Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pens strike Oil and the Anatomy of a Good Coaching move

Road win tonight, unlikey since the Pens were 1-9-2 this season when entering the 3rd period. But here's what I found most interesting:

--The first two periods were the quietest of Sidney Crosby's season so far. For whatever reason, he didn't have his usual spark, his game wasn't there. So to the dismay of messgae board posters, Michel Therrien puts Crosby on the bench for about 6-7 minutes; obviously something unusual for your #1 center and star player on a night when you're only dressing 11 forwards anyways.

How does Crosby respond? With one of his most forceful periods in the 3rd, where he had 3 assists.

Credit Crosby for really responding. Whether sitting the bench refined his focus, gave him perspective, gave him a minute to catch his breath from all the interviews and pressure for going to Western Canada, whatever. Whatever it was, it worked.

A lot of fans are quick to scream bloody murder when a coach does something they disagree with and don't give much credit for when a decision/strategy/plan pays off. Credit Therrien for doing what he thought was right. It wasn't as if he benched Crosby for a period, but he did sit him long enough to send a message. And by the way Sir Sid responded, clearly the intended effects worked 100%.

Other notes:
``You could tell Edmonton backed off once they had a 2 goal lead. A lot of dumping and chasing and clogging the neutral zone. Bad mistake. You can't back off on a team with so much firepower. 4 goals in 7:25 minutes later, the Oilers probably learned this lesson.
``Sergei Gonchar's return to the lineup and no defensemen were scratched, 7 played. Adam Hall joined Jarrko Ruutu as healthy scratches. Old Man Recchi was technically a healthy scratch, but since he didn't even make the road trip, obviously he's not really a part of the team.
``Maxime Talbot's diving effort on the first goal really lit a fire under the team too. His effort and enthusiam is contagious. It shows. He's such a valuable player.
``Marc-Andre Fleury was THIS close to scoring an empty net goal. Defenseman Tom Gilbert was the last line of defense and he barely got his glove on a clearing effort that appeared to be otherwise on target. The Oil quickly took the puck the other way and Fleury remained sharp making a good save on super rookie Sam Gagner. Another good, if not spectacular game, for Fleury. He did what he had too and he really looks confident out there right now. That's a good sign.
``Quiet night for guys like Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora. But Mark Eaton and Colby Armstrong each had 2 point nights. So figure. Armstrong scored what would be the game winner on a deflection of a Eaton shot. Colby very well have just stolen the only goal Eaton would get all year, but given the team won, I doubt Eaton would mind.

A win is a win is a win. The Penguins dominated about the first 7-8 minutes in the game and then fell into a big rut until about the last 15. But at the end of the season these two points will look just the same as a complete 60 minute effort.

The Penguins don't have too long to celebrate as there's a game tomorrow night in Calgary. Calgary's been surprisingly loose in giving up goals by their standards from past years, so hopefully momentum will carry over a little bit.

1 comment:

PaperMate Pens said...

At stake, not much really, just the hopes of 17,132 white-shirted fans hoping, seemingly against hope, that a 20-year-old kid in a black sweater and a tough spot could follow in the footsteps of legends like Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis and lift the Pittsburgh Penguins back into at least a chance of contending for this year's edition of the Stanley Cup.

Not surprisingly, Sidney Crosby didn't disappoint.

The kid from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, Wednesday put on a performance worthy of past Pittsburgh greats and maybe even a verse or two from 'the Man in Black' were Johnny Cash alive to sing his praises today.

"I see the train a comin'. It's rolling down the track. It's the Pittsburgh Penguins playoff hopes on Sidney Crosby's back."

OK, sorry, a little too much lyrical license there, but you get the point. In the most pressure-packed moments of his still young NHL career, Crosby answered the call, shouldered the load, took his game to the next level or any other cliché you want to apply.