Tuesday, December 14, 2010

GTOPG: Geno? Geno! Oh, Geno. Geno, Geno, Geno; Pens Lose 3-2

By Artistry

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
The Pens start a new streak tomorrow night in New York.  They don't lose on opening night of HBO's 24/7 Pens/Caps series.  Mark it down.


  1. It's an uneasy, unfamiliar feeling, but the Flyers are a very, very good team. I can see them beating Washington in a 7-game series much more easily than I see them being beaten by the Pens. Their main improvement this year from last year was behind the bench, replacing Stevens with Laviolette. The impressive thing in their playoff run last year is not that they got to the SCF (beating the one-and-done Devils and then the 6th and 8th seeds in the East shouldn't knock anyone's socks off), but that Lavi did it with the Philadelphia Effing Flyers. He made them into a tough team mentally, which is like turning water into gold. Does anyone even remember that Simon Gagne used to be on that team? The one player you could not count on to take a stupid penalty to cripple his team. Lavi got the Hartnells and Carters to play right, and for that they are sitting atop of the East.

    Their vulnerability is still the goaltending. As Stoosh said yesterday on tPB, They are relying on a rookie goalie who has never played more than 35 games in a season, 13 more than he has had this season, and we are not half-way through yet. When he starts to struggle, they turn back to Leighton and Boucher, and, well, lightning doesn't strike at the same place twice.

    And I hate Pronger.

  2. Great point, P.Co. Laviolette's impact has been enormous. The Flyers now appear almost professional.

  3. I'll add a few observations:

    -Our 3rd line had some tremendous shifts.

    -Was it me or was Richards invisible offensively? I understand they ask him to focus on defense against Sid. But Sid makes defense a priority every shift and also happens to lead the league in points and +/- among the top 10 points leaders.

    -In a playoff series against the Flyers, I could see Letang as a source of significant offense off the transition and creating some odd-man rushes, which could be a key to 5 on 5 goals against a solid Flyers defense. He seemed to have a lot of space leading the rush off a turnover or rebound from our zone.

    -Speaking of unoriginal story lines, the 1st intermission discussion was about the impact of the HBO cameras on the Caps and the Pens -- if it's a reason for the Caps losing streak. We all know Ovechkin hates cameras (see: hotel lobby during Olympics). The Caps will turn things around and be a tough team. Gotta be some more interesting things to talk about even with Keith Jones' limited IQ.

  4. The Versus intermission report is unwatchable. It's not just that Keith Jones and Brian Engblom are uninteresting (they are), it's that the format is so lame. Keith says his set, pre-prepared piece, then throws it to Engblom to do the same. It's not interesting. As we've written about here, the best studio shows are where entertaining people talk about the games like we do during the intermission. That's why TNT's Inside the NBA with Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley has like 10 Emmys and the VERIZON WIRELESS INTERMISSION REPORT!!! ON VERSUS!! has approximately 10 viewers.