Hockey games are often dictated by dramatic shifts in momentum; one team may apply significant pressure for a stretch, then suddenly the other side gets a spark and starts coming in waves. And back and forth it goes. But sometimes, and this is rare in hockey, there is a single moment that you can point to and say, the game was won or lost in that one instant. Last night in Pittsburgh, we had a moment like that. It was at the opening faceoff. When Mike Rupp and Tim Wallace lined up at center ice for the Penguins. Not that those two players don't have their attributes - we like them fine in a reduced role - but their prominent place in the lineup on Tuesday highlighted a dire situation for Pittsburgh. Chris Kunitz was a late scratch with a lower body injury, meaning the forwards the Pens put out against Columbus had a combined 57 goals this season in 54 games. The good news is, not a whole lot of math is required to figure out how many goals per game this particular group of players is good for. The bad news is, the answer is about 1 goal per game. Still, we're staying positive this morning. No choice.
- Despite being vastly outmanned, the Penguins brought considerable pressure to bear on Steve Mason, and, credit where it's due, Mason was terrific. The Pens understood exactly what they needed to do, and they got off 33 fairly high quality shots. Pretty incredible, when you think about it, considering what we were working with up front.
- Tyler Kennedy played his best game of the season, hands down. Pulled off of Jordan Staal's wing to try to balance out the lines, Kennedy had the puck glued to his stick seemingly every shift. I counted at least three instances where he cleared the defensive zone, weaved through center ice, and gained the offensive zone single-handedly. And that was before he scored on a wicked wrist shot from the Kennedy Spot inside the left faceoff circle. Finesse was not impressed by the trade package I proposed during our Monday podcast, but I'm telling you, teams are going to view TK as an afforable asset they can acquire at the deadline. He has completely turned things around for himself over the last few games.
|Could be Yours at the Deadline|
- Tremendous effort last night by the Pens defensemen, particularly former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. They were in an impossible situation, especially after Rick Nash scored the first goal off of a ridiculous, completely unstoppable one-time slapshot. Good defense and asking your d-men to not only jump into the play, but also consistently lead the offensive play, are pretty much incompatible.
- Eric Tangradi is showing some good instincts offensively. Eric Godard is not.
- No matter how bad things get, and they may get worse before the reinforcements arrive, somebody please tell Marc-Andre Fleury not to revert back to the old desperation poke check.
We've got the Kings on Thursday, and I don't care if Milan Kraft is starting. GTOG is watching.