Saturday, November 17, 2007

A long November

Well, I suppose one point is better than no points, after the Penguins lose tonight in overtime from a most unlikely source: Jason Strudwick.

The good:
``Sidney Crosby pushes his scoring streak to 19 games with a sensational effort, 1 shorthanded assist (a tap-in for Maxime Talbot) and a goal from an impossible angle. As usual Crosby was the best player on the ice and making good things happen for the Pens left and right.
``Geno extends his personal best point streak to 13 games on a primary assist on Petr Sykora's game tying 3rd period goal. Malkin was clearly the 2nd best player tonight "galloping" around the ice, beating defensemen, setting players up. Another awesome display.
``Ryan Malone showed great effort and had a season high 5 hits.
``Mark Eaton, as usual, was very solid and had 23:29 of icetime and was a +2.

The bad:
``Marc-Andre Fleury didn't do enough to win, surrendering 4 goals of 26 shots.
``Michel Therrien scratched two of the youngest forwards (Colby Armstrong and Tyler Kennedy) in favor of Gary Roberts and Old Man Recchi.....The vets responded with a combined 24 minutes of ice-time, 4 fairly pedestrian shots and nothing else.
``The Pens took 7 penalties; all but one were of the lazy variety (hooking and tripping). And only one powerplay was generated. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize your odds aren't very good to go 1 powerplay against 7 penalty kills and come away with a W.
``All goals scored by the Rangers were defensemen, most of them coming on transition plays, which, of course, means blown coverage by the Penguins forwards.

``Does anyone miss Darryl Sydor or have noticed that he's been scratched for two straight games now? Didn't think so. Kris Letang has acquitted himself decently, and obviously Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney are staples in the lineup. The unsung trio (Eaton, Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi) have done nothing to deserve getting taken out of the lineup.
``Still need to see forwards not named Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin generate offense.....As per usual, didn't happen tonight. But if the Pens have any hopes of playoffs, it needs to. I'm looking at you, Gary Roberts, Mark Recchi, Erik Christensen and Jordan Staal.
``Speaking of, has anyone seen Jordan Staal? 19 minutes of icetime tonight and not a shot to be had. Classic sophomore slump. But remember: dude is 19 years old, not many teenagers are a staple of the penalty kill like Staal was, logging 7:40 minutes of short-handed time and not being on the ice for a goal against.
``Don't look now but Ryan Whitney blocked a team high 4 shots tonight and was credited for a hit. Hardly highlight worthy, but at least he's out there trying.
``As usual Gonchar lead all skaters in icetime on both teams, with 27:00 minutes. Quietly he's the glue holding this team together (other than Crosby and Malkin of course). God forbid, but if either Sid or Geno got hurt the other could pick up the slack.....No Penguin defenseman could pickup the matchups or eat up the minutes Gonchar does (7:05 shorthanded tonight)....To brake up the Sarge love-fest he rushed the puck end-to-end and couldn't get back in time for Strudwick's OT winner. Gotta take the good with the bad.

So what's a trigger happy coach like Therrien to do? Nobody asked me, but my advice would be:
  • Insert Armstrong and Kennedy in the lineup (at the expense of Recchi and Jarrko Ruutu). Don't change the defense. No one has merited a scratch, Sydor should continue to sit. He's a pro and making $2.5 million, he can handle it.
  • And, for the love of God, leave Fleury in. If the Penguins sink or swim, it's going to be with him. And almost a quarter of the way into the season it's past time to find out now before it's too late.

Not good times, but as mentioned, a 1 point night is better than a 0 point night. Still hurts to give up a 2 goal lead. Hat tip to our old buddy Michal Rozsival on his 2 goal night. And kudos to Eaton and Gonchar to hold the ever dangerous Jammer Jagger to no points and no shots.

It's worth mentioning that with only one game to go in this crucial 9 game series of playing divisional opponents, the Penguins have gone 2-5-1, gathering only 5 of a possible 16 points. But more importantly, the lost points are all going to every other divisional opponent which makes the hill to climb that much steeper.

The end result is not nearly enough to get the job done and pretty disappointing; given how purely awesome Crosby and Malkin played. At this point the best hope is just to at least get the next two points and carry on to the next segment of the season.

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