Jump to November 2013
Some people ask, "why waste time in July predicting all 82 games of the upcoming Penguins season?" To which we respond, "why wouldn't we?" Without further ado, we bring you the first of several installments breaking down every game on the Pens' schedule.
Game 1: THU OCT 3, 2013 DEVILS @ PENGUINS
This will be remembered as "The Dan Potash Game" because for the first time in over 20 years, the Pens/Pirates in-between-periods-guy has a legitimate dilemma on his hands, as Pens opening night coincides with Game 2 of the Pirates-Dodgers NLDS. Another return-to-Pittsburgh game for Jaromir Jagr registers about 50% of the buzz of a usual home-opener for the Pens with all eyes on the Buccos in L.A. Brandon Sutter tallies a goal and an assist -- the first game in which he's registered both a goal and an assist as a Penguin -- in a 4-2 win (the goal is an empty netter). This buys Sutter 10 more games before anyone in the Pittsburgh media realizes, "hey, it's been 10 games since Brandon Sutter scored." Pens win, 4-2.
Record: 1-0; 2 PTS
The rest of October after the jump...
Game 2: SAT OCT 5, 2013 SABRES @ PENGUINS
The Pirates staved off elimination in Game 3 against the Dodgers with a 10th inning walk-off homer from Garrett Jones in the late afternoon. Eighteen thousand lubed-up fans make the trip to Consol, where Fleury makes 33 saves but is outplayed by Ryan Miller, who makes 42 saves in his audition for Team USA and probably another NHL team at the trade deadline. Pens lose, 2-1.
Record: 1-1; 2 PTS
|The good ol' days.|
Coming off a strong start, Fleury plays his third game in a row. Crosby scores his first goal of the season, adds an assist on a James Neal power-play goal, then goes 5-hole on Cam Ward for the shootout winner. Evgeni Malkin hasn't scored yet and Ron Cook is starting to wonder whether Geno's contract extension was a mistake: "This is going to sound crazy. Is it just me, or would the Pens be better off if Malkin and his $9.5 million cap hit retired and went back to Russia? I warned you. Crazy, right?" Pens win, 3-2 in a shootout.
Record: 2-1; 4 PTS
(Also, the Pirates were eliminated).
Game 4: FRI OCT 11, 2013 PENGUINS @ PANTHERS
Vokoun gets his first start of the year because he played for the Panthers three years ago so obviously he knows all their tendencies. He looks relatively awful, the Pens give up three power-play goals, and Kris Letang is on the ice for a total of four goals against. Is the Letang contract extension also a mistake? Pens lose, 5-2.
Record: 2-2; 4 PTS
Game 5: SAT OCT 12, 2013 PENGUINS @ LIGHTNING
Was the Dan Bylsma extension also a mistake? Is the Team USA job taking some of his focus away from the Pens? Will Steven Stamkos score 50 goals in 50 games? (He notches a hat trick, giving him 7 goals in Tampa's first 5 games). None of the goals against are Fleury's fault; we point out on a semi-panicked post-game podcast that he still gave up 5 goals. Pens lose, 5-1.
Record: 2-3; 4 PTS
Game 6: TUE OCT 15, 2013 OILERS @ PENGUINS
Artistry turns in an all-time great parenting effort on October 13th and 14th because he hasn't been this excited for a regular season Pens game in years and it requires his full attention. The question is not whether he scores a ticket to the game (of course he does), but which Oiler he falls most in love with. His mind tells him Taylor Hall is their best player, but his heart is torn between Jordan Eberle and an emerging Nail Yakupov. Vegas refuses to take bets on whether he says after the game, "I'll tell you what, I think that David Perron trade was really smart."
Unfortunately for Edmonton, Evgeni Malkin takes advantage of their weak defense and goaltending to score his first two goals of the season. He turns down an easy empty net hat trick to feed it to Craig Adams for the icing on the cake. Pens win, 5-3.
Record: 3-3; 6 PTS
Game 7: THU OCT 17, 2013 PENGUINS @ FLYERS
Sidney Crosby scores on the first shift of the game; the Flyers respond with three goals in the last five minutes of the first period, leading to a fanbase-wide Twitter meltdown between periods. Bylsma's decision to stick with Flower pays off, as he makes several huge stops to keep the Pens in the hunt long enough for Kris Letang and Jussi Jokinen to tie it up in the third. Matt Read scores on a slapshot from the top of the circle with 18 seconds left in overtime. Pens lose, 4-3 in OT.
Record: 3-3-1; 7 PTS
Game 8: SAT OCT 19, 2013 CANUCKS @ PENGUINS
It's early enough in the Canucks' season that their best players don't yet have broken feet from playing under John Tortorella's "Left-Wing-bLOCKshot" system. The Sedins make their first visit to Pittsburgh since 2008. Unfortunately they aren't better than Crosby and Malkin, who each pick up 3 points as the Pens go 3-for-4 on the power-play, led by two tallies from Kris Letang. There's a reason these guys make so much money. A relatively easy 24 save effort for Tomas Vokoun. Pens win, 4-2.
Record: 4-3-1; 9 PTS
Game 9: MON OCT 21, 2013 AVALANCHE @ PENGUINS
Beau Bennett's break out game. He hadn't scored in the first 8 games, but picks up two early ones as the Pens jump out to a 3-0 lead early. Things get hairy as the Pens try to force-feed BB for a hat trick on the power-play, leading directly to an Avs shorthanded goal to cut the lead to 3-2 early in the third period. Pascal Dupuis answers with a shorty of his own, and Tanner Glass ruins our 0-for-82 dream with an empty netter. Pens win, 5-2.
Record: 5-3-1; 11 PTS
Game 10: FRI OCT 25, 2013 ISLANDERS @ PENGUINS
The Pens enter this game with a decent record, but something still doesn't feel right. Your hesitancy in letting your walls down for this team is rewarded in this game, where even Rob Scuderi is left standing helpless as the Isles score 3 power-play goals and chase Tomas Vokoun. Chris Kunitz gets ejected and suspended 2 games for boarding. The Islanders are in first place in the Eastern Conference after 10 games. Pens lose, 5-1.
Record: 5-4-1; 11 PTS
Fleury gets the nod for the second game of a back-to-back. The Leafs buzz all game, but a strong effort from Flower and a late PP goal from Malkin get the Pens to overtime. James Van Riemsdyk puts some sick move on Simon Despres in front of the Pens net to win it for the Leafs in OT. Pens lose, 3-2 in OT.
Record: 5-4-2; 12 PTS
Game 12: MON OCT 28, 2013 PENGUINS @ HURRICANES
If the playoffs started today, the Pens would be the #8 seed and you find yourself saying, "I really hope we can avoid the Islanders in the first round. This would be a huge two points." Crosby scores a goal, but with Kunitz serving the second game of his suspension and Beau Bennett not scoring consistently, the lines are a mess. Matt D'Agostini actually plays 17:30 in this game alongside Crosby. This is when you realize why the Pens were able to get him for the league minimum. The good news is that Brandon Sutter scores his second of the year. The bad news: Pens lose, 3-2.
Record: 5-5-2; 12 PTS
Game 13: WED OCT 30, 2013 BRUINS @ PENGUINS
The worst part about this game is not that it's a playoff rematch against a team we hate, but that there will be a few dozen Pens' fans who boo Jarome Iginla, which in turns leads to lazy local columnists attributing those boos to the entire fan-base. Iginla and Chara each score for Boston, and all the Pens can muster is a 5-on-3 goal from Evgeni Malkin. Pens lose, 2-1.
Record: 5-6-2; 12 PTS
The story line heading into November is the organization's lack of forward depth, something that was apparent going into the season but was greatly exacerbated by the Kunitz suspension, Bennett not burying it consistently, and Pascal Dupuis struggling to put up the numbers to match his contract. There's early talk about trying to flip the 3rd round draft pick the Pens got from trading Matt Niskanen into a forward. Rob Rossi is hearing from other people's Twitter accounts that the Pens have scouts in Minnesota and are potentially interested in Dany Heatley, a pending unrestricted free agent. Crosby is a three-game hot streak away from leading the league in scoring, but still has another gear (or two) to hit. Geno isn't producing well at even strength, so neither is James Neal. Derek Engelland is playing almost every game, while a 22-year-old, 6'4", 220lb Brian Dumoulin grinds it out in Wilkes-Barre. When will the Pens flip the switch?
Jump to November 2013