As a sports fan there are times when you want to find an excuse or a reason that something bad happened or, at a minimum, a way to mitigate a loss. After last night's Winter Classic, Pens' fans did everything they could to mitigate the distastefulness of watching some 22-year-old from Gaithersburg in a Milan Jurcina jersey dance in the upper deck of Heinz Field while seeing Semyon Varlomov jump up and down like he was doing P90x - chanted C-U-P-S CUPS CUPS CUPS, made fun of Mike Green (which you really don't need an excuse to do), and congratulated Caps' fans on the biggest win in franchise history. But, if you are being honest with yourself, that didn't stop last night's result from absolutely sucking. Sometimes, you just have to acknowledge it, accept it, and pop in tape of Tampa and get ready to move on.
The truth about the game last night is that the Caps outplayed the Pens. They clogged the neutral zone and never let the Pens catch passes in the neutral zone with speed. To counteract this trap, the Pens decided to attempt 80-foot passes that the recipent caught while standing still with his back to the offensive zone. The Pens' wingers were awful in the defensive zone and the defence, as is a little too commonplace around here, was overly casual with the puck. Essentially, the Caps made this a game where the first mistake would lose and the Pens, led by Marc-Andre Fleury and Paul Martin, obliged.
You can try to blame the ice or the refs, but that wouldn't be fair. Yes, the puck was bouncing like a racquet ball, but it was for the Caps as well. And yes, the Pens had a tying goal waved off for goaltender interference, but every indication is that it was a good call. If you want to get on the refs, get on them for acting like Craig Biggio and getting in the way of the play on seemingy every shift. The bottom line is that the Pens were outplayed, on home ice, on national tv, in front of 70,000 fans, with HBO cameras in the locker room. No matter how many times you reminded Caps' fans that this is one game and that they never win anything important, it sucked.
The event itself was fantastic, even if opening band Hinder reminded Poise of what carbon monoxide poisoning must sound like. It would have been much better to win, but given that it really is just two points in the standings, it was still a night to celebrate. Just remember, if the Pens and Caps meet in the playoffs, no one is going to care anymore about the result of this game. On the negative side, 24-7 is not going to be nearly as fun to watch this week.
After the jump, some additional thoughts...
- No matter how many times he does it, it never gets old to watch Mario Lemieux stride slowly to center ice for a ceremonial puck drop. Mario is more beloved in Pittsburgh that Manny Pacquiao in the Philippines. He could wear a sweater made out of baby panda fur, and even PETA wouldn't be mad.
- You can lay blame on Fleury for the second goal, and you should. But you should also remember that he does that once every 10-12 games. It's simply an occupational hazard for him. In a way, it's like a pimple in high school - you know you're getting one every few weeks, you just hope it isn't at prom.
- HBO should put Bylsma's and Shero's evaluation of the Pens on the show this week. It would be interesting to see how low they will adjust the scale to accommodate the rating of Matt Cooke from last night
- Speaking of terrible performances, what was Paul Martin doing on the Caps' third goal? Did he think, "I'm in great defensive position where I am, so I should probably just drift toward the puck and let Eric Fehr have a breakaway. Ok, I'll do that."
- While Bylsma and Shero are evaluating the performance of Martin, Cooke, and others, they should take a moment to evaluate themselves - why scratch Chris Conner? The third line, aka buzz line, has been the Pens most consistent line in terms of getting to our game, and in a game with pools of water all over the ice, speed and tenacity would rule the day. Instead, we got to watch Aaron Asham do....(trying to remember what Aaron Asham did...)
- On websites and blogs that you shouldn't waste time reading, much will likely be made of David Steckel's cheap shot on Sid behind the play. Someone will waste a lot of energy trying to show that David Steckel is a dirty player, when, in reality, any energy paid to David Steckel is, by definition, a waste of energy.
- As I looked at the tv in Grille 36 after the game and saw a beaming smile on Ted Leonsis's over-sized fake-tanned face being interviewed in the Caps' locker room, I had trouble doing anything but focusing on his over-sized fake-tanned face.
- If the NHL wants to be taken seriously, they need to stop trying to be like the other sports leagues by getting live bands to lip sync during intermission. If they could get a good band, then they should do it. But if you can only get Hinder and Styx, then why not try something out of the box. A national audience would honestly find a Mite hockey game more exciting. At least it is cute. Hinder, on the other hand...
|Can't think of a better choice...to not perform at the next Winter Classic|
- Finally, thanks to all the fans we met last night. We really appreciate the readership and keep spreading the gospel.