I'm not one for moral victories or "good losses," especially where you don't even earn a losers point like the Pens got Sunday against the Blackhawks. The Pens lost, the Caps won, and now the lead for that valuable 4th seed is down to three points. We said after the Geno injury that the Pens would probably fall out of the 4-spot. It looks like we may be on our way.
But despite the loss, the Pens played a really strong game. The Pens dominated in the offensive zone, winning almost every puck battle and doing a great job keeping the zone. Of course, if you listened to the Versus announcers slobbering love all over the Caps for their improved team defense, you would have thought the Pens had lost to the '85 Bears. The announcers must have forgotten that the Caps had just given up 39 shots to the likes of Joey Vitale and Ryan Craig. But whatever canned, pre-packaged, easy to digest story line that Versus wants to peddle for two hours is apparently what we have to deal with at this point.
What sucks about this loss is that somewhere in some basement in Fairfax City, VA, a 16-year-old Caps fan in a Mike Green turtleneck is thinking, "Look, we beat the Pens three times in a row. That means something." I say to that kid, "if those wins mean something, that's more than we can say for your existence. Or Keith Jones's."
Sour grapes on our part? Probably. This would have a been an extremely fun game to win, but, alas, it wasn't meant to be. So we face that fact, start googling James Neal, and congratulate the Caps on their third Cup in 2011. Albeit this was basically a Calder Cup, but still.
A few other thoughts...
- Brian Strait was solid as a replacement for Paul Martin, and although it was just one game, this is why we have confidence in Shero's decision to part with Goligoski. We were coming around on GoGo, but we also know that Shero wouldn't have moved him if he didn't have a full pipeline. Apparently, he does.
- If Strait was solid, Kris Letang was spectacular. He played almost 28 minutes and was a positive factor on every shift. He is built for the playoffs because his level of play rises with big minutes. What a player.
- Michal Neuvirth was good for the Caps. A lot of the Caps fans are still skeptical about their goaltending, but I think that is way down their list of needs. Their biggest problem heading into the playoffs isn't on the ice. It's in their heads. They get too high and too low. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Brett Sterling, hands of cashmere. Max Talbot, feet of cinderblocks.
- Finally, no Bachelor tonight for GTOG. The journey will continue later this week. Stay tuned.