Pens/Flyers: Nothing Learned? Maybe NotPosted: 22/02/2013
No doubt about it, the Pens are still falling for the same cheap antics that got them eliminated by the Flyers in last year’s playoffs. That is to say they’re trying to out-physical the Flyers (something they aren’t the best at) instead of out-play them (which they clearly did in the third period when they just started playing hockey). But to me there’s no doubt that the majority of the Penguins players did learn something, and perhaps the two biggest who didn’t, Geno and Neal, can’t be faulted because they made up for it on the scoresheet.
In some ways though the Pens really overcompensated. That was the problem for Brooks Orpik, who played his worst game since he wore a number 29 jersey, and Matt Niskanen both of whom allowed own goals by playing too aggressively, trying to play the puck and not the man.
Now mind you, some guys, read Deryk Engelland and Tanner Glass, did play over the top and it was bad news for both of them, but there were some guys who had a downright good game, so let’s take a look at them and how the team and coaching staff can learn from them.
Here’s the truth: Paul Martin had one of the best games he’s played all year, and he’s had a lot of good ones. Unlike his d-partner Brooksie, who ended up a minus 2, Paul-Mart was a net zero plus/minus, and almost silently netted three assists. He didn’t try to do too much. He just played the game and did what he’s done all year. He didn’t let the national audience or the rivalry get into his head.
Sidney Crosby: he’s often been leading the charge for extra aggression against the Flyers, but on Wednesday he played in control. He ended up a minus-3, but he logged huge minutes and did what he needed to do. He logged 27 minutes of ice time in all three facets of the game, at even strength, on the PP and on the PK. He probably played his most shorthanded time he’s ever played in a game, and generally speaking, the Pens PK played well, the killer was just the stupid penalties other guys took to get on the penalty kill. Also doesn’t hurt that Sid made a difference in the faceoff circle, 75%.
Brandon Sutter: his late goal to get the score even is the stuff of legends. No doubt Sutter is always going to have to own up to comparisons to Jordan Staal, he took a huge step towards that comparison on Wednesday. The biggest things that advanced statisticians stress about Staal’s game is his puck possession numbers. In less than 13 minutes of ice time on Wednesday Sutter finished a plus-2. Further, the 3 wingers who played with him–Beau Bennett, Tyler Kennedy, and Matt Cooke–were the only other plus rated players for the Pens.
So there you have it, we’re not going to pretend that the Pens didn’t beat themselves, we’re not going to pretend that composure wasn’t still a major issue for this supposedly veteran, well-coached team. But when you really look at it, the Pens look to be turning the corner when it comes to the Flyers, the best players played well, and more and more guys seem to be learning to turn the other cheek. Given that the Flyers are literally rubbish we can’t wait to get back at it again.