Thursday, April 21, 2011

GTOPG: When Mario Skated With Zemlak; Pens Win 3-2

By GTOG Staff

In April 1962, more than a year before the Rebecca Black-led conspiracy to assassinate him, President John F. Kennedy invited every living American Nobel Prize winner to the White House for a dinner in their honor.  At the event, he delivered one of his most famous quotes:
"I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
What a speaker.  But it turns out that upon closer inspection, he might as well have been talking about the Pens' 4th line.  Craig Adams, Mike Rupp, and Arron Asham are the most extraordinary collection of heart, of skill, and of grit that has ever been assembled together on the Pens' fourth line, with the possible exception of some game in 1989 when Mario triple-shifted himself and skated with Richard Zemlak for 30 seconds.

James Neal may have gotten the game-winner and TK may have gotten the PP marker, but make no mistake about it -- the Pens are up 3 games to 1 in this series because when given the opportunity to roll 4 lines, the Adams-Rupp-Asham combination is hoisting a Penguins' flag in the offensive zone, tormenting the Lightning D, and generally just grinding bitches down.  It doesn't matter who they are on the ice against -- they are #Winning.

Craig Adams' Mom with the Umbrella
Think back to the offseason when Ray Shero signed Arron Asham and you wondered - you know you did - why we needed another guy who plays on the third line and scores 8 goals a year.  This is why.  The playoffs are what counts, and the Penguins collect champions.  You can never have enough of them. 

- All the talk today is about how James Neal is fighting through a significant injury - possibly to the wrist he jammed into the boards a couple of weeks ago.  Put that out of your mind, because lots of people are playing with broken bodies out there.  The important thing is where Neal's mind is right now:  it's in a good place. 

- It was a bizarre start Wednesday night.  The Lightning had no jump, the crowd was dead, and it was like 98 degrees outside.  The Pens finally got a power play goal from Kennedy in the first, Asham buried his third goal of the series, and we had an opportunity to put Tampa in a sleeper hold, which, if you know this team, you knew wasn't going to happen.  We thought hockey players were supposed to be superstitious, but there was Bob Errey in the third, making comments like, "The Tampa Bay Lightning look like they're saying goodbye to their season."  Errey deserves at least 75% of the blame for this game going to overtime.

- The pace slowed as the game went on.  There was a whistle every 30 seconds.  It was like an NBA game.  That allowed Guy Boucher to get the matchups he wanted, and Vinnie Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis exploited Matt Niskanen and Ben Lovejoy on the St. Louis goal.  We don't think Lovejoy and Niskanen are playing badly - on the contrary, they've had a number of noticeably solid shifts - but look at the even strength goals Tampa has scored in this series.  Hasn't the Pens third pairing been on the ice for most of them?  Let us answer that.  Yes.

- The Big 4 of Orpik, Letang, Michalek, and Martin was nothing short of sensational.  They all played more than 30 minutes last night - Orpik logged 40:32 replete with crushing body checks - and gave the Lightning nothing.  Letang was the best player on the ice. 

- The penalty killers were back in regular season form. Craig Adams may have thrown himself on a live grenade in the third period.

- Overall, it was a decent showing for Eric Tangradi.  He set a terrific screen on the Kennedy goal and made at least a couple of deft passes.  Seems a little shaky at times with the puck on his stick though, and need to ratchet up the intensity along the boards.  He's not Wally Pipping Chris Kunitz, who watched the game last night while bathing his hands in white light.

- Aside from Staal's game-winning assist, the top 2 centers are not giving the Penguins what they are going to need going forward.  Tampa Bay is not a contender, even if the league and NHL beat writers try to convince you that Steve Yzerman has already built a dynasty by signing Mike Lundin.  Regardless of whether the Pens manage to close this series out on Saturday - far from a given - there is no reason to get too excited unless Sid comes back Staal and Letestu can start to put some pressure on opposing defenses.

Time to sit back, relax, look forward to Saturday, and watch the Capitals get way too excited about going up 3-1 on a No. 8 seed in the first round.  GTOG.


  1. Actually Matt Niskanen derserves 100% of the blame on both Tampa Bay Goals.

    If you go watch the highlights, Niskanen let St. Louis skate around him as if were a cone and not a defender on the first goal. Then he lost track of St. Louis before getting pushed to the ice from behind by him on the second.

    "Matty is making our boy Lovejoy look bad", and that's just not fair to a guy who is willing to take a cheap shot from Downie to make a play up the boards.

  2. David,

    Welcome home.

    Lovejoy has been better than Niskanen, but I think you're a little too harsh on Niskanen for the St. Louis goal. St. Louis is a top-10 player in the league -- he burns a lot of people, and I seem to recall him toasting Paul Martin and Letang at least once each in the regular season. It happens when you play against great players. When Sid torches people, we don't blame the other team's D...we compliment Sid. That was just a sick goal by St. Louis. But the second one was definitely worse.

    Through 4 games, Nisky is a -1. It's not good, but it could be worse. If he is a -1 over the next 4 games total, I think we will be in OK shape.

  3. You're right I am being hard on Niskanen, but I'm fairly confident Martin or Letang would have at least tried to put a hip check inRO St. Louis to simply slow him down if they couldn't stop him. Niskanen didn't even do that.

    Oh and there are two reasons why Matt Niskanen is only a -1. The first is that other than game 2 MAF has been incredible. The second is that Our top four defencemen are playing more than usual. Therefore the ice time the third D pairing would usually see has gone down. Otherwise Nikanen's +/- would be worse and we wouldn't be up 3 games to 1 in the series.

    Oh, although I realize some of the GTOG team aren't huge fans of Bob Errey. His comment's just before the James Neal game winner have been incorporated into a brand new "history will be made" commercial that is available on the pen's website. Personally I got chills from it. But that may be because....... IT'S AN AWESOME COMMERCIAL!

  4. And that was supposed to read "into" inRO just sounds like I'm speaking like scooby doo.