their four losses have been by one goal).
            Questions to be answered
            • Will anyone boo Gonchar? I hope not - he's a class act that deserves a nice ovation for his efforts here in Pittsburgh.
            • Can the Pens keep things going on the power play? They got some great traffic in front of Bobrovsky and worked the puck around effectively on Saturday.
            • The PK has been a little leaky so far this year. Can the Pens button it down and shut the opposition out for just the second time this year?
            • If you're Bylsma, do you start Johnson or Fleury?
            Keys to the game
            • Keep Spezza and Alfie off of the score sheet.
            • Don't get wrapped up in nonsense with Neil or Ruutu.
            • The Sens roll four lines - Zack Smith has the least average ice time with 8:50 per game. Don't get caught on a long shift (I'm thinking specifically about Geno here).

            Penguins 5, Flyers 1

            So what happened?
            The Pens turned a close game into a blowout in the third period and easily beat the Flyers.

            Who scored?
            Kunitz (2), Letestu (3), Crosby 2 (3), Cooke (1)

            The Good?
            • The biggest positive to take away from this game, and there were several, is that while the game was still in doubt, the Pens didn't panic when the Flyers pressed the issue. They held their ground, especially the young defensemen.
            • Brent Johnson was excellent. He certainly was a little bit lucky (like with Carter and Richards hitting the post), but he made several excellent saves. Does Bylsma ride the hot hand going forward?
            • Mark Letestu had another great game. I think he's solidified his position to survive the coming roster squeeze when Staal and Asham return.
            • Sid had a great game, though his goals were assisted by what might be called "not the best goaltending".
            • I heard one "Crosby Sucks" chant that was prompted by the organist, and that seemed to do the trick. You'd think those morons would learn to stay quiet in the hopes that Sid wouldn't torch them, but they're not that smart.
            The Bad?
            • Eric Tangradi wasn't really bad, but he hasn't done as much to distinguish himself as Letestu has. I wouldn't be surprised to see him go back to Wilkes Barre when Staal returns.
            • Mike Comrie still hasn't found his way in the offense. He's largely an invisible man right now, and that's not going to help him, considering that he doesn't kill penalties.
            Anything Ugly?
            • No, amazingly. There were a few exchanges that tended towards thuggery, but these Flyers seem to be all about hard work and grit without the nonsense.
              Any surprises?
              • Johnson starting would have to be a surprise, but it paid off.
              What's their record now? Any important move in the standings?
              The Pens are now 3-3-0 and are in a tie for first place with the Islanders.

              Who's next?
              The Sens come to Consol on Monday night. It'll be nice to see Sarge again, though I hope he doesn't torch us. I also hope the fans don't boo him - he doesn't deserve it.

              Saturday, October 16, 2010

              Game #6 - at Philadelphia Flyers

              Game 6
              Penguins (2-3-0, 4 points) at Flyers (2-1-1, 5 points)

              Why does it matter?
              Any game in Philly can be a must-win because of the rivalry between these clubs. This one is for first place (though that doesn't mean much this early in the season) and could avenge the season opening loss.

              What has been happening lately?
              • Pens - They finally earned their first win at Consol. Now they can try to keep their record perfect on the road (boy, after the way this season has gone so far, it feels weird to write that).
              • Flyers - The Flyers have won Bobrovsky's starts, while they haven't been able to get a W for Boucher yet. They've also been spending a bunch of time killing penalties.
              Questions to be answered
              • How will Flower respond to the pressure he has been facing? He usually plays well against the Flyers, and that statement includes the opener this season.
              • Mike Comrie? Are you there? Just one shot last night after being a healthy scratch, and he just looks too casual with the puck (to my admittedly uneducated eye).
              • Can Sid keep up his great play against the Flyers? I'm hoping for a "Crosby Sucks" chant - that always seems to do the trick, and the folks in Philly (led by their organist) are too dumb to stop.
              Keys to the game
              • Special teams - the Flyers and Pens have both been struggling with the man-advantage. The Pens last night looked both brilliant and completely unorganized.
              • Keep the legs going and out work the Flyers in their own zone.
              • Keep the play in their end. The Islanders couldn't take advantage of the Pens playing three rookies on the blue line, but the Flyers certainly will be able to.

              Penguins 3, Islanders 2 (OT)

              So what happened?
              A horrible call against Kris Letang essentially let the Islanders tie the game, but the Pens were able to battle back and win in OT.

              Who scored?
              Rupp (1), Tangradi (1), Goligoski (3)

              The Good?
              • Goligoski's OT goal was great. It was from a sharp angle and he picked the top of the net. I'd say he picked the corner, but the from the angle he was shooting, there wasn't much of the net to see.
              • Tangradi got his first NHL goal. Congratulations to him.
              • Rupp's goal was significant in that he looked very calm and collected when he shot the puck (he put a rebound past DiPietro on the backhand). He didn't hurry, and he didn't look tense.
              • Letestu continues to impress me. He made little plays that contributed in a big way to the Pens winning this game on each of the first two goals. I was a bit worried when he was announced as the fourth line center, but Bylsma found a way to get him onto the ice. He deserves every bit of ice time he gets at this point.
              • Johnson was solid, keeping the team in the game and making several key saves in the third.
              The Bad?
              • Matt Cooke. Dumb. One call for goalkeeper interference? OK. Three calls all dealing with DiPietro? Dumb. The second one, he shoved Parenteau into DiPietro after the whistle had blown, right in front of everyone. The third one, he was trying to establish position, but he has to know the refs are looking for him by that point... did I mention dumb?
              • Rick DiPietro, if you're really that hurt, please save yourself years of agony and stay off of the ice. It looked like every time anyone breathed on him, he flopped. No question he took a few shots tonight, but the whole laying motionless on the ground thing has to stop.
              Anything Ugly?
              • Take a look at this video:
              • This hit is not a head shot. It's not even a penalty. It was called elbowing initially and was changed to Illegal Check to the Head, according to the FSN broadcast. How can the refs to back and change the penalty? Why on earth don't they let the refs talk to each other and the linesman to see if anyone else had a better angle like they do in the NFL (and sometimes in baseball)? Especially in plays like these where you're trying to protect the players. I can understand erring on the side of caution, but I don't see anything wrong with consulting with the other zebras, especially when Errey was watching from between the benches and immediately said that it wasn't a head shot. If he can see that, how can the refs not see that?

              Any surprises?
              Continued balanced scoring is always a pleasant surprise.

              What's their record now? Any important move in the standings?
              The Pens are now 2-3-0 and are in a tie for second place in the Atlantic, one point behind Philly.

              Who's next?
              A quick turnaround as the Pens head to Philly to play the Flyers. Early start time for this one, due to the Phillies playoff game: 6:00.

              Friday, October 15, 2010

              Game #5 - vs New York Islanders

              Game 5
              Islanders (1-1-1, 2 points) at Penguins (1-3-0, 2 points)

              Why does it matter?
              A win at home would be nice, don't you think?

              What has been happening lately?
              • Pens - Mental letdowns cost them the game against the Leafs.
              • Islanders - They're playing teams tough right now, which is impressive since they're without Streit and Okposo.
              Questions to be answered
              • Will Brent Johnson be a magical cure for the Pens' defense?
              • Can the offense put up more than three goals in a game? This would go a long way towards fixing any issues in goal.
              • How about a big game from Sid and Geno? They lead the team in shots (Geno - 20, Sid - 14) and are due for a big game.
              Keys to the game
              • Keep the Isles off of the power play. They are over 30% so far with 5 goals in three games.
              • Hope for DiPietro in net - he has been worse than Fleury this year.
              • Everyone needs to pitch in. The team is starting to look like the walking wounded with Staal, Asham, Michalek and Orpik all missing.

              Thursday, October 14, 2010

              Maple Leafs 4, Penguins 3

              I didn't see anything except the last three minutes of the game for this one, so I'm not really qualified to say anything about it.

              Nice to see goals from Talbot and Kunitz.

              Not nice to see Fleury hung out to try by defensive letdowns (on at least two of those goals against).

              The obsessive completist in me forced this post... (obsessive and completist are redundant, but you get my point).

              Next up: A trip to Long Island for a Friday night game

              Tuesday, October 12, 2010

              Game #4 - vs Toronto Maple Leafs

              Game 4
              Maple Leafs (2-0-0, 4 points) at Penguins (1-2-0, 2 points)

              Why does it matter?
              The Pens need a win at Consol. They don't want to open their new building with three straight losses.

              What has been happening lately?
              • Pens - They finally put together a complete game at New Jersey, but it may have cost them Zybanek Michalek.
              • Maple Leafs - They held on against the Habs and killed the Senators at home last week. Now it's time to see if these kids are for real.
              Questions to be answered
              • Can the balanced scoring continue for both clubs (Tim Brent, former Penguins farmhand, is tied for team lead for the Leafs)? You know that Sid and Geno will get going, but can the other guys continue to contribute?
              • Can we please stop talking about a goalie controversy? There isn't on. Fleury let in one soft goal but has been good otherwise.
              • The Leafs haven't allowed a power play goal this year. Can the Pens ruin their perfection?
              Keys to the game
              • Win the battle at even strength. All of the goals in the Leafs two games except one have been at even strength.
              • Find a way to get to Giguere, who has played very well so far.
              • Get Sid and Geno going. The Pens need the big guns, and those guys (especially Malkin, coming off of a sub-par year) need the boost of confidence.

              Monday, October 11, 2010

              Penguins 3, Devils 1

              So what happened?
              The Pens showed their drive and intensity again today against the Devils, and this time it paid off. They took a 2-0 lead into the third period and were able to withstand the pressure from New Jersey. It was nice to see them hold onto the lead this time, instead of what happened on Saturday.

              Who scored?
              Goligoski (2), Letestu (2), Martin (1)

              The Good?
              • Goligoski blew a puck past Brodeur. I'm not taking anything away from Alex, but I think that's one that Martin would like to have back.
              • Letestu and Tangradi both continue to impress. The even-strength ice time leaders for forwards? Sid was first, followed by Tangradi and Letestu. That says that Bylsma is happy with how they're playing.
              • Letestu was rewarded tonight by going in front of the net and having a puck ricochet off of him (and about 17 other things) past Brodeur.
              • Johnson was solid with several flashes of brilliance.
              • There were several times where the Pens were able to get the puck to the net and crash with authority. That is encouraging.
              • Sid drew two penalties with his work effort. The one he drew on Kovalchuk was especially gratifying given their history.
              The Bad?
              • The Pens were unable to capitalize on an extended 5-on-3 that could have prevented some of the third period excitement. They only had one shot attempted during the nearly 80 seconds. Too much passing and too little shooting and crashing.
              • Michalek left after being crunched into the boards by Rod Pelley. It looked like something on his right upper-body. He didn't return.
              • Brooks Orpik was a late scratch for undisclosed reasons. Hopefully he's not hurt too badly.

              Anything Ugly?
              Nothing, really.

              Any surprises?
              You'd have to say it was a surprise that there weren't any noticeable mental letdowns. The Pens kept things fairly simple and they won the game because of that.

              Any change in the standings?
              The Pens are no longer last in the NHL. I'll get a bit more serious about updating this part as the season gets a little further along.

              Who's next?
              Wednesday night, the Leafs come to the Igloo for a rare 7:30 start (thanks, Canada).

              • I wonder if Bylsma is using the second power play unit as a reward for effort shown in practice and the game. The makeup seems to shift constantly.
              • Speaking of the power play, we've now seen Cooke, Kunitz, Rupp and Tangradi parked in front of the goalie on the top unit.

              Game #3 - at New Jersey Devils

              Game 3
              Penguins (0-2-0, 0 pts) at Devils (0-1-1, 1 pt)

              Why does it matter?
              The Pens have managed to get off to the worst possible start, scoring just four goals in two games and going 1-11 on the power play. They need a win.

              What has been happening lately?
              • Pens - The only silver lining for the Pens has been a lack of injuries. Other than that, the news hasn't been good.
              • Devils - Things haven't been much better for the Devils. Kovalchuk is fighting, they were destroyed by the Caps and they may have to play today with just 16 skaters (due to injuries to Rolston and Volchenkov).
              Questions to be answered
              • If the Devils are short a few players, can the Pens take advantage?
              • Who will start in goal, Flower or Johnson? Other than the game winner for the Habs, Fleury has been good.
              • Can the Pens figure out a way to beat the Devils? Last year wasn't very good.
              Keys to the game
              • Assuming the Devils are short-handed with just 10 forwards, the key will be to tire them out. Get the puck deep (cross corner or soft dumps to keep the puck away from Brodeur) and make the forwards come all the way back to help out.
              • Roll four lines to keep everyone fresh.
              • Play for the third period - that's when rolling the lines and dumping the puck will really pay off.

              Sunday, October 10, 2010

              Canadiens 3, Penguins 2

              So what happened?
              A very similar game to the opener in that the Pens were facing a goalie that was playing well and were having trouble scoring. The only difference is that with just over two minutes remaining in the game, the Pens were in a position to win this one, 2-1. That's when a Josh Gorges shot deflected off of several players, resulting in the tying goal (awarded to Cammalleri) and then just 26 second later, Fleury allowed a really bad goal to Gomez to surrender the lead. The Pens didn't have any great chances after that.

              Who scored?
              Malkin (1), Letestu (1)

              Any surprises?
              The power play was 0-6. The Malkin goal was just as the power play expired, so maybe that's a good sign. The fact that they've been unable to throw the puck on net and crash with authority on the power play isn't a good sign.

              Any change in the standings?
              We can safely say the Penguins are still tied for last in the NHL right now (that might be a bit fatalistic...)

              Who's next?
              Off to New Jersey on Monday at 4:00.

              • The play was good for most of the night, but 58 minutes won't get it done.
              • Your even-strength ice time leader? Paul Martin. Second place? Kris Letang.
              • I'm hoping that third goal was the worst that Flower allows all year.
              • The next time Steigy and Errey start talking about "Where is [insert opposing star]? I haven't seen him this whole third period!", someone bust down the door to the broadcasting booth and get them off of the air. In case you weren't watching, they were calling out Scotty Gomez about a minute before he scored the game winner.

              Saturday, October 09, 2010

              Game #2 - vs Montreal Canadiens

              Game 2
              Canadiens (0-1-0) at Penguins (0-1-0)

              Why does it matter?
              After the disappointing home opener, the Pens need a win to get things rolling in the right direction.

              What has been happening lately?
              • Pens - The level of play was good against the Flyers, but some bad luck and missed chances determined their fate.
              • Canadiens - Mike Cammalleri will make his season debut in the hopes helping the Habs earn two points.
              Questions to be answered
              • Can the big guns come up with a few goals? They were shut out against the Flyers.
              • Can Flower continue his solid play? He was good on Thursday.
              • Which Carey Price will show up against the Pens? He was very good against the Pens his first two years in the league (4-2) and not so good since then (0-2).
              Keys to the game
              • Special teams! No dumb penalties, and take advantage of your chances.
              • Keep the legs going. The Habs are a good skating team. Along the same lines, stay consistent with the effort level - don't waste it all in the first 10 minutes.
              • The rookies need to keep improving. The effort is there, now results need to build slowly.

              Thursday, October 07, 2010

              Flyers 3, Penguins 2

              So what happened?
              The Pens came out with drive and fire but were unable to beat the Flyers rookie goaltender, Bobrovsky. The Flyers weathered the storm and put two goals on the board in the second period, one on a nice power play deflection and the other when Paul Martin didn't take the man and Betts buried it. The Pens got back into the game when Kennedy threw a bad angle shot into the far top corner past Bobrovsky and went on the power play shortly after that. During the power play, Letang made an ill-advised drop pass that Giroux stole for a breakaway goal. The Pens closed the game to one immediately after that but could get no closer. The great chances from the first period or so just weren't there late in the third.

              Who scored?
              Kennedy (1), Goligoski (1)

              Any surprises?
              Letang was in the lineup, despite being sick. He probably shouldn't have been - he didn't look very good overall.

              Any change in the standings?
              We can safely say the Penguins are tied for last in the NHL right now (that might be a bit fatalistic...)

              Who's next?
              The Habs come to the Center on Saturday night for a rematch of the second round of last year's playoffs. Good thing that goalie that stoned everyone isn't there any more, eh?

              • I liked what I saw from Letestu and Tangradi. Letestu looked responsible defensively and contributed in the offensive zone. Tangradi showed good presence along the boards in the offensive zone, but he didn't play as much as you'd think for a second line player.
              • There were a ton of icing calls - I think guys were getting acclimated to true game speed.
              • I can't say I had that same old Flyers hatred after the game - there wasn't any stupid stuff. Someone must have been able to get through to Hartnell (or, maybe it's easier for them when they're not behind).

              Wednesday, October 06, 2010

              What are they doing with Eric Tangradi?

              First off, I believe 100% that Ray Shero knows what he is doing FAR better than any of us do. There's clearly a reason that Tangradi was sent to Wheeling.

              There are two questions in my mind, however:
              1. If it was a salary cap issue, why recall Killeen? Tangradi is above the NHL minimum (by about $300K) so the team saves a tiny bit of cap space by having Killeen instead of Tangradi. You know what would have saved more cap space? Not recalling Killeen.
              2. Are the Pens looking to make a move? According to everything I've read so far, they're not going to add a veteran defenseman right away (TIOPS), so you'd have to think if they're looking at a move, it would involve a forward. There's still a logjam on the third and fourth lines (once Asham is healthy), and Tyler Kennedy seems to be the odd man out right now. Would the Pens be shopping him rather than have him play on the fourth line? Maybe even Max Talbot, who if healthy, would have been expected to take over that third line center spot that seems to have been won by Letestu.
              I think the only thing we can say for sure is that Tangradi won't play in Wheeling. He should open the season tomorrow night with the Pens, as expected, on the second line with Malkin and Comrie.

              Game #1 - vs Philadelphia Flyers

              Game 1
              Flyers (0-0-0) at Penguins (0-0-0)

              Why does it matter?
              It isn't just the first game at the Consol Energy Center, it's the first chance to see how Ray Shero's off-season plan worked out. Oh yeah, and some team named the "Flyers" are in town fresh off of their appearance in the Cup Finals last season.

              What has been happening lately?
              • Pens - The roster is set pretty much how we thought it might be... except for the weird stuff with three goalies and Tangradi in Wheeling.
              • Flyers - The less I read about the Flyers, the better. At least they didn't sign Bill Guerin - it would suck to have to hate him after he won the Cup here in Pittsburgh.
              Questions to be answered
              • How will the power play look without Sarge?
              • Can Fleury improve his consistency?
              • Can the Pens exploit Brian Boucher, the likely starter for the Flyers?
              Keys to the game
              • Stay out of the box. The Flyers can take advantage on the power play.
              • Along the same lines: initiate, don't retaliate. Don't get carried away by the first game in the new building.
              • Keep the energy consistent. Don't waste it all in the first 10 minutes and have nothing left for the rest of the game. The worst case scenario is for the Flyers to withstand the storm and counterstrike with an early goal.