Sunday, December 22, 2013

Pens beat Flames, 4-3, to keep rolling, as usual

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

When the book on the 2013-14 season is written and the Minnesota and Calgary games are discussed, they will be such a distant memory that you will demand video evidence that they actually happened.  But they count just the same as the ones you remember, and the Pens are continuing to roll despite the absence of several of their best players.  Bylsma at his best.

Some things that stood out ... Chris Kuntiz set what may be the greatest screen of all time on Niskanen's goal against the Wild ... Crosby's goal against Calgary was disgusting, but his backhand pass to Kunitz in the Wild game was more impressive ... the Flames game was a nice win, but was more a product of playing a bad team than anything ... Sutter scored in 3 straight games ... BRANDON SUTTER SCORED IN THREE STRAIGHT GAMES ... Brandon Sutter's line continues to routinely get pinned deep in its own zone ... Matt Niskanen is playing Paul Martin right onto the trading block ... Speaking of the trading block, Mike Cammalleri is a lethal sniper on a terrible team who will be a UFA at the end of the season ... hilarious cameo by Sid on 24/7.

More after the jump...

- Jeff Zatkoff got extended for two years at $600K/year.  Hard to complain much about his or Fleury's performance this year, but we don't envy Ray Shero for having to figure out what to do.  Fleury has been great, but could be a ticking time bomb.  Zatkoff is as unproven as a goalie could possibly be.  Vokoun is still out with a clot.  It'd be hard to fault Shero for doing nothing.  Unless there's another goalpocalypse this spring.  Which is entirely possible.  Tough spot for Ray.

Face of the future?
- The most underrated reason the Pens have been so good: the penalty kill.  It's at 87.8% (2nd best in the league) and has given up only 2 power play goals in the entire month of December.

- The one great thing -- or perhaps terrible thing -- about Alex Ovechkin's resurrection as an all-time elite goal scorer is that it thrusts the Crosby vs. Ovechkin hype back to the forefornt of the national NHL discussion.  As lethal as Ovechkin has been -- and make no mistake about it, he's as dangerous of a goal-scorer as he's ever been -- there's one statistic that stands out when it comes to assessing who is more valuable to his team.

There are 10 guys on the Caps who have been on the ice for as many or more 5-on-5 goals scored by the Caps than Ovechkin.  And among Caps who have played 27 games, Ovechkin has the WORST percentage of 5-on-5 goals scored for versus against (in other words, of all the 5-on-5 goals scored while Ovechkin was on the ice, only 39% of them were scored by the Caps).  Crosby, on the other hand, has been on the ice for more 5-on-5 goals scored by the Pens than any of his teammates, and of all the 5-on-5 goals scored while he's on the ice, 58% of them are scored by the Pens.

Obviously all goals count the same, and Ovechkin's lethality on the power play is incredibly valuable.  But come on.  Oh also, Ovechkin has one even strength assist all season.

Love these jerseys.
- On a non-troll note, it would not take a lot to convince me that Ovechkin has the single greatest shot of all time.

- Kris Letang is out with an infection.  He'll be back after the Christmas break, as will Rob Scuderi.  My 6 D would be Letang-Scuderi, Niskanen-Maatta, Bortuzzo-Despres.  But in the type of coincidence that Dan Bylsma yearns for, Deryk Engelland will be eligible to return on the 27th.

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