Monday, February 4, 2008

Givng the old Live-blog a try

(Image by way of Peerless)
6:18... Hello and welcome! We've never done a live blog before, but since this game is on Versus and sometimes not many people get that channel we figure we'd give it a shot. Football season, after all, is finally over and there's not much to do on this Monday night. A quick look at our matchup tonight. Puck drops a little after 7, so stick around!

Pittsburgh Penguins

Record: 29-19-4 (52 games, 62 points)

Leading (active) scorer: Evgeni Malkin [52 gp, 28 goals, 33a, 61 points]

New Jersey Devils

Record: 29-20-3 (52 games, 61 points)

Leading scorer: Zach Parise [52 gp, 19 goals, 26a, 45 points]

6:20...As you'd expect, it's going to be Ty Conklin v. Martin Brodeur in the nets again.

7:04...Maybe they taped Mike Emrick and Edzo's pre-game speech early, but the upper-deck looked half full and the lower bowl looked about 20% full. Last week not even 14,000 people showed up to see the Penguins, the league's top drawing away opponent. And in a brand new building that is supposedly a wonderful venue. What's the deal with hockey in Jersey?

7:09...The second line (Max Talbot-Jordan Staal-Erik Christensen) starts the game and skates a strong shift end-to-end.

7:12...The third line (Jarkko Ruutu-Jeff Taffe-Colby Armstrong) gets a good cycle going for about :20 seconds of straight gameplay....Not to be outdone the 4th line (Ryan Stone-Nathan Smith-Georges Laraque) follows them up and BGL draws a high-stick penalty.

7:15...No dice on the powerplay though. EC and Staal had a good chance but it seemed Crusher's pass wasn't crisp enough and Brodeur made a save you'd expect him to make.

7:17...In case you couldn't figure it out, Kris Beech is a scratch tonight so we'll mercifully be spared him for at least one more game.

7:21....Evgeni Malkin left what looked like a drop pass to no one imparticular as soon as he entered the zone which was quickly scooped up by the Devils. Geno atoned for himself by getting back on D and stealing the puck back as they entered the zone....Another PP for the Pens!

7:23....Big Ben strikes one...Crusher rips his heavy wrist shot and it hits the post so hard it's a wonder the net didn't come off the posts.

7:27....Although the ice has been tilted in the Penguins favor the first 12 minutes of play, they have nothing to show for it. With a makeup penalty call looming large at this point, we have a bad feeling about this.

7:31...Ruutu and Brooks Orpik lead the Penguins defensively with a series of excellent hits and bumping Devils off the puck. And, miraculously, no penalty was taken!

7:33...It may not be April, but playoff hockey is here. Both teams are playing conservatively, trying for nothing against and a lot of dump and chase and trying to make something happen down low. Considering how close so many teams are in the division and conference this shouldn't be a surprise. The rest of this season is going to be very, very tightly contested game in and game out.

7:35...Ryan Malone and David Clarkson drop the gloves, these two have a history. A good scrap, both got a few good ones in but they mostly tired each other out. But if you're Malone, you're on the top line and on a team that needs it's skill wingers on the ice, not in the box. We don't like to see him let a lower line guy take him out for a selfish reason. It's not as if Malone was sticking up for a teammate or anything.

7:37...New Jersey looks like an adjustment they've made since last week's game is to get more shots from the point and try to deflect them or try to take advantage of Conklin's rebounds.

7:38...Travis Zajac strips the puck from Christensen and then EC decides to go waterskiing up the neutral zone. That's definitely a penalty and not a good one to take if you're Crusher.

7:40...Paul Martin cut in the net and Gionta was open in front with the puck. For some reason Gionta tried to stuff the puck to the net instead of a pass. Martin skated too fast and went past the net and wasn't in position for a rebound chance. If that's a guy like Sergei Gonchar or Ryan Whitney cutting in like that, they score right there. Just an example of the different personnel both team's have.

End of the first...

7:50...Shots were 10-6, advantage Penguins who carried the play for the most part but could not get a goal. The top line was quiet but we liked what we saw out of Staal and EC. Very solid period for those two.

8:02....Second shift of the period the Pens second line comes out and gets right back to the cycling and deep possession and Staal draws a penalty. It's good to see the hard work is being rewarded by scoring chances and getting powerplay chances, even if it hasn't scored just yet.

8:04....Two shots on the powerplay by Gonchar, it's great to see him step it up with the man advantage and make the conscious effort to throw pucks on net.

8:05....Speaking of, Malkin throws a puck on net, Malone absorbs a cross-check but still gets a quick stick on it to sneak a goal by Brodeur. 1-0 Pens!

8:06....The top line gets right back out there and goes to work on the cycle after a brutal turnover by Devils dman Paul Martin. Malkin keeps working and Oduya takes him down, drawing yet another deserved penalty. The Pens look like they want this one a lot more.
8:07....The Pens score! But referee Don Koharski immediately waves it off as Jeff Taffe definitely kicked that one in, good call by Koharski who saw that one all the way.

8:10...Oduya gets out of the box and has a 1 on 1 which is defused but John Madden gets the puck and BOOM throws out a pass to a wide open Jamie Langenbrunner in the slot. Conklin with a beautiful save.

8:15....Martin's been victimized so we'll give him his due, he played Malkin 1 on 1 almost flawlessly.

8:18...David Pelley gives the Devils and their crowd some energy, one of the best shifts of the game for them.

8:19...As soon as that's said, Malkin gallops up the ice, drops a beautiful pass and Petr Sykora hammers a wrist shot that takes a fortunate bounce off of Vitaly Vishnevski's legs pads and riccochets by Brodeur. No chance for him on that. It's Sykora's 600th career point and he celebrates it like it's his first. 2-0 Pens!

8:27....Clarkson is acting a little feisty, getting in Ruutu's face after a whistle and then pinning Laraque to the ice after BGL hit him. Laraque and Ruutu need to show restraint, no need to give the Devils a burst of energy or a powerplay by doing something stupid when the Pens have been easily carrying the play so far.

8:29....Dainus Zubrus fans on a shot...It took 36 minutes of game time for him to do something noteworthy and even then it wasn't impressive.

8:32...Parise and Patrik Elias make some nice passes and get a good shot but it's Conkblock city. Another penalty taken by Christensen though.

8:35...The old coach's mantra goes: nothing against in the first or last minute of the period. Parise makes a great play and takes the puck to the net, the puck pops to an unguarded Jamie Langenbrunner who slips one in behind Conklin. 2-1 Pens.

8:36...The second period is over, and despite badly outchancing, outshooting and outworking the Devils, the Pens only find themselves with a one goal advantage. Could be a whole new game in the 3rd.

8:55...Penalty to start the period for the Pens. Not a good sign.

8:56...Rob Scuderi takes a hard slapper to the foot/leg and is hobbled..Hopefully it's just painful and nothing is broken, the Pens can't afford another injury, especially to a guy who's stepped up to the #1 pairing following the Mark Eaton injury and played so well..

8:58...Scuds is back out there so he must be fine, thankfully....Sykora draws a penalty on the ensuing play in the offensive zone.

9:00....Whitney to Malkin to Sykora, a lot of quick touches there and a great chance but Brodeur stacks the pad and makes an excellent save.

9:01...Pens score, it's now 3-1! As the powerplay expired, beauty of a play by Kris Letang to hold the puck, he finds Talbot who throws a perfect pass out to Staal who rifles in the one-timer. 3-1 Pens! Since Crosby's been injured Staal has really come out of his shell and looked like the 18 year old rookie who scored 29 goals last season. Staal now has 5 points [2g, 3a] and is a +4 in the 6 games since Bing went down.

9:12...Coach Therrien wisely takes a timeout with 10:38 left in the game...A good idea, as the 4th line (with the 3rd d pairing of Orpik/Letang) had a long shift, mostly in their own end and iced the puck and would have had to go out against the Devs' top line with not much gas in the tank.

9:14...Well, the timeout didn't pay off. Elias danced around in the zone and slid a nice little shot by Conklin thanks to some traffic in front, courtesy of Letang. It's 3-2, Pens.

9:16..Tie game, 3-3. The Devils have come to life, got a good shift of cycling in and the Pens were unable to score. A hard point shot by Johnny Oduya finds Clarkson who scores.

9:22...Momentum NJ. They look like they thought the game started at about 9:00 instead of 7. The Penguins look like they're in hang on mode, they've hardly looked as settled in the 3rd period as they did in the first two.

9:25...Great save by Conklin. He's leaving a lot of rebounds now and the Devils are doing a good job trying to swarm to the net.

9:31...Zubrus outworks Gonchar for a puck and gets it to the point, a hard shot but there is no rebound. Only 1:20 left in the game.

9:33...Darryl Sydor, who's been solid all game, is the latest defenseman who gets the puck but doesn't make a decision, gets swarmed by a forechecker and turns the puck over.


9:34...It shouldn't have come to this, but it is. The Penguins carried the play for the first 40 minutes but the Devils came on like gangbangers in the 3rd and twice erased a two goal lead. A tribute to the Devils for hanging in there and work hard. And, to the dismay of the other teams in the division and top half of the league, these teams will have be playing a 3 point game in the standings.

9:36...It's over, Parise and the Devils have completed the comeback. 4-3 Devils win.

Got to be a very disappointing night for Pittsburgh to have played so well for most of the game, only to give it all up. But there is a lesson to be learned here; in the NHL you have to play a complete game, 2 excellent periods are not enough to guarantee the win, especially when going up against a strong opponent.

Thanks for hanging in there all game with us. It might not have ended the way we all wanted it to, but as always there were some bright spots (Staal, Sykora, Malone, Malkin) and some definite lessons to take forward for the next game.

Still, you can't help but think there's going to be a bad feeling in the Pens mouth on the trip home and probably a long practice or two ahead of them since the next game isn't until Thursday.

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