When Matt Cooke first hit Adam McQuaid in Game 1 my immediate reaction was that McQuaid saw the hit coming, turned into it, and then exaggerated the impact in typical Bruins diving fashion. In hindsight, although it’s irrefutable that McQuaid did put himself in a vulnerable position, I do believe that the 5 minute major was the right call, if not the game misconduct.
Unfortunately, when the officials had the opportunity to effectively legislate the way this series would be played, they screwed it up.
When Brad Marchand hit James Neal, just as squarely in the back, with a longer run up to the contact, and without the benefit of Neal having ever seen Marchand it seemed easy for the officials to “settle the score” and give a five and a game to Marchand as well. And they didn’t. They proved just how subjective their sensibilities are and only assessed Marchand with a 2 minute minor. If you want to look at the turning point of this game, look no further. The NBC analysts and local talking heads have persisted in the last couple of days with the notion that the BRUINS frustrated the Penguins. The Bruins did not. The officials did. It just so happened that as a smart team the Bruins were then able to jump on the simmering aggression of the Penguins and exploit it.
The old adage from referees in the NHL is that come playoff time the best thing is to “let them play.” That the refs don’t want to skew the results of a game because they assessed more penalties to one team than the other. But that’s just stupid. Typically penalties are the result of dumb, slow, undisciplined, or unskilled play by the offending team. As such that means that if you don’t call the penalties as they occur then you are actually helping the offending team by overlooking their inequalities. If two teams are evenly matched they should end up committing and drawing essentially the same number of penalties without any “help” from the referees. But as long as they continue to force their way into the game, things are almost disgusting. Meesh had a post on this awhile ago and it would be great to see what could have happened if others had taken up the charge to continue reporting on ref stupidity.
It doesn’t look like the Penguins are planning any lineup changes for tonight’s game but our thought after Game 1 was that this could be a great series for Simon Despres. There’s no doubt that Mark Eaton and Kris Letang looked a little vulnerable in Game 1, they each were responsible for a goal that the Bruins did not deserve to score and they just seemed a little out of sorts. Adding Despres is a proven technique to convince Letang to slow down and simplify his game. Adding Despres will also cut down Boston’s forecheck ability. The best way to counter the Bruins is to pass the puck out of the zone before they have an opportunity to get into their cycle. Simon Despres is going to be a lot better at that than Mark Eaton. This seems like a pretty easy trade to make. Despres isn’t going to be a downgrade in the hitting department either and that seems like a necessity against this Bruins team.
And you thought I was going to talk about Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t you?
A couple of notes: Sid has been cleared to practice without his jaw protector. I’m sure he wants to get rid of it as soon as he can, but at the same time I don’t think a lot of home fans would be too mad to see him wear it at least to the end of this series.
It seems likely, with both Western Conference series going to Game 7’s, that this series will kick off on Thursday evening, after the other series have concluded. No source on that, just taking a guess.
Excluding the obvious (Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz) you would have a hard time naming a better Penguin last night than Beau Bennett. All he does is hustle for loose pucks, make crisp passes, and find spots from which he can launch a puck, or at the very least force a team to abandon a double team on Geno and or Nealer, the league’s reigning MVP and perhaps its second best pure sniper. That’s awesome.
He’s got points in 4 of his last 5, and his minutes have been steadily increasing. He played over 15 and a half minutes last night, probably the ideal figure for a #6 forward, and the Pens will have 2 more full years with him on his current rookie salary figure after this one. That’s also awesome.
And perhaps even more important, the Pens almost don’t even need that much scoring, they’re miles ahead of pretty much every other team in scoring so far this year, so if you ask me, they don’t need to give up a few defensive prospects to bring in a veteran scorer on the back swing of his career (Jarome Iginla).
This wasn’t a good win, but it was a win of a good team. Well, it was sort of a win of a good team, what it really was was a win earned by a few good players who rose to the occassion over the opponent. The Pens scored 7 goals but only 4 guys contributed in that way. The Pens gave up 6 goals but only 8 players ended up with a negative plus/minus. And while this kind of game won’t work in the playoffs, the Pens rose to the occasion and beat a very good team. What follows is a brief synopsis of the guys who won this for the ‘Guins. Read the rest of this entry »
Perhaps less of a “must win” for the Pens, but they entered this battle with a three game losing streak against the Isles (not sure but I think that was their longest active losing streak against any one team) and the Pens had the amps to get the job done. Pens are now 7-3 and in first place in the East, but this isn’t time for the Pens to relax. Get a recap after the jump.
My how the tables have turned. Last week the Penguins’ world was ending, Bylsma was already fired, Fleury wasn’t even worth a bag of pucks on the trade market, and Geno was being incredibly “Russian,” this week they’re one point behind Boston for the overall conference lead. And you may not want to believe it, but it’s not too early to talk about rankings, the Pens’ next game will mark 20% of this year’s regular season, deal with it.
We created this award to recognize the best player for the Penguins in the past week. This doesn’t have to be the leading scorer or anything like that, this is the guy who contributes the most to victory–it could go to a guy who was dominant in the faceoff circle, who drew a bunch of penalties that resulted in goals, or laid some game changing hits. We all know who is putting the puck in the net, but hockey, perhaps more than any other sport, is a team affair and we want to recognize the unsung heroes that make the Penguins so great to watch and root for. After the first weekend of the season we gave the inaugural award to Paul Martin for blowing us away with his unreal play-making, skating, and defensive zone presence. Last week Sid earned the award for keeping the team from turning on itself despite some ugly losses to some traditionally bad teams.
This week the opportunities are limitless so come with us as we look through the contestants.
There’s a problem emerging with the Penguins third d-pairing. So far this year Deryk Engelland and Simon Despres have provided 10:13 and 9:57 time on ice per game. As such Engo and Despres are 4th to last and 3rd to last on the team, ahead of only the much maligned Eric Tangradi and the ill-used Dustin Jeffrey. And that’s not good. The Pens’ third pair rank 195th and 196th out of 204 defensemen who have played at all so far in the NHL this year.
By comparison last year’s third pair of Engelland/Niskanen averaged 16:08 and 17:56 respectively. In limited NHL action even Despres typically played 14:13, four and a quarter more minutes per game than he’s gotten so far this year. What follows is an examination of why the Pens third pairing have received so few minutes (and they aren’t all bad reasons) and whether or not the Pens can/should/could rely on the third pairing. Read the rest of this entry »