Sunday, March 18, 2012

GTOPG: When you think of the weekend, try not to think of Scott Hartnell; Pens Lose, 3-2 in OT

By GTOG Staff

There is no sugarcoating an overtime loss in a game the Penguins thoroughly dominated for much of Sunday afternoon, outshooting the Flyers 27-10 through two periods, only to have a manic insane asylum escapee with a pumpkin afro stick a dagger in our 11-game win streak with .9 ticks left on the clock.  That sucked.  No getting around it.  If you take solace in getting 5 of 6 points on a road trip through New York, New Jersey, and Philly, here's what we have to say to you:  we should have had 10 points.  That's how good this Penguins team feels right now.  But...the Penguins pulled within one point of the Rangers with one head-to-head meeting remaining.  Sidney Crosby is on the ascent, looking supersonic on a series of rushes in Philly and increasing his playing time to nearly 18 minutes.  And this loss should ensure that the Penguins keep their edge, knowing that if they don't leapfrog the Rangers and seize the top seed, then a long, aggravating, and physically debilitating series against the Flyers almost surely awaits.

It's official: We want the #1 seed.
- When Geno Malkin spun off of Claude Giroux and slammed the puck past Ilya Bryzgalov to put the Pens up 2-0 in the second, it was the apex of a week that elevated the Penguins above the rest of the field in the NHL.  But when Dan Bylsma sits the team down to watch tape on Tuesday, he should start with everything that happened after that.  Geno and Kunitz taking bad penalties.  Letang engaging with Coburn.  Nobody bothering to even try to move Wayne Simmonds out of Fleury's crease on the first Flyers goal.  Because a lack of discipline and attention to detail is the ONLY thing that will stop a healthy Pittsburgh team from getting at least as far as the conference final.  Running into a hot goalie won't do it.  Marty Brodeur and Ilya Bryzgalov were outstanding this weekend, but it took the Penguins to stop the Penguins from running the table.

More on Crosby, Letang, Kennedy, and the stat of the year, after the jump...

- Other than Malkin, Letang is the most consistently noticeable player on the ice over the course of a game. He makes at least one play every shift that makes you shake your head, either in a good way or a bad way. Two years ago, the ratio of spectacular plays to to bad plays was about 50/50. Now, it's 95% spectacular, though the other 5% often show up in unspectacular fashion (he sent a really bizarre centering pass to Scott Hartnell at one point). We love him because he plays with incredible emotion (we love emotion), but we can't help but feel like he won't truly hit his ceiling until he learns to get his emotions a little bit more under control. We applaud any face-wash given to a Flyer...but Letang is no longer a scrappy young kid trying to fight for a roster spot. He is one of the best 5 defensemen in the league, and possibly the Pens' most important player. He doesn't need to be engaging after every whistle. Make no mistake, we love his fire. But it doesn't need to be a Napalming on every shift.

- We couldn't be more pleased with the Pens' approach to easing Crosby back into action. Neither could Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy.  But sticking Sid with Tyler Kennedy is a little bit like making your 24-year-old nanny put a "Baby on Board" bumper sticker on the back of her Jetta.  It really cramps her style.  Kennedy doesn't belong on Sid's toilet let alone his bumper.  He's a one-dimensional shooter who makes a surprising play twice a year.  We see Crosby with Dupuis and Sullivan on Tuesday.

A jet needs wings
- After they finished swallowing the bile in their mouths after Hartnell's overtime winner, many Pens fans immediately took to Twitter to declare that Philadelphia is a team full of dirty scum bags that would just want to muck up a series with the Pens and turn it into a Royal Rumble. There are at least two problems with this thinking. First, it's simply not true. We find the Flyers as revolting as the next guy, but they aren't the broad street bullies anymore. They can skate and they can score, and if you're stuck in 1975, you risk overlooking maybe the biggest threat to the Pens in the Eastern Conference. And second, let's not act like the Pens employ a bunch of choir boys.

- Paul Martin is Even on the season.  This isn't the stat of the year - stay tuned for that.  We've been predicting Martin will get to "plus" territory since November.

- Craig Adams line on Sunday: 1 g, 1 a, and a +1 in 10 minutes.  Like a grizzly coming out of hibernation for the stretch run.

- We held our breath every time Jaromir Jagr touched the puck on Sunday. What a threat.  Don't think about what it would be like to have him slotted on Jordan Staal's wing right now.  No good can come of it.

- OK, stat of the year. Crosby has 9 fewer assists than Alex Ovechkin this year (15 v. 24). Crosby is on pace to finish the year with 30 assists. Ovechkin is on pace to finish with 28.


  1. Just because the Flyers can skate and score doesn't mean they're not also dirty. Those things are not mutually exclusive.

  2. OK, maybe they have a couple of dirty scumbags.

  3. Last night we needed Dennis Green behind the bench, because the Flyers were who we thought they were, but we kind of forgot they were. The Pens seemed unprepared for this vintage Flyers style of hockey. I have enough faith in the Pens' coaching staff to know we won't see this happening again the next time these two teams meet, so if this is the only way the Flyers can squeeze out a win at home against the Pens then I'm not worried.

    In Woody Allen's movie Everyone Says I Love You there's this kid who all of a sudden becomes a staunch Republican and no one can figure out why. Then later in the movie he faints and is rushed to the hospital and the doctors discover he has had a blood clot in his brain for some time. As soon as they release the blood clot he becomes his old intelligent liberal self again. The same might have happened to Tyler Kennedy. Somewhere in the 2010-11 season something happened and he became a star. Then he hit his head in the beginning of this season and the TK we all know and get frustrated by came back.

  4. It's not that the Flyers don't have dirty players -- they do. But we often look at this from a Pens-centric perspective, and when you step away from that, you realize that it takes two to tango. The Flyers may be worse than the Pens, but we shed the chastity belt a long time ago. It's easy to try to take the highground because the Pens have been at the forefront of the concussion issue, but when it comes to non-head-shot chippy play, the Pens can be as chippy as they come (often in a good way).

    If Claude Giroux yielded his stick like a machete the way Sid does at times, we'd be organizing a million fan march on the Liberty Bell.

    1. Haha. I've often said: if the Pens are losing by 3 or more with less than 5 mins, you could do an over-under on the time on the clock when Sid hauls off and swacks someone.

      But I have every faith that the Flyers approach will work exactly once: our boys aren't dumb, and they've been much more disciplined in general this year.

      And besides, if we play Philly in the playoffs, the Pens will manage at least one of their 5-6 goal games, and Bryz will go off his rocker again. A hot goalie is dangerous, but the Pens break goalies like no team I've seen. It's what they do. And Bryz is as breakable as they come.

  5. Kris Letang is certainly on his way to becoming the Pens' Troy Polamalu this season. He needs a perm, though.