Monday, March 31, 2008

Taking lumps, Pens lose

Well the Penguins got one point tonight, and if you'd look at it in the bigger scheme of things; 3 points out of 4 in two days, despite only scoring four total goals. Not bad. But definitely some room for improvement. The Rangers are a great defensive team with a solid system and mentality. They know their system and they don't usually give up much in the way of chances. Considering all the teams in the East that are likely to make the playoffs, they're probably one of the most dangerous ones considering that, and the fact they've got a great goaltender (Lundqvist), a serially clutch scorer (Drury) and a couple guys with a lot of experience (Shanahan, Jagr).

Some thoughts:

  • Marc-Andre Fleury has given up just two even-strength goals in his last eight games. He is still doing more than his share to give the team a chance. The Flower is kicking out rebounds, but it seems to be with a purpose; they're going directly to his defensemen or to dead spaces in the ice for the most part. Fleury is playing well. The only two that got by him tonight were both with the man-advantage (one that Rob Scuderi clearly batted in and the other saw Jordan Staal and Hal Gill put a pretty good screen on him).
  • Speaking of Scuderi, he seemed to have a rough night. That own goal not with-standing, he got turned around a couple of times by the likes of Jaromir Jagr and didn't look comfortable.
  • It seems a little weird they let the first goal stand. Replays were conclusive that Scuds hit the puck *just* before his glove hit Scott Gomez's stick away, but the fact remains that Gomez's stick was clearly above the cross-bar and he intended to make contact with the puck. By the letter of the law, he didn't touch it, so the goal was good but it seemed like he was rewarded by being in the crease and having his stick up. It was kinda fishy.
  • To be clear though, Gomez never hit the puck and we're not disputing that it was a goal, it just seems like a play like that shouldn't be considered one......If that makes any sense.
  • The whole team, in fact, didn't quite look like they had their legs under them; especially early registering only one shot on goal (despite getting a lot more in the way of scoring chances). To be sure this game meant a lot more to the Rangers, and it showed.
  • Brooks Orpik was credited with 5 hits but had a lot of power behind all of them. A clear sign was once when Jagr went in to fish out a puck dumped in, he pulled up and braced himself instead of charging right through the oncoming hit, like he's apt to do. Orpik's presence was definitely at it's finest tonight.
  • While it seemed like some Pens were spinning their wheels, guys like Jarkko Ruutu (6 hits in 8:25 of work), Maxime Talbot (goal, 2 hits and 2 blocked shots) and especially Georges Laraque (assist and only 2 credited hits) left an imprint on the game. BGL might have had one of his finest games of the season, the big guy was really digging out there.
  • The powerplay, to be generous, doesn't seem in-sync. With Sidney Crosby and Sergei Gonchar on the points and Ryan Malone, Marian Hossa and Evgeni Malkin down low, it's got more firepower than ever, but it's not meshing right now. We really think that Ryan Whitney should go back to his customary spot but it would be hard to relegate any of the forwards off the ice. Perhaps bumping Malone down to the second half of the powerplay with the likes of Petr Sykora and Jordan Staal might open things up for more chances down the line if the brute skill of Malkin/Crosby/Hossa doesn't get the job done.
  • The stacked line we mentioned was put together for the 2nd half of the game, and why not try to see if it could provide a spark. Nice coaching move to see if anything would result.
  • We also like the wrinkle of sneaking Malkin out when guys like Laraque and Ruutu are out there every once in a while. More often than not it results in some serious cycling work and a decent scoring chance or two. It also keeps the opposition on their toes, as a guy like Malkin is easily the best player on the ice and can find a little more room to operate.
  • Jordan Staal led all Pens forwards in ice time (largely since he's so important to the PK) and had some good chances but still is sophomore slumping it up. Staal scored 29 goals last year, largely on Malkin's wing. This year the Pens have made it a point to play Staal exclusively as a center and his production is not there. With Talbot playing so well, you'd wonder if they might spark him by trying to slide him back. However, it should be pointed out that last season was the first time that Staal played wing at any level, so perhaps that's not an option. It's just a little frustrating to watch, is all.
  • Back from the doghouse, Ryan Whitney played more minutes than anyone but Gonchar and had a feisty edge after the whistle that he hasn't much displayed. It seems that Coach Therrien's message has registered with the talented if not inconsistent player.
  • The Penguins may have been lucky the game didn't go to a shootout, since their best player in that regard was left in the press box. If there's justice, Kris Letang is back in the lineup on Wednesday and either Scuderi or Darryl Sydor will take a game off.

All in all it's a loss but not one in vein considering the Pens were outplayed for most of the night. They did get a point in the standings and now are 2 points up on Montreal. The Habs have a game in hand, but even if they were to win it, the Pens get the tiebreaker by virtue of more wins. Perhaps more importantly, the Penguins need to only get 1 more point (or have NJ not win one game) to win their first division title since 1997-98. That would guarantee at least the #2 seed in the East right there.

It sucks to lose like this, but it would be a bigger backbreaker if this were a couple weeks from now and not the last day in March.

So it will all come down to two games against the hated Flyers, who are fighting desperately for their own playoff lives. This is what it is all about.

1 comment:


1) Pens looked tired. Not sure we'd say the rangers are a 'great defensive team'. Absolutly they have a top goalie in Hank, but some of their defensemen are very vulnerable and if the playoffs started today we'd take the pens to beat the rangers in a 7 game series.