There’s no question we are a little pissed off from Sunday’s game. Not because the Penguins made a 10 second lapse in ability and skill, mostly just because everyone is somehow viewing this game as a catastrophic ending to the season. We didn’t know that you could lose a best of 7 series 1 loss to 2 wins. Nonetheless, we’re going to have some fun to alleviate the stress of this week by playing our favorite game: Stud of the Week! This week with a defense-first tilt.
Paul Martin: If Paul-Mart had played the whole regular season, and if he had played it the way he’s played the last 5 games (minus the whole 28.6 situation, of which he was part of) Paul Martin WOULD BE the Penguins’ finalist for the Norris Trophy. I’m not kidding. So far this series he has earned almost three more minutes of TOI than Kris Letang, not an insignificant amount over a three game stretch. He’s produced the same 9 points in 9 games as Kris Letang and perhaps most tellingly, he’s a +8 (tops amongst all defensemen) compared to Tanger’s +3. Not bad for a guy who is half of the “shutdown pairing” for the Penguins.
Speaking of the other half, there’s no question that Brooks Orpik has been instrumental in helping Paul-Mart to such success and confidence. But you know what? Paul Martin has been one of the true superstars on this team all playoffs.
Brenden Morrow: man did he have a bad opening series. I nearly wrote a piece suggesting he be benched. Now we know that it had a lot to do with the Islanders, and not him, but he has rebounded nicely. He made his first goal of the postseason count netting the game winner in Game 2 off of a nifty redirect. Even more important, though, has been his play on the forecheck and in the d-zone.
There’s nothing else we can say about Morrow being a “heart and soul” player. But he sure is proving it. Has he been the best player on the ice? No. Has he tried harder than everyone else on the ice? Yes. I just like watching him play so here’s a video.
Brandon Sutter: as with Morrow, it’s hard to fathom how bad he was in the first round. Unlike Morrow, he didn’t have the excuse of age or diminished skating ability. All year we’ve used Sutter’s smooth skating and quickness as a distinguishing factor between him and the departed Jordan Staal. But he didn’t have it against the Isles. He was slow, he was lost, he looked weak, exactly unlike what we’ve come to expect.
It was nerves, playoff nerves for a 23 year old without any playoff experience. And that’s okay, because once he got his bearings he’s been the cornerstone of the Penguins’ late-game efforts to forecheck the game to a successful conclusion. And he’s been good at it.
But this week our Stud goes to the guy who has picked up the team in both ends of the rink, the guy who is most hungry for another Cup and another Conn Smythe.
Evgeni Malkin: he’s only managed three points this series after scoring 11 in round one, but he’s been a thousand times better in this series. His back pressure has been essential in creating the effective 1-2-2 which has totally stifled the Senators attempts to gain the zone. After a slow start, Geno is up to 7 takeaways, and nearly all of them have come in this series. That’s great for a guy who Mike Milbury once described as a “crack fiend” who can only play offense.
He looks like the best player in the world. A man possessed in every sense of the word. Wait, did I just call Geno the best player in the world? Yes I did. And I mean it. Who has been as great in both ends of the ice as Geno? I’ll be the first to tell you Sid hasn’t, especially with his plummeting faceoff percentage. The next two answers are also teammates: Hank and Datsyuk. Well they’ve defied the odds with their good play, but with 10 and 8 points respectively they aren’t in the upper stratum of offense. And who else even deserves mentioning? Geno has this team right now and he will carry them well. That’s why he’s our Stud of the Week.
The only challenge left that’s worth working for this regular season is the top seed in the East, we have no interest in the cursed President’s Trophy. Only two teams remain capable of catching the Penguins: Montreal and Boston. Montreal played last night and for the rest of the season they will have the same amount of games left as the Pens, and they play each other Wednesday. The Canadians have 6 games left and the Penguins have seven points in hand. That leaves a magic number of 5 for the Pens to clinch the top seed in the East (Canadians can earn a maximum of 12 points). The same holds for the Bruins, they have 7 games remaining following the postponement of their game yesterday, but there is an 8 point difference between the Pens and Bruins. Thus that magic number is down to 6. By the time the Pens/Bruins game ends on Friday, the Pens could cut it to 4 points.
Oh also, Sidney Crosby, James Neal, and Paul Martin all resumed skating yesterday. Sid rocked the incredibly fashionable full-cage mask, Neal has been symptom free for a while now and will probably be back in the lineup on Wednesday, and Paul-Mart wore a tracksuit.
And the Penguins were 3-0 last week on a jaunty drive through the American Southeast. In the absence of so many key players the new acquisitions really raised the bar, as such we are going to dedicate this Stud of the Week to those who weren’t here last year.
Penguins Acquire Brenden Morrow from the Dallas Stars, The Whole World Surprised that Joe Nieuwendyk Still Takes Calls from Ray SheroPosted: 25/03/2013
The Pens have acquired Brenden Morrow from the Dallas Stars (along with a third round pick) in exchange for Joe Morrow and a fifth round pick. Is this really as bad of a fleecing as the infamous James Neal and Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski trade? Probably not. Rob Rossi insists that the Pens viewed Joe Morrow as a better prospect than either Beau Bennett or Simon Despres (which indubitably is why he was the only one of the three to not play in the NHL this season), and even if he really isn’t, the Stars are guaranteed to have J.Morrow around for 2 more years, something that the Pens can’t equally claim. B.Morrow is a pending UFA and he’s also 34 years old now.