Friday, January 21, 2011

GTOPG: Pens Show They Can Do Anything If They Set Their Minds To It; Lose 2-0 To New Jersey

By Artistry

The Penguins have played some wonderful hockey for considerable stretches of this NHL season, but man, when they set about not showing up for a game, they really commit. Sure, Marc-Andre Fleury was probably due for a rest after starting the past five games, but I'm guessing he wouldn't have passed out from fatigue facing the Devils on Thursday. And seeing as how the Pens' were without both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin against a team that - no matter how poorly they've played all season - shuts down the Penguins on a fairly consistent basis, it probably wasn't the time to sit your all-star netminder. Lest you think this is GTOG MMQBing, I refer you to Thursday's post previewing the game. All signs last night pointed to the Penguins considering this something less than a big game; they failed to appreciate that all two points are created equal, and it may have cost them two points. Because as soon as Brian Rolston powered a first period slapshot past a too-deep-in-his-net Brent Johnson, you knew where this was headed.

So, apparently, did the Penguins' players, who for the most part looked like they started the all-star break a week early. Paul Martin violated the the first rule of clearing the defensive zone by softly reversing the puck behind the net to Zybnek Michalek when Michalek wasn't even close to him. Then he violated the first rule of polite and accountable hockey player media relations by saying after the game that Michalek "called for it, so I made the play." Actually, you didn't make the play. Some scrub for New Jersey made the play by taking your pass, walking out in front, and scoring to put the Devils up 2-0. Michalek, for his part, gave what we will generously describe as less than his best effort to get back into the play. That's $9 million worth of crap in one sequence. Heck, I'm not even mad. That's amazing.

"Our net was open, so I shot the puck into it."
The Penguins were no threat to score on Martin Brodeur at that stage or, really, any stage. Only one guy played like the game meant something, and if you watched the game, I don't need to say his name. If you didn't watch the game, or if you fast-forwarded through large portions of it as any sane person watching on a delay would have, that guy was Max Talbot. He took the puck hard to the net, bowling over Brodeur and taking two goalie interference calls in the process, he fought some guy and lit a bit of a fire under his woefully unprepared teammates, and he had a look on his face that made you think for a second that this was the playoffs and not a regular season game against one of the worst teams in the league. Just a little reminder as to why he's not going anywhere at the trade deadline.

The Penguins have two games before the break against teams they can beat even with Dustin Jeffrey leading the charge on the second power play unit: Carolina and the Islanders. We hope Fleury's feeling well rested.

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