Friday, January 4, 2008

Hat Tricks, Hockey goalies, Beatings and Winning: Penguins Hockey

I openly wondered/question if the Penguins would be good enough to go on a serious winning streak that could catapult them into the playoffs. Perhaps it should be no surprise, after a 5th win in a row; that a team featuring the talents like Crosby and Malkin could fire off a bunch of wins in a row. But taking into account the injury bug that has put several key players on the bench long-term, well that’s an accomplishment.

Enter perhaps the most unassuming and unlikely stars in a while, Ty Conklin. The Conk is now a blemish less 6-0-0 with a 2.30 GAA and a 92.8% save percentage. On top of those numbers, he’s surrendered just 8 goals in the past 5 games. Pretty much every game in the last five he’s been the guy holding the often out-shot Penguins in the game and last night was no different when he stopped 33 of 35 shots his was.

The tide of the game was turned by Jarrko Ruutu’s pounding of pesty Darcy Tucker (more later). As predicted here, between the unusual circumstances physically and emotionally of the Winter Classic game two days earlier, the Penguins were a in a little bit of a rut last night. The score was tied 1-1 at the time but they were being badly outshot and in danger of letting a winnable game slip away. Enter Ruutu to provide a spark.

3 goals in the span of :48 seconds is unbelievable. That absolutely buried the Make Beliefs and ended any doubt of which team would get the win that night.

Brooks Orpik, we feel, is sliding back into favor with the coaching staff. He played over 20 minutes (first time in a while) and was a +3 on the night.

How about Evgeni Malkin’s first career hat-trick? Even more impressive, it only took 4 shots on goal to make it happen. That’s the kind of efficiency the Penguins demonstrated all night, scoring 6 goals on but 24 shots on target.

Rough night for Nik Antropov in the faceoff circle, he went 4 out of 16 draws. Very nice!

Looking Ahead:
``The Penguins have but 3 divisional games in the month of January, a good thing considering they have the worst divisional record in hockey.

``By contrast they have still 7 more games with SouthLeastern division opponents, who have combined for 197 points in 206 games (under 50% of possible points) and only have 1 team with more points in the standings than games played (which is Carolina, who’s not on the Pens schedule this month)

``For comparison the Atlantic Division has a combined 222 points in just 196 games and every team has more points than games played.

In conclusion, there are a lot of winnable games ahead, but let’s remember the trouble Pittsburgh has had winning against the Florida teams, particularly Tampa Bay, who’s always, in recent memory, seemed to have the Pens number.

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