Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Flower steals it; Pens beat Rangers, 2-1

By Finesse

If you're in the mood to be negative this morning, the Pens 2-1 shootout win over the New York Rangers last night should give you plenty of ammunition   In no particular order: The Pens were outplayed for the third straight game; lost their best goal scorer to what looks like a concussion; Jarome Iginla looks uncomfortable at best, slow at worst; Brandon Sutter is something less than invisible; and most concerning of all, Evgeni Malkin is playing like crap.

But the Pens still won and it's because Marc-Andre Fleury stole the game.  He remains, as virtually all goalies do, the most important player on the team.  He was sensational last night.  The Rangers may have walked away with a morale victory but the Pens walked away with two points.

And there's no reason to apologize for this.  A lot of teams win games where they play like shit but the goalie steals it.

Many more thoughts on the game after the jump...

- You can add our voices to the chorus in Pittsburgh wondering what's up with Geno Malkin's game right now.  He is noticeably slower.  His decision making is horrid.  And he hasn't shown any natural chemistry with Jarome Iginla -- the chances they've had together so far are attributable to each of them individually being great players rather than a chemistry from a fusion of their skill sets.

Regardless of all the guys the Pens have brought in, what makes the team unique is having two mega-stars.  But if only one of those mega-stars is playing like it (and he's at home drinking protein infused Master Cleanse shakes), then your team can look pretty ordinary.  Malkin needs to be better than ordinary.

(We'll get into this in the offseason when Shero will have some tough decisions to make, but it's worth noting that while Malkin was amazing last year (MVP, 109 pts in 75 games), his combined points per game in the 2009-10, 2010-11, and 2012-13 seasons is 1.03 (141 points in 136 games). Is that a guy worth $10 million per year?  Or is that Jason Spezza?  Food for thought.)

- The Crankshaft Effect transcends numbers.  After Brian Boyle, who looks like the super-pubescent white-trash love-child of Sarah Silverman and Eugene Levy, got called for cross-checking Chris Kunitz in the middle of the third period, he couldn't have acted chestier.  He was itching to get his hands on any Penguin he could find.  But a few minutes later when he got destroyed by Douglas Murray, the look on Boyle's face screamed, "Dear God, get me to the bench."  If it wasn't for Murray "accidentally" bumping into Boyle while the latter was desperately trying to skate away, Boyle would have made a beeline to the locker room for a blanket, glass of milk, and a hug.

- I don't see any case to be made that Del Zotto's elbow to Neal was anything other than accidental.  Sure, he saw Neal coming and braced himself for impact, but the elbow itself was not delivered on purpose, nor was it particularly reckless.  Where else was he supposed to put his elbow?  The bigger issue is whether the weapons-grade elbow pads worn by current players actually make the game safer or more dangerous.


- A Neal injury for any length of time would be a huge blow, but it may, at least while Crosby is out, necessitate a more sensible approach to the lines.  Brandon Sutter does nothing for very long stretches of the game, which makes Brenden Morrow a bad linemate for him.  In our limited exposure to Morrow, he seems most effective at occupying defenders and freeing up space for better players to operate.  Sutter does very little with said space.  For a struggling Geno Malkin, however, a little extra space would got a long way.  If Neal is out Tuesday against Carolina, move Iginla back to the right side and throw Morrow on Geno's left wing.  Or put Kunitz there.  Or who gives a damn, let's just get Sid healthy.

- Steigerwald and Errey were at their worst last night when they were complaining that Brandon Sutter didn't get called for a penalty for playing the puck with his hand on the faceoff he lost that led directly to the Rick Nash goal.  There were five of us watching the game together, and our collective thought on this analysis involved the f-word and the phrase "shut up."

- Juicy J.

You say no to ratchet goals, Juicy J can't.
- The Rangers' trades didn't seem to make a lot of sense at first glance, but upon further review, they might get this team closer to John Tortorella's ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup by going 16-12 in the playoffs while outscoring their opponents 16-12.  He's like a Revolutionary War commander who just wants a bunch of soldiers who will stand and politely load their muskets while the other side shoots a cannon at them from 50 feet away.

Rangers practice consists of splitting the team into two groups that take turns firing slap shots at each other
With all the obvious caveats about him being a good coach, and it's a free country, and blah blah blah, the bottom line is that Tortorella doesn't need to be such a dick.  You're coaching a game, dude.  It's entertainment.  There's no reason to be so confrontational and joyless.  Lighten up.

You have one of the greatest jobs in the world.  Is it worth going through life this surly?
- Finally, let's thank the scheduling Gods after a quick trip down Short-Term Memory Lane.  The final four games of last season were against the Bruins, Rangers, and Flyers (twice).  During those four games, John Tortorella and Peter Laviolette launched full-scale psychological warfare against the Pens, calling them gutless, arrogant, and basically doing anything they could to get inside the Pens' heads.  Even though we suspected at the time that their motivations were less than pure, their tactics worked.  The Pens were all wrapped up in their own heads and embarrassed themselves in the first round.

This year the Pens play only one Atlantic Division team in the final 9 games (New Jersey).  The only truly emotional game will be at Boston, but it will be late enough in the season that both teams should be able to see that there's a bigger prize to be won and will not empty their emotional reserves.  Otherwise, the schedule is very tame.  It's a good time for the Pens to get their heads right going into the playoffs.  In every way.

1 comment:

  1. The offense without Tanger and Martin is just stagnant. Of course they look bad with all these injuries. Everyone is being asked to fill roles that they shouldn't be.

    This stretch says nothing about the Pens playoff chances - other than making me wonder how any of our injured guys could possibly look like themselves when they get back - if they get back. The hockey gods clearly hate this team, and it sucks. I'm beginning to doubt they'll even make it out of the first round. You think we'd be owed a bit of luck after the last couple of seasons - but alas. Oh, well.

    I can't even guess what's up with Geno - other than to assume he's dealing with something chronic. He always looks terrible if he's not fully healthy. The couple of things I'm not concerned about:

    1) Iggy's chemistry with Geno. It's been 4 games - and like 2 practices. Good lord. I despise the compulsion to constantly change lines. It helps nothing - nor do those 4 games say anything about how they'll ultimately work together. Iggy's had some good looks and still has a hell of a shot. Geno can work with that if he gets his own act together.

    2) Morrow. He's obviously still getting his feet under him too. But I just can't see why everyone's so adamant about putting him with Geno. He learns the systems he can be a good 3rd line banger. We need that on that line - especially if Jokinen (perhaps) moves to wing on that line (which I might like to see, depending on how things progress). Morrow looked okay with Geno - but Iggy has looked better in my opinion. And who cares if Morrow puts up numbers. We don't (healthy) need him for that.

    But it's probably a mute point now anyway. Neal could be out for months. In fact, we should probably just assume it. So put him on a line with Geno and Iggy and see how it goes. That will likely be what we have to go into the playoffs with. And when Sid gets back - let Morrow fight for that spot with Jokinen.

    This team won't find chemistry before the playoffs with these injuries - so it'll just have to rely on Flower and team defense for the foreseeable future.

    And as much as the hockey gods have killed most of my hope for the season - I'm just going to console myself with thoughts of the Canadian Olympic team in Vancouver - which had as little "chemistry" as any team I can thing of. If only the talent can get back in the line-up.