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.
- 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.|
|Rangers practice consists of splitting the team into two groups that take turns firing slap shots at each other|
|You have one of the greatest jobs in the world. Is it worth going through life this surly?|
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.