The Pens play the Islanders six times every year. Four of those games are always competitive, because for the past 5 years, the Isles have had a relatively young, up and coming team that occasionally shows flashes of being competent and sometimes even threatening. And then there are the other two times the teams play. In these games, at least two out of the following three things happen: 1) Crosby or Malkin get a hat trick; 2) less than 11,000 people attend the game in Long Island; or 3) Rick DiPietro is healthy enough to be the backup goalie. Last night was one of the other two times. The Pens put forward another rock solid performance featuring a harmonic ballet by the Sullivan-Malkin-Neal line; an "I'm playing so well that not even I can blow this shutout by allowing a meaningless late goal" performance by Marc-Andre Fleury; and an on-ice-hockey-lecture from guys like Dupuis, Cooke, Park, and Asham showing the young-and-fun Islanders' kids have a long way to go before they can hang with the big boys.
|This is how men celebrate scoring goals.|
- The big takeaway from last night has to be the steady magnificence of Fleury, who has reached the point where we never worry about him. We don't worry when he lets a shot ricochet off the boards behind him, off his ass, and then in the net. We don't worry when he tries to score an empty-net goal but shoots it off his own guy's ass and the other team almost scores (GTOG Prediction: Fleury will score two goals this season when the other team's goalie is pulled: one on the other team, one on himself). We don't even worry anymore when he goes behind the net to catch a dump-in and tries to pass it through an oncoming forechecker to one of his defensemen. It's at the point where when Fleury plays well, we no longer think that he bailed the team out -- it's now just a part of how the team plays.
- As for the Islanders, they have a lot of players whose names you've heard for years and will continue to hear for years, but you will never know what any of them look like. Consider whether you know what any of the following players looks like: Bailey, Comeau, Grabner, Martin, Moulson, Nielsen, Okposo, or Parenteau. It's a faceless army of fast skaters who run a nice 3-on-2 but may or may not ever win a playoff series.
|Your guess is as good as ours.|
- Paul Martin was very strong in his first game without partner Zbynek Michalek. The Prime Minister played 27:18, which is way too much this early in the season, but he was terrific. There are still a lot of Pens' fans who don't like Martin and Michalek because of their salaries and failure to get a lot of points. But we bet those fans like the Pens' penalty killing ... and guess which two Pens' defensemen average (by far) the most short-handed time-on-ice per game? The PK unit hasn't allowed a goal on the road this season, and it's not just narrowly avoiding damage. It's dominating.
- The Washington Capitals are grabbing the early-season headlines, as they are wont to do, but the evidence shows the Penguins are the most complete team in the league. First in the league in penalty killing. 4th in faceoff winning percentage.* Not looking up the power play stats, but it's passing the eyeball test right now, and we can always just put Malkin's line out there and it'll be fine. Scoring up and down the lineup. Fleury. What are we missing?
|Super Man Games Lost|
* Fascinating stat pointed out last night by Steiggy: the Pens have never finished higher than 16th in faceoff wins. Mario always believed it would be unfair if he had the puck all the time.