Gameday #37: v. Buffalo Sabres

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PITTSBURGH PENGUINS v. Buffalo Sabres

Consol Energy Center, 7:30 PM, NBC Sports

The Pens are going for 16 wins in a row. They are playing a Sabres team that is missing it’s best player (Vanek), is sitting out their captain in the hope of finding a trade partner (Pominville), and has already traded their best two defenders away (Regehr and Leopold). This sounds like a no brainer right? Well we shall see. This is exactly the kind of trap game that a team that’s gotten too used to winning could fall in. Is that actually what we expect to happen? Absolutely not. Should Pens’ fans worry if the Pens do lose a game absent their two best defenders and the greatest player in the world? Absolutely not.

This is a no loss situation if you are the Pens, they get the win and they earn a shot at history, they lose, the pressure dissipates and life returns to normal.

A common critique this author has heard is that the Penguins are “peaking too early.” Unfortunately I have never seen a team, or a coach, or anyone, who can actually control when they “peak,” at best you hope they reach a high level of competition. Truly great teams will sustain that level, those who aren’t, won’t. Just think, the Pens have won 15 in a row, that still wouldn’t be enough to win the Cup.

Tonight marks the start of “Life Without Sid 2.0,” reports have varied widely so far but Mike Lange says in his experience 3-4 weeks should be good the kind of jaw fracture that Sid sustained. I would trust Mike Lange with everything except a bottle of Scotch, so that’s the estimate I’m going to roll with. Everyone thinks, or at least hopes, that the still surreal line of Iginla-Malkin-Neal will continue in the wake of the “Best Line in the NHL.”

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And if they can’t get it done there seems to be very little issue in calling the third line the “Best Third Line in Hockey” (again, even without Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy). As for TK this is probably his last chance to prove exactly what he can do given that he’ll get the opportunity to center the league’s third leading scorer and tenth leading goal scorer. You can critique TK all you want, but the last two weeks have been a renaissance for him. He felt the threat of getting benched and he’s responded in a big way.

It seems likely that MAF will be back in net tonight and the defense is unlikely to see any changes.

History awaits. Go Pens.

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