Strangely, the New York Islanders still seem angrier at the Penguins than the Penguins are at them. They may actually need therapy. We wish them the best in sorting out their issues. Meanwhile, we'll take the two points from Friday's overtime win on Sociopath Island and look forward to a fairly ideal scenario heading into the final game of the regular season. If the Flyers manage to take two points from the Islanders tonight, the Penguins are locked in at the No. 4 seed and should rest everybody they can on Sunday, including MAF, Kris Letang, and, assuming his wrist injury wouldn't keep him out anyway, James Neal. If the Flyers don't get the clean win, the Pens can shoot for the No. 2 spot against Atlanta. It's a luxury to know where things stand going in. Other thoughts as we head toward the playoffs:
- Tampa, Montreal, or Buffalo? None of them are terrifying, but why are we starting to feel that the Canadiens may be the team we want to play? Are we getting sucked in again like last year? Is this a horrible mistake by us?
- Whatever team we end up playing in the first round, the Penguins aren't winning any game by more than a goal. They look constitutionally incapable of putting anybody to sleep, no matter how dominant they are to start a game. In past seasons, the Islanders are down at least 3-0 after one period. Sure, playoff games are typically tight anyway, but get ready to hold your breath for two weeks straight. That's all we're saying.
- At the beginning of the season, the Pens' inability to stay out of the penalty box at crucial times in the game was seen as merely a lack of focus on detail during regular season games that all blended together and no one would really remember in a day or two. The Pens knew they would be in the playoffs and it was widely accepted that the team could flip some sort of discipline switch come spring and stay out of the box. Well, it hasn't happened. For at least the third straight game, the Pens took a late penalty, and even though they technically killed the two late ones last night, it led directly to the Isles' tying goal with 35 seconds left. Maybe the refs will swallow the whistle in the playoffs, but if not, and the Pens keep taking stupid holding and hooking penalties late in games, that will be the difference. You can have the #1 penalty kill all you want, but killing off a penalty on the road in the third period of a playoff game is a lot different than going 6-for-6 on the kill at home in November against Ottawa.
|Kills Penalties With His Eyes|
- Is Chris Kunitz the best left-winger in the NHL or just the Eastern Conference?
- The Pens have the opportunity tomorrow to tie the franchise record of 24 road wins in a single season, set by the 1992-93 team. That team had Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis, Kevin Stevens, Joe Mullen, Rick Tocchet, Larry Murphy, and Ulf Samuelsson. This team has Mark Letestu.
- We have no idea why the officials disallowed what looked like the game-tying goal by New York, about a minute before they scored the actual game-tying goal. We still haven't heard an explanation, probably because there isn't one. It's a conspiracy.
- This may have been Alexei Kovalev's best game of the year. He was a consistent threat, setting up Neal all alone in front of the net in the first period, creating offense for himself by juking guys all over the ice, and single-handedly making the Pens look like they at times actually had a man advantage on the power play. In customary Kovy fashion, he's warming up for the real season.
- If Pierre McGuire wants to see real leadership, he should spend some time with Mike Rupp. You won't see a better performance by a fourth-line guy.
After we wrap up in Atlanta tomorrow, we're looking at a mega-playoff preview podcast on Monday night. LGP.