Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Recap: Games 58-61

Games: @ NYR (L 5-3),  @ COL (W 3-2 OT), @ CHI (L 3-2 SO), vs. WAS (L 1-0)

Notable Highlights:

-3 of 8 possible points. Each point takes on a greater importance with the injury situation. Depending on how thing's shake out at the trade deadline, we could be hanging on for dear life the rest of the way. Being able to keep a sniff of the home ice advantage, and hopefully securing it, is a nice goal to shoot for.

-As I've been saying since the inception of the blog, the Penguins figure to move one of their defenseman this season in attempt to land a top 6 winger. D Alex Goligoski was traded February 21st to the Dallas Stars. In return, the Penguins get LW James Neal (pictured above) and D Matt Niskanen. Neal provides a scoring touch, netting 21 goals this season. Niskanen is a former 1st round pick of the Stars. He hasn't had a very strong season, but he will likely be in the mix for the #6 D spot on the team if he is not moved again prior to the trade deadline. Both guys have 1 year on their contracts past this season. Welcome to Pittsburgh, guys. Also, I would like to thank Gogo for his time here and his contributions to the team. Best of luck in Dallas!

-LW Brett Sterling has 3 goals in his time up this season, including 2 in this stretch. He may be earning himself a shot in the NHL for a longer look. If not here, somewhere. He had a 5 game scoring streak snapped against Washington.

-Even Tyler Kennedy has been playing what many consider to be his best hockey ever. He's making the most of the ample oppurtunity for ice time. He's also seeing time on the Power Play, scoring the game winner in OT in Denver. In Chicago, there was a chance for a second consectutive gamer winner on the PP in OT, but it just sailed past the net. This stretch for Kennedy may be saving him in the eyes of management for the future. Surely they are keeping a close watch on who has stepped up in the absence of so many of the team's top forwards.

-C Jordan Staal played a very strong game against the Avs. His 6th goal of the season answered an Avs score right away. Staal typically just plays his game and doesn't let the circumstances or surroundings affect him. In the Chicago game, he put on his power forward hat and drove the net, causing space for a Brett Sterling goal. That is why Jordo succeeds. He keeps it simple and within his means.

-Make sure you are sitting down as you read this next sentence. I commend the Power Play of their performance in the Colorado game. Yes, you read that correctly. I've spent a lot of time earlier in the season discussing how timely goals are just as, if not more important than, a high conversion percentage. The extra point was on the line in OT and the PP Unit converted.

-The Penguins forwards controlled the tempo and pace for most of the Capitals game. Unfortunately there just wasn't enough punch to get a lead at any point.

Ghastly Lowlights:

-C Jordan Staal did not return to the bench after being struck by a Kris Letang slap shot. It appear to catch him in the neck area, so both his collarbone or jaw could be concerns. Hopefully he is alright.

-The Ranger game was pretty ugly for the team performance wise. In fact, this whole trip to New York City didn't go so well. There was the joke of a game on Long Island, of course. When the team went to practice outdoors at Central Park, the bus was in a traffic accident. Then there was the performance in this game. A forgettable trip to the Big Apple, to say the least.

-If something goes wrong in the defensive end, I'm not always able to fully identify who is at fault. One thing is for certain, lately there have been many lapses in judgment in the Pens D zone. There's been a lot patting the organization patting itself on the back because they force the minor league team to play the same system/strategy as the NHL club. Again, I can't be 100% of the cause, but there seem to be examples of any reason you can think of from the Rangers game.

Pascal Dupuis was forced to take a faceoff to the left of Marc-Andre Fleury. The Rangers won the draw back to the line, and each forward went out. This left Vinny Prospal open at the side of the net, where he cashed in on his 2nd of the year. It's very possible that guys are having trouble knowing where to be with so many different guys around.

There also may be the possibility that the Penguins just can't keep up currently. Theer are so many AHL players in the lineup that it seems likely that at certain times, we are just going to get outgunned.

Wearing the guys so think also seemed to affect the PK in the Rangers game. D Paul Martin failed to move a guy out from in front of the next...next thing you know Ryan Callahan has his 14th of the season.

On Artem Anisimov's 12the goal of the season, he was allowed to float right on down the slot as if he he were one of the cabs taking players to practice.

The Avs 2nd goal was a disgrace from a defensive standpoint. If you watch the ice level replay, D Cameron Gaunce

Even when the team has been in games such as the Avs and Hawks games, there have been many instances of wide open play

-C Maxime Talbot maybe be seeing his final games in a Penguins uniform. It seems absolutely certain he will not be re-signed. You typically don't look for Talbo to be a big numbers guy, but you'd like for him to step up and chip some in with the situation currently. AHLers are scoring more consistently than Max. That is a  problem since Talbot has shown flashes of offensive ability.

-Hall of Fame Co-Owner Mario Lemieux relased a statement regarding the Islanders game. It can be viewed here. While I do not want to spend much time going over this in detail, there are two items I would like to cite as lowlights.

First, I don't think I've criticized Mr. Lemieux more than twice in my entire life, so this is foreign territory to me. I'll just disclose that I've always considered him my favorite player, and something more than that. In my youth, he was able to do something that my other sports heroes were not...win. The Steelers and Pirates of the time (and for many, many years to come) did not and could not win when it counted most. When the Pens lifted the Cup that first time, it was the best feeling in the world for me. I certainly could not consider myself a popular kid, but in the Penguins and avid fandom of hockey I had an identity. Them winning, meant that by extension, I could soak in some of that glow. So having said that, please know that aside from treason, I don't think I have it in me to be highly critical of Lemieux.

At any rate, I cannot take issue with anything that Lemieux said. He is, at worst, the 3rd best player ever to play the sport. He he taken training a bit more seriously and not be sidelined with such grave injuries, perhaps the NHL record books would take on a different shape today. Even without that though, Lemieux is allowed to speak out on whatever he likes or dislikes about the sport. He is even allowed to threaten to take his ball and go home, as some has suggested he did with this statement. I believe that his main flaw is in his lack of action. Lemieux, by most accounts, has maintained a lassiez faire attitude towards his involvement in attending and influencing NHL rules and policy. This is a grave mistake. Lemieux can be extremely influential here. Just because you are "hands on" doesn't mean you are automatically a jackass like Mark Cuban. I would strongly urge Lemieux to reconsider his role in policy development. Not because he owes it to me, or any of you reading this, but because he owes it to the sport he loves.

Secondly, I would take great umbrage with those in the media that have made this about the Penguins team having the most fighting majors and employing Matt Cooke. I would especially like to chastize the Canadian medie for their reaction to this. For you guys and gals to lose sight of the cheap ugliness that went on during the Islanders game as the main issue of contention is disappointing. Americans are supposed to not "get it" when it comes to hockey. What is your excuse? You know damn well this isn't about fighting. Do you really want to watch a sideshow at the NHL level? Really? I find both the notion and the media response to this both quite hard to believe and stomach.

Forward Recaps:

-Matt Cooke returned from his 4 game suspension against the Blackhawks and chipped in a goal. He played a decent game with 20:22 TOI and manged to keep himself out of trouble. Many will be watching Cooke's conduct very closely the rest of the way, including the league and referees. Make no mistake though, Cooke can play the game without resorting to cheap shots. A great example is him drawing a penalty on RW Marian Hossa in the closing 35 seconds of the 3rd period. Hossa got the call because he used his stick to the body as a means of battling for a puck. Cooke kept his skates moving even as he slipped to the ice. Good hard work there by Cookie. Here's to hoping that he keeps his nose clean from here on out.

-Congrats to St. Louis, MO born Joe Vitale for scoring his 1st NHL goal against the Avalanche.

-LW Pascal Dupuis has also gone missing. He has 10 goals on the seasons, which actually seems about right for him relative to his talent level and lack of hands. Unfortunately for the team, they have had to rely on Dupuis as a top line player. Even when guys are healthy, this is sketchy. Dupuis is best suited for a 3rd line type role. In case you think I'm just beating up on the guy, I really do like what he brings to the team. It just ends up being miscast due to the lack of depth of skill guys at forward.

Defenseman Recaps:

-Brooks Orpik defened a 3-on-1 against the Rangers about as well as could ever be expected. He kept the puck and the pressure to the outside, which allowed for an easy save.

-Kris Letang had a missed pinch at the Offensive end during the Ranger game. A 2-on-1 came back the other way, and Pascal Dupuis was forced to take a penalty. I'm not sure if the team is looking to have the Dmen be so agressive currently, though it may be the only hope of generating a capable offense with the injured players out of the lineup.

-Ben Lovejoy was in the lineup against the Capitals. He did well defensively but looked a little out of rhythm on offense. Perhaps a result of sitting for so many games.

-Brian Strait was called up from Wilkes Barre-Scranton for the Capitals game. This was his 1st NHL game. He blocked 1 shot and registered 13:02 TOI. He was paired with Ben Lovejoy most of the evening.

Goalie Recaps:

-Mark-Andre Fleury was off against the Rangers. Another case of who to blame to be certain, but with all the injuries, Fleury has to be counted on to keep teams to 2 or less goals if there's going to be a realistic chance to win or take it to OT. Conversely, he played very well in the Avs, Hawks, and Caps games. The team let up a lot of open chances in the Avs and Hawks games. Fleury stood tall and had a large part in the 3 points gained in these games.


-New York Rangers

-G Henrik Lundqvist overcame a poor start to stop 26 out of 29 saves in the win.

-RW Marian Gaborik had only scored in 9 games for the Rangers this season (as of this game).


-D Cameron Gaunce scored his 1st NHL goal. Congrats to him.

-RW Chris Stewart scored his 12th of year. After this game, he and young D Kevin Shattenkirk were traded to St. Louis. I'm a bit baffled by the move to be honest. To me, these are guys the Avs could build around. Obviously, their GM disagrees...and also gets paid a much better salary to disagree with me.

-C Peter Forsberg ended his 2 game comeback attempt, citing that the health of his foot would not let him play at the level he would want/expect for himself.

Forsberg leaves the game having scored 249 goals and 885 points in 708 regular season NHL games. He also played in 151 NHL playoff games , lifting the Cup with Avs twice (after the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons).

"Foppa" is also one of the most decorated International players as well. He played in over 200 games for the famed MoDo squad of the Swedish Elite League. In addition to multiple World Championship tournaments and a World Cup of Hockey appearance, Peter played in 4 Winter Olympics: 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010. Sweden won Olympic Gold in 1994 and 2006. The 1994 Games produced one of the most memorable moments for Forsberg, as his shootout goal against G Corey Hirsch helped win it and also became a stamp in his homeland.

On his legacy, he is quoted as saying "I hope people remember me, that when I went out on the rink, I gave everything." I know I sure will Peter. Congratulations on an excellent career in hockey. Best of luck in whatever avenues you pursue worldwide.


-Rookie G Corey Crawford stopped 24 of 26 shots and stopped all players he faced in the shootout. With the Blackhawks struggles this season, it seems that Crawford is being given a chance to play his win in to a prominant role for the future.

-C Patrick Sharp scored his 31st goal of the season.

-Former Penguin RW Marian Hossa's season has been plagued by injury and lack of production. He has 12 goals in 42 games.


-Captain Alexander Ovechkin scored his 24th goal of the season on the Power Play. It was his 8th game winning goal of the season.

-G Michal Neuvirth stopped all 39 shots he faced to earn his second consecutive shutout against the Penguins.

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