Inital game notes:
- Noted Pens killer Richard Park scored the game's first goal early and short-handed. That's pretty much all one needed to know.
- Can't get over just how strong Marian Hossa is. On one occasion Hossa was stationary in the offensive zone, corralling the puck. An Islander took two or three strides and put a pretty good hit on him. Hossa remained standing without even bracing himself and the opponent basically bounced off of him.
- Petr Sykora is a force. We all know his shot is out of this world but he's not afraid to go into the corners and throw a shoulder to dislodge a puck. The Pensblog had a great feature the other day about how Sykora's out-performing many of the top free agent forwards from this summer. And while a lot of credit has to go to linemates, power-play time and opportunities, Sykora's pretty consistent offense has gone a little under the radar around the league this season. He's been a great addition.
- It seemed like the Penguins defense (Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang particularly) were activating and shooting into the offensive zone. Several times this resulted in sloppy 3-on-1s or even one 4-on-1. It's on the coaching staff to put an end to the careless play.
- Speaking of the coaching, Michel Therrien was just stewing on the bench in the 3rd period. It would have been great to be a fly in the wall in the locker-room after the game. NHL seasons are treated with a pretty balanced equilibrium, after all this is just 1 out of 82. But Therrien's never shy to let a team know what he thinks, especially when the effort isn't there...It didn't seem like it was there.
- Evgeni Malkin played pretty well (despite being a -3) but just seemed out of sync. Therrien made what we thought was a nice adjustment, trying to put Hossa with Malkin and Ryan Malone to see if anything would spark. But on this night, nothing really did.
- Also out of sync seemed to be the 11 forward/7 defensemen lineup; which was necessitated since Pascal Dupuis went to be with his wife (who's in labor with their child). Regardless, Therrien seems to be a fan of playing seven defensemen but tonight was a good reason why not to utilize this.
- So which defenseman should get the scratch now that 'Steady' Rob Scuderi is back? Going strictly on performance over the past 10 games we would say either Ryan Whitney or Darryl Sydor. But both of those two are guys you'd generally think should be in the lineup on a nightly basis. It will be very interesting to see how the coaching staff handles and juggles the lineup; both to field the best possible lineup and not to cast aside a player who could play a big role in the post-season.
- Ty Conklin wasn't that bad and can't really be blamed for any one of the Isles goals. But his aura of the 'Conkblock' magic seems to be gone. There should be no doubt now that the Penguins will go as far as Marc-Andre Fleury will carry them.
- Sidney Crosby ruled himself out for tomorrow night's uber-important Devils game in an interview during this game. Jockeying for playoff positioning is important, but having a 100% healthy and conditioned Crosby for those playoffs is much more important. It's somewhat disappointing, but it's clear that no one is more frustrated to take the prudent route than Crosby. He'll be back (and soon) and the team will be better for it.
- Trival note, but shame on the offical scorers who credited NYI left winger Steve Regier with 3 hits (in an un-noticable 8:33 of icetime) and also said Brooks Orpik only had 1 hit with 19:23 time on the ice....Where they watching the same game?
For a team that's dealt with more than it's share of adversity this season (mainly in the form of injuries) it will be interesting to see how they respond. This last head-to-head game against Jersey is going to be very crucial, if the Pens don't come out with more energy and purpose it could well tip the balance of the playoff seeding.