Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Recap: Pens games 5-7

Games: NYI, @ Philly, Ottawa

Notable Highlights:

-Wins. Wins matter more than anything else, especially for a team that was struggling to find its way. It can be easy to get caught up in the small stuff during the course of any game or stretch, but getting 6 of a possible 6 points is exactly what this team needed. Now they just need to build on it.

-Didn't see the whole Islander game, but caught a good portion of it at a bar prior to seeing Jackass 3D. Aside from the Letang penalty (skip to the lowlights for my thoughts on that), I think the Pens had this one in the bag.

-Alex Goligoski. Got the winner in the Isles game. 3g, 4a and a +4 so far...and people criticize him as if he's the second coming of Sergei Gonchar. While he's no Gonch (both good and bad), he is a solid d-man more nights than he isn't and he can spark the offense. Just like Gonch.

-The Philly game was a real pleasure. This is exactly the kind of response I wanted to see from the team after the Flyers edged out a win in the opening game. While most of Broad Street's eyes were surely focused on the Phillies this night, a 5-1 win by the 'guins surely turned the stomach of any Philly fan that happened to notice.

-The Ottawa game was a laugher, but that doesn't make it any less important. I predicted the Sens to finish 8th in the East, and that's probably a best case scenario for them. Beat up on the teams that don't belong in your class, that's what top tier teams do.

-D Sergei Gonchar returned with the Sens and received a warm welcome. Descriptions have the standing O lasting well after the tribute video finished. Gonch is approaching 1,000 games played in the NHL. I suppose his Hall of Fame credentials could be discussed in a future post, but I think at worst he is a fringe candidate based on his overall body of work. Glad to see him get his due, especially after his horrific performance last spring here.

Ghastly Lowlights:

-Flyer Team Captain Mike Richards took a bitter and frustrated tone with the media after the Philly game. While this isn't a Pens player, it is a result of them. Head over to PensBlog ( to watch the video. I certainly will never criticize a player for their remarks following a game. It has always seemed silly to me to expect a competitor to be poignant mere minutes after a game, but I cringed when I watched this. Among other things, Richards dusted off the classic Penguins get too many power plays theme ("it's tough when you play Pittsburgh you know they're going to be falling down pretty easy"), questioned F Matt Cooke, called C Sidney Crosby out in a round about way, and also implied that D Ben Lovejoy was a diver. Not bad for a nights work Mike. Like I said, I won't critize something said in the heat of the moment, so I'll just leave it at the facts.

-"Doot doot doot...Crosby SUCKS!" Really Philly...still? Personally, I don't get the booing of big stars/rivals. I never booed Jagr, didn't boo Hossa (ok, maybe once...but I got over it) and I don't plan on ever booing Ovechkin for anything that isn't a kneeing major. Why? Mainly because I am paying to see them too. Would you rather see the Thrashers or some real entertainment? Some say that booing is a sign of respect, but I don't buy it. I've never had a problem putting my hands together in appreciation of the opposing players I respect or enjoy watching. Even stranger is the fact that Sid rises to the occasion versus Philly unlike any other team. Granted, there are many that consider him to "Cindy Crysby", but it's not like this is the constantly whining Sid of his rookie year. He's done a better job each year or keeping his mouth shut more, and in case anyone missed it...the "C" on his jersey now entitles him to some diaglogue with Refs and Linesman. The atmostphere in Philly won't be changing any time soon, at least not in my lifetime. I guess this was literally just filler since there weren't may lowlights during this stretch. Take that, reader!

-G Marc-Andre Fleury continues to be benched. Last time I wrote how I didn't have a problem with Brent Johnson and him competing for playing time. This is still my stance on the issue, but it actually is based on both goalies playing. Coach Bylsma is definitely sending a message to MAF, but what is that message? You won't play again until BJ loses? Didn't we play this game with Michel Therrien already? Therrien's every move was criticized towards the end, but before that was popular he was often the target of questions based on his handling of Fleury both in Pittsbugh and during his time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Was Therrien just a genius before his time or is Byslma adding to the errosion of confidence in Fleury's abilities?

-The Kris Letang hit during the Islanders game was a lowlight of a different type. Tang got square to the side of , and delivered a clean shoulder to shoulder check. The NHL should continue to work to eliminate concussive hits, but my immediate and vocal reaction to the entire bar was "they're getting worse than the NFL if that is illegal". I was glad to see that the NHL rescinded this call after the fact. They got it right, but the resulting power play did cost the Pens 2 goals and potentially a chance for another laugher during this 3 game stretch.

Forward Recaps:

-C Sidney Crosby is starting to heat up and Evgeni Malkin has performed well, including a great effort on a goal against the Sens. Did you notice how easy the Philly and Ottawa games were with these guys performing at the top of their game? I did.

-I'm working under the assumption the F Mark Letestu is one person in our very limited army of readers. I praised his play but stated he was "in over his head" with Malkin. I still don't think he's a top 2 line guy, but he is doing everything right and is getting results (4g, 2gwg). Always been a firm believer in those that produce should get the let him play. Let the man play. I don't care where it is if he's putting the puck in the net.

-Eric Tangradi got his first goal, but he still is not producing points. I am not rushing to judgment with him, but his value should be as a top 2 line guy. If he isn't ready or isn't producing, guys like Letestu will gladly give it a shot to prove me, and many others wrong about whether or not he can play with the big guns.

-Jordan Staal and Aaron Asham are both practing. Asham should return soon and Staal taking part in non-conditioning practice is a good sign. Jordo won't be rushed in to the lineup, but even if it's another month, it's great to know he's healing enough to begin getting in game shape.

Defenseman Recaps:

-Brooks Orpik has resumed practice. Brooksie is a huge piece of this team. When he returns to the lineup, there is an instant increase in the quality of the defense core. Plus he can play wing in a pinch (ha).

-Kris Letang, 5p, +7...Alex Goligoski, 7p, +4. Pretty good work out of such young defenseman. I would like to see each of these guys get more power play time, espeically in place of Malkin at either point. To me, there is a bigger value in developing these guys than having Malkin do it. While he is serviceable at the point, he never seems as comfortable as he is in a true forward role, and both of these guys have such high upside that I would like to see them give it a try while their games and confidence is up.

Goalie Recaps:

-Brent Johnson started 3 games and won 3 games. I thought he looked shaky in the Ottawa game, but he wasn't really needed. He didn't face a ton of heat in the Philly game either. I'm certainly not going to complain if the Penguins are going to put up enough goals to make the goalie a non-factor. That's really what this team should do under ideal circumstances.

-Marc-Andre Fleury has to be chomping at the bit to get back in the lineup. I wonder what he will peform like when he gets that chance. I hope he does well, but if he gives up a sofite at a key moment, it could be the beginning of the end in terms of the the tide turning on him.

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