In our most recent podcast last Sunday, Artistry and I discussed how many points the Pens should be satisfied with during this brutal stretch. We said that getting 1 out of every 3 points would be considered a success. Since that podcast, the Pens have earned 4 out of 8 points. Last night's loss sucked, but big picture, it's a huge point. Biggest of the season. And yes, every point from here on out is the biggest of the season.
For the third consecutive game, the talent disparity on the ice was ridiculously lopsided against the Pens. But for the third straight game, the Pens played a solid and determined game. We called out TK at the beginning of the month after a terrible effort in New York, but since that time, he has been the Pens' best offensive threat. Scary to think where we would be without him. And scary that I had to write that.
Some other thoughts...
- No prognosis yet on Brooks Orpik, who took a shot off the hand last night, but the silence is deafening. We are supposed to get an update today. If he's out for an extended time, it's obviously another huge blow, but we now need to just root for health at the start of the playoffs. As we said in our fireside chat a few weeks ago, things are going to get worse before they get better.
- The only benefit of the Sharks winning in OT rather than a shootout is that my DVR was going to run out before the end of the shootout. The culprit? Consol Energy Center lights. I'm sure I won't be the first to point out the irony of an arena named after an energy company having issues with lighting, but let us hope that the Consol lighting doesn't become the new Heinz Field turf. Looked horrible on TV.
- Speaking of TV, however, I was watching on Versus and they were just showing the Sharks' feed on Comcast Sports Net. Tremendous announcing job by the Sharks guys - best ones I've heard so far this year. Knowledgeable, fair, and keenly aware of the Pens' unique predicament.
- Niskanen was OK last night, except for a few really bad plays. Sound familiar?
- James Neal was a little inconsistent, but I was impressed with his skating ability. He flew through the neutral zone a few times and got to the corners on the forecheck very quickly.
- The Sharks' first goal came as a direct result of the Orpik injury. The two d-men on the ice for the Pens were Letang and Lovejoy and I can't remember them playing together for even a shift all season. When Letang went back to retrieve the puck, he clearly thought Lovejoy was going to support him behind the net, but when Letang chipped it over, there was no one there but the Sharks. Letang was forced to chase and Lovejoy kind of stood by idly in front of the net. It's hard to blame either guy individually, but this is Exhibit A of the problems with injuries and replacements.
- Overall, however, Letang was phenomenal again. Outside of Sid, he may be the strongest skater in the league. Huge compliments all night from the Sharks' announcers. They were incredibly impressed. The bad part about this is that when you rely on a defenseman to be your best player, you're in serious trouble.