Sunday, October 31, 2010

Recap: Pens games 10-12

Games: @ Tampa, vs Philly, @ Carolina

Notable Highlights:

-The intensity that the Penguins played with in the 1st period of the Philly game was something that I hadn't witness in a regular season game in a long time. Whatever it was that got them going (rivalry, fights, etc) is something they should take note of for the spring of '11.

-G Brent Johnson played another excellent game in the win over Carolina. At this point, it seems likely this goaltending split will continue for the next few weeks. It's also very possible that BJ will get the majority of the work provided he continues to get the Pens points in his starts.

-After calling the forward group out last time, they responded despite their total unawareness of this blog. Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, Craig Adams, Max Talbot, and Tyler Kennedy all scored goals during this 3 game stretch. Having that continue will be crucial to the team improving.

-While he continues to struggle overall, G Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't even in the top 2 reasons the Pens lost the Philly game (sloppy play on their side of the ice and power play in my opinion). He made some nice saves to keep the team in the game while the guys went into a slumber for about 35 minutes. Anything positive is something to build on for him, and I look for him to build on this at Dallas this week.

-D Deryk Engelland continues to impress through his fighting skills and defensive play. His bout against Flyer Jody Shelley was incredible and really had the fans pumped up.

-D Kris Letang. It's really exciting to watch him believe in his abilities and the results that come from that.

-Total team effort against Carolina netted 2 points and keep the team tied with the Flyers for the division lead.

Ghastly Lowlights:

-The Letdown against Philly. Going to the luxurious locker room must have pampered the Penguins out of the intensity with which they played the 1st period. Didn't seem like the team woke up until around 5 minutes left in the game.

-G Marc-Andre Fleury didn't have a strong performance against Tampa. No sense beating the guy up over it, he simply is not the best goalie on the team right now.

-Tampa Bay F Martin St. Louis blew by D Ben Lovejoy to score the evntual GWG. Lovejoy has a lot to learn like any young defenseman. I won't pin this on him completely. I've noticed Alex Goligoski, Letang, and Paul Martin having a hand in odd man rushes coming back the other way. It's possible that this is just an unavoidable consequence of the Dmen being agressive in terms of offense or neutral zone play, but no system concedes such chances. It'll be interesting to see if this continues.

-F Evgeni Malkin missed the Carolina game with a knee injury. D Kris Letang has some type of arm/wrist/hand injury. Losing talent never helps your lineup. Luckily, it is being reported that C Jordan Staal and D Zbynek Michalek will return Wednesday in Dallas.

-Power Play has/had an 0 for 22 streak. You may have asked yourself, what does Shaq have to do with a hockey blog? Well, think back to when Shaq first entered the NBA. He was lean and unstoppable. Double teams and backboards were no match for his brute strength. Somewhere along the line teams realized that Shaq's flaw was shooting free throws, so they would try and foul him as much as possible. The theory was that instead of conceding two points to him, it was better to limit him to 1 or ever 0 based on his low free throw percentage. I firmly believe that opposing teams are taking the "Hack-a-Shaq" approach to the Penguins and their scoring chances. Why would they do this? Why not? If you can limit a scoring oppurtunity and not pay the price on the vast majority of the Pens' Power Plays then it only makes sense. Winning games will continue to be difficult without the PP coming through in the clutch.

Forward Recaps:

-Good team effort by the lower line forwards. The guys mentioned above scored some big goals for the team during this stretch.

-Mike Comrie continues to not find the net. It was a positive to add him to the team in the offseason at such a low salary, and conversely it is very easy to sit him at that price as well. He has to produce to get playing time. It's as simple as that.

-I was not sold on what Aaron Asham would add to the lineup when he was signed. This seems like something I could be very wrong about. In his two games back, he did not take any post whistle penalties. That was my main concern about him. We'll see if this continues when he is fully comfortable with the progress of his healing, but for now it's been a pleasant surprise.

-C Sidney Crosby helped the team rebound in Carolina with a strong performance. This is what you need out of a Captain. When the team is in a funk, they will naturally look to Crosby to lift them out of it because of his ability, but even moreso because he wears the "C".

Defenseman Recaps:

-With Kris Letang suffering some type of injury in the Carolina game, Brooks Orpik, Alex Goligoski, and Paul Martin ate some big minutes in a losing streak busing game. Time on Ice for the 3 in order: 25:53, 24:33, and 26:58(!).

Goalie Recaps:

-Brent Johnson isn't the #1 goalie in name, but he is in performance. While it's a major negative that your #1 goalie has had this much trouble getting his season off the ground, it is an immeasurable positive that a guy like BJ is 1) on this team, 2) able to meet the need for solid play, and 3) classy enough to defer to MAF as the #1 in any chance possible with the media. Very happy that he will be here for a few years.

-Marc-Andre Fleury had 2 losses in his action from this stretch, but as mentioned above there is something to build on from the Philly game. I certainly am not an expert in how to develop goalies, so I'll just say that everything wrong seems to be concentration or execution, not positioning or fundamentals.

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