Not going to lie, we had a huge hate post written up basically writing off the rest of the season barring some sort of drastic action taken by Ray Shero. Down 3-0 against Tampa Bay at home, we almost turned the game off. But then Evgeni Malkin put the team on his back at stole the Pens a point.
Sidney Crosby's knee isn't right. Take that to the bank. He's pushing through, but one can tell he isn't himself. So someone had to step it up. Which leads us to the title of the post; did Malkin just save the season? Down 3-0 going in the third. Against a weaker team in the standings, at home. Facing a goalie in his opening NHL start that was in a groove. Down three points (at the time) to the playoff chase--with the rest of the teams in the chase having more games in hand. If the Penguins rolled over and died, better believe that's about the picture wrap on the season.
So how do you measure MVP? Caps fans are already forming their arguments--and with good reason--Alex Ovechkin has more goals than anyone in the league and is setting the tone for what will probably be record wise one of the best teams in the first 82.
2 goals, 1 assist (all in the 3rd period), 7 shots on goal (with two more missing the net and two getting blocked), a takeaway, a blocked shot and 4 hits...One that knocked a key defenseman out of the game. That, folks, is an MVP performance. Sure the Penguins are still outside of the playoff bubble and it's hard to win the trophy if you don't lead your team to the second season that over half of the league makes, even if Malkin retains his 17.9% point advantage over AO.
Remember this night. Remember this performance. If, as this editor thinks, it breaks the floodgates for the rest of the team and the Penguins rally from here, then you will know.
- This was one of the most physical games of the season. Former Pens Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts each recorded seven hits a piece. Tampa had 42 total on the night. Even Steven Stamkos got into the act with a heavy hit.
- And before you get too far down on Stamkos, allow us to present you with these two season statlines....55 games, 3 goals, 4 assists; 82 games, 13 goals 15 assists...Those are the 18 year old NHL seasons of Joe Thornton and Vincent Lecavalier respectively. Sure, they were both in the pre-lockout days where the game was a little tighter--but the point is just because phenoms like Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin hit the ground running they're still very much the execptions, and not the rule.
- Malone's goal in front of the net showed the grit and skill that Pittsburgh has frankly been missing without him. Can't fault a guy for getting paid, but boy if he were still in the black and gold it's hard to imagine the Penguins struggling as much as they have been. Apologies to Marian Hossa (who's not having a shabby season himself) but Malone's presence on and off the ice might be the biggest loss the Pens suffered from all the ballyhooed player movement.
- 0-6 to start the powerplay for the Penguins on the night, including a 5 on 3 for a full two minutes. Ryan Whitney isn't making solid decisions back there. It's not all on him of course, but Sergei Gonchar (46 PP points last season, only one off of Alex Kovalev's 47 for the entire league) will help so much.
- After being outshot 14-5 in the first period, the Pens--outshot nightly seemingly every night--turned it around and won the last three frames a combined 27-10. The frantic comeback helped, the sense of urgency was finally there.
And take a deep breath, the Pens live to fight another day.