Games: vs. BOS (L 3-2), @ MON (W 5-2 ), @ BOS (W 3-2)
-4 of 6 possible points keeps a nice playoff pace and keeps the team in stride with the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Doing it without Sid is a huge bonus. The victory in Montreal, for my money, was the emotional highlight of the season. I know everyone was doing cartwheels in the street after the Tampa game, but it's much better to put together a solid effort on the road without your Captain and leading scorer.
-It was nice to see the team win in Montreal for many reasons: Montreal had stymied the team within the past week, it's always tough to win in Montreal (the epicenter of hockey in my opinion...sorry Toronto), and it's always fun to beat the team that ousted you from the playoffs.
-Power Play went 4 of 6 in the Montreal game. If anyone had told you that they could do this without Sid, and without a large contribution from Evgeni Malkin, you'd probably have laughed in the their face. It's funny how sometimes the most unexpected things happen in sports.
-The pace of the Bruins win was what hockey is all about...back and forth action. There wasn't much grabbing despite a Bruins system that includes trapping, and only a handful of penalties were called.
-Both Boston games provided some reasons to fret. In the loss, the Pens gave up 4 goals with under 4 minutes to go. This was the second time the team blew a third period lead against the Bruins this season. Then, in the win against the B's, they allowed 2 goals in 13 seconds. There is something about the counterattack of the trap against our system, I am convinced of that.
-Add two more 5-on-3s. Still taking too many penalties overall. Much of the 3rd period against Montreal was spent shorthanded. If this trend continues in to mid-to-late February, I will be very concerned.
-F Mark Letestu had an uncharacteristically bad turnover deep in his own zone in the Montreal game. The outcome of the game was still undecided at this point. While players will make mistakes, you do not want them to be within 10 feet of your own goal.
-Just when many in the fan base started to express concern (not sure why) over Jordan Staal's lack of goals, he contributed one in the Montreal game, and the GWG in the Boston win. he also had 3 assists during this stretch. While I had no concern that Jordo would regain his scoring touch with time, it's good to see him get it going.
-Mike Rupp chipped in a goal against the Bruins in the loss. It was a sneaky shot that probably should have been stopped. That's why you get pucks at the net. You never know what can happen. The goal was his 4th of the season.
-Tyler Kennedy chipped in his first goal in quite some time on the PP against Montreal. While it was on the PP, it was still set up by Staal so I consider it him playing within his role. He just got the puck to the net, nothing complicated. That's when TK is at his best.
-After further review, Chris Kunitz knocked in his 15th goal of the season. Again, I've never been overly impressed with Kunitz in terms of finishing, but he is putting that behind him in his contract year.
-Last time we talked about Alex Goligoski's up and down year. In the Montreal game, he had an "up" game, scoring 2 goals. While there are still times where Gogo turns the puck over at every part of the rink, when a Dman consistently shows the offensive ability that he does, coaches will find reasons to keep him getting top minutes.
-Deryk Engelland had a hard hit on Bruins F Marc Savard in the win. It was a clean hit, but there was contact to the head. I wouldn't imagine there would be any discipline for it, but if the NHL starts to go the NFL route (read: the inconsistent route), hits like this could face extra scrutiny.
-Marc-Andre Fleury is always going to be a lightning rod for comments and criticism. I'm pretty sure no matter what he does, be it good or bad, there will be a contingent to blame him for any loss. Take the B's loss for example. When you give up 4 goals in any four minute stretch, yes the goalie can play better. Arguably, a $4+ million goalie has to play better. That doesn't take the rest of the team of the hook though. With goals coming that frequent and that late, there's a lack of focus and desire that temporarily escaped the guys for some reason. As usual though, Fleury and the team bounced back a few nights later. Lucky for him too, there would no doubt be calls for him to be benched again if he had the audacity to lose 3 games in a row....regardless of how bad the team plays with him during any given funk.
-F Mark Recchi scored the game winning goal in the first match-up. The former Pen will turn 43 on February 1st.
-Congratulations to D Matt Bartkowski for playing in his 1st and 2nd NHL games against the Penguins. He is Pittsburgh native, having attended Mt. Lebanon High School, and was a 7th Round pick of the Bruins in 2008.
-Benoit Pouliot went from hero to goat by taking 3 minor penalties in this matchup.
-Congrats to David Desharnais for scoring his 1st NHL goal.
-I have not been able to find G Carey Price's reaction (if any) to Fleury's mock pose aimed at the goalie's celebration after the shootout win the prior week. I didn't discuss the first Run DMC-esque pose (Price's) because I had already discussed a celebration by Islanders' Rick DiPietro and that was probably once too many times. When a team wins or a player does something good, they have the right to celebrate in my eyes. I didn't have a problem with Price doing it per se, but I understand why it would be something that the Pens would mock after a win. That's just part of the game. Competitors will always be rubbed wrong by losing. That's a good thing for any sports fan.