Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recap: Pens games 8-9

Games: @ Nashville, @ St. Louis

Notable Highlights:

-3 of a possible 4 points. At the time I type this, the Pens are tied with Montreal and Tampa Bay for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. For as hysterical as the fan base has been so far about the direction of the team, you'd have to say they are doing well.

-G Marc-Andre Fleury got the win in the Nashville game in his first action since taking a spot on the Pens runway for a week or two. It wasn't an era-defining performance by any stretch, but it got him off the bench and in to the game. While I will be covering MAF and a "soff" goal in the lowlight category, I feel the need to say something about goalie postion. Goalies in the NHL give up goals. I know this may be surprising, but every goalie that ever played the game has given up a goal. Sometimes bad goals. At this point, Fleury's every move is facing heavy scrutiny for every Schmo with a tv. I'm certainly no different since I'll be disecting a goal as "lowlight", but to expect the guy to be perfect isn't realistic. That isn't to say he's "back" by any means, but now that he is at least back in the goaltending rotation it's important to watch for how he responds in situations. Will he make the big save when it's needed? Will the "soff" goals diminish. That's why we watch the games.

-Another postive was the pace and desire with which the team played against Nashville. I won't go so far as to call it a "playoff atmosphere" like some have (not sure how that's possible against the West), but it did seem to be a tough and spirited game. The guys responded well and came away with 2 points in a fiesty game.
-D D Engelland with another good fight in Nashville. I see no problem with him continuing this role as long as he doesn't pick up any minors for instigating. Having a guy on the team that doesn't go out of his way to scrap, but will answer the bell if needed is a nice add to the blue line.
-Even though it shouldn't be a surprise, C Sidney Crosby and F Evgeni Malkin look really good together. I think these guys may be able to scratch and claw their way to a fruitful NHL career...

Ghastly Lowlights:

-G Marc-Andre Fleury makes the hi and lowlights for this recap. The first goal let in against the Preds was one of those "here we go again" moments. As I mentioned earlier, I don't plan on making it a habit of shining a spotlight on every goal allowed by Fleury. What I do want to point out is the timeliness of some of the goals against. There have been quite a few occasions where an early one slips in. While the team is more than capable of playing comeback hockey, there's no reason looking for trouble by letting an early one in. This is doubly true on the road.
-The Power Play could have finished the game against the Preds before it went to OT. Didn't happen. Luckily this wasn't against an Eastern team so the extra point didn't matter. But closing a game like this out in regulation could be the difference between seeding or a division title. Situations matter. Hopefully they will get better.
-F Eric Tangradi didn't peform poorly by any means, but right now he doesn't have the scoring touch. He has since been demoted to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
-G Jaroslav Halak. UGH. We've seen this story before, and Halak continues his complete dominance against the Pens with a 1-0 OT win in St. Louis. Hopefully, he isn't sent back to the East any time soon.
Forward Recaps:

-Still seems to be a lack of offesne from the forwards still. I'm not sure this will get any better by consolidating Sid and Malkin on to the same line. The rest of the group should join the fun and avoid skating laps all game while waiting for the D or these guys to win the game.

-Look down the Penguins scoring list for the season and if you're like me you will have a real sinking feeling in your stomach. Hopefully the forwards catch fire and start scoring on a regular basis.
Defenseman Recaps:

-Brooks Orpik returned. Give him a few games to shake off the rust and he should back to normal.
-Kris Letang scored the winner in Nashville. He is playing incredibly well. I feel silly typing it every recap, but he really deserves the praise.

-Alex Goligoski also has seen his role on the power play expanded. He seems to be all over the place and is mimicing Paul Martin in the type of movement deep in to the attack zone.

Goalie Recaps:

-Brent Johnson took a tough loss in St. Louis. Overall, his play has been the best surprise of the season. I would still look for him to spilt time with Fleury, at least until he cools off or Fleury heats up.
-Marc-Andre Fleury is now back in to the rotation. Seems like his play will determine how much ice time he gets. Not exactly the situation Pens fans would have hoped for heading in to this season, but perhaps the team will better for it in the long run.

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