Sunday, December 15, 2013

It was a much better night than you think; Pens trounce Wings, 4-1

By Artistry

It's not often when low expectations meet stunning success, and then stunning success gets undercut by gut-wrenching setback, but that was the scenario Saturday night in Detroit. No, the Wings didn't look too impressive, but if you're the Penguins, you still don't go into that game thinking "No Neal, no Bennett, no Fleury, no Letang, no Scuderi, no Martin, no Orpik, no problem." Still, the Pens rolled. Then came the stomach punch. From Pensblog:

So at that point all the positives - which we'll get to in a second - got swallowed by the awkward leg-injury blues. But then came reports that Malkin was walking around the locker room after the game. Today, this:

Listen, we're the last people - really, the very last - to take an unsubstantiated, unsourced, probably premature tweet from Rob Rossi seriously, but combine it with the walking around the locker room news from late Saturday night, and this looks preliminarily like a disaster averted.

Now, here's the other good news, after the jump.

- Remember before the season we did an over-under post and set the over-under for games played COMBINED by Pouliot, Maatta and Dumoulin at 5? Yeah. AND WE BOTH TOOK THE UNDER. Nobody wants to see basically the entire defense injured, but if you told us in September that Maatta, Despres and Dumoulin would not only play but also look like legitimate, minutes-eating NHL defenseman by December, I'm telling you this is how we would have reacted:

 Maatta is an absolute stud. Despres is not far behind. And Dumoulin looked smooth and comfortable playing 18:10 in his first NHL game.

- But here's the really, really good news: Matt Niskanen. He was a horse in Detroit, far and away the best defenseman on the ice. He played 30 minutes. He played on the power play. He killed penalties. And he was the subject of limitless "Aren't you glad the Penguins didn't trade Matt Niskanen" tweets. To which I can only say: I guarantee they're trading him now. Niskanen is about to become a 27-year-old unrestricted free agent on a team that runs 10 deep on the blue line. Somebody is giving this guy a 5-year, $20 million deal, and it won't be Pittsburgh. The Pens have glaring holes on the bottom six, and the best kind of trade chip you can have at the deadline outside of a scoring center: the mobile defenseman who can give you quality minutes in any situation. Assuming the Pens get their other bodies upright by February, Niskanen is moving, and he's worth considerably more now than he was when we all had him getting traded last summer. Is there any other move?

- Stop denying Jayson Megna. You can't. He's got speed, a shot, hockey sense, and what most other forwards on the team are lacking: an addiction to the other team's goal crease. He was one of the more noticeable forwards on the ice, and he played under 11 minutes.

- Jeff Zatkoff played out of his mind. Still don't think he's been tested enough in his last 6 games to make me remotely comfortable with him come spring.

- Bizarre decision by the league to hold an in-person hearing on the Engelland hit. It can only be attributed to his repeat-offender status. The optics of the injury were also bad. But this stuff stopped making sense to me some time ago.

- I get the sense Sidney Crosby will make the city of Detroit pay for cheering his injury in Game 7 of the 2009 Cup Finals over and over and over and over again.

Podcast this week. Maybe tomorrow. LGP. GTOG.

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