We’re Talking Playoffs

In the news today: Sean Gentille with a solid scoop on what the Pens are likely to do when they have their full complement of players back. We’re on board.

Somebody confirmed that Paul-Mart and Epic Neal Time will be back in the lineup tomorrow.

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Updated from yesterday’s gameday post, the 8 Eastern Conference playoff teams are set with the Senators and Rangers in and the Jets just missing. Further, the Leafs have separated themselves from the 8th seed, leaving only the Islanders, Senators, and Rangers as possible first round matchups for the Penguins. What follows will be an examination of what it would take for the Penguins to get to match up against a possible team, and how well they would match up in a seven game series.

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Gameday #39: v. New York Rangers

penguinsvsrangers

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS v. New York Rangers

Consol Energy Center, 7:00 PM, Root Sports, NHL Network (local blackout)

 

 

Every GREAT movement experiences a period of thermodorian decline. A cooling off time before the movement is renewed with increased vigor and ultimate success. Recall the American Revolution and the Valley Forge Winter, the inept leadership of George McClellan that almost cost the Union the Civil War, 1916: the Year of Slaughter in World War I, and the Dunkirk Rescue of 1939. Game 5 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. IF the Penguins are a great movement, then this must be their thermidor.

Since their 15 game win streak the Penguins have given up 10 goals and have only scored 2 in their last 120 minutes of hockey. They’ve been out of sorts in the offensive zone, completely lost in the defensive zone, the power play has dried up and without Mark Eaton the penalty kill looks completely inept. This is the most startling statistic I have EVER seen about the Penguins:

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But it’s all okay. It really is. Because here’s the truth, the Penguins were never going to win 27 regular season games in a row, they were never going to win 16 in a row in the playoffs. And the fact that the Pens still have 10 games left to get through their thermidor is great news indeed. And there is reason to believe that things can turn around quickly.

Mark Eaton should be back in the lineup, that should help to solidify the PK efforts. Although he may not play tonight it seems that Kris Letang will be back before the end of next week, these last three games without Tanger and Paul-Mart have shown just how essential they are to the Pens success. Jussi Jokinen will be in the lineup for the Penguins and I’m quietly really excited about his abilities and prospects with the Penguins, oh and Tyler Kennedy OR Tanner Glass has to come out of the lineup. That’s a win. No idea who is playing goal tonight though.

Yesterday Sid met with the team, in part this was probably a PR mission to prove that he was not concussed, and also probably to try to calm the team. Everything went well and I think people are really feeling optimistic that he could be back in the lineup sooner than later.

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The Eastern Conference playoff picture is a mess right now. The Rangers are still in if the season ended today. With an overtime loss today the Penguins would essentially lock up a playoff berth. At least according to this site. According to Pensblog it is any combination of 6 points to lock up home ice, and coming back to Winning Magic Numbers, the Pens only need 9 points to lock up the top seed in the East. Good deal.

Don’t give up the ship. Go Pens.


Gameday #38: @ New York Rangers

penguinsvsrangers

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.

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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.

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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.


Gameday #7: @ New York Rangers

penguinsvsrangers

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS @New York Rangers

Madison Square Garden, 7:00PM, Root Sports, NHL Network (local blackout)

The big news of the day is that the Pens claimed Zach Boychuk from the Carolina Hurricanes. Get a lot of good things on him from Empty Netters here.

Unsurprisingly the Pens have expectations of playing him on the Malkin-Neal unit. His perennial 20 goal rate at the AHL level is admirable, but the fact that he’s an undersized, fast skating, gritty forward means that all I see in my mind’s eye is Tyler Kennedy, and we know how well that experiment worked.

No idea if Boychuk will be in the lineup tonight but Dave Molinari reports that Robert Bortuzzo will play in place of someone (my guess Lovejoy). He also reports that although he missed the morning skate, Kunitz will be in the lineup. No declaration has been made on the ‘tender but I would be surprised if it wasn’t Vokoun. He’s already got the 1-0 record in MSG this year and comparative to Fleury he’s earned more time I think.

The Pens have tweaked the look of their power play. Neal moves down to forward, Geno on the point. I guess there are some fundamental changes too. I just hope it works.

The Rangers and Penguins have been diverging since their first meeting: while the Pens have gone 1-3 (only winning in the shootout to boot) while the Rangers have gone 3-1. The Rangers are coming off a brutal 2-1 win against the Flyers, but they’re going forward without their captain Ryan Callahan because he damaged his shoulder while punching Max Talbot in the face.

The bottom six forwards for the Rangers are a bunch of former Pens: Mike Rupp, Arron Asham and AHL depth player Benn Ferriero. According to Empty Netters the Rangers are planning to use Stu Bickel, a defenseman, on the fourth line. You might say they have some injury issues.

No doubt about it, the Pens need a win again. They need a catalyst, a spark. Things can only get better from such a listless performance on Tuesday. Remember the “C”? The locker room leaders need to instill the same message, they don’t have to do it the same way but they need to do something.

Find a way. Go Pens.


Gameday #2: New York Rangers

penguinsvsrangers

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS vs. New York Rangers

Madison Square Garden

Game Time: 7:00PM, Root Sports

One game in the books and although it feels great to get a conclusive victory over the Flyers, this is no time for rest. The Pens are right back at it, and no matter what you want to believe, the Rangers are a bigger threat to the Penguins this year than the Flyers are.

Unlike the Flyers who, delusionally, got rid of their second scoring line (and it showed yesterday), the Rangers are basically mortgaging some of their studly young defensemen for a deep playoff push THIS YEAR. And if we’re honest, they have a complete team: no fewer than three elite scorers, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, and now Rick Nash, some skilled checking forwards like Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle, a full complement of big imposing defensemen, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, and company, and perhaps most important THE BEST goalie in the game today, Henrik Lundqvist.

The Rangers didn’t get off to a great start yesterday dropping their opener against Boston 3-1. And the New York media is already really tweaked about it. But their follow up will be back at home in the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden. The crowd will definitely be ready for war.

  • According to the article above, the Rangers didn’t offer open practices or any kind of inter-squad scrimmage so this will literally be the first time the fans will get to celebrate hockey’s return.
  • Unlike the Flyers, the Pens will have to square off against the Rangers 5 times, 3 of which will be on the road. As such Rangers games are going to be a little more essential to the Pens’ postseason aspirations than the Flyers games.

With that said today will be the debut of Tomas Vokoun in a Penguins jersey. Bylsma has basically indicated that Vokoun could see action in up to 20 games or almost every other start. Also, as per Josh Yohe, Joe Vitale will play in place of Dustin Jeffrey today. We thought DJ looked good yesterday so this has probably been planned from the outset.

Keep Rollin’. Go Pens.