Friday, May 10, 2013

Pens Win 4-0; Tyler Kennedy serves as a perfect Booty Call

By GTOG Staff

Check out our Raw Emotion recap podcast.

We originally gave the nickname Booty Call to Steelers' safety Ryan Mundy, but Tyler Kennedy seized the honors for the Pens earlier this season when he was inexplicably slotted to play center in place of an injured Sidney Crosby on the Pens' first line in a 4-1 loss to Buffalo.  You can actually blame his horrendous play in that game for him being scratched in games 1-4 of this series. As we wrote then, the nickname Booty Call is used for a player when "he's never your first choice and you're constantly auditioning other people for the role, but he's always there when you call on him yet it's never as satisfying as you hope. Tyler Kennedy is the Pens' Booty Call. He's useful when you're in a pinch, but if you find yourself inviting him to your parents' house for Thanksgiving, it means something has gone horribly wrong."

Last night, though, TK really hit the spot.

Every time we need confidence we're going to look at Iginla's face in this picture.
What a performance by a guy who has been a strong playoff performer for the Pens throughout his career.  You've probably read this morning that he's sixth all-time in game-winning goals in Pens' playoff history.  This is a remarkable stat, but it's not all that surprising.

Tyler Kennedy is a "100 percenter."  If he's giving anything less than 100%, he's borderline useless.  But when he's at 100%, a level that is impossible for any player to sustain throughout a full season (even a shortened one), he does everything that you want from an energetic fourth line player, and then some.  And that extra is the finish he showed on the breakaway.  Almost any fourth-liner not named Tanner Glass can bring energy to a team and forecheck like he's on an acid trip.  But not a lot of fourth-liners can put a laser beam under the crossbar like that.

More on Vokoun, "Danny" Bylsma, and some observations from the box score after the jump...

- In the wake of Game 4, there was one thing you heard from most media types, even those who agreed it was time for Tomas Vokoun to get the nod in Game 5: "The Pens can't win the Stanley Cup without Marc-Andre Fleury." There is generally no explanation for this statement, other than Phil Bourque uttering platitudes like "He's our guy" or "Fleury has a Stanley Cup." But it's worth digging a little deeper and asking why, exactly, the Penguins can't win a Stanley Cup with Tomas Vokoun shouldering a healthy portion - if not all - of the load in net. Here are some of the goalies who started for Stanley Cup winners over the past 10 years: Anti Niemi, Chris Osgood, Jean Sebastian-Giguere, and Nikolai Khabibulin. See any Hall-of-Famers on that list? This isn't the NFL, where you almost always need an elite quarterback to win a Super Bowl (though don't tell that to Trent Dilfer or Brad Johnson). The Penguins need a guy who will give up 3 goals or less and play well at the right times so that the Pens have time to "get to their game." You know, like last night.

The Settler.
- Dan Bylsma and the coaches deserve credit for every single adjustment they made last night, including the decisions to play Kennedy, Vitale, Vokoun, and Despres, and tweaking the breakout to ensure less turnovers in the neutral zone. But we'll stop short of saying they deserve enormous credit, because most of these changes could have and should have happened before Game 4.

- Here's something Bylsma does deserve enormous credit for: dropping Brenden Morrow to the 4th line, where he was the most effective he's been since Game 1. TK changed everything with his presence alongside Sutter and Cooke. Add another guy who looks like he's all hopped up on Mountain Dew - Joe Vitale - to Morrow and Adams, and we've completed the Bottom 6 makeover and have what looks to be a legitimately fearsome forecheck.

- It's hard to pick a favorite goal last night between the Kennedy and Crosby goals, but don't sleep on Crankshaft's floater. (Taken literally, that's very good advice).  It felt so good to watch another team's goalie score on himself.  The Islanders' were like a high school bully who was laughing at the dorky kid for slipping on ice.  But when they turned to their friends to say, "get a load of this guy," they got run over by a bus.

We don't feel bad.
- Watch Iginla and Crosby in Game 6. The chemistry is there. The explosion is imminent.

- The box score for this game paints a vivid picture. Letang and Martin were both on ice for about 24 minutes, where they should be when they're not carrying 4 other deficient defensemen on their backs. Not one guy in single digits in terms of ice time, which, without checking, we can guarantee you is a first for this series. Cup teams don't have passengers.

Maybe the only column that matters.
There's a lot of work still to be done in this series.  The Coliseum will be smoldering on Saturday night. Gotta weather the storm.  Then grind bitches down.


  1. Great point about the TOI numbers - one I haven't heard anyone else mention in the last 24 hrs. I said back when we were all discussing lines before the series started (the whole labeling the 3 and 4 line debate) that we needed to win with 87 and 71 playing like 18-19 mins, especially early on, to be able to go all the way. (And it's even more important to manage the d-men, as you say.)

    Well - Sid played 19:25 - and Geno was at only 15:09! (As a side note - Geno's number worries me a little though. I know it's already out that he needs surgery on the shoulder when the season is done - but, man, they must be really trying to save him. It must still be really far from right.)

  2. Regarding your comment about the goaltenders who have started for Stanley Cup winners and the legacy that they have left behind, perhaps it is time to add Marc-Andre Fleury to that list. His well earned benching does create a little bit of a quandry for the Penguins. If the Penguins opt to stay with Vokoun in net, regardless of how it plays out going forward, one of two things will emerge, either Fleury will be a high priced, unreliable asset or the Penguins will be Vancouver East, a cornucopia of talent and no reliable goaltending. The only way that story ends well is if Fleury returns to being a #1 goaltender and actually plays like one, if not, even winning a Stanley Cup this season with Vokoun in goal will come with questions as to Fleury's value to the franchise in the future.