As a Pens fan, the month since Super Bowl Sunday has been a rough one. Shutout twice by the Caps. The felonious assault in Long Island. Heartbreaking overtime losses to Chicago, San Jose, Toronto, and New Jersey. The Mendenhall fumble. Another Matt Cooke suspension. Scott Burnside's heretical attack on Mario Lemieux. The only two-goal lead that the Pens have had since their 3-0 win against the Islanders on February 2nd was for 37 seconds in a game against the Rangers that the Pens ended up losing by two goals. As has been reported multiple times in the past few days, the Pens haven't won a game in regulation since February 4th.
Oh, and Malkin's out for the year, Kunitz has an apparently undiagnosable and incurable "lower-body injury," and the best player in the league is out with concussion symptoms and is showing no sign of getting any closer to returning.
|Even though it happened the day before, still Mendenhall's fault.|
When the playoffs come around, you don't get extra credit for winning in regulation. You don't play 4-on-4 in overtime. The fact that you can't draw a penalty because you have no one worthy of taking a penalty against doesn't hurt as much since the refs often put the whistles away in the playoffs. Not being able to get a 2-goal lead won't be a problem because, as currently constituted, no one is expecting you to get a two-goal lead anyway.
The injuries have forced the Pens to slightly alter their identity, from "talented team that is tough to play against" to "relatively untalented team that is really tough to play against." Forechecking, hitting, and grinding bitches down is the only thing the Pens can do right now. And they're doing it well. The national conversation is slowly shifting toward the "Crosby or not, you don't want to see the Pens in the first round" storyline. GTOG saw this coming a month ago.
A few thoughts on the game last night:
- Dustin Jeffrey doesn't appear to have one specific skill that stands out over all the others, except for his skill at Winning. Even though he has been spectacularly productive during his time in the Pens' lineup this season -- 7 goals in 18 games, a 32-goal pace over 82 games -- he flies under the radar. Not anymore. He baited Dennis Seidenberg into a turnover and then toasted him on his way to burying the game-winner.
- James Neal still can't score, but he had a lease with an option to buy inside Zdeno Chara's head last night. Chara is a fantastic player, but his Shrivel with a capital S last night immediately and permanently removed him from the "you want no part of Chara in a 7-game series discussion."
- Someone should be doing a documentary on Paul Martin right now, title it "Excellence in Action" and sell it in gold-plated Blu-Ray cases for $799. I'd consider buying one. Kris Letang is still "in the Norris discussion" as the pundits like to say (they could just say "will finish third" instead), but Paul Martin has evolved into the true iron man of the Pens D-corps. What a player. What a signing.
- Pascal Dupuis and Chris Conner were all over the ice last night. Neither one seems to possess the ability to actually score more than once every 8-9 games, but they'd be 1 and 1A in my "steal the puck at the other team's blueline" fantasy draft. Eloquence laments that Conner isn't 5 years younger. I lament that he isn't 5 inches taller.
Only one game for the Pens this week. Let's sit back and hang on to the #4 seed for dear life.