No one wants to hear about how the Penguins are missing all their top players, or how tired they are, or how the early season schedule seems specially designed to disadvantage them. We're tired of excuses. But going into Tuesday's game in Minnesota, we were fully prepared to make them: No Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Orpik, Letang, Kennedy, or Jeffrey. No rest between games. A hungry Mike Yeo on the Wild bench. Cal f-ing Clutterbuck. As it turns it out, Minnesota is left wondering this morning why they traded Pascal Dupuis for Adam Hall in 2007.
- Certainly the Pens have an advantage over everyone else in the league at the top of the roster assuming, of course, that Sid and Geno are healthy. But make no mistake about it, the heart and soul of this team is not embodied in any one person, but is best exemplified by three guys: Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, and Matt Cooke, ages 32, 32, and 33, respectively. For super-talents like Sid and Geno, the prime of their careers is usually in the 25-28 year old range. But for guys like these three, who can capably play any role they are asked, their early thirties is their prime. They're physically stronger than the 20-somethings, and their experience is invaluable. Each of these three is at the point where his veteran savvy is at its maximum, but the physical abilities haven't started to diminish. Is a 22 year-old first round pick going to win a puck battle against a 32-year old man with this beard?
- GTOG was primed this week to send out an APB on Kunitz's hands. Also not necessary. Even though his first goal was some time coming, Kunitz continues to make at least one player on every NHL team curl up and weep like Glenn Close in "The Big Chill." On Tuesday, it was Jared Spurgeon.
|So delicate. So tender.|
- Team MVP Jimmy Neal fired yet another puck through a goalie last night, but we defy anyone to argue he's playing much differently than last spring, when he managed 1 goal in like 27 games. He was one of the best players on the ice during that cold stretch, too. He's not a streaky player. He's a streaky scorer.
- If you could have one guy in your lineup tomorrow, would it be Neal or Hossa?
- It looked like Letang replacement Brian Strait suffered some kind of wrist injury and had to leave the game early, putting even more pressure on a suddenly beleaguered defense. But Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek sucked it up and played almost exactly half the game. Also, Deryk Engelland started blocking shots with his face, so that helped.
- By any measure, Martin and Michalek have not been great 5-on-5 this season, but to bash them now would be to blind yourself to the facts on the ice -- these two are anchoring a penalty killing unit that was almost singularly responsible for the Pens having home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs last year, and is one 4-on-3 overtime goal against away from being perfect this season. Yes, we want more from them. But that doesn't mean we aren't also getting a lot as it is.