Wednesday, March 16, 2011

GTOPG: Pens Do What Good Teams Do; Crush Terrible Team 5-1

By Finesse

The Pens have scored 10 goals in their past two games, roughly equaling to their entire output from February, and have been able to coast through the third periods relatively comfortably.  It's a welcome development, no matter how poor the opponents have been.  And, make no mistake about it, Edmonton and Ottawa are brutal.  Awful.  Their respective goalies made James Reimer, who put up the worst against-Pens goaltending performance of the season in Toronto a few weeks back, look like the love-child of Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, and Martin Brodeur's sister in-law.  So before we pronounce that the Pens are arriving, we obviously have to recognize the level of competition we have seen the past two games.

Nevertheless, the last two games should be hugely encouraging for Pens' fans.  When you purport to be a good team that can do damage in the playoffs -- and that's certainly the Pens' mindset -- you should be able to dominate the worst of the worst teams in the league, especially as the season is winding down.  And that's what the Pens have done, led by the best left-winger in the history of the Eastern Conference.

Looking at everyone who he's better than.
So while you shouldn't pop any champagne bottles, you can be happy.  The Pens are keeping pace.

Some further reflection....

- Of course we exaggerate about Kunitz, but he's been the Pens' best forward since the two big injuries.  In the last 14 games he has played, the Pens are 11-3, all without Sid.  Not a coincidence.

- Creeping up on Kuntiz for the designation as "playing the best at forward of any Penguin since the injuries" is Tyler Kennedy.  His deflection last night was Sid-esque.  He's almost certainly pricing himself out of town this off-season, but good for him.

- When we aren't doing Bachelor podcasts, we actually record Penguins-related podcasts, and one of the things we have often discussed is the quality of defensemen that Ray Shero has stockpiled which afforded him the luxury of having - and then trading - Alex Goligoski.  Has anyone missed him?  Of course he could help on the power play, but let's be honest.  The power play wasn't that good with him.

- When Brooks Orpik returns, either Niskanen, Engelland, or Lovejoy will have to be scratched in the playoffs.  GTOG is going to step out on the limb here - it won't be Lovejoy.  In the 48 games he has played over the past two seasons with the Pens (36 this year, 12 last year), he is a +17.  He is equal to Engelland in most respects, and the one area where Engelland is better than everyone - fighting - is not important in the playoffs.  When the playoffs come around, I hitch my wagon to whatever defenseman is better at getting the puck out of the Pens' zone.  That's all I care about.

- Could Matty Ice be the healthy scratch on D in the playoffs?  Conceivable, although an Engelland-Lovejoy pairing caught against the Stamkos-St. Louis line after an icing call is a scary proposition.

- Inserting our career-high third statistic into this post, Brent Johnson raised his record on the season to 10-5-3, with a phenomenal 2.10 GAA and .921 save percentage.  He has had some shaky outings here and there over the past two months, but if you're taking stock in what Dan Bylsma is saying in the papers this morning about the Pens wanting to catch the Flyers, then you have to remember what BJ was doing at the beginning of the year while Fleury was, um, finding his way.

- Finally, the Pens are off until the commencement of Hate Week on Sunday: vs. Rangers, at Wings, at Flyers, vs. Devils.  If the Pens can hold their own next week -- I'm thinking 4 or 5 points, with 2 coming against the Flyers -- then first place in the Atlantic is within reach.  But first place in the conference?  Unfortunately, it looks like there may be a train pulling in ahead of the Pens...

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