Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stop me if you've heard this one before

The Penguins get outshot, outchanced, outworked and the difference in the game is the first powerplay unit featuring Sidney Crosby, Sergei Gonchar, Ryan Whitney and Evgeni Malkin. Marc-Andre Fleury plays great and stops every puck he sees (and he saw them all tonight).

No, I'm no longer talking about Saturday night's game against the Caps, this was basically the synopsis of the Penguins first shutout of the year, a 1-0 blanking of the Rangers. Game notes:

  • Malkin was clearly the best player on the ice. He was making things happen with the puck, rushing it up the ice all night long, and generally having his way with the Rags. He also fired a pass from Jordan Staal off the post for what would have been a second goal.
  • The Penguins were lucky enough to catch what was thought of being a high-powered Rangers team in a very big drought (no even-strength goals in 340+ minutes, no goals period in atleast 125+ minutes). Sweater Ted favorite, Marty Straka just got hurt. Shanahan is snake bitten right now. And try as Jammer Jagr did, he was dangerous but the best he could do was throw his heavy wrist shot off a post once. One 600+ goal scorer doesn't stay in a rut for too long, let alone TWO! I wouldn't imagine it's going to be too long before NYR breaks out for a 5 or 6 goal game in the near future.
  • Fleury was great, stopping all 36 shots on net but the defense was sensational, officially blocking 13 shots (led by Mark Eaton with 4).
  • Lord Sergei Gonchar continued his under-valued defensive play by frustrating Jagr and playing a game high 24:38 and blocking 3 shots.
  • Crosby was an amazing 65% (11 of 17) in the faceoff circle, Max Talbot was at 58% (7 of 12), and the team as a whole was 53%, very good for a traditionally poor Pens team.
  • Brooks Orpik was credited with a game high 6 hits, and recognized as the 3rd star of the game for that. After playing a little tentatively since getting a concussion almost 2 weeks ago, it's clear Orpik is back and at full strength and confidence now.

If you win a game 1-0, you have to do the little things right. The Penguins blocked shots, won faceoffs, dished out checks, and yes, got a little lucky that things aren't going the right way for their opponent right now.

There's still plenty of things to address, such as getting more shots on net, getting more puck control, limiting the amount of shot opportunities you're giving up, but a Pens fans has to be content with seeing the team throw out a great, well-rounded effort. Probably the best game of the season.

Some overall notes:

  • Ever since Bob McKenzie of TSN reported the Pens were actively looking for dealing for a goaltender (denied by the Penguins), Marc-Andre Fleury has stopped 67 of 68 (98.5%) shots in two games. And the only one that got by him was because he saw more of Ryan Whitney not clearing the crease then he did the puck.
  • Sidney Crosby is now on a 7 game point streak.

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