Thursday, March 8, 2012

GTOPG: You don't put Mario in a booth; Pens win 3-2

By GTOG Staff

Yesterday was a celebration of all things Mario, and it clearly makes the man uncomfortable.  He was hesitant to have the statue built, and he almost certainly agreed to do all those interviews to hit his quota for the spring so people will leave him alone during the playoffs.  While he was being awkwardly interviewed during the game by Doc Emerick, who ran out of questions immediately upon Mario's arrival, Lemieux allowed Toronto to score two goals.  After Mario went back to his seat, the Pens started their comeback.

In other words, Mario has successfully created the impression that interviewing him is bad luck, but him sitting in his box having wine with Tie Domi is good luck.  If we have to stomach the fact that Mario is best friends with Tie Domi, we can do that, so long as the Pens are winning.

This is Mario's best friend.
A few thoughts on the game after the jump...

- Ah, March. That special time of year in hockey when we separate the men from boys, the wheat from the chaff, and the Penguins from the Maple Leafs. We were prepared to watch the Pens lose this game. They went down 2-0 in the second, they had Brad Thiessen in net, and the Malkin-Neal-Kunitz juggernaut was simply naut juggering. But, as it happens, we have this other center iceman, Jordan Staal. He's like the unholy offspring of a lion and Joel Otto. He has a man on his wing named Pascal Dupuis, who you will instruct your children to call Mr. Dupuis, because he's about to grow a dense playoff beard and he's a man, baby. The Staal line completely took over this game. Combine that fact with Geno taking a couple nights off from being the best player in the world, and we can think of no better illustration of we're right about what this team should do when Sidney Crosby returns.

The kind of man you want to inspect a house for foundation damage before you sign a mortgage.
- March is also the time when we separate the Penguins from Philly. We're 4 points up on the now 5th-seeded Flyers, setting up the inevitable Game 4 in Philadelphia where, health permitting, Crosby makes all of Philadelphia feel really bad about itself.

- The second uncomfortable stretch where Kris Letang is out with a concussion but no one really talks about it continues, and, in keeping with tradition, it makes us uncomfortable, and we don't want to talk about it. We will say though that we've been impressed with Ben Lovejoy and Brian Strait. If you wondered why the Pens left Simon Despres on the farm and recalled Strait, now you know. Strait is solid, mobile, and the right choice to play on the 3rd pairing as Despres continues to spread his wings as a potential top-tier guy.

- Dion Phaneuf has some tendencies of a garbage-time player.  Like a guy who scores 50 goals for a bad team, Phaneuf is the type of defenseman who will make a lot of big meaningless hits after the whistle and away from the play in games his team loses.

Look at me! Look at how tough I am!
- Here's the part where we say nice things about Paul Martin. After suffering through a brutal campaign and enduring enormous criticism, most of it justified but some of it not, let's take a snapshot of where we are. Don't look now, but Martin is creeping close to even in the plus-minus category. And we're betting he turns his current -4 into a plus figure by season's end. He has 22 points, which is pretty much in line with a career where his season high is 33 points. And, please note, the much-maligned Prime Minister, who is on the ice for 20 minutes every night, has a total of 18 penalty minutes. He's had a rotten year, but not as rotten as you think.


  1. Being from Toronto, I noticed in today's paper that Phaneuf was given the games 3rd star. This is unbelievable. He has the worst defensive zone coverage of probably any big name defenseman.
    Paul Martin may have his occasional lapses, but I'd much rather have him than the Leafs captain!

  2. When Letang came back the last time, my cousin txted me, "Wow. I didn't realize what a difference Tanger makes." He just makes the whole team look different, even to those who don't know hockey well. That is why the one jersey I coughed up the money to buy is his (and before he even signed his big contract, I'll have you know). He's grown into a legitimate star, on his way to legitimate superstar, and we don't win the Cup without him.

    That said, the team's defensive play since he left has given me the faith that we could win a round or two without him. The offense, and obviously the power play, has suffered more. I'm inclined to think they could overcome that temporarily (esp if they draw a team with Bryz in net - and with our Flyer-killing captain back in action). In any case, I'm hopeful that they can get by early on and give Tanger a little more time to get back.

  3. March may be also the time when we separate the Penguins from Philly.
    Rs Gold Cheap