Friday, December 17, 2010

Recap: Games 31-33

Games: @ BUF,  @PHI, vs. NYR

Notable Highlights:

-The Buffalo game was one of the team's better efforts this season. They played "their game" at both ends of the ice, G Marc-Andre Fleury made 34 saves, and they got scoring from guys that don't chip in on a regular basis.

-Here's the scoring mix of Buffalo game: F's Dustin Jeffrey, Arron Asham, Mike Rupp, Matt Cooke (en), and D Alex Goligoski. You can't rely on your top players every game (even though you do kind of expect it), so when they can't carry you, it's great to have the other guys step up.

-The first 40 to 50 mins of Ranger game was well played. The team had a good forecheck going for most of the last 5 mins of the 1st period and most of the 2nd period. I was at this game and keeping mental notes of the things I wanted to cite as highlights and some of the individuals...then the last 10 mins wiped them out.

-At the end of 1st period of that Ranger game, there were two consecutive shifts where the Pens took the game over with grinding. This started with a line of Max Talbot, Pascal Dupuis, and Arron Asham. I took notice of that because in a perfect world, Talbo and Duper would not be on the first two lines. They are excellent penalty killers and seem to be best suited for an energy role. With the makeup of the team and salary cap, they often find themselves in larger roles. Usually they even do pretty well with that, but it is exciting to me to see them play in their natural role from time to time.

-C Sidney Crosby's scoring streak has reached 20 games. Just in case you are wondering, the NHL record is held by legend Wayne Gretzky, who scored in 51 straight games in the 1983-84 season! To tie the team record, he would have to match the 46 games that Mario Lemieux scored in 1989-90. If this were done in consectutive games, Sid would have to score from now until January 15th to tie Lemieux, and February 1st to tie Gretzky. In the unlikely event this would happen, Sid could break the record February 2nd against the Islanders. While highly unlikely, I wish Sid the best as he is having a phenominal season.

Ghastly Lowlights:

-Power play went 2 for 11 (18%) during these three games. The 2 goals were scored by F Evgeni Malkin in his return against Philadelphia. While you can argue that the team would not have been in the game without the Power Play (you would be correct), I would come back to my recurring theme of needing the PP to convert in the crunch. They had a chance to tie the game with under 3 mins left and did not score. Even if they had converted 10 chances that game, if they are down by a goal or tied with a chance under 5 mins, you'd really like them to score.

-Penalty Killing had 11 kills out of 14 (78.5%) in this stretch. The rough goal came against the Rangers. It was their first of the game, and for whatever reason opened the floodgates for the Rangers in the 3rd.

-During the Flyer game, one of the Penguins flaws seemed very apparent. 5 on 5 play is an area of concern that I have as it relates to the top teams in the east. I think they were outplayed at even strength. Obviously, with the team coming off of a tweleve game win streak, it seems petty to pick on this. Luckily, I'm a petty person with no credibility in the actual hockey world, so this is right up my alley. Allow me to expand my concern:

Earlier in the season, when things were not going as well, I talked about the concern of what this team's identity is. During a long win streak, when everything is going right, it isn't a glaring problem. While I don't think this is a bad team, I still have my concerns that the team that showed up against Philly is the actual identity of this squard.

What concerns me most about this, is that I do believe the Flyers are one of the top teams in the East, and it would not surprise me if they came out of East again. While its popular to hate Philly in Pittsburgh, I like to give credit where its due. When Coach Peter Laviolette was hired, I think that Philly tossed aside their tendency to goon it up at all times. They were with 2 games of winning the Cup last season.

Now, I'm not saying that I think the Penguins are a team of goons. Far from it. I am saying that I think they are currently filled with too many role players at forward. What mainly concerns me about this is that I don't think it will possible for the Penguins to "out-Flyer the Flyers" in April or May. The wild card to all of this is if GM Ray Shero tweaks the lineup at the trade deadline. If the Flyer game is any indication, it may be for the best to do so or it could be another early exit in the spring.

-The last 10 mins of the Ranger game were just like the Leafs and Bruins games earlier this season.

Forward Recaps:

-Dustin Jeffrey was called up due to injurires. He chipped in a goal in the Buffalo game. Nice to see a guy from the minor league system contribute in a pinch. Any Pens fan from the second Cup run remembers the contributions of guys like Jock Callander, Dave Michalyuk, and Mike Needham. You never know when you'll need guys like this so it's refreshing to know they are out there.

-Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup in the Philly game, scoring 2 goals. He also scored the only goal for the team against the Rangers. Whether his rough times were caused by injury or just bad bounces, it's good to see him back on the score sheet and hope that it continues. One thing that should be noted is the bad penalty he took against Philly. They scored on that PP and won as a result. It seems that this is the downside of Malkin at this stage in his career, you just hope that he realizes what it can do to the team and works to minimize it.

-Mark Letestu has looked pretty good in his role at the bottom of the forward lines in an energy/grinder capacity. This is his most likely role in the NHL, and he appears more than willing and more than capable.

Defenseman Recaps:

-Kris Letang had a few rough games against Philly and the Rangers. There were some turnovers, and when the Pens lose I notice a flaw among all their D-men. There is a tendency to reverse the puck in their own zone or make a more complicated play instead of just going forward strong with the puck to get it out.

-Ben Lovejoy was brutal against the Rangers. He did have a nice play defensively which he also moved the puck forward quickly for a rush on, but he erased those thoughts the rest of the game.

-2009 1st round pick Simon Despres was selected for Team Canada's squad at the World Juniors. That tournament will take place in Buffalo, NY December 26th through January 5th.

Goalie Recaps:

-Marc-Andre Fleury 1-1 during this stretch and didn't have a bad game. Blame the Philly loss on anyone but him please.

-Brent Johnson didn't look particularly sharp against the Rangers in the 3rd. He did however, have a decent game until that point though, so you can likely put part of the blame on the guys in front of him. I'm sure that is easier for you since his name isn't Fleury.

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