Gameday – Quarterfinals Round #5 – Flyers

Home game.

Well again, unfortunately neither Mike nor I actually got to see a whole lot of the game. We were both playing a show last night so that kind of put a damper on it. The crucial thing is that we got to see right from when TK took his penalty in the 3rd, which by all accounts was the key. As you more than likely know, the Penguins pulled it out 3-2, with an absolutely amazing third period from MAF. Again, in the absence of in-game thoughts to go off of, I’m just gonna recap this with some general impressions.

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Gameday – Quarterfinal Round #4 – Flyers

Wells-Fargo Center, Philadelphia

As you undoubtedly know, the Penguins won last night 10-3. They’re now down 3 games to 1, but the series is coming back to Pittsburgh Friday night. I don’t feel the need to recap the game exhaustively, and even if I wanted to, I didn’t get the chance to record my thoughts last night, and I missed the second period from about 5 minutes left until the third period with about 5 minutes left. Anyway, I’m still going to deliver some thoughts.

How about Jordan Staal? After becoming the unwitting focal point of the Penguins’ “locker room troubles” when Alan Robinson tweeted that he was unhappy in Pittsburgh and wanted out, he responds with a huge hat trick, the first of which ended up being the game winner. I’ll say this, if Staal does leave, whether it be this offseason, next offseason, at the trade deadline next year, or after another several years, I certainly won’t blame him. He is a class act and a great leader. It’s obvious that he could be a number one or number two center on pretty much any team in the league, he put up a new career high in points despite missing 20 games this year, essentially entirely because he got to play top line minutes. Beyond that though is his leadership potential. Not only could he be a top line center, he could be a captain on pretty much any team in the league. The way that he responded to that criticism is just great. I would be really really sad to see him go, but I would likely always be a fan (unless he went to an Atlantic Division team, just being honest).

Geno getting on track. I’ve said it before, but this really is Evgeni Malkin’s team this year. Sid looks healthy and fit, but still, Malkin is primary target number one for opposing teams to stop. The Flyers have made that perfectly clear by constantly matching their top checking line against him all series. Malkin finally broke out a little bit yesterday getting 2 goals. Now that we’re going back home for a game, Malkin should get some more favorable matchups, especially if the Penguins continue to role with seven defensemen, rather than keying on Malkin coming out with his normal linemates he’ll get more some time with other matchups as well, which could get him away from Couturier, who looked surprisingly like a rookie for the first time last night. Let’s just sit back and watch.

Marc Andre Fleury is the root of all evil. Yes last night’s game could have hardly started worse for MAF as he got torched for another 3 power play goals, but then there really seemed to be a calm that settled over the Flower. The Pens played well defensively, they did a good job of insulating, and once the Pens adjusted to the way the refs were calling the game, the Flyers really weren’t a huge threat. But even then they got some chances and this time Fleury stood his ground. When people say that Fleury isn’t a “clutch goalie” I think they’re crazy. That’s what he is. It’s the fact that he often struggles when a situation isn’t “clutch” that can be irritating. Clutch goalie play down the stretch in this series might be the goalie who can limit the other team to three goals. For my money, I’m betting on Fleury.

Big Dog with a big game. Eric Tangradi got to play in his first postseason game of 2012 last night, and it was in his hometown of Philadelphia. I don’t know his TOI but he seemed to play well when he was out there. He got the primary assist on Staal’s game winner and really made it possible to get a goal out of the situation. If that had been Tyler Kennedy in front of the net hacking at the puck, he would have gotten knocked down and the Flyers likely would have broken out on a 3-on-2 or something like that. Instead it was the Big Dog, and he just stood his ground. I don’t know that he’ll ever be the top six guy that we’ve dreamt of, but he is learning to play strong in front of the net, and that’s never a bad thing. Again, I’m an admitted Tangradi apologist, but if you ask me, he’s a guy that should be playing, at least in this series. He backed up those claims last night.

How much do these coaches hate each other? The answer is at least, “a lot.” Obviously going back to Laviolette in the “gutless” game, Laviolette in the first game of this series yelling at the Penguins bench again, Bylsma letting his team goon it up in the third game, and even more with this game last night, these coaches might hate each other more than any of the players on the teams. Bylsma calling a timeout in the second period with his team up 8-3 was incredible and so asinine. Laviolette allowing Rinaldo to do what he did was just vicious. It’s amusing, you just hope that Disco will have it under control for the rest of the series.

Seven defensemen: and it worked. The Pens went with seven defensemen last night, including Brian Strait and Simon Despres. They both played admirably, and this was the perfect opportunity to get them some real, NHL playoff experience. They got to experience the tribulations of the first period, the ups and downs of playoff hockey, but then they were really able to settle in and soak up some minutes late in the game. This was of course a famous strategy that Bylsma employed in the 09 campaign. It seems to be working again. I hope the Pens will stick with it, but it also will be really hard to do so. Obviously Neal and Adams will be in the lineup tomorrow night, but then who comes out to make room for them? My estimation is that Vitale and Tangradi will sit, the Pens will continue with 7 d-men and Richard Park will continue to play, but only time will tell.

One game at a time. The Penguins had the perfect mentality for last night’s game. As per usual, nobody could have said it better than Sid himself,

It’s a terrible situation being down 3-0. But we all believe we can come back, and I think this is the time you lean on your fans the most.

The Pens as a team, and especially us as fans need to remember to continue to take this series, and however many games may be left for the Penguins this year, one game at a time. I know the temptation is there to say, well hey we delivered a much bigger blowout than anything the Flyers have done. But we’re still definitely the team that’s up against ropes. We’re still the team on the verge of elimination. We need to go three for three down the stretch. They just need to win one game. Don’t look past Friday night. Wherever you may be, whether it’s in Consol, on the lawn, at your house, at a bar, or a thousand miles away, just remember that we need to win one game.

Bottom Line. The Pens get to play at least one more time. We as fans got to see the Pens play “Penguins hockey” one more time this year. It was glorious. We as fans need to deliver the same love and support again on Friday. From there, who knows what will happen.


Gameday – Quarterfinal Round #2 – Flyers

Home game.

This game isn’t must win for the Pens, but it’s close.

First Period:

Fifteen seconds, Sid, incredible. Ties the team record for the quickest goal in the playoffs, also moved him into a tie for fourth with Ron Francis for goals in the postseason. Nice.

Pens are hustling. Beautiful shift by the fourth line, Adams dumped it in, chased it down, and then they just held it for like 45 seconds, nice. This is absolutely textbook for what you need to do against the Flyers.

First PP chance: the Pens have gone back to the unit from the majority of the season, Kunitz-Malkin-Neal up front, Sullivan and Letang on the points. Kunitz hustling in front of the net, goal city. Let’s not mince words, it was a thing of beauty, and it worked because of the connection between those five guys. Root Sports showed Sid on the bench, he looked like a proud papa, beautiful.

Before you know it, Pens are right back on the PP, Nick Grossman getting picked on a little bit. Not quite as good, but it happens. Letang had an incredible opportunity, Bryzgalov pulled it back from halfway across the line. Then things got really weird, Letang was talking to the ref about the shot, Matt Read came over and laid his stick into Letang. Letang went down, probably because he was totally caught off guard. The linesman called a dive on Letang from the other side of the ice. Should have been a two man advantage for the Pens, ended up even, awesome.

From there the Flyers just went all out to score short-handed. They did. Talbot. Really impressed that he could get back that quick with all that money weighing him down.

Less than a minute, the Pens are buzzing. Sid breaks out. Little saucer, drop pass, ends up on Paul Martin’s stick. Held it perfectly, little screen by Jordan Staal. Goal. Great bounce back for Martin who didn’t have a good game on Wednesday.

Some really insane hits in this period, some were definitely a bit border-line. Have to draw attention to Letang’s insane hip-check on Zac Rinaldo. That really put his panties in a bunch. Next shift he tried to step on Malkin after he had been knocked over. Really should have been a major penalty, maybe I’m just biased, but if you’re looking for a “hit with the intent to injure” please look at that play. After attempting to step on Malkin he went over and hit Kunitz with his stick up at head level. Neither were called. I don’t want to whine about every missed call, and I understand full well that we got lucky on the first PP opportunity, Grossman took the penalty for retaliating on a pretty bad trip by Malkin, but Rinaldo is dangerous.

Second Period:

Alright, I take back what I said about RInaldo, his goony-ness has made him such a liability to the Flyers that I hope he plays every game. Really bad hooking call against him on Engelland. Pens weren’t able to capitalize on the PP but this is was beautifully executed. The Pens dominated with the top unit, then they got to send out a unit with Sid-Staal-Cooke up front and Martin and Sully on the points for the second half, it just worked.

Unfortunately, right after that, Crosby sort of got forced into interfering with Grossman after some miscommunication with Cooke. Flyers’ power play is really good. Giroux, don’t know what else to say.

Talbot had a breakaway. This time he got tired halfway there. Must have cashed in a performance bonus.

Schenn took a really ill-advised penalty, cross-check to the back of Crosby. Started really bad, somehow the Flyers come out of their zone short-handed on a 3-on-2. Giroux again. Tied again. Butt-clench time. Didn’t last long, 6 seconds later, Malkin wins the face-off going forward. Dishes to Neal, good shot, totally pulls Bryzgalov out of position, open cage for Kunitz. Incredible resiliency. Remember this play.

Letang had to make a play to prevent a rush, batted the puck out of the air in his own zone, didn’t catch any glass. Right back to butt-clench. No worries. Killed. Penguins finally looking like they have a plan for the Flyer’s PP.

End of the period, bad news. 2.8 seconds left, Pens couldn’t get a clear. Courturier sends one home. Period could of gone worse, but we also got outscored 3-1 and pretty much got torn apart on special teams. Third period is going to define everything.

Third Period:

Biggest period of hockey the Pens have played this year.

Great start, about one minute into the period, Tyler Kennedy. Incredible. He really has started to come on so strong down the stretch.

Well, that didn’t last long. Fleury needed to make that save. Maybe it wasn’t a good pass or a good decision by Lovejoy, but I mean Couturier had nowhere to go with the puck. Fleury gave him a place to go to by going down for no apparent reason. Back to a tie. 5-5. Whoever can make fewer mistakes down the stretch is going to win this game.

A lot of back and forth. Again, this isn’t going to favor the Pens. There’s no doubt that we were the league leaders in goal scoring during the regular season. But we aren’t our best on the rush. We’re better when we can control the play. Right now we really aren’t doing that.

Jagr. The Pens just don’t have an answer for this top line of the Flyers. They simply don’t. I understand it came off an icing. I understand that the Flyers got to skate around with 6 men on the ice for half a minute with the puck in plain view of the bench area. The fact of the matter is, you know the refs clearly aren’t even on this planet. The fact of the matter is, you have to get through that. The Pens haven’t, I don’t know what more you can do.

Neal almost poked one home. Instead turned into a 2-on-1 for the Flyers, Giroux to Courturier, Fleury played it wrong again. First time in his career he’s ever let up 7 goals in one game.

Giroux with an empty netter. 3 goals, 3 assists. Remarkable.

GAME.

A Few Thoughts:

Fleury played horrible. One of the very worst games he’s probably ever played in his entire career. I mean he didn’t make one save that mattered. Anytime it came down to Fleury or the Flyers, it was always the Flyers. Every single time. That’s not what we as Pens fans have come to expect. That’s not what Fleury has made us believe. You could see how pissed he was. I’m writing this moments from the end of the game, and yes I’m probably more emotionally on edge than I should be. But if you ask me, there is no way you put Fleury back in there on Sunday. You don’t give up 7 goals in a game and get the opportunity to start the next one.

This series is still a long way from being over, but this is going to be tough. The Pens aren’t playing good defense, for all the money we’ve invested in the defense, for all of the depth the Pens are said to have at defense, they have cost the Pens these two games. Hell, the forwards have been incredible, our top three lines have all produced admirably. Special teams suck. 2 short-handers this game, there is no way to win in that scenario. Beyond that Fleury is off his game.

The Gutless Line played awesome, when they got the chance. Vitale didn’t play in the 3rd, doesn’t seem smart to me, he is probably the biggest weapon at the Penguins’ disposal just because of what he means to the Flyers.

Alright pretty much all of my pep talk has come true. Both Talbot and Jagr have burned the Pens. There have been a lot of bad calls. There have been soft goals. Now that we’ve gotten that all out of the way, time to take care of business.

Sorry for the lack of media. As with the last one, I’m not lingering on this game any longer than I have to. Better luck next time.

Next game is at 3:00 on Sunday in Philly. Flyers’ had a better record on the road than at home this season, good. Flyers are incredibly bad in day games. Go Pens.


Gameday – Quarterfinal Round #1 – Flyers

Home game.

Super quick recap because I finally finished my homework and I don’t want to still be thinking about this game come tomorrow, so I’m just going to say my peace now. Also if you didn’t watch tonight, there is something wrong with you.

First Period:

Guaranteed that you couldn’t even dream that things would start so well. Consol was loud. The Flyers looked inexperienced. The Pens were in their game.

Literally before you knew it, it was 3-0. Crosby and Dupuis are scary good.

Of course unfortunately, then we had to learn a hard lesson about the overall length of the game.

Second Period:

The Pens were looking for the knockout blow. Started getting a little careless, especially at neutral ice.

Pens got the first power play. As soon as it ended, Philly nearly scored. The Pens moved the puck well on this PP, but you could just see that Bryzy was starting to see a little better now.

Then it happened. The Danny Briere Offside Goal(c). If the Pens lose this series everything will come back to this play. It really wasn’t that close, but then again, if you really think this was the difference in the game, you’ve got to wake up man.

The rest of the period wasn’t horrible. But the Pens also failed to capitalize on two more PP chances which would still have driven the nail home, at least for this game.

Third Period:

Let’s not make any bones about it. The Pens played one of the worst periods they’ve played all year. You can say, “Don’t get down on them after one game in a best of seven.” But this was bad, all the Pens needed to do was control the puck. Instead they just kept on attempting ill-conceived passes through center that would constantly get intercepted and lead to an odd man chance for the Flyers.

I mean let’s face it. That’s how the Flyers scored both of their third period goals. You can’t do that.

Really tough break for Sid on that second goal. Thought he had it, all he really ended up doing was screening MAF.

I will say this. I’m fine with the penalty being issued to Brooks Orpik for his hit on Briere. What I can’t stand is the way Steigy and Bob handled it. They kept saying that it was a hit “with the intent to hurt.” Just as it was when Vitale smoked him at center a couple games ago, the fact that Briere can’t keep his head up does not mean that people are attempting to hurt him. He had to have known that Orpik was coming, and in Orpik’s defense, the puck was sitting up against the back edge of the cage, coming like he was, with his view blocked by Fleury and the net, it probably looked the puck was still on Briere’s stick, too bad it wasn’t.

Overtime:

The only thing worse than the Penguins third period effort was their overtime effort. I don’t know how it took Philly 7 minutes to score…

Voracek with his 30th of the postseason against the Pens.

GAME.

A couple of thoughts:

Trust me, I believe in this Penguins team. They have every position covered. I’m really disappointed in the way this game ended but that doesn’t mean that the season is over.

The Pens really need to simplify the game. So many time you saw just way too many passes, especially in the defensive zone or between the blue lines. When you have a two goal lead, please just dump and chase, make the Flyers go the full 200 feet.

Again, yes the first Briere goal was a really bad bounce for the Pens, but if you really believe that the Pens could have held off the Flyers, given how they played in the third, just not happening. No use crying over it.

This happened:

Defense is the Key: we know about the big offensive names, for the Flyers it’s Giroux, Double J, Hartnell, for the Pens it’s Crosby, Malkin, Neal. We know about the goalies, we’ve already discussed Bryzgalov and if you don’t know about Fleury, there’s nothing I can do for you. The key is the defense. IF the Pens defense plays the way we’ve seen for a lot of the last two years, great. If they don’t, and they play like they played in the last 10 games of the season this year, it could be a bit of an uphill battle. Pretty much the same can be said for the Flyers. Their actual defensemen aren’t overwhelming, they need to get good defensive zone play from their forwards, if they start to dominate on the forecheck, they’ll be right where they want to be. The Pens need to not let that happen.

We ride again on Friday. Gotta get back to even.


2012 Playoff Preview

Well let’s spend some time with the matchups in the first round of the Playoffs. I don’t want to make predictions, especially not for the Pens themselves, but I’ll give it a go with the other fifteen teams who stand a chance of winning the ultimate prize. Read the rest of this entry »


It’s Garbage

 

I honestly don’t know what I would do with myself if people who should know better would suddenly stop saying stupid things. The latest in the long list of people speaking out against the Penguins is John Tortorella. He also was subsequently fined, this time an impressive $20,000 for his remarks made during his post-game press conference following his Ranger’s uninspired 5-2 loss to the Pens on Thursday.

I’ll say this. I think Orpik should have received at the very least a fine. Really he probably should have had a one or two game suspension. I mean, Orpik is what he is, he’s a big hitter. He’s not a dangerous hitter, he has no reputation as a dirty player. Nonetheless, he did deserve some punishment. I’m disappointed in the NHL for not prosecuting on this issue. It’s true that the NHL didn’t prosecute against the Rangers and Mike Rupp earlier in the season after a similar incidental, but still dirty, hit on Jordan Staal that took him out of the lineup for several weeks. I mean it could be an “even-up” decision like we see in games, a questionable call for one team gets answered with an equally questionable one for the other team to keep things equal. Still, I wish they had done something with this hit just to shut the rest of the league up.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fascinating to see Tortellini and Peter Laviolette fined for being the ultimate hypocrites. Complaining about the “whiny” Pittsburgh Penguins in the only way they know how—whining. I’m also really happy to see Dan Bylsma keeping his nose clean from these shenanigans or as Sid awesomely described it yesterday, “Garbage.”

Further, all I can say is that the more those coaches decide to pick on Sid and Geno, the more likely it becomes that they’re just going to piss them off. Given that Sid is still averaging more points per game (1.7) than we’ve seen in the league in a decade and a half, and Geno has absolutely embarrassed his scoring race competition (including Philly’s own Claude Giroux) despite playing half a dozen fewer games, it really seems like playing with fire to me. I mean I guess this is a calculated risk that these coaches need to take. But I just don’t buy it.

Call me old-fashioned, but I want to see the game played, and won or lost, on the ice. I have no problem with gamesmanship and I love the way the Pens handle it. By his own admission Crosby is big into participating in that, so is Matt Cooke, and Chris Kunitz and probably half a dozen other guys on the team. The same can be said of a bunch of guys who play for the Rangers and the Flyers. But that’s just it. It really should be left on the ice. Nothing says “whiny” more than taking your message and shoving it down the throat of everyone in your post-game comments. Just save it for the ice.

Also this is an interesting tidbit. In the entire history of the NHL there are only 5 American-born coaches who have ever won the Stanley Cup. The first was a guy named Bill Russell who won it in 1938. There was not another American to win it until “Badger” Bob Johnson with the Pens in 1991. From there you have to look forward to 2004 when none other than John Tortorella won it with the Lightning. 2006 saw Peter Laviolette become the 4th with the Carolina Hurricanes. The 5th is of course Dan Bylsma. In other words, there are only three American coaches currently living, and currently coaching, who have won the Stanley Cup. They all coach teams in the same division. These are the three best teams in the Eastern Conference this year. We’re only two years away from the 2014 Winter Olympics. All of these guys will likely be considered for the head coaching role for team USA, and they will all likely be considered to serve as assistants to whoever does get picked. Can you imagine what those planning sessions would be like? Wow. They would likely kill one another.