Gameday #38: @ New York RangersPosted: 03/04/2013
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS @ New York Rangers
Madison Square Garden, 7:30 PM, NBC Sports (and we mean it tonight)
Well it had to come to an end at some point, and frankly you knew that if it did end, it would be a bit ugly. The Pens winning streak ends at 15 and you couldn’t help notice that the team looked like it was playing without it’s two best defensemen and the greatest player in the world right now. The changes amongst the forwards made everyone look out of sort, and although the PK looked awesome you could see that absent Paul-Mart and Tanger, the Pens didn’t have ANY effective puck breakout momentum. Couple that with everyone from Buffalo playing like they’re job depended on it (because it did) and you had a perfect maelstrom.
15 games just seems right though, the 92-93 Pens won 17 and failed to win the Cup, the 82-83 Islanders who held the record prior to the 92-93 Pens at 15 did win the Cup, that sounds like a winning formula: the streak no longer has to be a distraction for this team, now they can just play hockey. Both the Pens of 92-93 and the Blackhawks of earlier this year complained of fatigue and strain from carrying on such a long streak, now the Pens don’t have to.
That doesn’t mean they should let off the throttle tonight though. The Pens travel to New York City to face the Rangers. If the season ended today the Rangers would be out of the playoffs, but only by 2 points. In an effort to improve their scoring the Rangers have acquired Ryane Clowe from the San Jose Sharks. That’s funny because he doesn’t have any goals this year.
Nonetheless, the Pens are going to have to find a reason to play: they’re 17 points up in the division and 5 points up in the conference. That’s the problem with getting out too such a large margin, it can be hard to keep the pressure up. As such it will be really interesting to see how the Pens respond to their defeat last night. As someone on some comments board said, the Pens don’t have to play incredible down the stretch but if they get complacent and run into a really hot team that won 8 out of 10 to make the playoffs at all, look out.
It appears that Ray Shero wasn’t so done making moves as he just acquired Jussi Jokinen from the Hurricanes for a conditional 6 or 7th round pick. For the first time that this author knows of, the Jokinen deal requires that the Hurricanes eat some of Jokinen’s remaining salary ($3 million and he’s signed through next year), exactly how much that is, we aren’t sure, but still this trade looks really attractive knowing that the Pens’ aren’t paying full price for Jokinen.
What Jokinen brings to the Penguins is more depth: he’s hit thirty goals before, but recently was successfully passed through waivers by the Hurricanes. On the season Jokinen has clicked at nearly 60% on faceoffs. Shero basically admitted that this move was done because of Crosby’s injury. It should seem obvious that moving forward the Pens will move Brandon Sutter to play with Kunitz and Dupuis and that Jokinen will center the third line. An interesting stat I saw on Twitter is that Jokinen actually leads his former team, the Carolina Hurricanes, in relative Corsi, which is to say that the team plays offense when he’s on the ice. That’s good.
The Rangers must be in rebuilding mode or something because they participated in the biggest deal of the day. They traded Marian Gaborik to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Derek Brassard, Derek Dorsett, and John Moore. This is really funny because Dorsett is currently on injured reserve, Moore is not a full-time NHLer yet, and although Brassard is a decent player with good upside, he isn’t going to score any better than the outgoing Gaborik. Good for the Blue Jackets though, just sucks that they might actually be relevant when they move into the same division as the Penguins next year.
Jokinen won’t be playing tonight and unfortunately neither will Mark Eaton–apparently the #UndefEATON streak died because Eats is sick, so sick that he didn’t even travel to New York with the team today. With that said, Robert Bortuzzo will play for the first time in more than a month. We imagine that Fleury will get the nod in the cage tonight.
Time to start a new streak. Go Pens.