Monday, May 20, 2013

Pens blow Game 3, but we feel terrific about it: Here's why

By Artistry

Nothing is more annoying than Penguins fans who seem to relish complaining about the team more than they like celebrating watching the very best players in the world for most of the past 30 years and annually contending for the Stanley Cup. We know those people. And we don't like listening to them. But we do live radio shows immediately after every playoff game, when the emotion is most raw, and, well, it can sometimes be like sticking a microphone in front of two, more verbal John Tortorellas.

Artistry in a quiet moment with his dogs

Finesse gives a big thumbs up at a recent charity event
Then we get an email like the one from Graig in Columbus, and we're left asking ourselves a horrifying question: "Wait, are we those people?"

From Graig:

I have been looking for a long time for a Pens-specific podcast.  The Pittsburgh radio shows are fine, but I have to wade through a bunch of Steeler stuff to get to the Pens stuff(grew up in Eastern OH in the 80s about 75 mins. from Pittsburgh, am a Cleveland fan in everything else).  Pens 24/7 is fine for information, but the discussions are uninteresting.  I found yours because one of my favorites, Dave Dameshek, tweeted that he was on it, and I LOVED that show.  It was a great discussion of great memories from my childhood and teen years, and I stand behind the assertion that 66>99, always.  66 is my favorite athlete in any sport, and I consider it a privilege and honor to have seen him in person in his prime.  

That said, having loved the first show, I thought....Alright, here's what I'm looking for!  Well, sort of.  I love your names, you guys have interesting discussions, and have real personalities.  Plus, I love that Pittsburgh accent.  However, I can't help but notice there is a lot of negativity in your cast.  I get it.  Expectations are high, as we've basically assembled the NHL's version of the Miami Heat(I am still sorting out how I feel about that one).  However, I must ask the you guys get any enjoyment out of watching our beloved Pens?  I'm not trying to be hostile, sarcastic, or a smart ass.  It seems that even with wins, there is about 75%(at least, sometimes more) talk about what we were terrible at.  I mean, you'll throw in something positive or a compliment while acknowledging your own negativity sometimes, but it is a little bit of a turn-off.  I get it, I understand being critical.  I really do.  Last night we had chances to put them away, and Letang was out to lunch on the tying goal.  However, nothing comes easy, and I'm not sure you understand what a difficult job it is that we're trying to pull off, and that the competition is actually worthy.  Maybe it's just my background as a loser Cleveland fan in everything else that skews my perspective.  I'm happy to have won anything in my lifetime.  I could really live off of the three Cups for my lifetime, mainly because I don't know when or if it will happen again.  I'm actually happy to have a team that is a perennial me, in my pro sports fandom, you don't know when that will ever happen or for how long, so enjoy playing meaningful games in the playoffs.  

First, Graig is right on the money. We love watching and talking about hockey, we generally have good humor about and affection for our hockey team, and we think we can offer some genuine perspective in a universe of bad Pensblog imitations. If we've been getting away from the mission, that's on us.

Ben, after an email from Graig.
Second, let's be very clear: this was a bad loss, not a bad game. In fact, we're more encouraged after that Pens performance than we have been all season long. Get ready for a shot of positivity with a chaser of delight after the jump...
- Regardless of the score at any point in Game 3, the Penguins were great. There were two primary reasons for the loss: Craig Anderson, who stopped 49 of 50 shots, and an 0-for-6 showing on the power play. Nothing to be done about the former, and no reason to worry about the latter. The Pens took Anderson's absolute best game and were one bizarre breakdown away from winning anyway. And the goalie's brilliance merely highlighted what the Pens should do to adjust with the man advantage: move Jarome Iginla off of the goal-line, where he stood on that 5-on-3 PP and where he was deprived of any chance to uncork his canon of a shot from a proper angle. With Andersen stopping virtually every first shot, look for the Pens to get dirtier in Game 4 - let the big guns fire and get traffic in front.

- After a shaky Game 2, Tomas Vokoun was excellent Sunday night. He gives up some juicy rebounds, but that tendency is largely offset by the team's apparent confidence in him, and what by all accounts is his calming influence on the ice. 46 saves on 48 shots will do nicely going forward.

- Evgeni Malkin was by far the best player on the ice. The Penguins are a nearly impossible team to beat in a 7-games series when Malkin and Crosby are taking turns building hall of fame highlight reels. That's what we're starting to see here. His ridiculous overtime display suggests Geno's bum shoulder might limit his shot selection (he took 10 anyway), but it won't restrict his ability to dominate for long stretches. He came an Anderson toe away from scoring the most spectacular and important goal of a consistently dazzling career. It made me think of this Mario OT special in the 1988 all-star game.

Pretty good. Geno's would have been far better.

- The Tyler Kennedy goal is in essence what separates the Pens from almost everyone else. Once you get past the all-star top-six, you need to contend with relentless, playoff-proven guys like Kennedy and Matt Cooke, who can knock your star player on his wallet and fire a puck off the cross bar and in before your star player even has a chance to embellish the hit. (Thanks to Pensblog for the gif.)

- The Pens top 4 defensemen looked like they could be the top 4 defensemen on a Stanley Cup champion. Letang, Martin and Orpik all played more than 35 minutes of smart, efficient, steady, "we're better than you" hockey (with that one exception), and Matt Niskanen looked not the least bit out of place contributing 26:54.

- Craig Adams matched Cooke with a team-leading 6 hits, and looked for the first time this playoff season like his 2009 Navy Seal level warrior-self. Maybe what the team needs as much as anything is for those lower lines to start imposing their will on people. And this was a good start.

- There is no doubt this should be a 3-0 series right now. It didn't work out that way. Oftentimes the playoffs can play ping pong with your soul. Do the Senators suddenly think they can win this thing? Maybe they do. Good for them. That's adorable. But I have a message for them and for speaker of truths Graig in Columbus, and it's this: Pens in 5.



  1. I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to being too negative regarding the Pens. So I really appreciate this post.

    But, why does Morrow get significant 4 on 4 time? Byslma had Neal and Morrow as a tandem during a 4 on 4. Neither can skate.

  2. bylsma has made several bizarre 4-on-4 choices in the playoffs so far. his thought process is a mystery.

  3. I'm with you, anonymous. Morrow doesn't fit the prototype of a guy you would want out there 4 on 4. You want dudes with speed and creativity.