If Tuesday night's game between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh confirmed one thing, it's that these two teams are evenly matched right now, and one play - one classic Evgeni Malkin "I'm taking a thoughtless penalty at the other team's blueline in the third period of a 2-2 game" special - can be decisive. And it was. We saw the many colors of Geno Tuesday, didn't we? The tentative first period. Feeling his way, chasing the play a bit, finding his footing. Then, starting to feel it, burying a ridiculous one-time slapshot high on the short side. Firing another shot through Brian Boucher's pads for the game-tying goal in the third. And finally, the needless hit that resulted in Scott Hartnell's game-winning goal. When Scott Hartnell is your Bud Light Impact Player, it's a bad night.
The Penguins can beat Philly in a seven-game series this spring, but for the first time in a long time, that's not a given. The Flyers are a deep, deep team, and they've adopted the Blackhawks' paradigm of disguising mediocre goaltending with outstanding defense. They aren't trying to fight people all the time anymore. And they have a few forwards - Claude Giroux, Nikolai Zherdev, and Danny Briere - who make you clench your buttocks a little when they have the puck around the net. But my money's still on Pittsburgh, for a number of reasons.
1) The Penguins have the best two players on either team. It's not close.
2) This loss had nothing to do with Marc-Andre Fleury. He continues to frustrate the Flyers regularly no matter how much they carry the play. The first goal and third goals were a bit fluky.
3) The Pens did not come close to getting to their game until the second period. While Joe Beninati was busy pitching this "marquee matchup," this "clash of the titans," the Penguins were icing the puck about 18 times in 10 minutes. It was the worst period Pittsburgh has played in about two months.
4) The Flyers have some guy named Nodl working on their power play and missing an open net completely. Bad fact for them.
5) Jordan Staal is going to take out his pent up frustrations on somebody.
6) Even when the Penguins seem down and out in Philadelphia, there will always be some idiot like Darrell Powe who takes a goalie interference penalty with two minutes left in the game to give the Pens a final chance.
It just didn't work out tonight. A few other observations:
- Beninati and Versus color guy Andy Brickley opened the broadcast by talking about the leadership of Mike Richards and Sidney Crosby. Because lord knows we wouldn't want to explore any new storylines.
- Chris Kunitz was out tonight because he was "banged up." You always want Kunitz in the lineup against Philly, if only so he can decimate Kimmo Timmonen, but on top of that, Hands of Keihl's Moisturizing Cream is so hot right now.
- Brooks Orpik just got undressed on Zherdev's goal, and it didn't look to me like Zherdev even made much of a move.
- Matt Cooke received a roughing penalty early in the second strictly for being Matt Cooke.
|Often Mistaken For Matt Cooke|