Thursday, February 28, 2008

Worst Case Scenario

Right from the beginning, not a good game tonight. The Bruins--who we've said always seem like a scrappy bunch that will find a way to make the playoffs--out hustled, out worked, out everything the Penguins.

To make matters that much worse, Marian Hossa left the game in the 2nd period with what initial reports are calling a MCL sprain after an accidental knee-to-knee collision with "Anyone But" Glen Murray.

Dealing with Rob Scuderi's finger "explosion", the Pens used two new defensive pairs; newcomer Hal Gill worked with Kris Letang and surprisingly our boy (but not the coaches') Brooks Orpik worked with the Sarge on the top unit. As you'd expect with three new faces in the lineup and new defensive units, the Pens weren't able to get in sync tonight.

If there is a positive (and there's not) it may be that the dynamic duo of Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora fired 9 shots on goals. Malkin, as usual, played well and had jump in his step, it just wasn't his night. Or anyone's. With Hossa's injury, those two should be reunited with winger Ryan Malone and hopefully be able to pick up where they left off.

A couple of role players in Jeff Taffe and fresh-faced Pascal Dupuis played well too and contributed a little, something that will need to happen in the future for valuable secondary scoring. It is hard to say at a time like this, but Taffe is playing excellent and if he and Dupuis can provide above average support roles that will go a long way towards long-term success.

This was probably the third appearance that Ty Conklin made where he wasn't sharp. The first two goals (both by Marco Sturm) would be hard to stop by anyone; a wacky deflection and a perfect shot. But Conklin was out of position on a Phil Kessel shot (that mercifully hit iron) and looked rattled. The mark of a good goalie is bouncing back, hopefully Conklin will be able to do so. As our buddy the Peerless noted, the Ty has been the MVP of the Penguins this year, but Conkblock's mindset can't be good after a night like this. Hopefully a short memory will enable him to bounce back.

Marc-Andre Fleury got in for the second half of the game, but it's hard to judge his performance since everyone bascially knew the result. Who knows which goalie Coach Therrien turns to next, but his decision--as well as that netminder's performance may well set the stage for the rest of the season, good or bad.

In conclusion, a terrible loss; probably the worst of the season considering not only how the result, but also that Hossa went down. If ever this team needed Sidney Crosby, it's now. Who knows how his ankle is feeling but the Pens were flat and one gets the feeling his mere presence in the lineup will provide a huge boost. He shouldn't come back before he's ready, but the team would benefit so much if he was ready soon.

Next up after a day off, a four game stretch in 6 days begins, in four different cities on top of that.

The 2007-08 Penguins have been marked by much more adversity than last year's suprise upstart team that only lost 7 games in regulation over the second half of the season. We've seem this team respond before, but at this hour that doesn't mean much. It's time to lick the wounds and regroup a little in order to come out strong for the next hectic stretch.

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