Friday, March 28, 2014

Pens fall to Kings, 3-2; Good loss, bad loss, or meaningless loss?

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

The case for a good loss: The Pens went toe-to-toe with the best of the West without three of their best players and were a bad no-goal call away from tying the game.  The game was teetering on the edge after the Kings' second goal, but the Pens top line -- with some help from Jayson Megna -- responded the way a top line should: driving to the net and scoring an even strength goal.  Taylor Pyatt and Brandon Sutter played with more assertiveness last night than they have shown over the course of the entire season (combined).  The Pens may not have scored on the PP, but their secondary players drew seven penalties (Gibbons (2x), Goc, Megna, Engelland, Stempniak, Sutter).  If they're not going to contribute regularly on the scoresheet, drawing penalties and setting the table for the big guys is a decent alternative.  Jeff Zatkoff didn't give up a clean goal and, more importantly, doesn't feel like a big drop off from Fleury anymore.  In fact, they have the exact same save percentage over the course of the season (.915%), but if you throw out Zatkoff's first two games when he was obviously overwhelmed, he's 12-3-1 with a .926 save percentage.  There's always an obscure goalie who comes out of nowhere to lead a long playoff run.  Why not Zatkoff?

You don't bring that weak shit into Jeff Zatkoff's house.
The case for a bad loss: It took a bizarre no-goal call by the refs to wake the Pens up.  Before that, the game was close but it was flat and emotionless.  The Pens are not playing desperately, which is understandable given that they aren't desperate.  But now we're down to the final 10 games of the season, and for the past 15 games, all we've been hearing from the team is how they have to be more passionate blah blah blah.  Brooks Orpik is channeling his inner Brett Keisel to conspicuously exercise his leadership "behind closed doors," while conveniently avoiding 2 central questions: 1) is anyone listening; and 2) why would anyone listen to Orpik when he is playing as bad as anyone upon whom he is thrusting his leadership?  It's encouraging to see the Pens shift into an extra gear, but it's discouraging that it took the waved-off goal to get there.  Of the top 8 teams in the East, the Pens are tied with Detroit for worst record over the past 10 games (4-5-1).  The penalty killing is slipping and as we saw against Philly in 2012, when the PK disappears, it REALLY disappears.

Here's Brian Gibbons, probably getting knocked over and drawing a penalty.
The case for a meaningless loss: We already know that unless Malkin, Martin and Letang are all healthy for the playoffs, it could be a short spring.  So what happens without them in the lineup is irrelevant because the team without them isn't any more likely to win the Cup than Columbus or Dallas.  They're not going to play a team close to the Kings' level in the first round, and even the scariest teams in the East -- Boston, Tampa, Montreal, NYR, Philly -- are not on the agenda for the Pens in round 1.  So while the long-term concerns may remain, the relevant question is whether the Pens can win a series over Columbus, Detroit, Washington, or Toronto with efforts like last night.  That answer is much closer to a yes.

Bobby B's "flop like a fish" defense could work against Mark Letestu
The verdict is probably somewhere between meaningless and good, with a leaning toward good. Artistry attended the game and describes it thusly:
Good loss: At the start of the first period, I turned to the guy I was with and said, "Forget the score, just watch how much they have the puck and how much we have the puck. I bet it's a 2-1 ratio." When the Pens went down 2-0, I had visions of a total meltdown, Bylsma being fired in the morning, and Orpik acknowledging that his "Let's go boys, come on boys" routine needs a little work. In fact, the boys started to come on. Though he'll never be a fit as a play-making center on the third line, Brandon Sutter looked possessed out there. Jayson Megna and Brian Gibbons made the bottom 6 look positively threatening at times. And the Pens outshot the Kings. Crosby was the best player on the ice in the third against a stifling defense. No quit in that team last night.
Amen. At least it's something.


  1. Listen to yourselves. After round 2 you'll be using all these articles as fodder of "we saw it coming". Pens are in no shape or place to make a run for Lord Stanley. They are NOT disciplined and have very little offense (and no defense) and we all know that MAF can not lead them to the promised land. Maybe Vokoun can step in and try and save the day, again... if he gets to dress. Regardless we should enjoy the last spring with Disco Dan onboard. HE WILL NOT BE IN THE BLACK AND GOLD IN SEPTEMBER's training camp. This team is already an embarrassment of riches with 1 ring to show for it. Sad. Good bye Dan, Good bye Marc.

    Pens in 2015

    1. Not sure I understand the first two sentences.