Saturday, February 26, 2011

GTOPG: Um, At Least Kovalev Looked Good On Those Two Power-Plays; Pens Lose 4-1

By Finesse

When your team can't score more than a goal or two in a single game, it really sucks to give up the first three to the other team.  I think the math works out on that - maybe Anonymous, who is GTOG's unofficial math corrector in the comments section, can confirm?  The obvious problem for the Pens right now is the inability to score a lot of goals.  The power play isn't good, there is almost no offensive production from the blueline, and several of the forwards who should be stepping up right now are doing next to nothing.  I don't want to name names but I'll just type "Max Talbot" and "Mike Rupp" and you can draw your own conclusions.

Shut up, Finesse.
Given the unusual circumstances of the Pens injury situation, the only thing to really analyze about this game is the play of the Pens new acquisitions - James Neal, Matt Niskanen, and Alex Kovalev.  Neal is the real deal and one of the only guys on the team who seems like he has the capacity to bury a wrist shot from more than 15 feet away.  It's coming.  Niskanen has been fine - it's not like we would have won the last two games if we had Goligoski instead.  Shero isn't asking him to set the world on fire, so as long as he doesn't take anything off the table, we'll be cool with that.

Alex Kovalev is another story.  We saw pretty much the entire package from him last night - bursts of speed, a sick shot, clever passes, and some really slow, laborious, stickhandling that ended up in turnovers with three Pens' forwards pinned down deep.  We need to get used to that.  He was definitely an improvement on the powerplay, and overall his acquisition is going to be a net positive because 1) the Pens gave up almost nothing to get him (although let's give Mario and Burkle some credit for cutting checks to him the rest of the year); and 2) he is a creative player, something glaringly absent from the current roster.

Excels at taking terrible penalties in the offensive zone.
We get spoiled with Sid and Geno and a lot of their best plays have become routine to us.  Only now, when the Pens trot out power plays of Dustin Jeffrey, Mike Rupp, and Craig Adams, do we truly realize how fortunate the Pens are to have both Sid and Geno - two guys who never do the same move twice and actually have the skill to create something out of nothing.  Part of what has been so frustrating about the past 10-20 games is that we've totally abandoned the expectation going into a game that we might see something special.  At this point, getting to overtime tied at 1-1 is special.

Kovalev has the capacity to change that feeling, even if it doesn't translate into wins and losses right away.  When he was dangling on the blueline with the man advantage last night, part of me was horrified that he was dangerously close to giving up the league's first four-on-zero shorthanded rush; but another part of me was on the edge of my seat, wondering what he would do next.  He's no Sid, and he's no Geno.  But he's also no Tim Wallace.

Pens at Leafs tonight.  If we can get the W, that's 4 out of 10 points this week.  I'll take that.

Go Pens.

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