By Finesse, with an Eloquence cameo
The sans-Crosby Pens didn't need to get a clean road victory over a good team desperately. We all just desperately wanted them to beat Montreal. Since Game 6 of the Pens-Habs series last year, the Habs have owned the Pens on the scoresheet, even if the on-ice play has generally been tilted in favor of the Pens (though not always). What makes all that even worse is that the Habs have become a remarkably annoying team with a remarkably annoying group of players. As a rivalry, they aren't on the level of the Flyers or Caps, but in terms of individuals who we really don't like, they are a respectable second. (Don't worry Red Wings -- you're so far ahead at #1 that unless Bird Flu strikes 9 of 12 of your forwards, 4 of 6 of your D, Osgood, Babcock, and every one of your fans, your spot is secure).
The Pens played a solid game and the Habs played like garbage. That hasn't necessarily been a recipe for success for the Pens in Montreal, but last night they did what they needed to do against a team like Montreal -- score powerplay goals. And they did it in a big way, notching 4 with the man-advantage. Don't underestimate the fact that Camalleri was out for Montreal. He's a guaranteed goal-per-game for them against the Pens.
|[Pic found on Pensblog, appropriately labeled there as "laughing prick"]|
As recently as two days ago, I advocated putting Paul Martin on the #1 PP permanently (again). In response, Alex Goligoski played like Bobby Orr on steroids and tallied three points, including an even-strength goal on the best shot by a Pens' player all season. Carey Price waved at it, not just because he sucks, but because it would have hurt him to get in front of it.
It's time for GTOG to modify our advocacy and give a little praise where it is due. We described the Confounding Case of Alex Goligoski back in October, simultaneously praising him for his offensive ability and calling him out for his Michael Phelps-like tendency to be caught swimming in the defensive zone. He still does that way too much, but there is no doubt that his play is on the rise. He's a +20 (the same as Letang) and has 7 goals (the same as Letang). He has 14 less assists than Letang, but keep in mind that he plays on the third defensive pairing, which means he isn't on the ice with Sid nearly as much as Letang is, and he is not consistently on the #1 PP unit. In other words, he's having a hell of a season.
Our issue with GoGo on the #1 PP was never about his talent -- it was about his offense-first mentality combined with Letang's offense-first mentality leading to the potential of a lot of short-handed goals against or, at minimum, a lot of time wasted in our own zone not aggressively retrieving the puck. We still have concerns about that, especially in the playoffs, and especially against opportunistic PK's (a la Philadelphia).
Thus, our modified call to the coaching staff is something they seem to have been doing last night - a situational use of GoGo on the PP. If he's on, put him out there (but tell them to be careful). If he's swimming, go with Paul Martin. It's never a bad thing to have options. After all, just read our post from December 5, where Martin QB'd the PP to three early goals and we dubbed him "the best player on the ice."
Final thoughts before turning it over to Eloquence...Welcome to 2011, Tyler Kennedy...Scott Gomez is horrible...you know you hate a team when you drop 5 f-bombs and wish pain on the opposing goaltender after YOU score...Michalek is great in space, but below-average in puck battles on the boards...thankfully, Alex Ovechkin doesn't go along the boards....Chris Conner continues to impress...awesome win by Pitt at the Verizon Center over a Georgetown fan base that acts like they are still a top-5 program...I understand Pitt hasn't ever won a National Championship, but at least we recognize that...Georgetown, on the other hand, thinks they are UCLA in the 70's.
And now, Eloquence:
*Next time the Pens lose a game 3-2 after going 0-3 on PP in 3rd period, and people like me start complaining the our PP never wins us games, remind me about last night.
*Every now and then Tyler Kennedy wants you to believe he's a 2nd line player. And we want to believe that too. Not at the level of consistency, but great game. He has lots of patience around the net at times. Almost as many as Mercy Hospital. Very nice game.
*Is it time to start asking about Max Talbot again? Great on 24-7...mediocre on the ice. Back to disappearing for long stretches of shifts (and maybe even games). Getting much more from other role
*Fleury continues to look incredibly calm and collected (when not behind the net with the puck).
*I'm not sure it's fair to criticize Malkin much, but I do think he's doing a bit too much stick handling a) through the neutral zone and b) when he's circling-back towards our end to restart the transition. Opposing forwards seem to be reading his tendencies well and forcing turnovers by playing the body and not the puck. Simplify. Get rid of the biscuit.
*Bob Errey can convince himself of anything if it favors the Pens and if he keeps talking about it: "I don't think a player can sit on boards waiting for a line change" "I wonder if there's a rule about that??" "That can't be legal!!" "I don't know the specific rule off hand, but that's not allowed!!!"