Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Recap: Games 16-19

Games: vs BOS, vs TB, @ ATL, vs NYR

Notable Highlights: -The team rallied around G Marc-Andre Fleury in the win against Tampa. Only 15 saves were required on his part, but it definitely seemed to lift the weight off his shoulders and the guys are to be commended for a solid effort against an up and coming 'Ning squad.

-That solid effort against Tampa continued on the road against Atlanta. 2 wins in a row isn't anything to crow about, but when your #1 goalie is showing signs of coming out of a season long slump, you take the good and run with it.

-The Pens ended the game against the Rangers without taking a penalty. Critics always say that the Pens get all the calls, but I guess that also extended in to the defensive end.

-Penalty Killing ranks 4th in the league so far. If it wasn't for that, there could have been some really ugly games this season. It's a story for another day, but you have to wonder what impending free agency for F's Max Talbot and Pascal Dupuis will be like considering that they are a large part of the PK. On the bright side, Jordan Staal will certain help boost an already capable unit when he returns.

Ghastly Lowlights:

-Bruins 3rd period was worse than the 7-8 minute stretch in the Ducks game. Five goals scored in the 3rd period. Five. Five. Five, five, five, five, five fiver five five-arooni. Five.A team shouldn't score five 3rd period goals if the other team pulled their goalie for the last five minutes. This was downright embarrassing, but I have to say I  was glad that the defensive lapses have started to show in front of Brent Johnson so people don't think I'm a lunatic in saying that is hasn't been ALL Fleury's fault.

-Power Play 1 for 2 against the B's, 0 for 4 against the 'Ning, 1 for 5 against the Thrash, and 0 for 5 against the Rangers. How's this going? We are nearing the quarter mark of the season and there are 7 teams with worse PP%. As if that isn't bad enough, the Power Play (especially F Evgeni Malkin and D Kris Letang) let the Rangers get the puck with a breakout and a shot at tying the game. Which they did. Poor execution there.

-D was very inconsistent during this stretch. There were great efforts against two teams, and monumental implosions versus two others. I think back to something I said in the offseason, I'm not convinced that the Pens D got better with the moves. I tend to like both Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek...but if you are looking for tangible evidence of them being worth the large contracts in the overall team body of work, let me know when you find it.

-Sean Avery (pictured above via PensBlog capture of the IceTime Progam). Seriously, what kind of monster wears glasses like that in his press photo. They look like something out of the lost and found bin from his internship at Vogue.

-The last few recaps, I have been trying to focus on some different areas that I feel are really in quesiton with this team. We've talked about the goaltending situation, and last time the effect that coaching has on players and their roles. After this stretch of games, I wanted to touch on a point that I've discussed in real life many times so far this season. Identity. It is the heart and soul of any team in sports. Coaches often talk about it. Fans (especially those of a local football squad) spend countless hours lamenting the direction of it and the affect it has on wins/losses. Inspired by those goons, I pose the following question to you: What is the identity of the 2010-11 Penguins? I bet you can't answer that, mainly because I can't figure it out either.

All offseason the presented the slogan "Destiny Has a New Home". So the team moves in to this new home and has revealed that for all the ad dollars...there are some real problems with the way this group is set up. My main concern with this roster, is that it lacks proven punch. Bad choice of words actually, because between Talbot, Engelland, Goddard, Rupp, and Asham there are plenty of guys willing to drop the mitts. Letang has joined in, Kunitz, even Crosby! What on earth is going on here? I'm all for standing up for teammates, but do we really need all this?

Let's take a look back to the Boston game. There were three fights in the first and second periods. Goddard, Talbot, and Asham all went. With personal differences settled the Penguins then went to the 2nd intermission with a 4-2 lead. As you are probably aware, the 3rd period went to hell. I would wonder out loud, if these fights were so important, why didn't somebody man up at 4-3. or 4-4. How about 4-5? 4-6? Surely once it's 4-7 it was time to fight back in to the game? Actually it wasn't, because fights aren't goals.

You remember goals don't you? It used to be the one thing you could count on from the Pens since I was little boy in the late 80s until now (excluding 2001-2005, let us never speak of those dark days or Rico Fata again). What happened to this emphasis on scoring and talent? The Penguins won an extremely satisfying Stanley Cup. During the two years they appeared in the Finals, the team had gotten by (or attempted to) with rejects and retreads on the wings. Last season that didn't work out, so it seems that GM Ray Shero decided to continue with adding "grit". I didn't mind the addition of Mike Rupp the year prior, but he didn't put the team past Montreal in the spring. In the years he has been here, Eric Goddard has dressed in zero playoff games.

This is why I"m concerned at the direction of this team's identiy. There have been many instances where I've felt the team is too busy chasing fights or scrums after whistles. This is the same thing that many of us would scoff at the Flyers for in the past three or four seasons. "What a bunch of bozos? Where's their discipline? Don't they realize all the rough stuff just helps our guys get on their game?" I fear that if the Penguins continue their undisciplined ways, fans in Philly or other cities may say the same of our Team "Destiny".

Forward Recaps:

-Sidney Crosby continues to play great hockey. He is now tied for the league lead in points, and more important helps keep this team from floundering well below .500

-Mark Letestu hasn't found himself on the score sheet much lately excepct for a shootout goal in Phoenix. With the recent call up of Chris Connor, I wonder if Letestu may find himself bumped from the lineup for Connor or an additional call up.

-Cooke and Kunitz continue to play well. They are scoring and playing physical. Cooke especially impresses, since he seems to be picking up right where he left off in 2009-2010, a career year.

Defenseman Recaps:

-Alex Goligoski continues to have some "off" nights. Hate to see it, but with any young defenseman this is part of the process.

-Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek looked comically bad on New York Ranger Ryan Callahan's OT goal.

Goalie Recaps:

-Marc-Andre Fleury had two solid performances and did not deserve a loss against the Rangers. The important thing is that he has turned in 3 pretty decent games in a row. This isn't to suggest that they clear out a room in the Hall of Fame for him, but it gives hope that he can re-establish himself throughout the holidays.

-Brent Johnson had a poor performance agains the Bruins. Even if the defense was vomiting on itself for most of the 3rd, he still let in a few "soff" goals. Not going to bury the guy over a few bad goals though, that would be crazy as the last month or so has reminded us.

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