The Perfect Time for a Blowout

So the Pens got shellacked 8-4 by the Ottawa Senators last night. Overall, the team defense got smoked and Brad Thiessen suffered his first loss in his NHL career, allowing all 8 goals.

Its okay. And there are a number of reasons why this is.

First off, how sick was Sidney Crosby? He pulled out the Sidorama for the first time since probably 2010, and it resulted in an incredible goal for Matt Cooke. Further he scored his first goal since his first comeback game, and it was a thing of beauty. Found the puck, controlled the puck and made Craig Anderson forget his name. A really quality performance by Sid, although Alfredsson did get the best of him on that short-handed goal, but those are growing pains that you’re going to experience when you put a guy on the point for the first time in his career.

Also, it’s a fact that although we went 1-3 against the Senators, and all three of our losses were pretty much blowouts, all of those losses featured our backup goalie in net. In the playoffs, if you are the road team and you score 4 goals, you’re going to win. That’s what it comes down to. I’m fine with the coaches choosing to play Thiessen last night, you might as well get in a few more starts with him or Johnson, and keep Fleury’s appearances low.

I’m glad to see the Pens lose. This was their first regulation loss since February 19. It was bound to happen at some time, and I would rather see it sooner rather than later. Now the Pens have some motivation to keep pushing again. Pundits around the country were practically guaranteeing that the Pens would be in the Stanley Cup Finals. Getting blown out like this will finally get some of those voices to start talking about other teams for the first time in weeks, which is a good thing. I mean it’s true that the Pens are never that far from the national spotlight, at least when it comes to NHL coverage, but now hopefully it will be a little less overbearing and annoying.

On the downside, we did lose, the Rangers and Flyers both won, and Evgeni Malkin had one of his least impressive games of the year.

I’m just going to say it, the line juggling was a little bit too ridiculous last night. I see nothing wrong with shuffling Crosby and Staal between the 2nd and 3rd lines, even playing Crosby with Staal, and then sending Dupuis out with Cooke and Kennedy. But it went to another level last night, and it was largely because the coaches did what they have so far not done since Crosby’s return. They broke up the top line. So many times last night you would see Crosby out there with Neal and Kunitz, and that just is not the best line in hockey, and its not being centered by the best player in hockey. To make matters worse, the only time you ever seemed to hear Malkin’s name called was when he was on the ice with Tangradi and Asham. I’m sorry but it just wasn’t right for the future MVP to be playing with the fourth liners with his team down by one goal halfway through the third period.

I mean I understand that at some point you probably have to see what happens if you do put Crosby out with Neal and Kunitz, but I think we now know that it is nothing like putting Malkin out with Neal and Kunitz. The biggest reason why Malkin-Neal-Kunitz works is because they’ve spent the last 50 or so games playing together and they have developed ideal chemistry and ice presence when they are playing together. Throwing Crosby out there with 8 games left in the regular season, playing with James Neal for quite literally the first time, they looked like they were clueless to each other. Again, I’m not saying this to diss Crosby (I mean I did just praise him above), or to get all jammed up over one loss, but please Pittsburgh Penguins coaching staff, just leave Malkin-Neal-Kunitz alone.

Last thing, the Pens are now three points back of the Rangers with only one game in hand. It’s certainly not impossible for us to still finish first in the East, but it is less likely now. I’m not sure that this is bad though. Once upon a time, finishing first was going to get you a match-up with Toronto or some pathetic Southeast Division team. Now, you’re more likely to have to face off with an incredibly hot Buffalo team, a much-improved Washington team, or Ottawa, who have put up 19 goals in 4 meetings against us this year. The only match-up I would really want would be Washington, and they are still on the outside looking in right now. A 4-5 match-up against Philly (or perhaps New Jersey) is no walk in the park, but at the very least, you would get to deal with the “devil you know” as opposed to non-division teams who are all playing drastically different games compared with other points in the season.

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