Friday, December 31, 2010

Recap: Games 37-39

Games: vs. OTT (L 3-1),  vs. ATL (W 6-3), @ NYI (L 2-1 SO)

Notable Highlights:

-Congrats to Sid on a great streak. It sure was fun to watch and very exciting. Maybe he can start a new one.

-3 out of 6 points is not a failure by any means. To qualify for the playoffs you need to be around the 90 point mark, which is a little more than a point a game. When you struggle in a strectch and still even a point a game, you take it.

-PK had a good game against Atlanta, killing 7 of 8 chances and some more 3-on-5s.

-Tyler Kennedy, Mark Letestu, and Chris Conner form the "Buzz Line" as the Penguins 3rd line. They are playing really well. Conner had a goal in the Isles game, and Letestu had a very nice effort to put one in against the Thrashers. These guys are proof that if you play your game within a defined role consistently, success will follow.

-I want to take a second to too my own horn while sending a thank you over to The Pensblog. We are on the map, and I'm certain it is in large part thanks to their mention of us. I'll share some stats with you

-As of this very moment, 1,507 page views all time since we started a few months ago. That's about 1,500 more than I expected so maybe we aren't a wildly unpopular blog anymore. I'll just concede that while I'm personally wildly unpopular, my blog has vastly exceeded my expectations for it. For that I thank anyone that ever read this page. I'm no expert, and often I'm wrong or knee-jerk, but it's all because I dearly love this sport and have so since I was introduced to it. That's why I'm a damn good fan and a so-so blogger.

-The vast majory of views come from the United States, and there are some Canadians lurking out there as the 2nd leading nation of readers. The rest of these nations, in order, provide a handful of clicks: Brazil (!!?), Russia (Go Malkin!), Taiwan (!!?), Denmark, Slovenia (go Kopitar!), Germany (love ya Deutschland!, go Hecht!), The UK (welcome), and South Korea (Jim Paek scored the last goal for the Penguins first Cup Clinching game!!)

-For any of the international readers, I'd love to find out more about you via the "contact us" email at the top of the page. I have a special interest in non-expatriate Americans, any Russian with access to KHL news and the ability to communicate in English somewhat (I only speak English and I can barely do it so don't worry), and anyone that has information about local leagues or teams in your country. Hockey is an international game, tell us your story so I can share it with everyone!

Ghastly Lowlights:

-Poor, poor effort is about the only way you can describe the Ottawa game. I've heard people blame it on the Christmas break, but Ottawa was off too and they were fired up for this game.

-Felt like the 1st period of the Atlanta game was extremely entertaining. As fun as that was, the Islanders game was just brutal to watch. Not taking the win away, but the trap is so boring and the polar opposite of entertainment.

-The team continues to show questionable discipline by taking too many penalties. Ottawa converted 2 of 4 power play chances. If you're going to play sloppy and take scores of pentalites, you need the PK to bail you out.

Forward Recaps:

-Matt Cooke continues to take penalty after penalty. Bob Grove of the Penguins Postgame show (105.9 The X) said that he has (trying to remember because I was driving, so if slightly inaccurate I apologize) 14 minor penalties in his past 11 games. Are some of these because of his reputation? You bet it is. But he has to watch himself. In a perfect world, you'd sit a guy down for taking so many penalties just to get his attention. The problem is Cooke is an integral part of penalty kill, and has done a good job at the offesnsive end of the ice too. Guess we just have to hope that Matt does everything he can to reduce penalties, but not change his effectiveness.

-Evgeni Malkin is a -1 and is the only player on the current roster that is a minus. Plus/minus is not a stat that many, including myself, relying heavily on because it can be misleading at times. But in this case, it reflects the struggles of the center...err...winger....err center. I will disclose that am a giant Malkin fan before I say this, because I'm not making excuses for him. Part of me does wonder if he is having trouble adjusting to playing and more importantly practicing primarily in English. In the past he had Ottawa's D Sergei Gonchar and New York Rangers F Ruslan Fedotenko to speak to in Russian. Perhaps this is more difficult for him than anyone is talking about. That being said, it doesn't matter at the end of the day. He is the highest paid player along with Crosby. As I've said before, because of that he has to produce more often than not. Sadly, right now it does't seem that that is happening again.

Defenseman Recaps:

-Alex Goligoski got absolutely torched by Thrashers D Dustin Byfuglien for a shot on goal. Bufugien had one hand on the stick and used the other hand to just toss the Dman aside. No shame in that for Gogo though, all part of the learning process. Even Hall of Fame defensemen have been made to look silly. Former Bruin Ray Bourque had Mario Lemieux hide the puck at his own feet one time in the Wales Conference Finals. It happens.

-Brooks Orpik looked a little off against the Thrashers as well. This could be because of their forwards group. I think this is only the second time I mentioned Brooksie in this segment this season, and both have been negative. I'm sorry about that, I promise I will find some positive about this extremely valuable Penguin the next time I mention him.

-Kris Letang injured Ottawa F Jason Spezza with a hit from behind. I don't believe there was malice on Tang's part, but the fact is Spezza was hurt by a run from behind. I wish the league would focus on these hits as much as they do the blows to the head. If anyone remembers collegiate player Travis Roy, who was paralyzed in such a hit, you are like me....astonished this has never happened to the pros. I don't want to to see it ever happen to anyone at any level of play. Hitting from behind along the wall and te players that quickly turn to force such hits should be more of a focus for both penalties and discipline.

Goalie Recaps:

-Mark-Andre Fleury had a so-so stretch. I don't blame him for either of the losses. I thought he wasn't particularly sharp against Atlanta, but the offense had his back that night.

-Brent Johnson returned to practice and the bench for the Islanders game.

-John Curry did not see any action during his call-up, despite what seemed like a perfect chance on Long Island for the Islanders game. This is very telling in regards to how the front office views him. It seems that any chance of Curry being viewed seriously as a potential backup had its final nail entered (the first million was the contract extention Brent Johnson signed).



-F Jason Spezza had 2 assists before he was injured.

-D Erik Karlsson had 2 goals for the Sens. Looks like this former 1st round pick has quite the upside.

-I don't get to watch many Sens games, but I have to imagine this was one of their more spirited efforts of the season. They looked sharp and fiesty.


-They have some very talented players in F Evander Kane and D Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien is leading the league in scoring for a defenseman.

-I've been critical of the lack of support for the team in Atlanta. I will concede that a good playoff run for this group could plant the seeds needed to have there be actual support from the fans. This isn't something I would bet on, but I wish them the best. Years back I faced the horror of the possibility of my team moving, so for any true fans there my heart goes out.

-New York Islanders

-A lot was made of G Rick DiPietro leaping in to teammates arms after the shootout victory. Many felt it was unnecessary or silly considering the Isles record. That's exactly why I don't have a problem with it. This team is struggling in attendance, in record, in the attempt for a new arena...give them something. DiPi even had to feel good on a personal level. In 2006, he signed a giant $67.5 million contract that spanned over 15 years. He has been chronically injured, and any momentum for him and his team is a starting point.

-I am not in favor of the Islanders moving, but if their situation isn't clarified it is a real possiblitiy. A faction of fan from Quebec (about 22 busloads) attended a game a few weeks back to show their support for the franchise as that city attempts to bring the Nordiques back. I hope hockey finds itself in both Quebec City and Long Island. Both cities have great traditions and a place in the history of hockey.

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